The Boundary Waters History
Within the BWCA are hundreds of prehistoric pictographs on rock ledges and cliffs. The BWCA is part of the historic homeland of the Ojibwe people, who traveled the waterways in canoes made of birch bark. In 1688, the French explorer Jacques de Noyon became the first European to travel through the Boundary Waters. Later during the 1730s, La Verendrye and others opened the region to trade, mainly in beaver pelts. By the end of the 18th century, the fur trade had been organized into groups of canoe-paddling Voyageurs working for the competing North West and Hudson’s Bay Companies, with a North West Company fort located at Grand Portage on Lake Superior.
In the 1920s Edward Backus, a local industrialist, proposed building several dams in the region, which was successfully opposed by Ernst Oberholtzer. By 1926, the Superior Roadless Area had been designated by the U.S. Forest Service, offering some protection from mining, logging, and hydroelectric projects.