Gary Fiedler and Dawn LaPointe are a husband and wife photography team based near Duluth, Minnesota. As Radiant Spirit Gallery, they strive to reveal the essence of their nature and wilderness subjects, hoping to inspire others to explore the outdoors. 

Situated at the westernmost point of Lake Superior, our hometown, Duluth, enjoys abundant outdoor beauty and recreation. But for a wilderness paddling experience and healthy dose of nature, we drive up the North Shore and inland to access one of 70 entry points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Located in the Superior National Forest, the BWCAW is about 1.1 million acres of federally-protected wilderness stretching nearly 150 miles along the Canadian border. Outdoor enthusiasts can paddle more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, and explore 11 hiking trails and countless portage trails. Paddlers can set up camp at one of 2,000 designated sites to enjoy a campfire, fresh-cooked fish and storytelling. From May through September, a daily quota prevents overuse, so canoeists should reserve an affordable overnight permit. There is no quota for free, self-issued day-use permits. Known for its abundance and variety of fish, paddlers should bring permits, tackle and healthy appetites.

We paddle the Boundary Waters to nurture our innate connection to wild places. The physical challenges, self-reliance, simplicity and solitude are appealing and rewarding. While we are immersed in peace and tranquility we get back in sync with nature’s rhythms and gain inspiration. Echoes of loons drift through our dreams. We awaken eager to enjoy the vistas, wildlife and experiences each new day of paddling will bring.


If you have a half-day explore the Sawbill Lake area. It’s a great entry point for all experience levels, including beginners. Explore Sawbill, Alton, Kelso or Smoke lakes. Portages are short and easy. Moose, loons, eagles and beavers may be seen. Look for gnarled, weathered trees growing out of rock, tamaracks, bog flora, various mosses and intriguing glacial erratic boulders.

If you have a day paddle Clearwater Lake in the eastern BWCAW. A quick portage to Mountain Lake will add to your adventure. You will find towering cliffs, inspiring scenery, crystal clear water and abundant wildlife along this historic voyageur trail.

If you have a weekend explore the Knife Lake area. Stop at the former site of Dorothy Molter’s (also known as “the Rootbeer Lady”) cabin and see the banded iron formation on shore. Hike to Thunder Point for spectacular vistas of the BWCAW. Due to various wildfires over the decades, Knife Lake is in varying stages of regeneration. Paddling near shorelines and in back bays may increase wildlife sightings of bear, loons, moose, ravens and painted turtles.

If you have a week explore the sprawling expanse of Crooked Lake and Curtain Falls at its west end. Several canoe routes to Crooked Lake each offer unique scenery and adventure. Along the way you will find granite outcrops with sweeping views, intimate back bays, foggy sunrises and star-sprinkled night skies. Our route of choice follows the historic portage trails and waterway along the Basswood River, which brings out the voyageur spirit within us.


WILDLIFE: Moose, black bear, wolf, common loon, bald eagle, owl, raven, gray jay (whiskey jack), squirrel, beaver, otter, turtle

FORAGE: Blueberries, chokecherries, pin cherries, raspberries, serviceberries, thimbleberries

POINTS OF INTEREST: Many historic sites and pictographs in some areas

TYPICAL CAMPSITE: Primitive with established tent pad, fire grate and vault toilet

DIVERSION: Don’t miss Minnesota’s Scenic North Shore Drive. Stop off at Duluth Pack ( to fondle their beautifully handcrafted outdoor gear.

OUTFITTERS: Many choices; including Piragis Outfitting (, Sawbill Canoe Outfitters (, and Bearskin Wilderness Outfitters (

See more of Dawn and Gary’s photographs and videos at


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