Why It Is Important to Save the Boundary Waters from Noise Pollution

Technological progress has brought with it an unprecedented era of growth and development. It has vastly changed our lives⁠—in both good ways and bad. It has also brought with it some unforeseen problems, one of which is an increase in noise pollution. This is something that threatens spaces like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – one of the quietest places on Earth.

What is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness⁠—more commonly known as BWCA⁠—is a protected wilderness area in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. The expansive area covers 1.09 million acres of glacial lakes, forests, and other land features. It is a popular destination for outdoor excursions like canoeing, camping, and fishing.

Historically, the area was inhabited by ancient Native American cultures as early as 8000 BC. This is supported by artifacts that have been discovered in BWCA. Conservation started in 1902 and continues to this day. In 1949, President Truman signed an executive order that forbade aircraft from flying below 4,000 feet over the area. It is clear that efforts have been made to reduce noise pollution in the whole of BWCA, but they have proved challenging to uphold in the many conservation efforts over the years.

What is Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is excessive noise that poses a serious impact on humans and wildlife. Prolonged exposure could produce undesirable effects on the mental and physical health of humans and disrupted behavior patterns in animals. The main culprit of noise pollution is human-driven activity, especially industrial activities.

Studies show that prolonged exposure to noise pollution poses risks to public health. Aside from hearing impairment, this can also cause other effects like sleep disruption, and even hypertension. Noise pollution also affects cognitive health both in adults and children. Prolonged exposure can sometimes affect mood, productivity, and concentration, among other things.

Why are quiet places important?

People relaxing in a quiet place - Boundary Waters

The answer to all these woes is simple but not easy: spend more time in quiet places. To achieve this in a sustainable manner is a huge and multi-generational effort to protect places that are free from man-made noise. What we can do now is build awareness of the importance of quiet, and expose people to quiet places so they can see its benefits first-hand.

When immersed in quiet places, focus and concentration are enhanced⁠. Noise can be distracting and trigger our stress response if exposed to unhealthy levels (50% of the population in the U.S., for example, are exposed to unhealthy levels of vehicle traffic).

Quiet spaces also improve quality of sleep. Since your sense of hearing never shuts off at night, any noise gets processed by your brain. Less noise means fewer stimuli to process leading to better sleep.

Sound also plays a vital role in the lives of animals in the wild. Some animals use it to find prey like bats. Some also use it to detect and avoid predators. Loud noises – or even constant low frequency humming of machines and other things – can disrupt these natural processes and harm these animals’ natural survival abilities. Quiet places like national parks protect these animals from the harmful effects of noise.

The effects of copper mining in the BWCA

Copper sulfide mining, like other heavy metal mining operations, has serious negative consequences. It not only damages the delicate ecology in heavily forested areas, but causes significant noise pollution.

In the BWCA alone, heavy metal mining activity can seriously damage the waterways that would take decades to rehabilitate, if they are able to be brought back at all. Waste from these activities can contaminate the lakes and streams. Acid mine drainage, or AMD, is a major threat. The acid can do significant harm to both land and aquatic life and would be virtually impossible to contain.

The damage done to the local waterways and the natural quiet will also affect the local sustainable economy. BWCA is a popular destination for canoeing, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Its pristine and untouched beauty and the calm atmosphere are a large part of what attracts people to the area. Dirtying the water and disrupting the quiet are heavy blows to local businesses that rely on BCWA’s clean waters and natural quiet to attract travelers.

Why you should experience the quiet of Boundary Waters

People camping and enjoying at Boundary Waters

Thankfully, through the efforts of volunteers and other concerned organizations, Boundary Waters Canoe Area has managed to maintain its natural quiet. People can still come and enjoy the unspoiled nature. Here you get to enjoy the tranquility and serenity that the first settlers experienced centuries ago.

Visiting BWCA would be a great choice if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. There are no noisy neighbors, busy streets, or loud construction. All you hear is the sound of wildlife, the rustling of the leaves, and the murmur of the streams; it’s a chance to enjoy the peace and serenity that no urban space could give.

Boundary Waters Quiet Experiences

A Minnesota-based company, we at Recal Travel have partnered with Quiet Parks International to run guided mindful adventure trips into the Boundary Waters. Recal’s mission behind the Quiet Park Trip Series is to help preserve quiet. Quiet Parks International co-founder Gordon Hempton explains that “protectors of these special places will be more inclined to save quiet if it provides them ways to economically sustain themselves.” As a result of the partnership between Recal and QPI, the trip series helps to stimulate economic development in a respectful and mindful way in some of the few remaining quiet places in the world.

The trips combine both the natural quiet of the surroundings and the inner quiet brought about by mindfulness to promote personal growth and transformation. Participants get to explore the peaceful wilderness of BWCA, as well as do meditation, breathwork exercises, and mindful hiking with the help of a knowledgeable guide. Visit the Quiet Park Series: Boundary Waters Canoe Area page for more details.