Cook County Blog

What is the current wildfire situation in Cook County, MN?

Posted by Visit Cook County MN on 8/24/21 10:43 AM

UPDATED Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

There are a lot of questions regarding conditions up north right now. We’re here to help answer some of the questions you may have. 

Forest Service News Release 

Media contact: Joanna Gilkeson 

(218) 349-5134 

John Ek and Whelp Fire Closure lifted in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness  

Duluth, Minn., October 1, 2021 — Effective today, the Forest Service is lifting the last of the closures – the John Ek and Whelp Fire closure - in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness citing low fire activity and decreasing fire danger due to fall weather conditions and rain.  

This month the forest received three to six inches of rain, which is normal for the month of September. This precipitation, in combination with lower temperatures, shorter days and higher humidity has mitigated fire activity and limited the potential for heat to spread.  

“We have not seen any smoke from the fire for a couple of weeks now, and we feel comfortable lifting this closure as this fire is unlikely to spread much, if at all,” said Patty Johnson, East Zone Fire Management Officer for the Superior National Forest. 

Last week, the forest pulled all equipment off of the John Ek Fire, meaning that all hose and pumps staged at portages were backhauled. 

With this announcement, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is fully open again after a very active fire season in 2021.  The only remaining fire-related closure on the forest is the Greenwood Fire perimeter area closure, which was also updated today.

Forest Service News Release 

Gunflint Trail campgrounds and recreation areas in Superior National Forest to reopen  

Duluth, Minn., September 14, 2021 
— The Superior National Forest is lifting remaining closures along the upper Gunflint Trail, effective Wednesday, September 15. This includes Blankenburg Boat Launch, Trails End Campground, Iron Lake Campground and all associated facilities including Trails End Boat Launch parking lot and Iron Lake canoe carry down.  

With this announcement, all National Forest System lands and roads along the upper Gunflint Trail are now fully open to visitors.  

“I want to thank the public for their understanding and patience this year as we had to make some very difficult decisions about closing areas on the forest this summer, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness management area. It was not an easy decision for us to make and we know it was disappointing for many. We hope next year will bring more rain, and less fire risk for our visitors,” said Connie Cummins, Superior National Forest supervisor. 

For the remainder of the fee season, Trails End and Iron Lake campgrounds will be reservable through If you had a previous reservation at either of the campgrounds, please check your account to see if your reservation was cancelled due to the closure. If the reservation was cancelled, you will need to make a new reservation. The fee season for campgrounds typically goes until early to mid-October when facility managers turn the water off based winter weather conditions.  

Although the National Forest System lands along the Gunflint Trail are open, two closures remain in place on the forest: 

The John Ek and Whelp fire area closure: This closure area will remain in effect around the John Ek and Whelp fires through at least the end of the 2021 quota permit season on September 30, or until terminated. This is to ensure public safety should the fire become active again. The closure area is shown on the above map. The following entry points are closed: Missing Link Lake and Brant Lake.  

As a reminder, a closure is still in place for the Greenwood Fire to allow firefighters and heavy equipment operators to move through the area without congestion from additional vehicle traffic. This closure includes McDougal Campground, Little Isabella Campground, several rustic campgrounds and the following BWCAW entry points: Island River, Isabella Lake, Bog Lake, Little Isabella River, Snake River, Hog Creek and Pow Wow Trail. 


The Minnesota DNR has also adjusted burning restrictions in Minnesota to reflect improved field conditions.

September 14, 2021

Wildfire-related burning restrictions lifted in 14 counties.

Continued favorable weather has improved wildfire risk for much of northern Minnesota. In response, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is removing fire restrictions in 14 counties.

Beginning 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, burning restrictions will be lifted in Beltrami, Becker, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Ottertail, St. Louis, Roseau, and Wadena counties. 

However, the wildfire risk in remains in the northeastern tip of Minnesota. Therefore, Class III burning restrictions remain in effect for in Cook and Lake counties. Under Class III restrictions:

  • No campfires are allowed for dispersed, remote, or backcountry camping on all state, county, or private lands. Camping stoves are permitted.
  • Attended campfires in established fire rings associated with a home, cabin, campground, or resort are allowed.
  • No fireworks may be ignited on any public or private land outside city limits. People should check with their local community for any additional restrictions.
  • Open burning permits are restricted.
  • An Area of Closure around the Greenwood Fire remains in place and is not affected by the updated burning restrictions.

According to DNR acting Wildfire Prevention Supervisor, Allissa Reynolds, “These changes reflect reduced wildfire risks for much of the north, while also recognizing that wildfire danger remains high in Cook and Lake counties.” She also cautions, “Until we have a few inches of snow on the ground, we all need to continue our efforts to reduce wildfires; fires can start easily in dry grass and leaves.”  

Forrest Boe, Director of DNR’s Forestry Division, appreciates the continued support of all Minnesotans in following wildfire-related restrictions, saying, “Everyone’s efforts to prevent wildfires are helping. Thank you and let’s keep it up through the fall.”

The DNR will continue to monitor conditions and adjust county-specific burning restrictions as necessary. Of upmost importance is protecting the health and safety of Minnesotans, firefighters, and resource managers.

These state restrictions were developed in conjunction with tribal and federal partners and are consistent with restrictions for the

The DNR wildland fire information webpage includes information on all restrictions and a list of affected state forests and parks. 


Can I have a campfire or grill at this time? YES.

Fire restrictions lifted on Superior National Forest

Release Date: Sep 17, 2021

Contact(s): Joanna Gilkeson

Campfires, charcoal grills, and other fire-based stoves allowed again

Duluth, Minn., September 17, 2021 — The Superior National Forest is lifting fire restrictions across the forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness management area.

This means that visitors will again be able to have campfires at designated fire grates in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and in the forest at rustic and backcountry campsites. This announcement also means the use of charcoal grills, barbecues and other stoves is permitted.

Weather and rain have finally cooperated and the forest feels confident it is safe to fully lift fire restrictions at this time. While the window for fire risk is closing, it’s not entirely shut. We ask that our visitors practice vigilance and ensure campfires are fully extinguished before leaving them unattended,” said Chase Marshall, fire management officer for the Superior National Forest.

Rainfall has increased this month, temperatures are cooler and days are becoming shorter, which means the chance of a fire becoming established is lessening. However, northern Minnesota typically experiences several hot, dry days in September and fires can start with the right set of conditions.

Help us minimize the chance of unwanted fire by practicing the following:

  • Camp only at designated sites and use official fire grates for your campfires.
  • Keep your fire small, not tall!
  • To ensure your campfire is fully extinguished before leaving the fire unattended, drown, stir and touch your campfire to ensure the fire is dead out. Repeat until it is cold to the touch.
  • Use fire starters and/or kindling, rather than flammable liquids to get your campfire started.
  • Avoid parking vehicles over tall, dry grass (vehicles cause more acreage burned than any other equipment).

Is it smokey up there? 

It all depends on the wind direction. Because the wind direction changes frequently, the day can start clear but, as quickly as an hour, it could change to smokey. Our advice, be prepared to experience some smoke during your trip. For estimated air quality forecasts, check

Is Cook County open? 

Yes, Cook County remains open. Businesses in Cook County are operating in accordance with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines. It is strongly encouraged that everyone continue the practices of social distancing, frequent handwashing, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and wearing of masks indoors and whenever a business has a posted preference. Please adhere to our Visitor Pledge and mask when asked! 

Our community has worked hard to keep COVID-19 infections low. Click here for information on the measures and best practices in place here in Cook County, and what we ask of our visitors and local community. Another great resource is the Cook County Coronavirus Response Hub.

Please expect there to be road construction in Grand Marais this summer and fall. We are in year two of a major facelift of our Highway 61 corridor through town. Things are very well organized and signed, and the downtown business district is still easily accessible. There are no delays heading into Grand Marais, and detours within the city are easy to navigate. Here is a link to more information about Project 61.

To help you find business hours in Cook County, click here for a link to find local Restaurant information and here for local Retail information. We work hard to keep this information up-to-date, but please call ahead to confirm. 

If you have questions about the current conditions in Cook County, please contact our Information Center team at or (218) 387-2524.


Topics: Grand Marais, Gunflint Trail, Summer, Grand Portage, Lutsen Tofte Schroeder