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Local author Joe Friedrichs tells stories of close calls and tragedy and promotes safety in the BWCAW with new book, "Last Entry Point"

May 04, 2024 09:33AM ● By Content Editor
Photos provided

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - May 4, 2024

Often when we read or hear about a person's close call or tragic accident in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), we get few details: name, age, where they're from, and a short recap of what happened. This can make it easy to forget that these were actual people, with families, friends, and full lives. It allows us to distance ourselves from the incident, thinking that we would be better prepared and skilled, or simply bring better or more safety equipment. 

But there is power in stories; making it harder to ignore reality and distance ourselves from others. In 2020, a young man named Billy Cameron died on Tuscarora Lake. This story in particular prompted Cook County resident Joe Friedrichs to start writing Last Entry Point: Stories of Danger and Death in the Boundary Waters (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2024)Fredrichs, who founded BWCAW media company Paddle and Portage, told Boreal Community Media that after Cameron had died, he went to Ohio to visit his girlfriend and hear Billy's story. "That conversation was very powerful. Very emotional. It was the first time I'd done something like that after someone died in the BWCA."

 Image: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Two years went into writing the book. Friedrichs said he spent a lot of time talking with St. Louis Country Search and Rescue and BWCAW Outfitters. He traveled all over the country conducting interviews with friends and family members of people who have lost people in the BWCAW. 

One of those people was Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. Governor Walz lost his brother, Craig, during a strong thunderstorm in 2016 on Duncan Lake when a tree fell on the campsite. Craig's son, Jacob, who was also there, was injured. "I am the only person Gov. Walz has ever talked with about the loss of his brother, Craig. I've had some very emotional conversations with the Governor about the situation, including when I handed him a copy of the book in person last week in St. Paul," Friedrichs shared. 

Even though Craig's story happens to be related to an important political figure in Minnesota, Friedrichs said that this story was as powerful as the other stories he interacted with. "I didn't treat it any differently than the other stories shared in the book."

Through sharing the stories of tragedy and close calls, Friedrichs hopes that those reading will stay safe during their BWCAW adventures. "That's what the book is all about. It takes a powerful story sometimes to grab someone's attention," he said.


Even the most skilled wilderness lovers can get caught in scary situations. Take Freidrichs, for instance. In 2023, he was canoeing in the BWCAW and ended up in a very close-call position. "We capsized on a stretch of rapids in the Temperance River near the Baker Lake entry point. I got pinned by a submerged pine in the river and nearly died." And yes, he does share the full story in the book. 

Tonight, Friedrichs will be giving an 
Author Talk at Drury Lane Books at 6 PM, where he will share stories from the BWCAW and sign copies of Last Entry Point

To learn more about Last Entry Point, visit the Minnesota Historical Society Press site here.

Purchase the book from Drury Lane Books here.

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