Sigurd F. Olson (1899-1982) was a rare blend of author, naturalist, and wilderness advocate. He devoted his life to the exploration (and protection) of the Boundary Waters region of northern Minnesota. Sigurd Olson wrote over a dozen best-selling books, and we’re happy to report that his 1972 book, Wilderness Days, has just been reprinted in a beautiful new edition, featuring the classic cover art of Francis Lee Jaques.
Olson served as the president of The Wilderness Society from 1963 to 1971, and helped draft the Wilderness Act of 1964. Fortunately, he lived to see President Jimmy Carter sign into law the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978.
For much more on the wilderness work of Sigurd Olson, be sure to read David Backes’ A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd Olson. And Olson’s books themselves tell quite a tale!
Sigurd Olson found his special place along a bare glaciated spit of rock, looking out on the waters of northern Minnesota’s Quetico-Superior region:
“I named this place Listening Point because only when one comes to listen, only when is aware and still, can things be seen and heard. Everyone has a listening point somewhere. It does not have to be in the north or close to the wilderness, but some place of quiet where the universe can be contemplated with awe.” — Sigurd F. Olson
Another very important place in Olson’s life was his very modest writing shack. Last year we posted a piece on writers and their writing huts. Here’s one to add to the collection!
Over the years, the University of Minnesota Press has done a wonderful job of keeping Sigurd Olson’s books in print, among them:
The Lonely Land, Of Time and Place, and Open Horizons
And for more on the landscape that most inspired Sigurd Olson, the Land Library strongly recommends two books from our shelves:
Minnesota’s Natural Heritage: An Ecological Perspective by John Tester, and The Boundary Waters Wilderness Ecosystem by Miron Heinselman.
In August 1921, Sigurd married Elizabeth Dorothy Uhrenholdt. The two spent their honeymoon on a canoe trip through the Boundary Waters, and for the next many, many years, they continued their explorations, by foot, canoe, or snowshoe!