The Wilderness Work of Sigurd Olson

wilderness days

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!

by lakelistening point
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:

lonely landof timeof time & place
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!

For more on the life and work of Sigurd Olson, be sure to visit The Listening Point Foundation site, along with the Sigurd F. Olson Website!


2 thoughts on “The Wilderness Work of Sigurd Olson

  1. Geez, eh…I’m a Minnysoda boy and I hever heard of Olson, y’know? Spent a buncha time on Lake of the Woods (B.W.Canoe Area when it wasn’t) with just us and the black flies and like that back in the ’50’s as a kid, pre-G.K (Garrison Keillor) it was back then.

    To honor the guy they shoulda named a mosquito, leech or midge after Olson, eh?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s