Category Archives: Trip Planning

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HOW TO PLAN A BOUNDARY WATERS CANOE AREA (BWCA) TRIP

HOW TO PLAN A BOUNDARY WATERS CANOE AREA (BWCA) TRIP

I posted this a few years pack and we still get requests for the packing list. Here you go and enjoy!

PLANNING • Where to begin? Well how about with choosing your companions! People you know that can handle some work and getting back to nature. The BWCA does have a party limit and campsite limit. Nine people and four watercraft are the maximum allowed in the BWCA. Chose a date that works for everyone and plan for some alternate dates for your group in case the permits are gone already. Advanced planning is key. There are several books on the market that explain planning for a trip in detail.Here a two of our favorites: Canoe Country Camping and Exploring the BWCA .

DATES • From May 1st to September 30th you will need to obtain a BWCA permit. Permits in certain areas go fast so reserve early! You must enter the BWCA on your specific permit date, not the day before or after. The Duluth Pack store at 365 Canal Park Drive is a BWCAW Permit Station, stock up on everything you need when you pick it up at Duluth Pack.  Permit tip!  Make sure to add extra group alternate leaders on your permit, you are not able to change them once submitted.

ROUTES • For your first time out I would choose a route with limited portages. I would suggest, once your party is determined, to have a group meeting. Choose a leader to pick up the permit, decide who will be in charge of what meals and what everyone is bringing so there are no unnecessary duplicates. Check out the various entry points and maps for the best location. Once you choose your route, buy maps for the lakes you will be paddling. A set of maps for each canoe is helpful in case you are separated. A beginner and popular route is Lakes One, Two, Three, and Four out of Ely, MN off the Fernberg Trail. Entry point 30. There are lots of campsites on each lake and limited portages. The further in you travel the less people you will see.

Experienced campers should check out entry points with limited entries and/or every other day permits. You will see less people the longer portages you take away from all other entry points. Also consider planning your trip during off peak times, the middle of the week, late Fall or early Spring.

PERMIT • You can obtain a BWCA permit from this website or by calling the Duluth Pack retail store at 218-722-1707.

You must watch a video when you pick up your permit, once you watch the video you will get a card so you won’t  have to watch the video again that year. Permits can only be picked up the day before, or the day of your entry date, by your group leader or an alternate leader listed on the permit. Office hours do vary so check with your permit pickup location for their office hours.

FOOD AND GROUP SUPPLIES • If this is your first trip you may want to consider contacting an outfitter to provide you with canoes, Duluth Packs, and various gear. Here is a partial list of outfitters.

  • You will need:

canoes

WHAT TO PACK  Personal use.

Extra- here is something fun! Fishing gear, book, and camp chair.

Sunset over Ice

Avoid Cabin Fever during the Leap Day Blizzard

Snow has finally come to Duluth, and many of us in the north woods are enjoying a snow day as we hunker down during this leap day blizzard. What are you going to do as the storm rages and you fight off the feeling of cabin fever? Let me throw out some ideas to keep you from going stir crazy and at the same time continuing to dream of open water.

Make it a movie day – Pop in a Cliff Jacobsen or Bill Mason video in the DVD player and escape to the lakes and rivers of the north. It is a great way to pick up some new skills or just revel in the scenic beauty captured on each disc.

Condition the leather on your canoe packs – Grab the Lexol conditioner and rub it into all the leather on your packs, really soak those straps. Yeah, I know this doesn’t sound like a great way to spend a free day, but it will pay dividends when the ice melts.

Get the snowshoes ready – rest assured at some point this wind is going to lie down, and you can get out and play in the fresh powder. Tighten those bindings and plan on shoeing away in Jay Cooke State Park or up the Superior Hiking Trail.  Both have great trails to test out the snowshoes, and don’t forget to take your camera along to capture what might be the only storm of 2012.

Dive into good book – My favorites are from Sigurd Olson or John Krakauer. With Olson you can relax and enjoy the soothing picture he paints of the wilderness complete with sights and sounds. Reading Krakauer gives you the vicarious experience of high drama adventure.

Spread the maps out and route a trip – Now this sounds more like it! Stretch all your maps out on the floor and plan a trip for the summer of 2012. Choose an entry point, book it at Recreation.gov, and if you have any questions give an expert at the Duluth Pack store a call.

There you go, now you have a few ideas to help you spend your snow day. My plan is to grab the camera and get some shots of the gently falling snow. OK, maybe not so gently.

Moose River North

Make your BWCAW permit reservation online and pick-up at the Duluth Pack Store

Open water is just around the corner and to get a head start toward planning your Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) adventure for 2012 head to Recreation.gov to reserve your permit. Making your permit reservation online is a fairly easy process and it takes one more thing off the check list before you head into the woods.

1. Go to Recreation.govand create an account with username and password.

2. Navigate to the BWCAW portion of the website.

3. On the left side of the screen choose; overnight paddle, your desired entry point, and entry date.

4. Now, one little trick as you are wandering around looking for an entry point, search by “Date Range Availability” to view the entry point for more than one day.

5. Select an available date to enter and click book permit.

6. Fill out form on the next page with the required information, entry date and entry point will already be in the appropriate boxes.

- Plug in the exit date. This is a flexible date, and can be changed. Entry date, however is a hard and fast date once you book the permit.

- Enter the number of people in your party, nine is the maximum and two is the minimum. You can always add and subtract people right up until the moment your permit is issued. If you are going to be a solo enter “two” now and the permit issuing station will amend to “one” on the day you pick up your permit.

- If your party has more than 9 people you will need two permits and you can’t travel or camp together.

- Enter the number of boats in the party, four is maximum. Like the number of people this can be changed until the moment your permit is issued.

- Permit Issuing Station – Choose Duluth Pack – if you don’t choose a station it will default to the ranger station closest your entry point.

- Enter names of alternate leaders, this is a great idea because if for some reason you as group leader can’t make the trip one of the alternate leaders can be issued the permit. Without alternate leaders identified nobody else can be issued the permit.

7. Place in shopping cart.

8. Pay with credit card.

9. Get your gear ready and in your canoe packs.

9. Pick up your permit at the Duluth Pack Store in Canal Park the day before or the day of your trip.

It is that easy. But if you would like to know more before booking your permit or routing your trip head on down to the Duluth Pack Store, and one of the experts will lay out the maps to help you plan your trip.