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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.

4 thoughts on “HOW TO PLAN A BOUNDARY WATERS CANOE AREA (BWCA) TRIP

  1. John Carlson

    I am planning my first trip to BWCA that doesn’t include a cabin. I appreciate the suggestions. The tough choices will be what I have and what I still have to purchase. Don’t want to over pack but don’t have the budget to buy too much new.

    Reply
  2. Jerry Hughes

    I would add a camera with a zoom lens and a small pair of binoculars to the list. A kindle or nook would be a good (& light) substitute for books.

    Reply
    1. MollyS Post author

      Great idea Jerry. I have regretted not taking small binoculars when a moose was in the distance.

      Reply

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