The BWCAW
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The call of the loon, a northern jumping, coffee perking on the campfire, the aroma of frying bacon, moonlight sparkling off the water. It's all here, waiting for you in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park in northeastern Minnesota and southwestern Ontario. Voyageur North Outfitters is in Ely, the gateway to the Boundary Waters.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park stretch for nearly 160 miles (258 km.) between Minnesota and Ontario. It's a land of forests, rivers, deep, clear lakes, wildlife, and unsurpassed natural beauty. Explore the BWCAW through our interactive map section, Voyageur Atlas.

You'll travel through this 2.5 million acre (1.02 million ha.) wilderness following the same water routes used by the Sioux, Chippewa, and our namesakes, the French-Canadian Voyageurs.


History

Every fall from about 1750 until the mid-1800s, the Voyageurs carried trade goods through the Boundary Waters as far as the Great Slave Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories. They spent the winter in the interior trading with the Native Americans. When the ice went out of the lakes and rivers, they returned with beaver and other pelts. In fact, the Voyageurs' route through the Boundary Waters defines the Canadian-U.S. border.


Geology

The lakes and landscape of the Boundary Waters were carved out of three billion-year old rock by glaciers that covered the area only a million years ago. If you look closely, you can find grooves in the rock left by the glaciers. The glaciers left behind rocky shorelines and clear lakes.


Fish

The Boundary Waters lakes are home to some of the best-tasting fish anywhere. The angler will find northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, lake trout, crappies, blue gills, and even rainbow and brook trout in some lakes.


Wildlife

The unofficial mascot of the Boundary Waters is the common loon, whose spooky laughter sends chills down your spine when heard in the still of the evening. You might also see bald eagles, great blue herons, and the Canadian jay. The Boundary Waters is home to a significant number of timber wolves, the last large packs in the lower 48 states. There are also moose, white-tailed deer, black bear, beaver, and fox.


Forests

Jack pine, Norway pine, white pine, tamarack, black spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, white cedar, paper birch, and quaking aspen cover the Boundary Waters.


Seasons

Winter is a seven-month event in the Boundary Waters. The short summers begin in early May when the ice goes out of the lakes and ends with snow and the freeze over in October. We offer Boundary Waters Permit!

Here's what to expect for the canoeing months

  May June July Aug. Sept.
Average high (F / C) 70/ 21 72 / 22 79 / 26 72 / 22 63 / 17
Average low (F / C) 40 / 4 47 / 8 56 / 13 52 / 11 42 / 5
Precipitation (in. / cm.) 2.4 / 6.1 5.6 / 14.2 0.5/ 1.2 5.3 / 13.5 3.7 / 9.4

Travel

As during the time of the Native Americans and the Voyageurs, the canoe is how you'll get around in the Boundary Waters. The lakes and rivers are connected by portages. In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness you'll camp at established single-party campsites with fire rings and latrines. In Quetico Provincial Park there are no established campsites. As in all wilderness areas, low-impact camping is the rule.


Our goal is to let you experience the beauty and excitement felt by the Voyageurs three hundred years ago. Except that you'll be using light weight gear, you'll eat sumptuous meals, and most importantly, you'll have time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.