Bouundary Waters Canoe Area - Ely outfitters
Your First Canoe Trip
Taking a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip can be an exhilarating as well as challenging experience. Miles of pristine lakes interconnected by portages (trails) that vary in scenery, wildlife, and fish make a lot of outdoors people really excited about heading out in to the great beyond. Essentially, you are canoe camping. It's similar to car camping in the fact that you are hauling your gear around from site to site, but there is a much higher degree of physical exertion and more skills required. Plus, there are generally far fewer people.
Bearing this in mind, you need to consider taking a trip that's right for you. If you've never done a canoe trip before and even if you are used to camping/backpacking, we highly recommend being completely outfitted by us or another competent outfitter for your first time out. Everything from choosing a route that fits your group's makeup & desires, to acquiring the necessary wilderness permit, to the type gear we supply can mean the difference between "We're never doing THAT again!" or "Only 360 days until our next BWCA trip!"
There's also a convenience factor in being professionally outfitted. Aside from getting your personal clothing and items together, your pack/prep time is minimal. Sure a lot of folks love the pack/prep time, but it can be rather extensive especially for your first time out. Also, not only do you receive the right gear with orientation, you also get to drop it off with us at the end of your trip. That means no tents and sleeping bags to wash, no packs to scrub and dry out, etc. You take a shower, put on your "going home" clothes and say goodbye 'til next time!
For starters, we recommend a minimum stay of 5 to 6 days for your first trip. We never outfit any trip for less than 3 days/2 nights. The average group (95% of everyone we outfit) travels about 6-8 miles per day on the average. When we are initially discussing routes and distances, several of our customers state that on other canoe trips they've done, that it was not unusual to do 20-40 miles per day. They also admit that those were river trips where all they did was steer letting gravity do the work with no portages. In the Boundary Waters, that's never the case. To make up for the lack of gravity and windy conditions, we use Souris River Canoes which are designed for travelling nicely and quickly in flatwater (lakes) conditions. Don't let the name fool you - these canoes were originally built for lake paddling along the Souris River in Souris, Manitoba.
Some Great Routes
For a beautiful and moderately aggressive, 6 day / 5 nite trip, follow D, B, F, G, A. We would drop you off at Lake One (D) and you'd paddle back to our Lake Jasper which is just off the map to the west of A. This particular trip would allow you to see many different lakes from dark water to crystal clear. If you like to fish, the area covers everything from walleyes, northern pike, bass, and lake trout (depending on the season). This route would be travelled in 5 days with one "basecamp" day to sit around camp and chew the fat.
Variations of this trip could lead down any of the colored lines. Staying entirely on the red line would shorten up your distance traveled allowing for more basecamp days. It is not at all unusual for folks to paddle relatively easily into Lake Insula (big lake between B & F; many, many, campsites) and set up a base camp there for a the bulk of their 5 day/4 night trip. This allows them one day's travel in and one day out with 3 days at one spot. From there they can explore the region and get to know it better. You don't have to break camp and move every day and you have a much more time to relax, fish, swim, etc.
Another route to consider would be C, E, G, ending up on the lakes Fraser and Thomas between G and F; again, a moderately difficult trip and some nice areas to set up for a base camp once you're there. Depending on the weather, you can follow the red lines in and blue lines out or vice versa. From C (Snowbank), you could easily do a 5 day trip to D (Lake One).
Red Rock's Trip Considerations
We factor these topics and others into selecting a route for your group.
When to Take Your Trip
- Number in your party
- Group Make-up (adults & kids, all adults, etc.)
- Experience level in canoeing (big consideration)
- Past Camping Experiences - ever slept in a tent?
- Your Groups interests: sightseeing, wildlife, fishing, etc.
- Type of trip you're interested in: Move all the time, base camp, etc
- How long you want to be out.
If you are able, plan your trip for earlier in the season (last two weeks of May, first week of June) and after Labor Day. The weather's nice usually and there are fewer people out during those times. The last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August are the absolute busiest times to be out. There are still only a limited number of permits issued but when they are all out, there are just more folks in the woods. It's nothing at all like Yellowstone or Disneyland on a slow day, but nonetheless, there will be canoes going by. We prefer to direct you off of the beaten paths to help you avoid people whenever possible. To do this requires taking a few longer portages and paddling a little out of the way, but the end result is very pleasant and well worth the effort. We also highly recommend being organized within your group and crossing the portages efficiently. These are all topics and tips that we cover during orientation. Since we're a small outfitter, we're able to spend a lot more time in orientation to expose you to everything that can improve your trip overall from fishing tips to setting your tent, to cooking and reading the weather.
Costs for Oufitting with a Superlight Kevlar Canoe
Includes all camping/paddling gear, food, campstoves & fuel, packs, tents, sleeping bags, self-inflating sleeping pads, kevlar canoes, trip & equipment orientation, trip routing, maps, overnite accomodations (private bunkroom), entry point transportation and showers. You need to bring personal clothing, toiletries, towels, fishing gear and raingear. Don't forget your camera and maybe a book to enjoy at camp. We do not outfit water filters but have them available for purchase at a cost of about $30.00 each. We also sell water purification tablets, compasses, binoculars, knives, raingear, and more than can be typed on this page. If you are in need of camping gear plus books on canoeing, the outdoors and more follow this link to our large online catalog: Red Rock's Online Catalogs
Not sure if an 5 day trip is right for you? Here's another option to consider: Stay in one of our housekeeping cabins with comfortable amenities and take canoe day trips to a broad variety of BWCA entry points. Some days the whole family can go and other's maybe just Dad and son. Every evening you come back to a nice cabin after spending a whole day way out in the woods. Many of our guests day-trip and enjoy it immensely! We can select routes for you that have a variety of portages and lake crossings so you can experience wilderness canoeing and still go in when it rains. And, when you don't feel like canoeing, you could always go mountain biking, hiking, swimming, or kayaking right here at Red Rock/Northwind Lodge. Then of course there's shopping here at Red Rock or in Ely only 20 minutes away, visiting the International Wolf Center, etc. For more information about our cabins, visit Northwind Lodge
If you have any specific questions that aren't answered in our website at Complete Canoe Trip Outfitting or here at Partial Canoe Trip Outfitting (you only need a canoe or tent or pack, etc.), email us anytime or call 1-800-280-1078 for reservations/questions for both trips and cabins.
Copyright © 2007, Northwind Outdoor Recreation. All Rights Reserved.
Last Revised -Jan 1, 2007