Trip Route: Lake Three/Four Base Camp

Entry Point:  Lake One

Trip Length: 3 Days

Apex: Lake Three

Exit:  Lake One

Level:  Moderate

Pace:  6 – 8 miles per day (land & sea combined

Scenery:  Beautiful – rocks, sticks, water, rapids, portages

Busy Times: Last week of July – First week of August

Features:  This is an easy trip but due to the insanely handled Pagami Fire (our government helping us all with a “controlled” (HA! My butt!) burn), there are less campsites available in Lake Three.  There are still sites available on the north shores of Lake Three and Four.  Unfortunately a bunch of sites to the south did get removed by Uncle Sam.  That being said, this is still a neat area to visit and easy to access with only two piddly portages.

Problems:  With only two piddly portages separating  Lake Three from Lake One, the city folk think it’s a really big deal to go to Lake Two and jam up the campsites, nowadays.  Apparently, a 30 minute paddle is now considered a “canoeing adventure” for many.  As a result, they haul a ton of silly crap along and plug up the portages as well.  My personal favorite was the travel cooler with the little wheels on it. Technically, very much illegal, but they suck so bad as camping gear the US Forest Service allows them in just for entertainment purposes.  Don’t forget that the USFS was in charge of burning down 10% of of the BWCA in the Pagami fire as well.  So, allowing the little-wheeled, illegal travel coolers makes sense to them.

Solutions:  Travel early.  Today’s “new adventurers”  usually finally get going at around 10-11 AM.   Hit the water early and go to Lake Four.  Stick your flag with the family crest in a campsite on the north shore and defend your claim against confused insurgents who will bumble by much later in the day.  Most will stay on Lake Two because getting wilderness on you is only done with an app anymore.


Trip Route: Lake One Circle

Entry Point:  Lake One

Trip Length: 5 Days

Apex: Thomas Lake

Exit:  Snowbank or Moose

Level:  Moderate

Pace:  6 – 8 miles per day (land & sea combined

Scenery:  Beautiful – rocks, stick, water, rapids, portages

Busy Times: Last week of July – First week of August

Features:  You can get “off the beaten path” along the way if you are willing to take a few portages and avoid darn near everybody at certain times of the trip

Problems:  Portages into Lake Two and Insula can jam up with idiots laying their gear and canoes across the portages while they stop to have a sandwich or shoot the bull.  Remember, they think they’re in God’s country and really don’t care about the rest of us.

Solutions:  Travel early.  The inconsiderate usually finally get going at around 10-11 AM and there are tons of them out there. If you hit the portages at 8AM, you can avoid them all and get to the nicest campsites ahead.  You can “sleep in” at any Holiday Inn.  Why waste the day and scenery laying in your tent and then fighting crowds at portages?

A BWCA Trip Route Suggestion for a Customer

BWCA Trip Route Suggestion to one of our canoe customers 

BWCA trip routes
Beautiful Trip Route Suggestions

This was a response to a canoe-rental customer with route suggestions and details.   Parts of it apply to everybody else as well, so why type it 10 times, I say!

I’ve put together this webpage to present a rough idea for what you’d expect to see in a BWCA canoe trip. The trips above are both really nice trips and you would have some flexiblity in them as far as routing is concerned. They are not set in stone. In either case regardless of route taken, the entry point to start would be Lake One (30). You could also do these routes starting at Moose lake or Snowbank which is sometimes the case if the Lake One entry point is full – only 18 parties per day are allowed to enter there. The red dots are campsites (complete with biffy and firegrate) and you can camp only on bonafide sites. All sites are first-come. first-served, so you want to travel early in the morning and set up camp by 2 PM in case the lake you happen to be on has no available sites. You may have to press on to another lake if that is the case. People who dink around like they are in Disneyland with five-star concierge services are the ones who panic at 9 PM when they realize they have nowhere to sleep tonight.   Sleeping in one’s canoe is “less good”.

This trip would start of the beginning of the red line (Lake One – that’s the actual name – really snazzy -you’ll see a a circle with “30” in it on the map) and progress the first night of camping on Lake Insula, (1AB). Then continue on to Lake Thomas to camp in the vicinity of 2AB. Follow to 3B for the area of the thrid night of camping. Loop around to 4B for the 4th night stay with Day 5 paddling back to the Snowbank landing. For a 5 day trip, this would be a fairly aggressive, but achievable route that would put over 60 miles in travel especially if done in 5 days. There would be no time for fishing on this type of trip because most efforts would be spend making and breaking camp, cooking, and passing out from exhaustion in the tent. Making this trip a 6-7 day trip with shorter daily travel distances or the same travel lengths with a day or two of hanging out at a base camp somewhere near the top of the loop would make room for day-trips, fishing, and general hanging out. Also, less chance of a mutiny.

No matter how determined a group is, I’ve seen their “mettle” tested and the whiner(s) who everybody wants to drown, will surface.   Physically challenging canoe trips (or anything else) are survived more by mental fortitude than anything else.   Some people have the determination and some don’t.   The ones who don’t will be left on the portage to be eaten by wolves. (kidding)   On that note however, it is not unusual to hear howling wolf packs depending on when you take the trip.   May-early June and August are best howling months.   If you haven’t heard real timber wolves howl, it’ll make your hair stand on end, initially, especially at midnight while safely hiding behind that thin sheet of nylon called the tent.   But it’s “rip-stop” nylon…. Haven’t lost anybody to wolves…yet.

The smaller suggested loop with the blue line is about 46 miles or so.  You could also follow that route and take day trips to make up mileage for the 50 mile canoe badge.   This trip is very achievable in 5 paddling days but the same limitations will apply.

It’s moose country all through the Lake One, Two, Three, Four, Hudson, Insula region. Insula is a good fishing lake.   Well actually they all are, but Insula can really stand out for walleyes, northern and bass.   This entire area is a dark-water area.   The water is clear, but stained a bit darker due to tanin in the water which comes from marsh areas (called muskeg here).   Everything north of Insula will be very clear water and then it becomes lake trout country.   Thomas, Frazer, Kekekabic plus all the little lakes coming back down have lakers, walleye, bass and northern pike. This summer was absolutely awesome for fishing.  Fishing tanked in September but the May-August was probably one fo the best years I can remember.  Everybody on our canoe trips caught fish. This would have been a good year to go out with only a fishing rod, fillet knife and the shirt on your back…maybe some pants and matches, too.   Oh yeah, footwear – the portages would be brutal without running shoes or boots – open toe sandals are not serious footwear on portages – worthless.    Maybe a compass and a map too.   But, you get the idea regarding fishing, however.  It was excellent!

As for gear, we primarily rent canoes and packs. If you have frame packs for doing Philmont, leave it at home and rent a pack instead. Frame packs are for hiking, not canoeing and you end up with the wrong stuff for this type of trip for reasons explained here.  This link goes to our other site Souris River Dealer which also offers a lot of info regarding canoes, canoe handling, etc, in the “FREE How-to links” listed on the right side of the homepage.   It can be good review material for people getting ready to go on a trip.

Canoe rental rates are listed here and are per calendar day.

In the BWCA, you may not have more than 4 canoes and 9 people per permit.   Two related permit groups  would not be allowed to travel together or even all stand on the same island together if they exceed 9 people.   Nine people max in any given area.   That being said, I have heard stories of overzealous Forest Service personnel trying to write a ticket for two unrelated groups who both happen to be standing on the portage together, but the Barney Fife Syndrome is usually not a problem.  You cannot travel in a group of more than 4 watercraft, period.  Space them far apart.  You may not come and go freely from within the BWCA.  Leaving the BWCA during your trip VOIDS the permit for that individual and they cannot go back in.  The BWCA is NOT a state camping area next to a town where if you need more supplies, you simply paddle out to the car and get them to later return to your site.  This law is relevant to a wilderness area which is not a state campground and you should be learning all of this from the Forest Service when you pick up your permit,  but they do not always tell visitors this.   We’d hate to see your trip be dashed for not knowing the law.

You would need to make your permit reservation (required) for the dates your actual trip at    Your trip needs to begin on the start date listed (determined by the permit maker – you) on the actual permit.   Starting a day early or late is not allowed.   To make reservations a credit card is required.   Your card will be charged a deposit for the permit and you’ll get printable confirmation that the permit is available.   Your initial deposit would be applied to the total cost of the BWCA permit when you go to pick it up.

You would pick up your actual BWCAW permit (remember, the online process is just to reserve a permit) at the US Forest Service Kawishiwi ranger District either the morning of your trip or the day before. From there, you’d stop in here to arrange the rental canoes and we’d most likely haul them to Lake One for you. I say most likely because some folks are set up to haul their own rental canoe.   Our round-trip canoe delivery rates are listed here.  Note that we only deliver and pick up Red Rock rental canoes and gear.   In this case, we would either pick up the canoes at Snowbank or Moose Lake if the above trip is one that you decide to take.

To know that you are back from a trip, on the day your trip starts, we generally take you and your car to the return point and lock it up.   Then we return you to your entry point.   You proceed on the trip following map and compass for the next 5-7 days or so depending on what you’ve scheduled.   When you get to the return point, you leave the canoes flipped over to one side and stop in at Red Rock to let us know you are back in.   We then go get the canoes and you continue on the long journey home if that is your plan.   Showers would be available in Ely at an outfitter that has larger facilities available on a public water system, to whom we refer many of our customers.

To reserve your canoe for your next Boundary Waters Canoe Trip give the experts a call at 218-365-4512