It’s easy to get started on planning your wilderness vacation.
Getting started with your canoe-trip plans is as simple as asking yourself a few questions…
Who wants to come?
We like traveling in small groups. Two is ideal, whether it’s a couple, a parent and child, or just two close friends. Many aspects of canoeing lend themselves to a group of two.
We find a group size of three to six to be good for social reasons and to divide work nicely. Maximum party size allowed in the Boundary Waters is nine persons. Larger parties can split into two groups, but must travel and camp separately at all times. Larger groups can have trouble finding campsites with enough room, and mealtime can be a chore.
Odd numbers are not a problem, because of our solo and three-person canoes. Solo trips are great — the ultimate way to experience the stillness and solitude of canoe country.
What sort of experience do you have?
You don’t need to be a seasoned paddler to do a wilderness canoe trip, but your experience level may be a factor in deciding where and how far you want to travel. It is a good idea to have at least one person in the group with some outdoor experience in camping and canoeing.
There are trips for every level of comfort and experience. We will help you with any instruction you might need, so you feel prepared and comfortable on your trip. Guided trips are available for those who want that extra help.
What do you want to do and see?
This is the most important decision to make. Find some consensus in your group about what you wish to do while in canoe country. Then think about how important each activity is. Try to prioritize.
Fishing and photography can take lots of time, so plan accordingly if these are on your list. We can help you choose which activities and sights will go well together in your trip plan.
How long should you stay?
We have outfitted trips from two days to twenty-five days, and have not come up with the perfect number. Trips of five or six days seem about right to get the city out of your system and see some territory. Longer trips are good for experienced outdoor folks and those who really want to get away. Three- and four-day trips are good for those with limited time, but it is difficult to cover much water.
We recommend base-camp trips for short stays of three or four days, as you will spend less time doing camp chores and more time having fun while you get to know an area.
One thing we find is that people do not plan enough time to do the everyday duties and chores of camping — setting up and striking camp; cooking, eating, and cleaning up. Make sure you include this in your plan.
When can you come?
Today’s work and school schedules are complicated. We outfit parties from fishing opener (usually around May 15) till September 30. Each time of the summer has its advantages.
Spring is the time of renewal — animals are giving birth, flowers are blooming, fishing is excellent. Moose calves and other little ones can be seen in May. Many birds pass through canoe country on their way north for the summer. Some stay to nest and decorate the tree with their beautiful colors. Wildflowers begin to poke through the forest floor almost as soon as the snow is gone.
Fishing season opens around mid-May for trout, northern pike, and walleye. Bass fishing seems to pick up later. Trout are in shallow water and easily caught in the first part of the season.
Weather is very unpredictable early in the season. Nights can be very cool, and freezing temperatures are possible. Daytime highs vary but can range from the 50s to the 80s, averaging 62 degrees. Bugs are generally not out early in the month and not bad toward the end.
This is a very low-use time, with the exception of Memorial Day weekend.
June is the best month for fishing and wildflowers. Walleyes have finished spawning and are hungry. Bass spawn mid-month and go on a topwater feeding frenzy toward the end of the month.
Most of the orchids and other delicate wildflowers bloom in June and can be found in carpets around campsites and portages. It is a good time for photography, as the woods fully come to life.
June weather is usually cool and wet (that’s why there are so many flowers). It is also a time when the bugs can be formidable. With the advent of insect repellants and headnets, campers can still enjoy this most beautiful time of the season. June is also a relatively low-use time but becoming more popular.
July is the month of transition. Weather is warmer and drier, and the lakes are usually warm enough for swimming.
Berry season begins around July 4th, with tiny wild strawberries, and peaks toward the end of the month or early in August with blueberries and raspberries.
Fishing is still good in most areas, and bugs are on the wane. It is a time when most of the things people come for are available, and the area is still not very busy.
We find it is an ideal time for many of our guests and recommend July dates often. It also fits into many family schedules.
This is the month many people choose to come, because it has it all: warm days, dry weather, cool nights, very few bugs, warm water for swimming, and fish if you’re willing to work for them.
It is also the highest-use month, because so many find it is the best time for them. The permit restrictions do keep use to an acceptable level for most people, and there are always places that you can get away and be alone. Toward the end of the month, things do slow considerably.
There is a meteor shower each year around August 11, which is easily seen in the clear night air.
This is the beginning of fall, and everything in canoe country slows down and prepares for winter. Nights get cool to around freezing as the month goes by. Daytime temperatures drop from around 70 to 40.
It is a low-use time and a time when larger groups are not around. Animals move more and are seen more often. Moose are seen often in September and can even be called. Leaves begin to change toward the end of the month with the peak just at season’s end. Fishing is not as good as other times, but serious anglers can find something to bite. Trout-fishig is excellent at the end of the month.
September is a very quiet time, when peace and serenity are the major attractions. Days get short, so plan to bring a good book and a headlamp. It is also a great month for star-gazing, watching the Aurora Borealis, and seeing the Milky Way.
In years past, most people did canoe trips by traveling ten miles a day every day, rarely stopping or slowing down. It isn’t much of a vacation unless you’re out to prove something. It is, however, the best way to see the inner regions of the wilderness area and to get to lakes where others seldom go. We would encourage a little time to soak up the scenery once you “get there.” It’s also exciting to see what’s around the next bend or over the next portage.
Although we don’t have many guests traveling ten miles every day anymore, some travel amazing distances. Lightening your load becomes very important when you move every day.
Setting up a base camp is the easy way to go, and you don’t have to feel guilty about bringing a few extras. You can travel into the wilderness area for one day, with only a few portages (in some cases, none!) and set up camp for the duration of your trip. This lends itself to fishing, photography, and pure relaxation.
Families with younger children should consider a base camp. Then each day your family can concentrate on fun and exploring, instead of camp chores and getting to your next camp.
Something in Between
Most of our guests travel some and take a layover day every few days. This is the best mix of seeing new territory and getting to know a place well. It’s the way we like to travel, too. You need some time to settle into a place and see its various faces and moods to truly appreciate it. The same goes for fishing. You need some dedicated time to find the really good spots and how the fish are biting. All in all, this is the best way to explore and learn from canoe country.