Frequently Asked Questions about BWCA Canoe Trips

Below you will find a list of questions that we frequently hear.

When is fishing the best?

Fishing is the best during the last two weeks of May, and during the months of June and September.

Which lakes are the best for fishing?

It depends: on the time of the season, what species you wish to catch, the weather, and several other factors. Generally, the farther into the canoe country you travel, the better the fishing. There Are some exceptions, however. Basswood Lake and Crooked Lake are excellent fishing lakes, and can be reached by canoe within a day. Other lakes such as Brent Lake and Pooh Bah Lake require three to four days of travel time to reach. If you have sufficient time to make such a trip, your efforts will be rewarded.

Can we take a canoe trip without portaging?

Several entry points afford access to the canoe country without making a portage, but you will see more people on these routes.

Where are we going to see the fewest people?

You will experience greater solitude in Quetico Park because there are substantially fewer permits available for Quetico than for the Boundary Waters. Also, you will see fewer people on the tougher routes.

When are the insects the worst?

Unfortunately, fish and insects tend to bite at the same time. We usually see our first insects around the beginning of June, and they remain with us throughout the summer until our first frost (about mid-September). However, there are relatively few insects in the woods after the first week of July.

Where will we see the most wildlife?

You will see more wildlife on the less traveled routes, but this doesn’t mean you have to take a long trip. Our native wildlife includes deer, moose, black bear, otter, mink, beaver, bald eagles, and osprey, as well as the timber wolf. Wolves are extremely shy creatures and try to avoid people, but you may be lucky enough to hear a pack howl some night.

You mentioned bears?

The North American black bear is truly one of the most maligned animals in the wilderness. A bear is capable of causing bodily injury, but the North American black bear should not be equated with bears such as the Grizzly or the Polar Bear. The black bear is a relatively docile animal, but he will attempt to steal your food pack if given the opportunity. We consider it a treat to see a bear in the wilds, but the black bear should be accorded the same respect as any other wild forest animal.

You also mentioned wolves?

The timber wolf is, without question, the most maligned animal in North America. Years ago, before they were added to the Endangered Species list, they were hunted almost to extinction. The Boundary Waters is home to approximately 1,500 wolves, who live and hunt in packs. Contrary to myth and popular belief, the wolf poses no threat to humans. In fact, no wild, healthy wolf has ever attacked a human in the U.S.!

Can we drink the water without treating it?

The U.S. Forest Service recommends treating, filtering, or boiling your drinking water to eliminate the possibility of contracting the giardia parasite. Our experience, however, indicates that more than 90% of the visitors to the canoe country simply drink the water right out of the lakes and suffer absolutely no ill effects from doing so. We do offer both treatment and filtering products for sale in our store.

When is the weather the best?

We have good camping weather during all three summer months, with July being the warmest month. Also, the last two weeks of May and the first two or three weeks of September are usually quite nice ~ no insects and very few people! We usually experience our first frost around mid-September.

How many miles can we expect to cover in a day?

If you are “on the water” by 9 AM and travel until about 3 PM, with a short break for lunch, you should cover about ten to twelve miles. This would include three or four portages.

How should we go about planning a route?

That’s one of the reasons we’re here for you! There are not many lakes in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park that we have not camped on or paddled. To plan the most enjoyable trip for you, we need to know some of your expectations and preferences: we need to know whether you prefer to focus on fishing or whether you wish to break camp more often to do more traveling, we need to know how many days you will be spending in the wilderness, and we need to know the age bracket of your group (young people over the age of 14 or 15 are capable of paddling and portaging greater distances than younger people). If you share this information with us, we’ll make some specific route suggestions that will be designed to meet your expectations.

When should we make a reservation?

As soon as you know the starting date of your canoe trip! There are a limited number of permits available, and they are confirmed on a “first-come, first-served” basis. Early reservations are especially important for groups, due to the fact that your group may be large enough to require more than one Permit. Because of Permit quotas, it is never too early to make your reservation! Many groups make their Outfitting reservations with us about a year in advance of their actual trip.