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Boundary Waters canoe area wilderness

Updated on November 14, 2015

Boundary waters canoe area

If you ever want to take a trip to a place to get away from it all. A place where you can experience something you can't experience almost anywhere else. A place where you can sit on a rock at night where it is so dark and so quiet that you can't see or hear anything but billions of stars, the Boundary waters canoe area is that place.

There are no phones, no internet, no TV, no radio. From the time you leave your car, until the time you get back to your car, you have no connection to the outside world. If you want, you can have no contact with anyone that is not in your group the entire time you are there. The Boundary waters canoe area wilderness is one of the real true wilderness places left in the United States where you can really get away from it all, literally.

BWCA lakeside cliff

BWCAW picture
BWCAW picture


The boundary waters canoe area was named the BWCA in 1958. It covers 1.3 million acres of wilderness area in the North East part of Minnesota. It butts up against the Quetico Provincial park in Canada, and the voyagers National park to the west. It is also part of the larger Superior National Forest. The BWCAW had more than 1,500 miles of canoe routes, 2,200 campsites, and over 1,000 lakes. The name was changed to The BWCAW in 1978.

Top of Brule lake

From the top of Brule Lake
From the top of Brule Lake


You need a permit to enter the boundary waters canoe area. The forest service wants to control the number of people that are allowed into the area at any time. You have to pick the spot you want to enter and you must go in at that spot. Once you get in, you can go wherever you want. The nice thing about the permit system is that you will always be in a wilderness area, there won't be more people in the park than what it can support. Here is the link to the site that gives you a trip planning guide that shows you everything you need to know to plan your trip.

Campsite on Brule lake

Our campsite
Our campsite


There are a few places that you can take a camper, so you don't have to totally rough it, on the Gunflint trail there is even a diner where you can buy food, and a small store with some basics for sale. There are a few lakes in that area that you can use boats with motors. The vast majority of the boundary waters canoe area is a true wilderness area.

You have to bring your own food and water, or filters for water. You have to take out all of your trash. You have to hang your food at night to keep bears away. The water is extremely clear so fishing is sometimes tough, but there are fantastic populations of fish in all the lakes. You can catch Bass, walleye, Pike, Muskie, Crappies, Perch, and some other fish as well. Here is a link to a slide show I made of our last trip to the BWCAW.

Soo peaceful
Soo peaceful


In the times I have been there, we saw 2 big black bears and a moose, and hundreds of bald eagles. The moose was really cool. They are not afraid of people. He stopped in front of us and kept looking up at us, but he wasn't bothered by us. We sat and watched him for almost 20 minutes while he was eating and just rooting around. It still amazes me that an animal that big can walk through the thick woods there. It is also an image that I will remember forever. One of the bears was in a dumpster at the campground. He knew where to find food.

BWCA outfitters
BWCA outfitters

Boundary Waters Outfitters

There are several outfitters in the Ely area. They will set you up with what you need. From the basics to everything you need for the entire trip. Here is a link that you can pick one of them to help you with your trip.

Small island
Small island

A video of the boundary waters canoe area


This is a stunning place to go for a vacation. You can experience a kind of peace and solitude that you can't find anywhere else. The last time I was there, there were 5 of us in our group, we didn't even see any other people for 3 days, and only a couple the other 3 days we were there.

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