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The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is our destination of choice.  We know it very well and believe that everyone should visit this beautiful of a place at least once in their life. If your group has another destination in mind- let us know and we will be happy to accommodate.

Dave soaking in the beauty of the Boundary Waters

What is BWCA?

Over 1 million acres in size
Over 1,200 canoe routes
Over 16 hiking trails
Over 2,000 designated campsites
Over 1,000 lakes and rivers of varying sizes

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a part of the Superior National Forest.

Superior National Forest

8901 Grand Ave Place  Duluth, MN  55808

(218) 626-4300

History of the area:

Great glaciers carved what is known today as the BWCA .  This northern third of the Superior National Forest surrounds cliffs, canyons, gentle hills, towering rock formations, rocky shores, sandy beaches and several thousand lakes and streams.  This area was set aside in 1926 preserve its primitive character and made a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964.  The wilderness offers freedom to those who wish to pursue an experience of solitude, challenge and personal integration with nature.

Where is BWCA?
Ely, Minnesota… northern Minnesota running along the Canadian border.


The closest airport is in Duluth, MN
Driving options:
Detroit, MI…820 miles
Grand Rapids, MI…750 miles
Chicago, IL…580 miles
Toledo, OH…820 miles
Auburn, IN…764 miles





Explanation of BWCA terms

BWCA – Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

EP – Entry point

Base camping – to travel into the wilderness to particular destination where you will set up camp and stay each night. Day trips can be taken from this location. You will most likely take the same route you entered to exit the wilderness.

Loop camping – to move your campsite everyday or every other day and wind through the wilderness ending up at the same EP

Pictographs – Native American Indian paintings from hundreds of years ago usually on rock cliffs along the shoreline.  There are numerous pictographs at many locations in the BWCA.

Portaging – Carrying your canoe and gear across the land to drop it into another river or lake.  Portages vary in difficulty ranging from long and sweet to short and treacherous.  Most are moderate with little trouble. However, if its solitude you’re looking for there’s nothing like putting a few portages in between you and the entry point.  Most people only go in a couple of portages.  I suggest going into the forest a little farther the first day to get deeper in the wilderness.  But of course, Wilderness Journey will arrange the trip custom to everyone’s abilities.


BWCA quota camping permit system– In order to stem over use of the BWCA only a designated number of permits are given out at each of the 84 entry points. After January 25th permits are given on a first come first serve basis.  In this regard, it is important to book your trip as soon as possible. Clients are required to purchase their own permits through the Superior National Forest.  We will be happy to assist you through that process.

Campsite designation– Campsites are by designation only and consist of a fire ring and a pit toilet. They are also first come first serve basis.  Wilderness Journey is aware of the location of most of the nicer campsites.



Winter is a seven-month event in the Boundary Waters.  The short summers begin in early May when the ice goes out of the lakes and ends with snow and the freeze over in October.

Here’s what you can expect for the canoeing months:






Average high

(F / C)

70/ 21

72 / 22

79 / 26

72 / 22

63 / 17

Average low

(F / C)

40 / 4

47 / 8

56 / 13

52 / 11

42 / 5

Precipitation (inches)

2.4 / 6.1

5.6 / 14.2

0.5/ 1.2

5.3 / 13.5

3.7 / 9.4

Be prepared:

Each trip usually has an average 1 out of 4 of the days of uncomfortable weather.  Wind is usually the condition  which will help us to decide to stay at our campsite an extra night.   Quality rain gear is always recommended.  It not only protects you from rain but also shields you from wind.  Click here to  learn how to more specifically prepare for you trip.

Nuisance bugs – Mosquitoes, black flies and Deer flies are usually worse in May and early June at which point it begins to taper off as the summer continues.  Of course this depends mostly on weather conditions in the spring.