Classic Northcountry Sampler: Boundary Waters Canoeing and Apostle Islands Kayaking, Minnesota and Wisconsin
- Canoe classic BWCA rivers and lakes
- Paddle tandem kayaks on guided paddles in the Apostles
- Learn about animals at the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center
- Round-trip van transportation from Minneapolis
- All shuttles, all boat rentals, and Apostles day cruise
- All camping fees, all on-trip lodging, most meals
|Dates||Aug 9–17, 2013|
Permit and logistical considerations force us to limit the trip to just seven participants, plus the two leaders. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) has a thousand sun-kissed lakes, hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, a million acres of boreal forest, abundant wildlife, superb fishing, over 1,500 miles of canoe routes, and some of the best flatwater paddling in North America. National Geographic named the Boundary Waters as one of 50 destinations of a lifetime. Each year, visitors come from all over the world to sample this maze of waterways, and few go away disappointed. We will spend several days sampling the stillness, silence, and solitude of this amazing area while paddling its pristine waters. You will paddle among towering red and white pines, white birches, and beautiful bogs in the home of loons, beavers, otters, moose, lynx, black bears, and the eastern timber wolf. You will wake to watch the rising sun burn mist off of a mirror-still lake while you hear the call of the loon in the background. Amazing sunsets will greet you as daylight dwindles away; and you may be lucky enough to hear the distant howl of wolves in the darkness. We will hear silence. There could be northern lights; but there will be no city lights to interfere with stargazing as the campfire dies down.
Before going into the wilderness, we will visit the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center, both in Ely, MN to see these animals and learn about them. In the BWCA, you will enjoy and experience the wilderness first on a day trip and then on a two-night excursion. We will paddle a wide range of lake and river habitat, and could see a variety of wildlife—all in a truly spectacular setting. "Primordial forest" and "crazy as a loon" will probably take on concrete meanings. There will be time for photography, fishing, and swimming.
From Ely, we will drive south to Lake Superior and visit Split Rock lighthouse. Depending on time, weather, and the interests of our group, we will visit other attractions along the lake and in Duluth. Our drive will follow the shore and include great scenery and dramatic views of the shoreline, lake, and beaches.
We will continue south to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore area, where we will be staying in a cabin on a lake near Bayview, WI. The area was designated a national lakeshore in 1970 and includes 21 islands, a 12-mile strip of mainland, six lighthouses, beaches, cliffs, sandstone sea caves—and a lot of water. About 80% of the land area received wilderness designation in 2004. We will take two relatively easy day paddles. After a safety class the first day, we will paddle to sea caves near the shore. The next day, we will make a short and fairly protected crossing to visit Basswood Island. We will lunch in the field and have a guide both days. On our last day, we will take a tour boat to see several islands before returning to Minneapolis.
Day 1: We'll depart 7:30 a.m. from Minneapolis and drive to Ely, MN with lunch en route (first meal of the trip). There, we'll visit the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center, then eat out in Ely (not a trip meal). That night we'll stay as a group in one of our outfitter’s houses or bunkhouse.
Day 2: We'll shuttle to South Hegman Lake and paddle canoes to North Hegman Lake to see very well-defined pictographs and a waterfall. On the way back to Ely, we'll hike all or part of the trail around Bass Lake to see a waterfall and the remains of an old logging operation. At night we'll stay in our same accommodations.
Day 3: We'll depart at 6 a.m. and shuttle to Mudro Lake entry point. From there, we'll paddle to Horse Lake and make camp before lunch. In the afternoon, we'll have a shortpaddle from camp.
Day 4: Today we'll have an all-day day trip up the Horse River to pictographs in Crooked Lake, then return to camp.
Day 5: After paddling out and showering at our outfitter, we'll drive to the Silver Lake, Minnesota area. There we'll visit Split Rock lighthouse. That night, we'll camp in our own group campsite at a state park in the area.
Day 6: We'll drive south along the north shore of Lake Superior and visit several attractions, including a stop for a snack (optional and not a trip meal) at Betty’s Pies, a regional landmark. In Duluth, we will stop at The Depot , which is four museums and living history exhibits housed in an old RR depot. By late afternoon, we will reach our cabin at Siskiwit Lake near Bayfield, WI.
Day 7: We'll start the day with a safety class at our outfitter followed by guided paddle to sea caves. Lunch will be in the field.
Day 8: Today we'll enjoy a guided day paddle with a short crossing to Basswood Island, eating lunch in the field.
Day 9: After a tour boat cruise to see several of the Apostle Islands, we'll drive back to Minneapolis to say our goodbyes.
We will meet at a suburban hotel near the Minneapolis airport. The trip will start when we leave the hotel at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, so you will need to arrive sometime on Thursday.
Accommodations and Food
The first trip meal will be lunch on the first Friday; and the last will be lunch on the last Saturday. We will spend two nights in Ely in our outfitter’s facilities and three nights in a modern cabin on a lake near Bayfield, MN. We will be wilderness camping for two nights in the BWCA. In between, we will probably car camp one night in a Minnesota state park en route from Ely to Bayfield. Except for one dinner in Ely and a snack stop at Betty’s Pies (a regional landmark), all meals are incuded.
We will be camping in established campsites when possible, and we will strive to "leave no trace" the rest of the time. Plan to work together to make camp, prepare, and clean-up meals. The trip leaders really like to cook and to eat, so count on interesting, varied, and nutritious meals. There will be plenty of food. If participants wish, they can bring additional between-meal snacks. We will do our best to accommodate vegetarians and medical dietary restrictions. Those with challenging restrictions may be asked to bring or prepare some of their own food to supplement group food. Please contact the leader if you require food accommodation.
Physically this will be a moderately difficult trip. We will be on flat water in the BWCA, including river portions of the trip. The current is generally minimal, and we will portage around any rapids or waterfalls. Participants should have some experience with canoeing, kayaking and camping. Other than an occasional fire ring, there will be no facilities where we camp in the BWCA. Participants must be able to manage a canoe and a kayak in at least light wind and small waves. In the BWCA, there will be portaging; but it will be minimal for a BWCA trip. Canoe partners need to be able to move their gear and canoe across a portage -- it could be a few yards, a quarter mile, or more. All of your gear and your share of group gear must fit in a single waterproof pack, plus a small day pack for items needed while in transit (e.g. raingear, water, etc.) in order to make portaging manageable. Plan to work cooperatively as a group in completing portages and all aspects of the trip. In BWCA, we will spend about six hours most days in transit, i.e. paddling and portaging and about the same (but no portages) in the Apostles. This may vary depending on wind, weather, and other factors. The leaders will finalize the trip details based on the capabilities and experience of the group.
If time permits, we have planned a hike in the BWCA which can be varied in length depending on our group.
We will be paddling tandem kayaks in the Apostle Islands in relatively protected areas. If weather and Lake Superior conditions prevent paddling, we will do an inland paddle or visit nearby attractions.
Equipment and Clothing
Canoes (BWCA) and kayaks (Apostles), paddles, and PFDs are included in the trip cost.
We will be wilderness camping two nights, car camping one night, and cabin “camping” with running water and kitchen facilities five nights.
For kayaking in the Apostles, you must be prepared to dress for the water.
When we are camping, cooking and water purification equipment and camp tarp will be provided. We will have a group first-aid kit for emergencies. However, you will need a personal first-aid kit, prescription medications, and OTC items like Band-Aids, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. In the BWCA, we plan to provide one bear canister per participant for group food, individual snacks, etc. Participants must bring their own water bottle/bladder, mug, bowl, spoon, tent, sleeping bag, and camping gear. Temperatures can range from the 40s F at night to 70s F in the daytime. A good two-piece waterproof rain suit is required. You will want quick-drying synthetic clothing that can be layered. Participants must have a 70- to 115-liter dry bag with shoulder straps to carry personal gear, with enough space left to hold some group gear and a bear canister (9" diameter x 13"). It is unlikely but possible that we will need to remove some deadfall or other portage trail obstacles. Packable leather work gloves may be useful for this task and for making camp.
Detailed equipment and gear lists will be provided to participants after they are accepted for the trip. With some advance planning, most gear can be rented on an individual basis; and a few items may be loaned by the leader. Please contact the trip leader if you have any questions.
- Beymer, Robert, Boundary Waters Canoe Area: The Eastern Region; Wilderness Press; 2009.
- Jacobson, Cliff, Boundary Waters: Canoe Camping With Style, Globe Pequot Press; 2001.
- Furtman, Michael, Canoe Country Camping: Skills for the Boundary Waters and Quetico, University of Minnesota Press; 2002.
- Stensaas, Mark, Canoe Country Flora: Plants and Trees of the Boundary Waters, University of Minnesota Press; 2004.
- Stensaas, Mark, Canoe Country Wildlife: A Guide to the Boundary Waters and Quetico, University of Minnesota Press; 2001.
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: www.nps.gov/apis/index.htm
Unsafe sulfide mining is one of the biggest threats to the pristine BWCA Wilderness. Sulfide mining is new to Minnesota, but elsewhere in the country (particularly in the Western U.S.) it has polluted water with acid mine drainage and left taxpayers responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up costs when mining companies have filed for bankruptcy and abandoned their polluted mines. With sulfide mining companies seeking permits from the Minnesota Department of Natural resources and exploration for more sulfide mines occurring throughout the Arrowhead region, laws are needed to protect Minnesotans from problems experienced in other states. While other states have passed similar legislation only after experiencing the devastating effects of sulfide mining disasters, Minnesota has a chance to lead on the issue, preventing problems before they occur.
This issue has been alive for the last several years, when a Canadian company, Poly Met, decided that mining for sulfide would be profitable, just outside of the BWCA. A side effect of sulfide mining is the leftover product sulfuric acid. It doesn't just rust like iron ore. Sulfuric acid destroys watersheds and habitat for fish and mammals and affects drinking water. The remains last for over 30 years, with most companies refusing to clean up the leftovers. Read more at the link: http://friends-bwca.org/.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Superior National Forest.
Notes for Sierra Club Outings
- Carbon Offsets
- Electronic Billing and Forms
- Electronic Devices
- How to Apply for a Trip
- Leader Gratuities
- Liability Release and Assumption of Risk
- Medical Issues
- Non-discrimination Statement
- Participant Approval
- Reservation and Cancellation Policy
- Seller of Travel Disclosure
- Travel Insurance
- Trip Feedback
- Trip Price
- Wilderness Manners