Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

BWCA vs Quetico Provincial Park
Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Boundary Waters Canoe Area (Debbie Hartmann/courtesy, Superior National Forest)

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Minnesota and the Quetico Provincial Park of Ontario, Canada, combined, offer over two million areas of pristine wilderness just waiting for you.

Both areas offer breathtaking beauty. Waterfalls, sheer rock cliffs, and deep crystal-clear lakes abound. Moose, deer, beaver, and otter are just a few of the mammals you may encounter during your travels. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is also one of the largest bald eagle nesting areas in the lower 48 states. Osprey, loons, ducks, and song birds fill the woods and waterways with their enchanting songs and calls.

Smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, and lake trout are abundant throughout the wilderness areas. With "canoe only" access, fishing in our wilderness lakes is superior to areas more exposed to public use.

Differences do exist between the areas based on permit quotas and campsite accommodations.

Travel permits for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness offer a variety of entry points to choose from. Start right from our dock or choose to be driven by van, or flown by float plane to another periphery entry point. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness also provides designated campsites, which you must stay at when camping overnight. The designated campsites include a wilderness box latrine and a pre-positioned firegrate.

Over the past several years, the Boundary waters Canoe Area Wilderness has seen many additional changes in total permit numbers and group size. With the above changes, we have seen an increase in solitude for visitors, but a decrease in permit availability. Permit applications for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness may be submitted starting in December for the following season.

Quetico Park offers many of the same amenities as the Boundary Waters, but on a more limited scale. The limited number of travel permits available makes Quetico permits more difficult to obtain. You may camp anywhere within Quetico Park, as long as you do not cut down any trees. Previously used campsites do exist and consist of a clearing in the woods. Visitors must bring along their own firegrate and latrine shovel.

Planning for Quetico Park trips must start at least a year in advance. Permit applications may be submitted in January for the coming season. Be prepared to work with three to six starting dates and numerous entry points to ensure the maximum opportunity for obtaining a permit.

Both wilderness areas offer abundant scenery, wildlife, fishing, solitude, and travel opportunities. Traveling about four to five portages into either wilderness area will allow you to travel beyond many of the popular basecamp areas. Also consider taking a half-mile portage, leaving people and all your cares behind.

Jot down your trip plans or desires and give us a call. We can route you into some of the most spectacular wilderness adventures available in North America.

Thanks to Canadian Border Outfitters for sharing this information on Boundary Waters.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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