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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Is anybody out there familiar with the "Boundary Waters Canoe Area" around Ely, Minnesota?

Every couple of years, I get together with my brother, and brother in law, and nephews and we take a road trip. This year we looking for a place to go. Years ago I when I was a kid, I would always see this ads for canoe trips in the back of magazines like "Sports Afield" , etc. It always looked like fun. Anybody been on one of these trips?

Well anyway, I'm thinking Ely, Minnesota might be a possibility for the trip this year. The other suggestion has been New York City to see Yankee stadium before the Yankees move to the new stadium. I'm just looking for an alternate.

Anybody been on one of these canoe trips? How strenuous is it? Us old guys in the group will be in their 50's. I still run 2 miles a day, but I have had a heart attack and a couple of heart caths. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.

Any info would be appreciated.
 

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I did it last year with Boy Scouts...we paddled 75 miles (which isn't suggested) because of the idiot that routed us to places HE'D never been. We were one group, there were 2 other groups that went from the Boy Scouts too, one just base camped and fished and the other group only paddled 50 miles. It's good fishing if you get a chance to and beautiful scenery, there's an awful lot of rocks trees and water. If you do go up, make sure that Agnes lake isn't on your map, and that you don't come back on the "Falls Chain", Agnes is a HUGE lake thats around 3½ miles long (took us a day and a half to paddle it) and takes the two "Agonies" portages (Big Agony and Little Agony) to get to it, and the "Falls Chain" is basically a bunch of really cool water falls that you have to portage around because you paddle upstream... If I ever go up again it will be a 25-30 mile trip strictly for fishing. This year I'm not going to BWCA but I'm going to a resort in Canada to sit in a MOTORIZED boat and fish. Hope you find out where to go.

-Jollytrapshooter
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
All, I guess what I'm asking is - is it worth seeing? Never been to Minnesota.
 

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Like I said, it's beautiful scenery and I would recommend doing it as long as you do your homework and find good outfitters. I think a 30-35 mile trip would be about perfect, it would give you plenty of time for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you could take your time and enjoy the scenery, that's assuming you take a 4 or 5 day trip. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and a great accomplishment for me even though we weren't planning on going that far. Oh, I also forgot to say that we paddled that 75 miles in 4 days, we averaged between 16 to 22 miles a day, that gave us time to get up at 6, eat breakfast, paddle 2/3's the way, eat lunch, get to the camp site, eat dinner, pitch the tents and go to sleep at about 9pm. It was quite the experience.

-Jollytrapshooter
 

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The BWCA is worth it. It's beautiful! It does require work on your part. The last time I went in I took my 69 yr old father and 50+ yr old cousing along with my two brothers. My brothers had never been in the BWCA but had done primitive style camping before. We Paddled in from Snowbank lake out of Ely, MN. You can make it as tough as you want. You can travel each day or do as we did this last time and make a camp and then take day trips from there. If this is your first trip into the BWCA I think you'd have the best luck by contacting one of the many outfitters and arranging with them to provide as much or as little of the gear as you need. I've never gone through an outfitter so I don't know who to recomend to you. By the way one of my co-workers leads a moose hunting party in the BWCA almost every year. They've never gotten skunked.
Rem31TC
 

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Bisi-

Absolutely worth it! Beautiful! Did the Scout trip a few years ago. If you can run 2 miles you are good to go. Just don't overdo it on the portages. If you can, take your time on the trip. We paddled like crazy everyday but we were somewhat time constrained.
I plan on going back and taking it a little slower and enjoying the experience a little more. Also, I suspect that not being responsible for other people's adolescents will make it more enjoyable as well.
By all means, get in contact with an outfitter and let them know your level of experience, hardiness and equipment.

John
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the info guys. I don't know if I'll make it up there this year, but it is something I want to do before I get to old.

Sounds like it would be fun.
 

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Mid September is when I like the BWCA the best. No bugs and fewer people. The temp during the daytime is great and the nights are cool but not too cold. The scenery is great. If you time it right you there when the autumn colors are just starting to show.

Rem31TC
 

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Did the scout trip years ago. Lifetime of memories and would highly recommend it. Still planning on going back one of these years. You can make it as tough as you want. Lots of outfitters to take care of you. Lots of fish. Go for it!!
 

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We went about 45 years ago and made every mistake possible. There were no guides back then and we were too cheap to hire one anyway. My buddy and I loaded up the station wagon with our stuff until the springs were sagging. Outboard motor, gas can, Coleman stove and enough canned food for an army, did I mention fishing equipment. We made it through the first lake and got to the first portage and the sign said 77 rods. I looked at my friend and asked how long is a rod?? Anyhow each portage meant we ended up dropping off more useless gear to pick up on the return trip. We did get some fish and watched some black bears ransack some other peoples camp site. I never got back there but have fond memories of the education we got from that great camping trip.
 

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We were unfortunate when we went also, we got to the first portage and looked at the map which said 142 rods..."It can't be that long..." we said, and an hour and a half later, we were back for the canoes, 142 rods turned out to be just over 3/4 of a mile if I remember right. We had 2 30 lb. food packs and 4 probably 30-35 lb. Daluth (sp?) packs with our clothing it them and 8 people, and when you have a 142 rod portage that goes up and down 4 or 5 times over rocks, it takes 2 or 3 people, depending on strength, switching off and on to get a canoe through and to the other side. So 6 of us would take the packs and the gear and the other 2 would take a canoe, then, that hour and a half later we'd be back with all 8 of us and 2 would grab the paddles and the other 6 would take the other 3 canoes. Then after that, we had to paddle up the huge lake Agnes which was about 3.5 miles long, but at least we got it done first. Then we had to come back on the "Falls Chain" and the guy that routed us seemed to think that we would be going down stream, making it easy for us, and it turned out to be UPSTREAM and we had to portage around and paddle against the current. Then on the last 2 days we had to fight wind gusts of at least 25 mph and 2 ft waves making us go about 1 mph according to gps we had, when we had been going about 3-4 mph on smooth calm water. We were so worn out that even though we were suppose to paddle all the way back to the outfitter, we got a ride back from Prarie portage which was the border crossing area. It was quite the interesting experience.

Ok...I'm done with my ranting now.

-Jollytrapshooter
 

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I would suggest that you look at starting your trip from the eastern side of the Boundary Waters -- from the Gunflint Trail/Grand Marais area. Everyone probably has their own opinion, but I think the scenery is better there than it is around Ely (though nothing I've seen in the BWCAW was unpleasant). You can also just go to a resort/lodge on the edge of the Boundary Waters if you don't want to get into wilderness camping. Brule Lake is a good place for that, though I'm sure there are plenty of other options for that too.

The outfitters are very good about having a variety of trips to suit the needs of various people. You can paddle huge lakes like Saganaga, Seagull, and Knife or you can go through several small lakes and rivers. It depends on whether you like portaging or paddling better. I'd rather paddle all day than face some of the mean portages that are out there, but some of the best lakes I've been on were a "healthy" portage off the beaten path.

Some other things I would recommend... Read a book or 2 about canoe camping before you go. You can't learn it all from a book, but you'll get some good tips on making your trip easier. You also need to know how to read a topographic map effectively and how to navigate with a compass. It's possible to navigate without good map & compass skills, but you'll save yourself a lot of time and trouble (i.e., getting "temporarily" lost) if you learn how to plot a course and shoot compass bearings for reference. A topo map will also tell you things like which way the current flows in a river or how long that "145 rod" portage really is, including elevation gain and loss, if you know how to read it. And don't ever let an Eagle Scout do the navigation... I've been burned by that twice. I really have to get a copy of the guidebook that they use for the orienteering merit badge because it can't be right.

June is a great month for fishing in the BWCAW. The bugs can get thick, but a bug shirt takes care of the problem. Besides, a 4-5 pound smallie takes away all of the pain.

--Dan
 

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When my sons and I took their last trip before leaving scouts, this is who we went with. Take a look and see what you think. They were great people! Do not make the trip too long! As they say, just do it. You will enjoy it. Gary
 

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On my next trip, I'll be 59 yrs old. Ran into a guy out there last year that was 76!!! and he was going SOLO!! Do a lot of walking - and have good quality, well broken-in hiking boots. Med help is days away!!
Strongly... STRONGLY, suggest you contact Sawbill Outfitters out of Tofte, Minn. These folks are totally professional and complete in their knowledge about the area. Our group has used them for years with absolute confidence.
Another suggestion - don't overdo it!!! Only plan a few portages per day, and check a topo if possible (btw, good maps are an absolute must).
Pack as lightly as you can. I usually take just an extra pair of bdu's and lots of socks (ls t's are helpful if there are bugs).
I doubt you could find a better (and cleaner) wilderness experience anywhere else in the midwest!! Wish I were going again this year.
ALSO, if you want a good read on a wild canoe trip, check out (Amazon.com has it) "The Lure of the Labrador Wild".
Could talk for hours on BWCA!!
Mike
 

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Gone 5 times. First trip said I would never go back , but by the next year couldn't wait. Excersice if your not in the best shape. Any thing you do will make your trip more enjoyable. Stair steppers ,walking and lifting weights all help. I don't really enjoy the camping but will sacrifice to catch 20" +++ Smallmouth bass. We always went to Crooked lake on the border. Staring at the Chainsaw sisters bar at Mudro. Advice: Gortex, bug netting, freeze dried food, buy a good bent shaft paddle in Ely before you go, Rapalas,top water plugs,Good camera, WEIGHT LIFTING BELTS for back support while sitting all day in a canoe, Pack everything you think you'll need then leave 3/4 of it home, inflatable ilfe vests and wear them, nothing wrecks a trip like a major accident or death, Don't take risk!!! I think everyone should go and see it once even if they never return. Don't go there as a honeymoon as I almost did, My mariage would have only lasted 1 week not the 25 years it has now. Spend at least 1 day in Ely. To find great spots drag an onion bag with rocks in it below your canoe as you drift across the lakes. When you snag in the middle of the lake you have just found the greatest hudden reef to fish. Norm
 

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ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS....WATCH OUT FOR THE BEARS THOUGH...I WENT ON A LABOR DAY WEEKEND, RAINED MOST OF THE TIME, DID 7 PORTAGES, LUCKILY DIDN'T SEE ANY BEARS, BUT THERE WERE 2 OTHER ATTACKS WHILE I WAS THERE. KEEP YOUR FOOD UP IN A TREE...FISHING WAS GREAT, SCENERY EVEN BETTER, BRING YOUR CAMERA, SUNRISES AND SUNSETS ARE BREATHTAKING, FALL WOULD BE BEST FOR THE COLORS OF THE TREES...ANNIE ORIGINALLY FROM "MINNESNOWTA"
 
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