Boundary Waters History With any imagination at all, you'll be sharing your trip with the Indians of the 17th Century, the Voyageurs of the 18th Century, the trappers and settlers of the 19th Century, and the loggers and mineral prospectors of the early 20th Century. The wilderness waterways and portage trails have been used for literally thousands of years, and visitors to Canoe Country may still see reminders of those who have travelled there in an earlier time.
Recent archaeological excavations on the perimeter of the BWCA Wilderness have uncovered artifacts from Native American cultures dating back to more than 10,000 years ago. More common in the wilderness are sites of Indian rock paintings that may be several hundred years old, although the age, the artists, and the purpose of the pictographs are yet unknown.
In a few parts of the wilderness you may also find remnants of the early logging activity. In the far northwestern part of Quetico Provincial Park, in particular, you may find the dilapidated remains of old dams and sluiceways, rusted cables and long steel spikes, abandoned machinery, and clearings where cabins once stood. You'll be amazed at how quickly the forest has regenerated itself.
If you would like to learn more about the history of this magnificent area, browse our Boundary Waters Books. A little reading now will surely enhance your upcoming wilderness expedition.
Boundary Waters Canoe Camping Above all else, Canoe Country is the place in North America for canoeing and camping. One look at a map of the region shows you why. Within the boundaries of Quetico Provincial Park (on the Canadian side of the border) and the BWCA Wilderness (U.S.) are nearly 2,000 lakes that are linked by rivers, creeks, and portages to form hundreds of miles of wilderness routes - routes that are available only to paddlers. Created by glaciers that last scoured the region 10,000 years ago, it is a landscape unlike any other, anywhere in the world.
Although you can take day trips into the wilderness, the best way to experience the Boundary Waters is by camping overnight. The BWCA has nearly 2,000 designated campsites, with fire grates and box latrines. In Quetico Park, there are no improvements on the campsites. You may camp anywhere suitable. On both sides of the border, you'll camp at individual, separate sites, not shared with anyone else. Some lakes have several campsites, others have only one.
Boundary Waters Wildlife Perhaps nothing better represents the wilderness than the eerie wail of a loon echoing off the shores of a dead calm lake at night. It's a mournful cry that every visitor should hear during a summer visit to Canoe Country. Or maybe the sight of a soaring, bald eagle high above your path is even more thrilling. Or a majestic bull moose along the shore of a tranquil creek. Or the chilling howls of a pack of timber wolves across a darkened lake from your campsite. Or a black bear IN your campsite!
All of these experiences are possible in Canoe Country, where a unique blend of Northwoods wildlife includes the last substantial population of timber wolves in the contiguous 48 states. Quiet paddlers and astute observers may also see whitetailed deer, ospreys, beavers, martens, mink, otters, foxes, great blue herons, owls, boreal chickadees, peregrine falcons, pileated woodpeckers, and a variety of ducks. In all, there are over 200 types of birds, fifty species of mammals, seven kinds of reptiles and twelve amphibians living in the area during all or part of the year. But there are no poisonous snakes!
Even more remarkable is the diversity of plant life. Along with vast forests of pine, spruce, and fir are birch, aspen, and maple, and even oaks atop some of the dry ridges. It's a lovely sight, especially in autumn, when the red, yellow, and golden hues of the hardwoods are accentuated by the many green shades of the conifers.
Boundary Waters with the Fly To describe Canoe Country as an angler's paradise would not be an exaggeration. Of the nearly 2,000 lakes in the wilderness, most are teeming with game fish. Lucious walleyes, feisty smallmouth bass, large northern pike, and elusive lake trout are among the most popular species. But there are more, among them largemouth bass, crappies, bluegills, perch, whitefish, and stream trout. Even if you're not an experienced or dedicated angler, you should have no trouble catching enough fish for a tasty meal or two during your visit to the wilderness.
Avid anglers, will have some records to shoot for. The largest of several species ever caught in Minnesota were taken from this neck of the woods, including a 17.8 lb walleye, a 45.12 lb northern pike, a 17.6 lb rainbow trout, a 6.2 lb brook trout, and a 9.6 lb splake. Walleyes over 10 lbs, northerns over 20 lbs, smallmouth over 5 lbs, and lake trout over 13 lbs are not uncommon catches from many of the area's lakes. Two-pound crappies have also been caught. Of the nation's top 100 walleye lakes (selected by some of the state's best walleye fishermen), twenty are found in Minnesota. Some can be driven to, but the very best are reserved for wilderness paddlers.
If fishing is "your thing," that's reason enough to spend your next vacation in the Boundary Waters.
Photography Opportunities Just as important as your fishing rod is a camera to capture the memories forever - the waterfall that massaged your shoulders after that long and rugged portage, the incredible sunsets and the impressive cloud banks that just can't be matched back home, or the enormous bull moose that straddled the tiny winding creek that was barricaded with beaver dams. And how about those mysterious Indian pictographs you paddled out of your way to visit, or the "big catch" your friends back home would never believe without proof.
You'll also want to preserve forever the remarkably clear, sky-blue lake surrounding your favorite campsite, the ancient towering pines that somehow took the "wear" out of those weary portages, the fascinating rock outcroppings you saw on so many wilderness shorelines, and the whispering rapids that lulled you to sleep at night. These will all contribute to your wilderness experience. We even offer trips specifically planned for photographers.
Boundary Waters Seasons
Spring Spring in the Northwoods extends from ice-out (usually around the first of May) to the end of June. This is a cool season that appeals to anglers more than any other time of year. With the fishing season beginning around the middle of May, walleyes and northern pike are the prized catch for most anglers. Lake trout swim just below the surface of the cool water, and it's the easiest time of year to land them too. Smallmouth bass can even be caught with fly rods during their spawn, from late May through mid-June. While the fish bite best in the spring, so do the flying insects. If you can't tolerate pesty, insects, come right after ice-out, or consider another season...
Summer Summer is the favorite time for family and youth groups. From Independence Day to Labor Day, the weather is usually warm, the water is comfortable for swimming, and the bugs are not as much of a nuisance. But the fish are harder to find, as they retreat deeper to a cooler habitat. Moose are seen wading in shallow bays, and wolf pups are sometimes heard howling on August nights, testing their vocal cords for the first time. This is the busiest time in the wilderness, when reservations are a must. Make plans early!
Autumn Autumn is a peaceful, lovely season in Canoe Country. There are not as many people on the lakes, and flying insects are gone. The days are mild and the nights are crisp. Fish return to near the surface. The forest colors are magnificent. But tastes of the winter are sometimes felt as soon as mid-September, with measurable snow not unheard of. By mid-October, the leaves are down, and by month's end, calm lakes may glaze over with thin layers of ice. Even more than spring, this is a time of year to be prepared for any kind of weather.
Winter (The fun doesn't stop when the temperature drops.) Winter - our longest season - is strictly for the "whitewater" enthusiast. From the first of November through April, leave your canoe at home. The quiet wilderness is reserved strictly for crosscountry skiers, snowshoers and dog sledders. The Ely area is known for some of the best skiing trails in the world.
Piragis Northwoods Outfitters
Boundary Waters Canoe Trips
105 North Central Avenue
Ely, Minnesota 55731 firstname.lastname@example.org