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Frequently Asked Questions

Boundary Waters FAQs

Q: What’s the first thing I need to do to get my canoe trip going?

A canoe trip starts with reserving a permit for a specific entry point on a specific date. Call 800-223-6565 to get started.

Q: If I’m not renting a canoe, do I need to license my own canoe?

If you live in MN or another state that requires a license, you must have a current license on your canoe while paddling in MN.  If you are from a state that does not require your canoe to be licensed, it does NOT need to be licensed in MN.  You will need to show an ID that confirms you are a resident of a state that doesn't require a license.

Q: Can I get maps for my trip ahead of time?

You sure can. It’s easy. Feel free to Order Maps Online or give us a call to place your order. If you are using our outfitting services, call Adam or Drew and we’ll just add the maps to your outfitting invoice.

Q: What are the outfitting hours?

From mid-May until mid-September, outfitting is open from 6am until 8pm. During the early and later part of the season, we open at 7am. Keep in mind that we are available for rentals until the lakes are frozen. Piragis Northwoods Company is open all year to answer your outfitting questions!  Feel free to call us to make sure about the hours before you arrive.

Q: What kind of animals might I see or hear?

Some of the bigger animals we have are moose, wolves, deer and black bear. A few other creatures we have are, but not limited to, beavers, otters, muskrats, pine martens, fishers, red squirrels, chipmunks, and turtles. 

Q: Do I need a BWCA permit for a day trip?

You need a permit any time you are in the Boundary Waters. For day trips, you can fill out a self-issue permit located at each entry point. One part of the permit goes into a box and the other stays with you during the day.

Q: When is the best time for fall colors?

Usually, the best colors are mid- September through early October.

Q: Will my cell phone work in the BWCA & Quetico?

Do not count on your cell phone working while in the wilderness. Sometimes you can get lucky, but the best way is to have a satellite communication device with you. Call ahead to reserve.

Q: When do you sell your used canoes and rental gear?

We sell our entire fleet of canoes each year and let them go in October. However, people can put down $200 to hold one of these canoes at anytime of the year. In fact, we suggest you do that so you get the model that you are looking for. As for rental equipment, October is the time when we start the sale, but will have a few things available throughout the year.

Q: When is blueberry season?

The middle of July is usually a good time for this.

Q: When is blackfly season?

Generally, this is in the latter part of May until the end of June.

Q: Is the water clean enough to drink?

Can you drink the water in the lakes?   The lakes of the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park are among the cleanest in the world. You can drink it right out of the lake. Paddle along and dip your cup. However, never drink it from the shoreline or where there is any current. Currents and wave action stir up sediments with potential parasites. Drink only when the water is deeper than 6 feet in clear open lakes. If you need water at camp from shore always filter it. Never drink from streams. We highly recommend the Katadyn Base Camp Micro Filters for clean clear water while in camp. See our selection of water filters at

Q: How do I cook if there is a fire ban in my area?

You would need to bring a stove that uses fuel…. canisters or white gas for instance.

Q: Can I get one or two canoes on my vehicle?

Yes, no problem at all. We are able to create a rack for two canoes by using 2x2s, foam blocks and straps.

Q: Since there are bears, what do we do with our food?
Since there are bears, what do we do with our food? Over many years the advice has been to hang food packs in trees. That's great if you have a perfect tree and you know exactly how to do it but these trees are rare on campsites today. Our advice is first, avoid campsites where bears have been known to be a problem. Ask our outfitter and the Forest Service about problem bears before you got out. Lakes like Ensign and others with lots of campsites close to entry points are more likely to have resident bears on nightly patrol for food packs than more remote lakes with very few campsites. Years with low berry crops are also more likely to be problem years.
Secondly, keep your camp absolutely clean of food scraps, fish guts and  wrappers. Pack food in tight plastic bags inside a pack lined with a heavy plastic liner bag and cinch it tight.  
Thirdly, hide your pack away from the usual shoreline trail a problem bear might take between campsites. Take your clean and tightly packed food back into the woods away from the latrine path a good distance from your camp and place it next to a tree or rock where you can find it in the morning. How far to go? 50 yards should be good.  
Feeling lucky? You can get lazy and put your tightly packed and clean food pack under your upside down canoe in the campsite at night with your pots and pans on top of the canoe. At least you'll hear the bears when he or she discovers your food pack.   
Dogs are good at scaring away bears. They bark to warn you when they smell a bear and they are usually quite adept at chasing one away. Having bear spray and knowing how to use it can be a last resort if needed or just packing up and moving out of the campsite.   
Packing in supposedly bear proof barrels and food vaults and canisters is also advisable especially if you are camping on a known problem area.  In some areas of trails like the Pacific Coast Trail these are required. 
With a modicum of knowledge and precaution you are likely to camp for years without every having an issue with bears and food packs.
Q: Can we bring a dog?

Yes, dogs are allowed. It is a good idea to bring a copy of the dog’s rabies certificate with you. Also, the dog should be well behaved. It should not run after other people, wildlife, or bark. Remember, there are other people who are looking for the quiet and solitude out there and you don’t want to ruin it for others with an ill-behaved pooch.

Q: What’s the difference between the Boundary Waters and Quetico?

Boundary Waters:

  • There is a per person user fee per trip (not per night).
  • Permits = First come, first served for all entry points begins on January 30th, 2019.
  • Must camp at designated camp sites
  • Each site has a Forest Service steel fire grate
  • Each site has a latrine in the woods
  • Maximum of 9 people and 4 canoes
  • Canoes/kayaks must be registered


  • There is a per person per night fee
  • Permits can be reserved 5 months in advance
  • Camp anywhere, use Leave No Trace practices
  • No live bait
  • You can only use barbless hooks (ok to pinch the hooks that you have now)
  • There are no fire grates or latrines
  • Maximum of 9 people
  • RABC permit needed for entry, call for details about this
  • No firearms allowed

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