The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW is a vast natural paradise located in Cook County, Minnesota and adjoining counties. Imagine a million acres of woods and water, virtually untouched since the glaciers melted and created over a thousand crystal-clear lakes.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW boasts world-renowned paddling and scenery. Just a few accolades:
- National Geographic named the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW one of the world’s “50 Places of a Lifetime”
- Mpls-St. Paul Magazine put it on their Great Minnesota Bucket List
- National Geographic lauded canoeing the Boundary Waters as one of “America’s 100 Best Adventures”
To which paddlers everywhere responded, “No kidding.”
After all, the lakes, streams and rivers of the Boundary Waters form a seemingly endless chain of possible canoe routes—over 1,200 miles of them, in fact.
The Boundary Waters runs right up to the Canadian border, connecting to Quetico Provincial Park. Many paddlers include a Quetico excursion in their Boundary Waters plans.
Canoe trip outfitters will set you up with everything you need to explore this untamed wilderness in northeastern Minnesota, from food and fishing gear to tents and canoes. They’ll also help you plan your route.
Pick a camp site on an island one night, then paddle and portage three lakes away for the next night. Establish a base camp and spend each day exploring with a light load. The choice—and the adventure—is yours. Ask a canoe outfitter or view BWCAW maps.
Facts about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW is America’s largest wilderness east of the Mississippi, with 15 hiking trails, 2,000 designated campsites, over a thousand lakes and more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes.
Amidst jawdropping scenery, you’ll discover solitude, adventure, world-class fishing, and iconic northern wildlife species, such as:
Just across the Canadian border, in Ontario, sits like-sized Quetico Provincial Park. Together, they form a sprawling, multimillion-acre wildland where you can unplug, recharge and reconnect with what really matters.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW outfitting and guides
Got the outdoor skills but not the canoe—or the dogsled?
Want to have a Boundary Waters adventure but don’t have camping experience?
Canoe outfitting might be for you. Find a Boundary Waters canoe outfitter in Cook County, who can provide everything you need for a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW trip–from provisions and permits to equipment, route-planning assistance, and expert guidance.
(Remember, even Lewis and Clark had a guide.)
Your wilderness adventure could be a base camp with short excursions and very little gear to carry; a loop trip from lake to lake; or a stay at a lodging property near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW with day trips into the wilderness.
How will you go wild?
When to go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW
Timing your Boundary Waters trip presents some fun choices. Late May and early June offer great fishing, serving up lake trout, walleye, northern pike and small mouth bass. June also proffers wildflowers and strawberries.
July and August bring raspberries, blueberries and more flowers, including marsh marigolds, blue flag iris, wild roses, Indian paintbrush and the prized lady’s slipper.
In early September, you’ll have warm days, cool (we say refreshing) nights and superior luck with fishing.
By mid-month, fall colors begin to appear – reason enough to choose September and or even early October. Abundant wildlife and over 240 bird species are your traveling companions all season. Forests of white, red and jack pine, tamarack, fir, aspen, black spruce, cedar and birch cover 90% of the wilderness.
Winter presents a stark but no less stunning landscape. Travel by ski, snowshoe or dogsled.
Any time of year, you could see the electric dance of the aurora borealis—the northern lights.