Boundary Waters Canoe Area Guided Trips

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America's premier canoe destination. It is also one of the most accessible wilderness areas in the United States, and where Wilderness Inquiry began operating in the 1970's. Over one million acres in size, the Boundary Waters covers much of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Paddle among towering pines, tamarack bogs, and beautiful birches in this home to moose, lynx, wolves, and bald eagles.

We operate every trip with two experienced guides who are there to ensure your adventure is the best it can be. These fabulous guides combined with excellent food and gear and decades of experience make these BWCA trips an exceptional value. Let us take care of the permits, routes, planning, and food, so you can enjoy the abundant wildlife, clear cool waters, and vibrant forests.
  • Over 35 years of experience operating in the BWCA
  • Extensive, decades-long knowledge of routes, portages, and campsites
  • Two experienced guides on every trip
  • Lightweight kevlar canoes make paddling and portaging easier than ever
  • One of the only organizations to offer trips in all regions of the BWCA
  • Routes along the Gunflint Trail, the Echo Trail, or the Sawbill Trail
  • Highly accessible destination for beginners and families
  • Specialize in serving people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities

The Boundary Waters is where Wilderness Inquiry got its start back in 1978, and we’ve been operating there ever since. At over one million acres with sixty starting points, America’s premier canoeing destination offers endless possibilities for exploration. Our five- or seven-day offerings promise to get you into pristine wilderness where you’ll experience abundant wildlife, clear waters, and true solitude. For families, we offer the five-day itinerary with modified routes, activities designed for children, and affordable youth rates. We also have two specialty trips unique among operators in the area – a lodge-based tour and a winter dogsledding adventure.

See dates and details for our scheduled Boundary Waters Canoe Area trips:

  • This week-long adventure offers participants a thorough overview of what the Boundary Waters has to offer. You will experience long paddles, exciting portages, and the serenity of true wilderness. An even balance of travel and relaxation time allows participants of all ages and abilities to recharge, explore, and bond together. 7 Days: Trip Fee $895
  • Take the entire family on a unique canoe trip through the vast Boundary Waters wilderness. Paddling and portage routes are carefully chosen to accommodate all abilities. When in camp, learn useful camp skills and crafts, take a scenic hike, or go for a swim. Campsite options range from islands to beautiful lakeside cliff areas. 5 Days: Trip Fee $695 Youth Fee $350
  • Strap on skis, snowshoes, or hop onto a dogsled and explore the Boundary Waters under a blanket of snow. Learn to work with energetic sled dogs as you fly across frozen lakes and wind your way through snow-covered portages. Enjoy warm nights in our cozy lodge complete with a Finnish sauna and hot, delicious meals. 4 Days: Trip Fee $450
  • Travel among the pines, birch, and cedar on our popular five-day itinerary. Be prepared for amazing scenery, stunning wildlife, and heart-warming bonding opportunities. We carefully chose routes that provide a great mix of paddling, portaging, and downtime at camp. 5 Days: Trip Fee $695
  • Experience the Boundary Waters from the comfort of Paul and Susan Schurke’s resort-style Wintergreen Lodge. Embark on exciting day trips on the Kawishiwi River, Paradise Ponds, and other waterways while also hiking gorgeous local trails. Visit Ely’s International Wolf Center to cap off your wonderful four-day adventure. 4 Days: Trip Fee $795

Call us to arrange one of these Boundary Waters Canoe Area trips for your group:

  • Families can book a custom trip at our accessible base camp in Superior National Forest on Crescent Lake. Day trips include canoeing, fishing, climbing Eagle Mountain – Minnesota’s highest peak – and swimming in Crescent Lake. Night activities include stargazing, s’mores, and stories around campfires.
In 1964, Congress designated the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW, or simply BWCA) as one of the first federally protected wilderness areas in the United States as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The 1.1 million-acre BWCAW is our nation’s only large lakeland wilderness, where travel during the ice-free months is primarily via canoe. The area remains the largest wilderness east of the Rockies and north of Florida’s Everglades, and the storied Boundary Waters remains the most popular wilderness in the nation.

The BWCAW, the northern third of Superior National Forest, lies on the international border between northern Minnesota and the Province of Ontario, Canada. Together with the adjoining 1.2 million-acre Quetico Provincial Park on the Ontario side of the border, this international wilderness complex forms an unparalleled lakeland wilderness complex of 2.3 million acres, an area larger than Yellowstone.

These waters form a maze of interconnected lakes, formed by glaciation. This country is part of the Canadian Shield, a geological formation that comprises portions of the earth’s most ancient exposed rock, some of which is 3 billion years old! The Boundary Waters contains about 1,175 lakes in all, making a maze of interconnected wilderness waterways to explore. Whether you paddle one of the larger border lakes -- Saganaga, Knife, Basswood, Crooked, Lac La Croix -- or one of the smaller more intimate lakes, you’ll experience an undeveloped lakeland wilderness that appears much the same as it has for hundreds of years.

Two types of forests, the Boreal and Laurentian forests, converge to create a unique ecosystem with diversified plant and animal life in the Boundary Waters. Animals that would not normally be seen together, such as the white-tailed deer and the moose, have made the BWCA their homes. Many birds, such as bald eagles, loons and over 20 species of wood warblers, use the Boundary Waters as their nesting grounds. Anglers can test their skills against the area’s lake trout, walleye, northern pike, or smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Humans have left their mark on the Boundary Waters as well. Native peoples inhabited the Boundary Waters area for thousands of years, with some human relics dating back to 10,000 BC. The Anishinabe (sometimes called Ojibwe, or Chippewa) and Dakota (Sioux) used the intricate waterways of the BWCAW for hundreds of years. Native peoples first used many of the campsites and portages (paths between lakes) still used today. Artifacts from that period still turn up. European fur traders and missionaries first came into the area in the early 1700s. A working relationship developed between the European fur traders and the Ojibwe, based on trade of European goods for native knowledge and furs. This partnership ended in the mid 19th century due to the declining interest in furs as fashion.

Fur trading and logging of the Boundary Waters began taking its toll on the fragile ecosystem. People decided to act, setting aside this pristine wilderness area and working to protect it from further harm. In 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt established the Superior National Forest, with 1,000 square miles of roadless land (the precursor to the BWCAW) later set aside in 1926 as the nation’s second administratively-established wilderness. The 1964 Wilderness Act designated the Boundary Waters as an original unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System, but with some compromises that allowed logging and motorboats to continue there. Congress passed additional protections for the BWCAW in 1978, and expanded the area to its current borders and size of 1.1 million acres. The controversy surrounding this Congressional effort for the Boundary Waters also led to the establishment of Wilderness Inquiry; WI began by taking canoe trips in the BWCAW and continues doing so to this day.

This is just the beginning of your adventure to the Boundary Waters. We will continue to provide you with more history and details as you travel through the lakes with our trip leaders. Hope to see you on the trail!

Click any thumbnail to expand and begin slideshow:

  • Sunset canoeing on Alpine Lake
    Twilight paddling in the Boundary Waters (photo: Bearss, B)
  • Bald Eagle in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).
    The sights and sounds of Bald Eagles will be enjoyed on your wilderness adventure. (photo: Brandenburg, J)
  • Northern Lights above a Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) campsite.
    Northern Lights (photo: Brandenburg, J)
  • A canoeist paddles through a golden sunset.
    The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, or BWCA, is America's lakeland wilderness. (photo: Noltner, J)
  • Paddling a narrow creek in the BWCA.
    Paddling the Kawishiwi River in the BWCA. (photo: Gilberg, E)
  • Heidi portages a Wenonah Kevlar Canoe through the Boundary Waters.
    Our lightweight canoes make portaging much easier. (photo: Walz, A)
  • Evening paddle in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
    Heidi enjoys a peaceful paddle at dusk. (photo: Walz, A)
  • Participants squeeze together on a rock in the middle of Gunflint Lake in the Boundary Waters.
    Swimming on Gunflint Lake (photo: Unknown)
  • Participants laugh on the shoreline of Knife Lake.
    Sharing a moment on the shore of Knife Lake on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). (photo: Gilberg, E)
  • Dogsled in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
    Dogsledding in the Boundary Waters (photo: Heppner, K)
  • A family bonds together in the Boundary Waters, surrounded by trees and two red canoes.
    Family fun in the BWCA. (photo: Tuttle, J)
  • Two participants with sunglasses and hats smile at the camera as they paddle on.
    We love using Wenonah kevlar canoes on our Boundary Waters trips. (photo: Lais, G)