Boundary Waters Family Canoe and Hike
Enjoy the Boundary Waters from the Comfort of a Base Camp
Explore, paddle, fish and swim from a base camp on Crescent Lake in the Superior National Forest. Take day canoe trips into the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and experience portaging with only a day pack to carry. Take a break from paddling to hike up Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota. Return to the group campsite each afternoon with time for fishing and swimming before dinner. Enjoy s’mores around the fire under the star-filled sky as you plan the adventure for the next day. This is a great trip for the whole family and no experience is necessary.
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
Note: There are many different routes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). The route described below is for Crescent Lake. Your trip may follow this route, or one of the other Boundary Waters routes available. Every trip has its own unique experiences.
DAY 1: Your trip starts in the afternoon at the campsite on Crescent Lake in the Superior National Forest, on the edge of the BWCA. Meet your group, settle in to your campsite, and go on an introductory paddle on Crescent Lake. After dinner, enjoy stories and s’mores under the stars.
DAY 2: Get up early to make breakfast and get ready for the day's adventures. Head to Sawbill Lake for a full day canoe trip in Minnesota’s famous lake country wilderness. The group may split into two groups for the paddle to better appreciate the solitude and stillness. Compare your experiences over a lively dinner.
DAY 3: Today, you may opt to hike to the top of Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota. Or if you are looking for a more relaxing day, enjoy Crescent Lake by swimming, fishing, or exploring the surrounding streams. Come back to camp as a whole group for dinner and star gazing.
DAY 4: After a hearty breakfast, head into the BWCA once again to explore a different lake. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles and try your luck at fishing during lunch. Get back to the campsite in time to enjoy a dip in the lake.
DAY 5: After breakfast, break camp and go on one last paddle on Crescent Lake. The trip officially ends in the early afternoon. Those who use WI's van transportation can expect to return to Minneapolis in the evening.
Travel, Terrain, Etc...
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: At night you will camp in the Superior National Forest, which lies on the Canadian Shield, an area characterized by exposed granite with a thin layer of top soil. This terrain is the result of glaciers scraping and grinding 10,000 years ago. The lakes and trails make this area one of the most accessible wilderness areas in the country.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: This trip is recommended for families with children age 3 and older. It is a kid-friendly camping trip that is also great for teenagers. You will go on day trips in 18-foot canoes, which hold two to three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. An average day's travel consists of 2-4 hours of paddling or hiking, depending on the ages and attention spans of the children participating. Expect 1-2 portages (short trail crossings) per paddling trip.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer months range from 40 F to 95 F. Rainfall can vary, but you should expect at least a day or two of rain.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 6 to 12 participants, plus 2 or more Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can.
ACCOMMODATIONS: At night you will sleep in a comfortable 4-person tent with 3-4 people per a tent (other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of an USDA Forest Service commode.
MEALS: The food we bring is plentiful, nutritious, and kid friendly! Enjoy hearty breakfasts, trail lunches, a variety of snacks, and delicious dinners with desserts. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.
FISHING: Fishing is great in the Superior National Forest and BWCA! We suggest bringing your own fishing pole and tackle. Don't forget a MN fishing license for anyone over the age of 16.A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
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!
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the youngest age child you’d recommend bringing on a Boundary Waters family trip?
There is no hard age limit on family BWCA trips, though typically five years old and up works well. If the child has some experience in the outdoors and you feel they would be comfortable camping and canoeing on a multi-day trip, bring them along!
What is the minimum age for kids on your family trips?
There is no minimum age requirement to participate on a WI trip. For a paddling trip, we require participants to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times when on the water for safety. The smallest PFD we provide for children requires a minimum weight of 30 pounds. A child smaller than this weight limit would need to provide their own PFD or would be unable to participate on the trip. For most family trips, children should be able to sit comfortably in a canoe or kayak for 1+ hour at a time. This should guide whether or not a child would be a good fit on any particular trip. For a non-family trip, youth under the age of 18 must attend with an adult family member or friend who is over the age of 18.
Will age-appropriate activities be offered for children on a family trip?
Absolutely. Your trip leaders will offer age-appropriate activities for children at different points during the trip.
What is the maximum group size in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness?
A group of 9 people is the largest that can travel together within the Boundary Waters. This is a strict regulation that all Boundary Waters visitors must follow. Wilderness Inquiry provides 2 professional guides on each trip experience, so a group of 7 participants is the largest that can travel together at the same time. If you are traveling with a group of more than 7 people, the group will need to split into two separate groups with traveling within the BWCAW.
What does BWCA or BWCAW stand for?
Boundary Waters Canoe Area or Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
How much portaging will I do on a Boundary Waters trip with Wilderness Inquiry?
The number and length of portages varies from trip to trip. Portage choices will be made by the Wilderness Inquiry trip leaders based on the strength of the group and specific route chosen within the Boundary Waters.
Which route will my group follow on a Boundary Waters trip with Wilderness Inquiry?
There are many different route choices available within the Boundary Waters. The route will be chosen by Wilderness Inquiry trip leaders based on availability and the strength of the group.
For more information, visit these links:
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Campground - TBD at 1:30 PM (local time)
End: Campground - TBD at 11:30 AM (local time)
This trip officially begins at 1:30 PM at a campground in northern Minnesota on the first day of the trip. The trip ends at 11:30 AM at the same location. This campground location will be confirmed prior to your trip start. You can take your own transportation or use WI’s van transportation from Minneapolis. Most people meet us in Minneapolis at 6:30 AM on the first day of the trip. The van returns to Minneapolis at 6:00 PM. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip. Booking a Flight? We recommend flying in to the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport the night before your trip, and flying out from Minneapolis St Paul International Airport after 8:30 PM.Want to Ride With Us?
We typically provide transportation for this trip from the following places (make your selection when you register):
- Wilderness Inquiry Headquarters FEE: $75 per person