Located along the Canadian border, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) is known for its expansive wilderness. Join our five-day Boundary Waters trip to paddle the pristine lakes of this northern gem. Experience stillness, silence and solitude as you travel among the pines, birch and cedar. Listen to loons call as the sun rises to burn mist off of a mirror-still lake. Relax around an evening campfire and watch for shooting stars and northern lights. Our lightweight Wenonah canoes make paddling and portaging easier than ever.
ItineraryExpand All Fields
Day 1: Meet your trip mates and paddle from Brule Lake to Jock Mock Bay.
Your trip starts in the afternoon at one of the BWCA ranger stations. You will drive to your entry point where the trailer will be unloaded and your gear packed into large dry bags. The first day’s paddle will be from the Brule Lake access point to a campsite in Jock Mock Bay. In camp you will prepare dinner and enjoy an evening around the fire as you discuss trip expectations.
Day 2: Paddle the serene waters north to Cone Bay before traversing several portages to Winchell Lake.
Wake up early for great coffee and breakfast and review canoeing skills. Break camp and get underway, paddling north to Cone Bay and traversing several portages into Winchell Lake. Find a nice campsite on the north shore of Winchell and settle in for an evening around the fire.
Day 3: Spend a day hiking the palisades of Winchell Lake.
You'll spend a layover day on Winchell Lake. The southern shore of Winchell has steep cliffs and palisades. If the group is feeling ambitious, you may climb up the cliff for a spectacular view. Otherwise, take a day trip to the east end of the lake or visit the nearby Omega Lake and Gaskin Lake.
Day 4: Fish, bird watch, and explore the area surrounding Brule Lake.
In the morning travel south through several portages and camp on the east end of Brule Lake. As the group learns to work together, more time is set aside for fishing, bird watching, exploring and learning camp crafts.
Day 5: Make your final paddle across Brule Lake and say farewell to your group mates.
Rise with the sun and paddle across Brule Lake. Pack up the van for the ride home, the trip officially ends in the late morning.
Dates & Fees
What to Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The BWCA lies on the Canadian Shield, and is characterized by exposed granite with a thin layer of topsoil. The lakes and trails make this wilderness area one of the most accessible in the country. The BWCA offers a wide range of route options from very easy to very difficult. Wilderness Inquiry runs trips all over the wilderness area, on all kinds of routes. Your trail guides will determine the route you will take, based on wilderness conditions and your group’s interests. No previous experience is needed to complete this trip.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 18-foot ultra-lightweight Wenonah Kevlar canoes, which hold two to three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. An average day’s travel consists of 3-6 hours of paddling, and you can expect 2-4 portages (short trail crossings) per day. The portages tend to be hilly and range from 20 feet to 1/4 mile. Travel distances vary from 6-12 miles per day with the exception of scheduled layover days.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer range from 40° F to 95° F. Rainfall can vary, but you should expect at least a day or two of rain.
YOUR GROUP: Your group size will consist of 3-7 people, plus 1-2 Wilderness Inquiry staff. Most groups consist 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. Part of the adventure involves learning about daily camp activities. This itinerary is not recommended for youth under 10.
ACCOMMODATIONS: At night you will sleep in a comfortable tent that fits 2-3 people. Bathroom facilities consist of USDA Forest Service commodes.
MEALS: The fun of wilderness camping includes cooking in the wilderness, a challenge with great rewards. We pride ourselves on providing healthy ingredients for simple, plentiful dishes everyone will enjoy. Count on hearty breakfasts, trail lunches, plenty of snacks, and wonderful dinners, finished off with campfire s’mores. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group gear and equipment. You will be assigned the same gear for the duration of your trip and it will be sanitized between trips. 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.
COVID VACCINATION AND HEALTH PRE-SCREENING: All participants (and our staff) are required to be fully vaccinated (including the booster) at least 2 weeks prior to the trip start date.
In addition, upon your arrival, we will perform a health screening that will include confirming that you have no COVID-19 related symptoms (for example: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat) or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 related symptoms within the last 2 weeks. We will also take each group member’s temperature daily. If COVID-19 related symptoms develop during the trip experience, you are responsible for your quarantine and transportation needs that adhere to CDC guidelines. Please ensure that you have an emergency contact on file that would be able to assist.
SAFETY WHILE ON TRAIL: All participants and staff will wear properly fitting masks when social distancing is not possible (i.e. riding in the van, loading/unloading boats, cooking, etc.) or when requested by a WI staff member. As of Jan 15, 2022, KN95s or N95s are required for staff and participants. Cloth masks, buffs, bandanas, and scarves are not accepted face coverings. Thorough hand washing and/or gloves and masks will be worn during meal preparation.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Where do we meet?
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: BWCA Ranger Station - TBD at 1:30 PM (local time)
End: BWCA Ranger Station - TBD at 11:00 AM (local time)
This trip begins at 1:30 PM at one of three meeting places: Ely, Grand Marais, or Tofte. Each trip ends at the starting location at 11:00 AM on the last day. WI uses many different routes for Boundary Waters trips, so if you plan to meet your group at the entry point be sure to check with your trip leader about the specific starting point for your trip. Some meeting locations include a parking fee. 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.
Do you have any additional health restrictions on trail?
In addition to following CDC guidelines, we work with a team of community and health experts to help guide our safety measures on and off the trail. Find a complete list of steps we are taking to provide you the safest experience here: https://www.wildernessinquiry.org/covid19/
Do you offer financial aid?
Yes - we believe the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors should be available to everyone. To keep our programs as financially accessible as possible, each year we raise funds to support need-based scholarships. Certain restrictions apply. Financial aid is available for a select number of trips only and typically not available for international trips. Click here to apply for financial aid. This website also shows a list of trips that are currently eligible for financial aid. Check back often, as this list is updated regularly! Call 612-676-9400 for more information.
Do I need paddling experience to join a canoe or kayak trip?
Paddling trips with WI are appropriate for beginners and seasoned paddlers alike. On the first day of all trips, basic paddling strokes will be taught by the trip leader. Each trip gives participants multiple opportunities to practice their skills. Participants with more experience will have plenty of opportunity to paddle during the trip, and even to help teach less experienced paddlers!
What is the maximum group size in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness?
A group of nine 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 professional guides on each trip experience that count toward this total.
If you are traveling with a larger group you will need to split into two separate groups while traveling within the BWCA.
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.
What kind of wildlife will I see on this trip?
Northern Minnesota is home to many animals including, loons, deer, beers, moose, wolves, and more! While we can't guarantee you will see these animals on your trip, there is always a possibility of catching a glimpse (or hearing the call) of one or more of these animals in the north woods.
I heard the BWCA is threatened by mining. Where can I learn more about this issue?
The proposed sulfide-ore copper mining in northern Minnesota is a true threat to the BWCA. On our trips, you will get a chance to experience first hand why this pristine wilderness is worth the effort to save from the potential destruction of mining. Find more information on this issue at https://www.savetheboundarywaters.org
How do I portage on a Boundary Waters trip if I use a wheelchair?
Portages vary in length and terrain on BWCA trips. Some are flat and relatively easy, others are rugged up and down paths. Some start with a nice landing, others are rocky or swampy. We chose routes that have more accessible portages.
We can only accommodate manual wheelchairs on Boundary Waters trips, power chairs are typically too big and heavy to fit in our canoes.
If you can transfer independently in and out of a car and wheel around a hilly city park you should be able to portage with minimal assistance. If not, we have a variety of ways to assist you, including carrying you over difficult spots if necessary. If you will need help being carried, our upper weight limit is typically around 160 lbs. We recommend you call our office to discuss.
Over the last 40 years, WI has successfully served well over 1,000 people who use wheelchairs in the Boundary Waters. So while portaging may seem a bit daunting, we always figure it out and have fun while doing it.