Canoe and explore Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) from the cozy comfort of Wintergreen Lodge on beautiful White Iron Lake. You’ll enjoy many day trip options including canoeing the beautiful wilderness lakes and trails, or hiking to Kawishiwi Falls – a tumbling 67 foot cascade! Spend your evenings back on the north-end of White Iron Lake in your group’s private cabin, complete with the comforts of hot showers, comfortable beds, and great food.
Sample ItineraryExpand All Fields
Day 1: Settle into a beautiful cabin and enjoy an afternoon paddle on White Iron Lake.
Meet at Wintergreen Lodge in the afternoon, share introductions, and settle into your rooms. Enjoy a beautiful afternoon paddle on White Iron Lake to the historic Beargrease Island before returning to the cabin for a nice dinner.
Day 2: Paddle the Paradise Ponds circle loop and spend the afternoon fishing and swimming in the pristine waters.
Enjoy the Paradise Ponds circle loop - the first ever BWCAW canoe route paddled by Wilderness Inquiry in 1978. After breakfast, begin at the Lake One trailhead to make a full day of this great trip. Enjoy lunch on the trail, swim, fish and participate in all of the activities the BWCAW offers. This trip takes you across a few short portages, but our lightweight Kevlar canoes make this accessible. Cap off the wonderful day with a hearty dinner back at the cabin.
Day 3: Embark on an all-day canoe trip to the scenic Kawishiwi River.
After a great breakfast and coffee, embark on an all-day canoe trip from White Iron Lake to the Kawishiwi River. Take a scenic hike to the Kawishiwi Gorge overlook for lunch.
Day 4: Visit Ely's International Wolf Center before saying farewell to your trip mates.
Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast before we leave the cabin. We'll visit Ely's highly acclaimed International Wolf Center on our way back through town, and you'll say good-bye to your fellow travelers by 11AM.
Dates & Fees
What to Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The BWCAW 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 BWCAW 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.
ACTIVITIES ON YOUR TRIP: 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.
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: The group size ranges from 4 to 12 participants, plus 1-2 Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. We will prepare our meals as a group using the kitchen facilities.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Stay in a cozy north woods lodge just outside of Ely. Enjoy the many amenities of Wintergreen Lodge, including indoor bathrooms and showers. Typically there are 2-3 people per room, matched by gender or requests to room together. In most rooms, solo travelers have single beds and couples share beds.
MEALS: We’ll enjoy a variety of meals, some served at the lodge and others we’ll prepare ourselves out in the BWCAW. You’ll enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables in our tasty meals. We’ll share hearty breakfasts, picnic trail lunches, and lively dinners at the lodge. 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.
COVID POLICY: We continue to monitor and update our COVID-19 policies. Wilderness Inquiry strongly encourages everyone to be fully up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination and take other necessary steps for the health and wellness of all. We ask you to self-screen for any signs of illness prior to your trip’s departure. Please contact Wilderness Inquiry if you are exhibiting signs of illness. We will also continue to follow all guidance and requirements of locations that we travel, keeping in mind some international destinations do require vaccinations and/or negative covid tests. We will update this policy as new information and guidance becomes available.
SAFETY WHILE ON TRAIL: Though not required, some individuals may choose to wear a mask, and we expect all participants to respect this choice. Please ensure proper hygiene including, but not limited to, hand-washing and/or sanitizing before eating and after using the restroom. Individuals who become ill or test positive for COVID-19 during a Wilderness Inquiry experience will be isolated to the best of the group’s ability and are responsible for their own transportation and expenses to depart the trip.
GROUP EXPECTATIONS: To facilitate a safe and inclusive environment where we can all come together as our true selves, feel supported, and enjoy the outdoors in community, we have developed community agreements that align with Wilderness Inquiry’s core values and brand promise. We ask that you review these before your adventure so you can help Wilderness Inquiry create an inclusive environment for all.
Community Agreements as We Adventure Together
☐ We are safety conscious so everyone can have fun!
☐ We seek to understand each other and celebrate our differences.
☐ We are curious, open-minded, and communicate respectfully.
☐ We are open to trying new things and pushing outside of our comfort zone.
☐ We support each other and collectively contribute to group tasks.Read more »
Frequently Asked Questions:
Where do we meet?
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Wintergreen Lodge at 2:30 PM (local time)
End: Wintergreen Lodge at 11:00 AM (local time)
This trip begins at 2:30 PM at the Wintergreen Lodge, in Ely. The trip ends at the same place at 11:00 AM on the last day. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip. Booking a flight? We recommend flying in to Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport the night before the trip, and flying out of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport after 8:30 PM.
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, bears, 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, Wilderness Inquiry 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.