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Boundary Waters Canoe Area, BWCA Minnesota

Canoeing in The Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Using this Guide
We will split this up into Entry Points and Under Each Entry Point we will list the routes we know of.
Each Route will be linked to a detailed description of that route.
Please be patient with us as this will take some time to finish.

Far Western Area


Trout Lake

Crab Lake

Slim Lake

  • The Big Moose Loop
  • The Meandering Moose Loop

Big Lake

  • The Slim Crab Loop
  • The Grassy-Beartrap Route

Moose River South

  • The Slim Crab Loop
  • The Sioux-Border Loop

Little Indian Sioux River-South

  • Trout-Cummings Lakes Loop
  • The Crooked-Oyster Route

Little Vermilion Lake

  • The Finger-Lac La Croix Loop
  • The Iron Horse Hustler Route

Little Indian Sioux River-North

  • The Pocket-Hustler Loop
  • Crooked-Beartrap Loop

Moose River-North

  • The Iron-Duck Loop
  • The Slim Indian Sioux Route

Stuart River

  • Five Rivers Route
  • The Beartrap-Range Rivers Route

Angleworm Lake

  • The Angleworm-Stuart Lakes Loop

South Hegman Lake

  • The Pictograph Route

Mudro Lake

  • Three Falls Loop
  • The Crooked Border Route


North Central Area


Fall Lake

  • The Four Falls Route
  • The Basswood Lake Loop

Moose Lake

  • The Knife River Disappointment Loop
  • The Scenic Lakes Loop

Wood Lake

  • The Basswood Bays Loop
  • The Triangle Loop

Snowbank Lake

  • The Disappointment Loop
  • The Lake Trout Route

North Kawishiwi River

  • The Kawishiwi Triangle Loop
  • The Ojibway Bald Eagle Loop

Lake One

  • The Clearwater Kawishiwi Loop
  • The Alice Thomas Route

Farm Lake

  • The North South Kawishiwi Rivers Loop
  • The Clearwater Turtle Loop


South Central Area


South Kawishiwi River

  • The Split River Route
  • The Bald Eagle-Gull Route

Little Gabbro Lake

  • The Clear-Eskwagama Lakes Loop

Snake River

  • The Snake and Turtle Loop

Little Isabella River

  • The Little Isabella Snake Loop

Island River

  • The Isabella South Kawishiwi Rivers Loop
  • The Four Rivers Route

Isabella Lake

  • The Isabella South Kawishiwi Rivers Loop
  • The Knife Border Route

Hog Creek

  • The Perent Lake Route
  • Three Rivers Route

Kawishiwi Lake

  • The "Gabi-Gishke-Kabic" Loop
  • Three Rivers Route

Introduction to the BWCA

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a paradise for the Wilderness Canoe enthusiast!
Stretching for nearly 200 miles along the Canadian border and Northeastern Minnesota, offering over 1,200 miles of Canoe route through some of the most beautiful country in the world.
With over a million acres, it is the 2nd largest unit of our National Wilderness Preservation system, with the largest virgin forests east of the Rocky Mountains.

History of the BWCA

The canoe routes you will travel through the BWCA are the same routes used for hundreds of years by the Sioux and Chippewa Indians and by the French Canadian Voyageurs.
Jacques de Noyons, in around 1688, was probably the first white man to paddle through the Lakes and Stream that are now know as the BWCA.
At that time it is believed the Sioux Indians were still the dominant Indians in the area.
By the time the first of the Fur Traders (during the 18th century) entered the region, the Chippewa Indians had moved into the region from the East, moving the Sioux Indians further west into the Plains.
From then to about 1800 the French Canadian Voyageurs paddled their birch back canoes from the hinterlands of Northwestern Canada to the shores of Lake Superior, transporting furs from trappers to the European Market.
During the later half of the 19th century, settlers started moving into the area, including farmer, loggers and miners. After the railroad entered the area, extensive logging and mining operations threatened to devastate the entire region.
The Superior National Forest was designated in 1909, and in 1926, one thousand acres were set aside as a Primitive roadless area.
In the 1930's the area was enlarged, and in 1939 the wilderness area was redesignated the Superior Roadless Primitive Area, establishing boundries containing over one million acres.
In 1958 the Current Name of The "Boundary Waters Canoe Area" was adopted.
The BWCA Wilderness Bill of 1978 established the current boundries, containing 1,075,000 acres.

Special Thanks to all the efforts of conservationists throughout the years, helping keep this area as beautiful today as it was when Jacques de Noyons first viewed it. Also to all the visitors that have helped keep the area clean by taking their trash out with them.

Wildlife of the BWCA

Nothing represents the Boundary Waters better then the Laughter of the Loon,(The State Bird), but many other birds are also at home here, including the Bald Eagle, the Gull, the Great Blue Heron and the Canadian Jay. In the BWCA you will also find the largest population of Timber Wolves in the Lower 48 States, as well as a large population of Moose, White Tailed Deer, Black Bear, Beaver and Fox.
Other Mammals include the Lynx, Fisher Cats, Mink, Muskrat, Otter, Marten, Weasel, Coyote and a varity of Squirrels.
The common game fish are Northern Pikes, Walleye, Small Mouth Bass and Trout. Crappies and Bluegill are also plentiful in some of the Lakes. Even Rainbow and Brook Trouts have been stocked in selected Lakes.

The North Woods are covered largely by a coniferous forest, made up of Jack, Norway and White Pines, Tamaracks, Black Spruce, Balsam Fir and White Cedar. There are also large stands of Deciduous Trees, including Paper Birch and Quaking Aspen.

Wildlfe Precautions

While traveling through the BWCA Please treat the wildlife with respect. Remembering that you are the visitor to the Wildlifes Home. You can help the Wildlife stay wild and heathly by not feeding the creatures or disturbing their normal routines. When Campsites are kept clean and foodpacks are suspended between trees properly, Bears are generally not a problem (see Below).
If you are fortunate enough to see loons during your wilderness trip Please kept a distance, don't try chasing them down or hollering at them, just sit back and enjoy their soothing sound. Should you happen to find yourself near nesting birds, observe them from a distance, as Human disturbance at a nest may lead to nest abandonment and loss of Eggs.
Remembering that peaceful and quiet paddlers have much more of a chance to observe wildlife, such as Moose, Deer, Beavers, Minks, Eagles plus many More species.
Although dogs are not banned from the area they are better off at home as dogs can raise a ruckus from barking at wildlife to scaring them off.

Sharing the Land with Bears

Black Bears are common throughout the BWCA, and although they are not normally considered to be dangerous and are usually quite shy around campers, they can be pests when searching for food - basically your Food. They have learned that campers bring food, and where campers are they might be close by (to steal your picnic basket - Yo yogi) There are no hard fast rules to protect yourself from bears, as their behavior will differ under different conditions. With some general common sense and guidelines, having problems with Bears are at a Minimum.

  • Never store food in your tent. And if food has been spilled on your clothes, leave the clothes outside your tent at night.
  • When you are away from your campsite, even if it's just fishing nearby, and at night always hang your foodpacks at least 10 feet above the ground and away from the tree trunks. Bears are good climbers, so the best places to hang your foodpacks are at least 6 feet from tree trunks and away from tree large tree limbs that can support their weight.
  • When you leave your campsite leave your tent flaps open, as Bears can be quite inquisitive, they just might want to see what is inside, with closed flaps be assured they will make their own doorway
  • Keep your campsite clean, burn your food scraps and leftover grease. Do not dispose of leftovers in the latrine, as Bears will find it and destroy the latrine in the process
  • Don't let an island campsite lull you into a false sense of safety, as Bears are very good swimmers
  • Don't ever get between a Bear Cub and it's mother, Mother Bears are very protective and she will kick your butt if she has to!
  • If a Bear does enter your campsite, don't panic! They are usually frightened off by Loud noises, like banging steel pots together. Don't ever charge a Bear as they will become defensive
  • If the Bear is a Stubborn one, your best bet is to find another campsite, it is extremely rare for a Bear to attack, But it can Happen
  • With all that's said, don't lose any sleep worrying about the sounds you hear at night, as mice tend to make more noise in the woods then a Bear does.

Camping in the BWCA

When you know you will be camping, plan on making camp early to ensure finding an available campsite. If your looking for more privacy, consider sites that are off the beaten track, as they are more likely to be available and offer a much better chance of privacy.
Please respect the fact that most visitors to the area, are there to enjoy the the solitude and quite to seek respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Every body wants the feeling they are the only ones there with nature, so loud singing and dogs barking across the lake kinda ruins the mood.
Remember that noise travels a great distance across water, so keeping group noise to a minimum will greatly improve the quality of the wilderness experience for yourself and others, and it will greatly improve the chances of seeing wildlife.
Tent Pads are provided at each developed campsite, trenching and cutting pine boughts for mattresses, once was accepted, but now is it not necessary it is illegal in the BWCA, because of the harm that it may inflict to the environment. If your tent is bright colored try to set it up as far away from the shore as to keep others from spotting it.
Dead wood is abundant in the BWCA, though you may need to explore to find it. The best places to find dead wood is to go away from the shore lines, usually the driest wood is found on fallen trees, leaning against other trees. not on the ground. The best type of wood to burn is generally, Dry jack pine, white pine, spruce, tamarack, white cedar, aspen and ash.
Do Not Cut Live Trees! Green wood burns poorly, causes irreparable damage to the forest and is Illegal! Carry some fire ribbon or other starting material to ignite in wet weather.

Before heading to the lake to wash your dishes keep in mind you will be getting your mornings coffee water from the same place. Soapy water should never end up in a lake. Take your largest pot and fill it up with water, (heating it up on your fire) and head away from the shore to do your dishes, and please dump your dirty water at least 200 feet from shore as not to pollute the Lake. Likewise with washing up, Jump into the lake then lather up and rinse off at least 200 feet or more from shore.

Burn all your Leftover food in a hot fire. If you must bury leftovers and fish entrails, paddle along the shore away from the campsite and bury it at least 150 feet from the shore and at least 6 to 8 inches under the soil. Do not use the latrine as a garbage can, as bears will destroy the toilet covers to get at it.

Last but not least, Please make sure that your campfire is out when not attended, even if your closeby fishing. When leaving the campsite toss the soil in the fire pit to leave a clean fire pit for the next camper. Because only you can prevent the forest fire that might happen if your fire is not completely out!.

Leaving the Area

The basic rule for disposal of litter and leftovers is to eat it, burn it or carry it out. When leaving your campsite, leave no trace you were there, sift through the ashes in your fire pit for twist ties, foil and other debris not completely burned. Pack them in your litter bag, along with cigarette butts and other trash, and carry it out. If you happen to see trash along your way please pick it up and carry it out also. Always try to leave an area cleaner than when you got there. Fortunately it isn't hard to do.


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