Planning Your Boundary Waters Canoe Trip
Plan Your BWCAW Trip and Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
Remember, successful wilderness trips don’t just happen. They are the result of careful planning. Planning resources such as guidebooks and maps that can be found in bookstores, local libraries, and outdoor equipment stores. The expertise of outfitters and guides can also be used when planning a BWCAW trip.
As you begin to plan your trip, ask yourself about the type of experience you seek. Would your needs for solitude or your quest for the elusive lake trout best be met inside the BWCA Wilderness portion of the Superior National Forest, or would camping in areas of the Forest adjacent to the BWCAW better suit the type of trip you want?
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is only one of many recreation alternatives on the Superior National Forest. This area allows a visitor to enjoy the wilderness and all that it has to offer. Wilderness recreation requires careful planning and preparation and involves some risk. Permits are required. The visitor must have knowledge of the entry points and routes; some research may be needed to gather this information. These steps are necessary in order to protect the BWCAW and to provide a quality wilderness experience.
If you decide that the BWCA Wilderness experience is for you, remember that you can help determine the quality of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for generations to come by practicing Leave No Trace, following rules and regulations, and developing your own personal wild land ethic.
LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES
PLAN YOUR TRIP AHEAD AND PREPARE
Be informed, accept responsibility for your actions, and plan your logistics well.
Know your skills & abilities
Select and use proper gear
Plan your meals
TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES
Concentrate use in popular areas. Avoid places where impact is just beginning.
Travel on trails
Recognize and camp on durable surfaces
PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT-PROPERLY DISPOSE OF WHAT YOU CAN’T PACK OUT
Dispose of waste properly and reduce litter at the source.
Properly dispose of human waste, wastewater, and fish remains
Trash and leftover food should be packed out. Food should never be thrown into latrines, water, or woods. All these situations could produce wildlife problems and leave the campsite worse than when you arrived.
Fishing is one of the many reasons that people come to the BWCAW, but fish remains must be taken care of properly to keep the wilderness beautiful. Bury fish remains 150 feet from the water’s edge. Fish remains should never go in the water. This is illegal in Minnesota. No one wants to see fish remains laying in the water right at the edge of his or her campsite.
MINIMIZE USE AND IMPACT OF FIRES
Consider alternatives to campfires, such as using a camp stove. If a fire is desired, build a low impact fire.
Use established fire grates
Use dead and downed wood
Keep fires small
Check for any fire restrictions before entering the Wilderness
Enjoy wildlife at a distance. Minimize noise so everyone has an opportunity to see wildlife.
Be aware of the wildlife species around you
Be aware of seasonal stresses on wildlife
Store food securely against hungry bears
Keep a clean camp
Keep cooking areas separate from sleeping areas
Do not put food in the tent
Hang food packs so they are unavailable and uninviting
LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND
Leave areas as you found them to preserve natural features, and help preserve the past.
Don’t damage trees and plants
Leave natural objects and cultural artifacts
BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS
Understand the uniqueness of this wilderness area and respect the goals of other visitors.
Let nature’s sounds prevail
Manage your pet
BURNING TRASH IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH AND TO THE WILDERNESS
To keep the BWCAW beautiful we all must act responsibly. Waste is one of the largest impacts on the wilderness. Waste left behind by visitors degrades the wilderness experience with its visual impact. Please do your part to help control the waste produced in the wilderness. Come prepared by minimizing packaging materials and be prepared to pack out everything you bring with you. Burning garbage is not an alternative to packing waste out. Most things that people try to burn in fire grates never fully burn and leave materials behind which fill up the fire grates. This makes the fire grates dirty and hard to use because they are so full.
In addition to the mess garbage in fire grates can create, dangerous chemicals are also released into the environment when you burn garbage. Burning trash, even paper, releases chemicals that can turn into acidic gases, heavy metals, and dioxins. Eventually these settle in our water and soil where they enter the food chain. This can result in severe health problems, including everything from skin irritations to cancer. Most campers prepare meals in and around the fire grates so it is important to keep these areas free of the dangerous pollutants caused by burning garbage. It is illegal to burn any garbage in the State of Minnesota. The only thing that should be burned in fire grates is dead and downed wood.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME
Leave a trip itinerary with someone at home including:
Party leader’s name
Entry point and date
Exit point and date
Make of car(s) driven and license number(s)
Number of people in the party
Number of canoes or boats
Name of outfitter (if applicable)
The Forest Service does not automatically initiate searches if a group doesn’t exit as planned. If someone is concerned because you are late returning from your trip, they should contact the County Sheriff ‘s office.