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How To Plan Your BWCA Canoe Trip

How to plan your Boundary Waters canoe trip can be fun, easy and stress free, AND you really want to do this, but just don’t know where to start. Let River Point’s expert trip planning advice take the mystery out of figuring this out whether it’s a family canoe trip, a fishing trip, or you’re first time BWCA campers. After all, this is something that the good people at River Point have been doing for the past 42 years…and we’ve got you covered!

Ready to Go? What to do to Get Started

How To Plan Your BWCA Canoe Trip

Just follow the quick and easy plan below, and soon you will be dipping your paddle into some of the most scenic waters in the world…

  • What do you want out of a trip into the Boundary Waters? What is the focus of the trip? Is there one main focus, or do you have several ideas of what you really want from this adventure? Might the focus be to explore the greatness of the BWCA; to feel the serenity of this place; to let your senses come alive with the pure sights, sounds, and feelings of nature; to “get away from it all”; to reconnect with loved ones, family, and friends; to take a historical journey, to view wildlife; to try to catch fish…to catch fish…to fry up the fish…to eat fresh fish? To take pictures, to swim, to cook over an open fire, to just be…without electronics or other daily trappings of the “world left behind”?  Explore your thoughts and figure out what you want…then talk about it. Find other people who share your thoughts and ideas and see where it leads you. How to plan your BWCA canoe trip just got easier!
  • Is there a particular season that you want to do this trip? Figure out if it is spring time from about mid May through mid June; summer time from mid June to later August; or autumn through the entire month of September.

Spring, summer, or early fall, the changing forest wilderness will offer you a full spectrum of experiences to sample. Plants offer succulent berries for the picking, and the tall splendor of the stately conifer trees offer shade and an opportunity to view the many creatures and birds that make these magnificent trees their home.



Canoe trip season begins in mid May and ends in later September. June through most of August is an excellent time for family canoe trips because of the fair weather, warmer waters for swimming, and is an overall good time for walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass fishing. 

May, June, late August, and throughout September are the best walleye and bass fishing times, have far fewer people along the canoe trip routes when the solitude of the wilderness is even more intense and have cooler temperatures.

Consider these times for your wilderness adventure. With additional help on how to plan your BWCA canoe trip from River Point Outfitting Co., you can begin to sense that this is something you want to do!

Spring is alive with new foliage growth, vivid greens and the deep dark green of the pine trees. Fresh and clean, that’s spring time in the Boundary Waters. Summer from mid June through mid August offers the warmest temps both in the day and at night. Swimming is excellent and you may even live in that swimsuit or for sure your tank top and shorts. Early to later September when the forest turns to crimson-and-gold are simply amazing days to canoe. However, expect cooler nights and also expect quickly changing weather patterns and cooler water temperature.

The evenings in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota are always cooler, and mosquitoes and other bugs are less of a bother than one might think, especially when using today’s outstanding insect repellents. But, expect some buzzing as dusk draws near or in the early morning hours.Portages, if wet,can attract fying insects so wear light-weight long pants and long sleeved shirts that can roll up or zip off later. Head-nets and other protective clothing items are available for sale in the Wolf Den Gift Shop at our lake-base near Ely, Minnesota.




  • Average High (F/C) – 62/17
  • Average Low (F/C) – 40/4
  • Precip. (in.) – 2.4


  • Average High (F/C) – 74/23
  • Average Low (F/C) – 51/10
  • Precip. (in.) – 4.9


  • Average High (F/C) – 78/26
  • Average Low (F/C) – 56/13
  • Precip. (in.) – 3.72


  • Average High (F/C) – 79/26
  • Average Low (F/C) – 54/12
  • Precip. (in.) – 3.84


  • Average High (F/C) – 64/17
  • Average Low (F/C) – 42/5
  • Precip. (in.) – 3.7



How to plan your canoe trip requires figuring out what type of trip you envsion over the span of serveral days. Do you want a touring type trip where you move from one campsite to another each day of your trip? Is your goal to cover a lot of territroy and paddle miles? Or, do you want more of a base camp experience where you set up camp in the same campsite for more than one night. Often this occurs during the middle nights of the trip. OR…do you want a combination of both? Or, do you want a plan with the option to adjust it when you are out there? Mull it over…talk with us.



  • Figure out how many people will go on your BWCA canoe trip and that will really help with how to plan your BWCA canoe trip. If you are not sure of the number, start off with at least two persons who can commit, unless you plan on a solo trip. The number can be adjusted after the necessary USFS permit is secured. Determine a party leader and, if possible, at least one alternate party leader. There can be up to nine persons per travel permit. No need to worry about how to get a travel permit. River Point will secure the permit for you!
  • Groups that are larger than nine persons will separate into subgroups and will camp and travel as separate groups with their own permit. If you have more than nine people, two or more permits would be secured—a separate permit for each group of up to nine persons; each permit would have a party leader and an alternate party leader. Each subgroup may have a different BWCA canoe trips entry point, or possibly the same entry point in the Ely, Minnesota area of the BWCA.
  • Decide on a first choice of entry dates that your BWCA canoe trip will start (the first day on the water), and also a second choice of entry dates. If the first choice of dates does not have a desirable travel permit available, or all permits are sold out for that date, the second choice of dates will be your “backup date”. Once a permit is issued, the entry date is set. Any change in your plans will require a new permit to be secured for a new entry date, if one is available.

Know that permits are issued by the USFS on a first come, first serve basis, and that is why it is a good idea on your how to plan a BWCA canoe trip checklist, to have a “back up date” as a second choice for your entry date. Early reservations are surely a good idea.



  • Decide on how many days you want to be on vacation. Allow for travel days on either end of the actual time within the wilderness for your canoe trip. The length of trip that is most common is 5-days, 4-nights, but can vary depending upon how much time you have. If possible, plan on arriving at River Point Outfitting Co. the day prior to the start of the canoe trip. This is strongly recommended to allow you time to “unwind”, have your Orientation and Trip Routing Session with River Point’s expert staff, and get your “wilderness hats” turned on!

Figuring out how to plan your BWCA canoe trip is easier if you have more time, of course. But, that’s not always an option, so having a short few days in the wilderness is better than none at all. Squeeze as many vacation days as you can…once you see the incredible beauty of this magical place, you’ll be so happy you did!



  • Decide upon a package that you think you want. Aren’t sure which package to choose…talk to us. We’re happy to explain more about all the options and the rates for each. Most popular completely outfitted package continues to be the Comfort Plus™ Complete Package with Kevlar canoes and loads of creature comforts like canoe/camp chairs with backrests (gotta love them!), weight distribution packs with padded shoulder and hip straps, pillows, water purification system, all the food, and so much more.


  • The Ultralight Complete Package is a sound, basic package with aluminum canoes, which are heavier than the kevlar canoes by about 20 lbs., but depending upon the type of canoe trip you want it can be a good choice. Easier trips with few portages will work if you are willing to carrying more weight.If you consider your group to be pretty strong, then this package may be right for you. Costing less, so it may be somehting to consider. the creature comforts such as the canoe/camp chairs with backrests, weight distribution packs, pillows, etc. are not included in this choice.


  • However, if you have some of your own equipment and need River Point to provide canoes, additional equipment, transport to the entry point, and lodging the night prior to the trip, and showers after the trip. No problem! Just needing a few equipment items, maps, etc. is called needing Partial Outfitting and you can find everything offered if you take peak at the Canoe & Camping Equipment Rentals information.


  • BWCA Outfitting Patial Packages: Maybe you have some equipment, but you want River Point to pack the food and you need canoes. Or, maybe you want to pull together your own food, but have no equipment. We can help with these needs, too.Check out the BWCA Outfitting Partial Packages. Two popular Partial Packages are 1)  Food & Kevlar Canoe Package which has all the food included with a food packsack and the kevlar canoe, paddles and life jackets. This choice may be a perfect fit if you have most all of the camping gear. The other Partial Package is 2) Equipment Only Package with Kevlar Canoe. If you have no camping equipment, but want to pack you own food, then this plan would be right for you. There are some other choices on this page, also. But, remember that talking with us can always help!


  • There’s even a great special package for families with Mom, Dad and kids under age 17, called the Family Super Saver Complete Package, plus super reduced rates for non-profit groups, like Scouts, school and church groups.



Ok…this one can be tricky, especially considering that there are about a million acres to explore in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and some 25+ entry points to enter this amazing place in the Ely area. However, it’s not necessary for you to know where to go or what entry point to select. (If you do, great!) If not (and most people don’t know), this is where our expertise and knowledge of the Boundary Waters really shines. For starters, you can check out the Boundary Waters Map.

After all, owners, Jane and Steve were born and raised in Ely, are educators…and son, James has spent every canoeing season at the site of River Point, and has been routing canoeing guests since he was a teen. You can be confident in their shared knowledge of the BWCA, and their selection of an excellent staff to provide the highest level of service to each individual. You can be assured of the best BWCA outfitting advice and attention to details. Options for entry points for your dates will be discussed personally with you, and selection of the best entry point based on its availability for your date is dependent upon what you want out of the trip. So, you can let this portion of how to plan your BWCA canoe trip to us.

It is at this time that the permit will be reserved for you!


One last thing…in your How To Plan Your BWCA Canoe Trip list…Decide which Rive Point lodging choice you desire for the night prior to the canoe trip “start date”. Bunkhouse or Chalet….maybe a Villa. Choice based upon availability so ask about this.


Don’t hesitate to contact River Point Outfitting Co. with your questions as you go through the various steps of this procedure on how to plan your BWCA canoe trip. Remember, we work with you from the initial phone conversation or e-mail, right up until the first dip of your paddle in the pristine wilderness waters to ensure that your Boundary Waters canoe trip is not only successful, satisfying, and adventurous, but full of memories that will last a lifetime!

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