Duane's Canoe Outfitters

Canoeing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Canoeing the thousand of lakes in this area can be a wonderful experience full of adventure and exploration. We use large stable canoes that have a keel along the bottom to prevent drift and keep you going along a straight path. Your enjoyment and safety our main concern, so we will cover some canoeing basics to ensure a rewarding and pleasantly memorable trip. Please remember that the canoe is your way into and out of the wilderness, so utmost care is required to make sure damage is prevented. Never drag you canoe from the water or along portages lift and carry, we'll show you how. Also never run rapids, portages are there for a reason, and that reason is to prevent a quick and sometimes tragic end to your vacation.

Wear your life jacket! State law requires to have one with you, but only works if your wearing it. This is especially important when crossing large lakes or in windy conditions. Strap or secure all Duluth Packs to the canoe, if you do dump the canoe stay with it and it will support you and all your gear whether right side up or upside down. Paddle along the shore line to assist in navigation and for safety sake, especially important early and late in the season when cold waters can bring on hypothermia quickly. Keep your body and gear centered in the canoe, you can move your arms and legs but your back side should stay in one place. Take special care when loading and unloading as well as fishing. Paddling partners should paddle on separate sides of canoe, when you get tired call a switch, take one more stroke ands switch sides. When paddling against a wind put weight towards front and do directly into the wind, when paddling with the wind put weight towards the back. Don't get turned sideways into waves or wake, as you could swamp, go into them head on. Stay off of big water or close to shore in windy conditions. In strong winds get to shore and stay there. If you are windbound, well pick you up the next day, no extra charge. Generally early starts on travel days is a good idea. Winds usually begin in the late morning or early afternoon and subside by evening.


Portages come in many different lengths an conditions, some are smooth and even, some swampy, some up and down hills, rocky and rough. Shoes are important here, protect your feet and ankles, and your trip will go much better. To find portages, look for lower levels of land and treeline at the ends of the lake. They usually look like paths or gravel trails. When you get to the portage unload packs and gear and set away from water and out of the portage path. The canoe should go down the path first Most canoe damage comes at the end of a portage when put down in the wrong place. Get some help taking it off your shoulders, or get all the way to the water, people carrying packs follow. You can put a pack on front and back and the extra balance helps with weight, but watch your footing. There is no dishonor in double portaging, and can reduce the risk of injury. The last person down the portage should check for life jackets, paddles, fishing rods, cameras, everything. Across the next lake is no place to remember what you forgot.


Travel early for best campsite selection doing it in the dark is no fun. Setting up camp on islands helps reduce your chances of bear problems and usually provide a breeze to keep mosquitoes away. Look for level tent sites away from the fire pit, a tarp under your tent should keep you dry, don't let excess go more than a couple of inches past tent though. Be aware of down trees and exposed roots in the immediate area that could blow down or conduct electricity in a storm. Also a lightning storm is no time to start hanging tarps, keep an eye on the weather and be prepared A clean, organized camp helps prevent bear problems and lost equipment. Delegating duties works best with everyone responsible for some chores. Cook on a low fire to avoid burning food, most freeze dried food just requires a boiling water, so it is all done at the same time. Rub a light layer of dish soap on outside of pots and soot will wipe off. Clean dishes and hang food before dark. Remember, no food in the tents unless would like bears in your dreams. Also, fish remains can be put on rocks for gulls, bury if you have no takers. Dead firewood can be found along shorelines away from campsite. White birchbark from dead trees can be peeled and will light wet or dry. Keep fires small and contained and be extra careful with axes, saws and fillet knives.

Personal Gear/What To Bring

  • 2 Pair Shoes, one wet, one dry.
  • Sandals are great for camp and canoeing, but rough on portages. Old hiking boots or tennis shoe are best for travel.
  • 2-3 Pair socks, wool dry fast and keep feet warm when wet as do high tech materials.
  • Underwear, pants, swim suit, t- shirts,bandanna, pajamas or sweatclothes, hat
  • Long sleeve shirt sweater/jacket
  • Polar Fleece works well under rain gear and makes a good pillow
  • Rain Gear
  • Personal toiletries, soap, medications
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Pocket Knife/Lighter
  • Camera, Binoculars,(Protect from moisture)
  • Compass/Whistles/Role of utility cord or rope
  • Fishing Rod , Selected Lures, Small Tackle Box
  • A couple of garbage bags.
  • Stuff sack or pillow case to pack this in
  • Cards/ Paperbacks/Note pad

Each group should also carry
  • First Aid Kit/ Manuals
  • Maps/Compass
  • Small tool kit or leatherman type
  • tool (pliers and screwdrivers)
  • Small compacted role of duct tape
  • Water tablets, Filter
  • Fishing Net/ Fillet Knife

Pack Light Keep Everything to a Minimum

Useful Links

  • Superior National Forest - Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
  • Quetico Provincial Park