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Continued: Bound for the BWCA: How to pack, eat, pick a route and avoid the bugs

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 23, 2014 - 12:41 PM

I’ve paddled the Boundary Waters from April through October, and my advice is carefully chose the date of your trip. If excellent fishing is your goal, June is a great month, but be prepared for black flies and mosquitoes. My wife has a simple rule: No canoeing in June. I recall eating dinner with a buddy in our tent one June afternoon because the mosquitoes were so thick. But last year I paddled a week in June in neighboring Quetico Provincial Park. The bugs were remarkably few, while the walleye fishing was excellent.

Many people, especially those camping with kids, love to go in August, when the bugs usually aren’t bad and the water is warm enough for swimming. When I lived in Ely in the 1970s, the BWCA was nearly empty in September before canoeists figured out it was a prime month, with less competition for campsites and cool, bug-free nights. October, which carries a bit more risk for bad weather, also can be stunningly beautiful.


State of mind

Perhaps the most important thing to bring is a different state of mind. Don’t put yourself on a schedule where you have to make a certain number of miles each day. Leave the electronics behind. You’re trying to escape the hectic, fast-paced world. Don’t bring it with you.

Slow down. Relax. Enjoy.


Doug Smith • 612-673-7667


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  • A paddler portages his canoe around Curtain Falls on Crooked Lake along the BWCA’s Minnesota-Ontario border.

  • A pine-studded campsite on the BWCA's Upper Pauness Lake.

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