Campfire glow in the BWCAW

Canoe Country

Canoe Country consists of the BWCA-Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northeastern Minnesota and the Quetico Provincial Park of Ontario, Canada. In total, Canoe Country has more than 2 million acres of Northwoods wilderness peppered with a couple thousand lakes that are interconnected by portages, and canoe trails, which Voyageurs crossed hundreds of years ago. Opportunities also exist for hiking, kayaking and outstanding freshwater fishing.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, usually called the BWCA or BWCAW, approaches one million acres in size, and contains hundreds of lakes and rivers. The BWCA contains over 1200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2000 designated campsites. The BWCA is located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. It extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park.

The BWCA is a true wilderness offering freedom to those who wish to pursue an experience of expansive solitude, challenge and personal integration with nature. Because this area was set aside in 1926 to preserve its primitive character and made a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964, it allows visitors to canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of the French Voyageurs of 200 years ago.

There is a delicate balance here. As you plan your trip to the BWCAW, remember that the same qualities which call you to this magnificent area are fragile. Steps you take today to preserve this area will benefit not only you, but future generations.


About 75% of the BWCA's water area is reserved for non-motorized canoe travel. Most lakes and rivers are interconnected by portage trails, resulting in over 1,200 miles of canoe routes. Chains of lakes and portages of various lengths and difficulties can be combined to create either linear or circular routes. Moose Lake, and Snowbank Lake near Ely are two of the most popular entry points.


Fishing is a popular activity in the BWCAW. Game species include northern pike, walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass,yellow perch, whitefish, and lake trout, among others. A small number of lakes are stocked with brook trout as well. Popular lures include rapalas, jigs, and spoons, while live bait such as leeches are also used.


The BWCA has several long-distance trails. The Kekekabic Trail traverses the Boundary Waters from the Gunflint Trail on the east to Snowbank Lake on the west and is the only footpath through the center of the wilderness. The Border Route Trail runs east-west for over 60 miles (97 km) through the eastern BWCAW. Both the Border Route and the Kekekabic Trail are unofficially part of the longer North Country National Scenic Trail. There are also three longer loop trails in the Boundary Waters: the Pow Wow Trail, the Snowbank Trail, and the Sioux-Hustler Trail.