All Things BWCA Newsletter – September 2017

All Things BWCA Newsletter – September 2017

What’s Going on in the North Woods

  • bwca ely MinnesotaAround The Base
  • The Fishing Corner
  • Wilderness Wisdom
  • The Boy Scout Scene
  • Tips For the Outdoor Photographer
  • More Great Information

This newsletter is designed to help keep you current on the issues of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park, to give you information on Williams and Hall Outfitters, and to share some of our knowledge and love of the outdoors and the BWCA wilderness around us. We hope you enjoy these articles and share them with your friends.

Around The Base

Calling All Youth Group Leaders

by Blayne

It’s Planning Time

As we approach a new school year and you look forward to your group’s first meetings of the new year, it is time to lock in next summer’s High Adventure trip.  This does not mean that you must dig into all the details, like how many pairs of socks to bring.  It means that it is time to make reservations with outfitters and look into what kind of permits you need and other similar big-picture issues.


A High Adventure program the key to the long term health of a Scout or other youth group organization?  The reason is simple.  As your youth join and become a part of a group, they are taught the basics of outdoor living and leadership.  They then get a chance to practice what they learn on overnight campouts and summer camps.  But they never really get a chance to put it all to the test and really experience nature and all her glories until they visit a true wilderness.

Williams and Hall Boundary Waters Outfitter Scout Troops

This is when and where the youth are able to put it all to the test.  The high adventure activity is something that the younger youth can aspire to and look excitedly towards as they progress down the path.  It is what keeps the 15, 16, and 17-year-old kids coming back.


The destination of your high adventure is the next issue.  There are countless wonderful places to go on a high adventure trip.  As an outfitter in the Boundary Waters that specializes in youth group wilderness trips, we are naturally advocating wilderness canoe trips.  A healthy high adventure program may include a rotation of hiking one year, paddling one year, and say cycling the next. So the first requirement is to obtain a consensus as to the type of activity you want to participate in.  Next, determine the opportunities that realistically exist for your group to experience that activity.  For example, if your group wants to go cycling and you live in Des Moines, is it more likely you will be able to bicycle across Iowa or ride across Arizona?  Then look at your budget and optimize.  Find the best option for the funds you want to spend.  Sounds simple, huh?


The constraints of your group and the constraints posed by the adventure venue will determine your schedule.  Whereas you could do a paddle trip in Florida’s Everglades in February, it would be “hard” to paddle in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters then.  Also, you try to balance the needs of your group with respect to the myriad of summer time demands, i.e. school programs, sports, band, family vacations, family events, etc..

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We have found over the years, that the groups that are most successful in planning and conducting high adventures, do some initial family polling to see what is supportable, then they make a decision and put a date on the calendar early in September.  It is an immutable law that the level of participation in a high adventure trip is directly proportional to the quality and “coolness” of the trip.  The better the trip, the more kids and their folks will “make time” to participate.  Gather your info early as many places fill up fast and may have constraints like entry permits, quotas, reservations, etc..


This is a key decision – who to turn to for help in planning a custom trip.  To do a good job, you need a force multiplier.  A wilderness outfitter is just such an assistant.  You can’t do this full time, but wilderness trip planning is what we do 24/7/365.  One call can make a whole trip happen when you get in touch with the right experts.  What to look for in your outfitter:

As a Scout Leader for over 40 years, this is what was important to me:

  1. Does the outfitter know the Scouting Program and Boy Scouts?
  2. Have they been around for a while (On Moose Lake since 1963)? You want to experience and expertise.
  3. Does the Outfitter have great facilities, keyed into the specific high adventure you are going to participate in? We are not looking for the Ritz, but the better the facility, the better the support.  For example, where is their base?  On the lake, or is it in an ally in a town, because they got an old house and decided they wanted to be an outfitter? Check it out.  Be sure to check out your options don’t be sucked in by a clever website, or social media tweet.  Don’t be wooed away by cheaper prices either.  You get what you pay for and sometimes, it may be better to have one more bake sale and get better stuff, use the better outfitter and be in a better place.
  4. Check out the equipment. Imagine a climbing guide that always shopped the clearance sales for climbing gear.  This would not necessarily engender confidence in me.  You are after someone that outfits with great food and equipment.  Ask questions, check them out, get references.
  5. Finally, who is willing to help customize the trip for your group? Length, difficulty, food or no food, tent arrangements, type of canoes, etc..  One size does not fit all when it comes to wilderness treks, why not get exactly what you want?

Safety and Fun

Above all, the most important concern I have is who is in a position to help me have a safe and fun experience.  If safety is the foundation upon which every trip into the wild is based, then every trip can be the trip of a lifetime.  Find an outfitter that pays attention to detail, and insists on excellence.

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These are the key items to pulling off an exceptional and memorable high adventure.  Make it a priority to get your dates selected early and make those reservations now to insure your group has front row seating next July.

Adventure On!

The Fishing Corner

Fishing with Friends

by Dave, our resident fishing expert.

We’ll, we’re winding down on another fishing season here in the Canoe Country. Each fall when we wrap it up, I can reflect on the season past. In general, fishing was, well…about like usual. There were many success stories, some real trophy stories and some stories of “lesser” success.

Making Friends Through Fishing

This fall, I’ve really thought about another aspect of fishing that I hold in a special place in the old memory bank. I’m talking about the times I’ve had to fish with and become friends with many of the young adults that have come to work for us each summer. For me, it has been a pleasure and a learning experience over many summers of outfitting…over 30 of ‘em!

I’ve always said that no matter how many canoe trips you’ve been on, there’s room to learn something new. The same can be said about fishing…you just need the desire to learn more. Someone once told me one of the best ways to learn…is to teach.  Having had the chance, over the many summers to take the “kids” fishing has been a wonderful way for me to give a little bit of Boundary Waters fishing to each of them while teaching (and learning) some fishing along the way. I can tell you that it’s a great feeling to watch a friend tie into a big one.

Share Your Fishing Skills

Each of us has a special talent, whether it be a craft, computer skills, cooking, camping or countless other skills. I’ve been fishing for most of my life and while I still have much to learn, sharing my skills has been a worthy and rewarding endeavor. Share your skills with a friend, share your talent with a young person. Each of us will be better for it.

These are photos of just a few of our staff, past & present whom I’ve had the privilege to get to know and call a fishing friend. My only regret is not always having the time during the busy season to fish more…and take more fishing.

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Here’s to Some Great Fall Fishing.

Fish On!

Wilderness Wisdom

A Pocket Knife May Be The Perfect Tool

by Kevin

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Do you carry a pocket knife in the wilderness?  Most of us do.  And many of us also carry a knife even when we are not on a wilderness adventure.  Why?  Because pocket knives have almost unlimited uses both in and out of the wilderness.

Pocket Knife Wilderness Uses – common and not so common

  1. Whittling
  2. Picking food from your teeth
  3. Making kindling for a fire
  4. Trimming a fishing line
  5. Making a campsite fashion statement

Daily Life Pocket Knife Uses – less common

  1. Adding a new hole to your beltwilliams and hall outfitters boundary waters quetico ely mn
  2. Cutting someone free from a seat belt inside a burning vehicle
  3. A great money clipwilliams and hall outfitters boundary waters quetico ely mn
  4. Cutting hair
  5. Carrying heavy shopping bagswilliams and hall outfitters boundary waters quetico ely mn


For a great list of uses for a pocket knife, check out this website by clicking here.

Paddle On.  Be Free.

The Boy Scout Scene 

Help Scouts See “Nature Grabbers”

by Kevin

A long-time Scouter tries to help Boy Scouts see the nature grabbers around them.  Nature grabbers are those things that can grab our attention and draw us in for a deeper look. If a boy is drawn in more deeply, he will more likely want to learn more and will remember his experience as well.  Don’t focus on teaching facts so much as teaching a curious attitude and respect towards nature.

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Here are a few tips on helping boys see those nature grabbers.

  1. Get the boys out into nature, local and wilderness.
  2. Let the boys take the lead in the learning process.  Don’t just lecture them.  If they are responsible for teaching each other, learning is more likely to stick with them.
  3. Have resources, such as books, ready at hand.  When a boy asks a question, suggest that you look up the answer together.  Even if you know the answer, help the boy to find it.
  4. Have the boys keep logs of the plants and wildlife they see and identify.  Have them work together to make identifications.  These logs are also great for completing merit badge requirements.
  5. Take the time to know a couple of nature grabbers that you can point out to the boys during an outdoor activity.  This will jump-start their curiosity.


Duty On. Be Your Best.

Tips For the Outdoor Photographer 

Rain is Both a Blessing and a Curse for the Outdoor Photographer

By Kevin


williams and hall outfitters ely minnesotaSometimes the best photo opportunities happen in the worst weather.  Great lighting and interesting subjects can appear when rain, sleet or snow are also appearing.  So what can you do to protect your camera from wet weather while shooting?

  1. For $20 or less you can purchase a rain/snow weather protector that is designed for DSLR cameras.
  2. For about $3 or less, you can purchase a plastic disposable rain sleeve.  These are small and light.
  3. You can always carry a 1-gallon plastic bag in your camera bag.  Just put the camera in the bag with the lens pointing out the opening and shoot away.

However, if you don’t have some type of protection and you can’t resist taking your camera out, try to shoot for short periods and then cover your camera again.  Don’t let your camera get really soaking wet.  As soon as you can, put your camera in a bag with some uncooked rice to dry it out.

Shoot On!

We Can Help You Secure Your 2018 Permits for Boundary Waters  and Quetico

Quetico Park permits are available no sooner than 5 months, to the day, ahead of the actual start date and Boundary Waters permits became available for application on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning in mid-January.  Now is the time to apply.

Remember…We are happy to secure your Canoe Country permits at no extra charge!

Purchase Williams and Hall Merchandise Online

Need a great gift for that paddler in your life.  You can always find Williams and Hall merchandise online.  Just click the “Shop For Gear” link at the top of our home page or go directly to

We are looking forward to seeing you this summer!

Thank you sign

Summer is our favorite time of year.  Life on Moose Lake during these warm days is wonderful. We look forward to seeing you soon.

From your friends at Williams and Hall,                                                                             Charlene, Blayne, Dave and Kevin

Williams and Hall Outfitters and Canoe Adventures                                                                                        
(218) 365-5837

Paddle On.  Be Free.