You are now entering quintessential canoe country, a vast, undeveloped wilderness with walls of pine and a labyrinth of water. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and adjoining Quetico Provincial Park, 1 million acres in sum, surround the Minnesota-Ontario border with an ostensibly motor-free wilderness where the distance you go rests entirely on your shoulder’s fortitude to paddle and portage.
The sacrifice is well worth it. From 64 points of entry by water on the American side-some where motors are allowed for a short spell-it’s possible to make your own itinerary on more than 1,200 canoe routes. Consider heading to the north end of Basswood Lake and the rocky ledges where smallmouth bass nail everything from jigs to topwater lures.
Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to trail a true-running No. 7 Rapala Shad Rap while en route for a shot at magnum pike and lake trout. Meanwhile, walleyes that snap at orange and yellow plastic tails on jigs are available at the mouths of feeder creeks and alongside rock outcroppings. If solitude is a high on your list of priorities, ask about the lesser-known routes and remote lakes that see sparse traffic in an area where the rest of the 200,000 permitted visitors per year seldom venture.
The BWCAW’s open season for canoeing coincides with open water from about mid-April through October (limited permits are available May 1 to September 30 for particular entry points); the Quetico’s season goes from mid-May to mid-September (specific dates vary at the park’s five entry points). A $12 per party cost per trip into the BWCAW and camping fees of just $10 per trip per adult are a small price to pay for access to smallmouth bass that savage surface lures and for campsites on back-country lakes that overlook rocky islands and mirror reflections far from civilization.
Contact: Moose Bay Co. (218-365-6285; www.moosebaycompany.com); Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (877-550-6777; www.bwcaw.org); Quetico Provincial Park (807-597-2735; www.ontario parks.com/quet.html).