There are places in Minnesota where you can catch more (and bigger) fish. But there is no place where you can totally immerse yourself in the Northwoods like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: It encompasses 1,500 square miles, 1 million acres, and over 1,200 canoe routes. But the only numbers that matter to Boundary Waters fishermen are paddle strokes and portage rods. Motors (and even wheels) are taboo in most of the area. The rewards, of course, go beyond good fishing. Your canoe may be Royalex and your sleeping bag Hollofil, but you're still glimpsing a world known by the native Ojibwe and French voyageurs who once roamed here. Ancient petroglyphs evoke images of earlier residents, and many campsites rest on overlooks used for centuries. The fishing may have been better long ago, but that's hard to imagine. There are grass-banked shores full of pike, rocky points guarded by smallmouths, river mouths stacked with walleyes, deep lakes probed by lake trout. You'll rarely catch them all on one trip, given the vagaries of season and weather and trip length. But that's the whole point: Once you've been here, you'll have to return. For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service regional office (218-626-4300); for trip planning, visit www.canoecountry.com.