BWCA Routes

Jan 24, 2022
Save the Boundary Waters Staff
BWCA Routes

Photo: Dominic Ricci

Boundary Waters Canoe Routes

Plan your route with Paddle Planner! Paddle Planner is a supporter of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.  The most unique feature of their interactive maps is the RouteFinder, which is a paddling route time and distance calculator. Get estimated travel distances and times from just about any point to any other! You can also see campsite ratings, photos, an portage information. Looking at the maps is free! If you want to route your map, or use additional features, you can pay for a yearly membership. 

Sawbill+Alton Loop:

Entry Point: 38 - Sawbill Lake 

This a classic route for shorter paddling days, basecamping, or with kids/beginners! There is also great fishing and wildlife viewing in this area. 

Lake one to Lake Four Loop + Fire Lake:

Entry Point: 30-Lake One

Short and easy portages. Lots of nice and large campsite. Partially in a Burn Zone, great opportunity to see lots of wildlife, especially bird species. Could add on trip to Insula, a beautiful lake. Easy in and Out

Ima Lake Loop

Entry Point: 27-Snowbank Lake 

“Cool things to see along the way: Pictographs on Jordan Lake; great 5* island campsite on Ima though it's usually first to go so the northern sites are great #1192 and #1193; if good wet season the floating bog on south of Hatchet Lake to the east of Ima is can be paddled and pitcher plants are blooming late June into July; southern shore of Alworth Lake with is one portage south of Ima connects to the Old Pines Loop Trail spur off the Kekekabic Trail for a great hike through 100+ year old white pines; portages between Cattyman and Boot Lake are full of blueberries and raspberries in the right season.” - Alex

Seagull to Saganaga Loop

Entry Point: 54-Seagull Lake OR 55- Saganaga Lake 

"The Seagull to Saganaga Loop canoe route is a great route for a shorter or easier trip. It can be done either way. There is a cool site on the west side of seagull that has a nice rock you can climb up and look out across the lake. In 2020, there were a few sites closed to bear activity on Alpine Lake, so be extra careful with your food storage!" - Megan 

Knife Lake Loop

Entry point: Moose Lake EP 25

"You can camp on Knife/South Arm of Knife a few nights and day trip into Kekekabik which has big cliffs. Also check out Eddy Falls." - Sam

"Dorothy Molter's Island is on Knife Lake which is cool to check out. If you want to push yourself or do a longer trip you can also go to Kekekabic to Thomas to Ima to Ensign." - Megan

Moose to Mudrow

Entry point: Moose Lake EP 25 (or Mudrow EP 23)

Days: 6-9 (I recommend a Layover Day

"Go through Wind Lake to avoid motor boats on the Moose Chain. Long Route that can be altered as needed to make it shorter, such as entering at Fall Lake EP 24) Upper, Wheelbarrow, and Lower Basswood Falls are along this route, they are beautiful and some of the largest falls to see in the BWCA. Pictographs one you arrive on Crooked on the Left shore a little bit past Lower Basswood Falls. Old Buick on Crooked Lake ( Just over the Canadian Border, Latitude/Longitude: 48.20183,-91.7762) . Beautiful remote areas going through Pappose, Chippewa your your way to Gun Lake. Some small river/creek paddling, lots of lily pads and beaver lodges. Fourtown and Mudrow are very pretty. " 

- Maddie

Kawishiwi River Triangle:

Entry Points - either Little Gabbro, Farm Lake, South Kawishiwi, or Lake One


River travel, so easier paddling. Shorter Portages. Great Wildlife, lots of Eagles. Secret Waterfall on the Northern Section of the Triangle. Great Campsites. Multiple (4) entry points so more chances for permits.

Plan your route with Paddle Planner!

The most unique feature of their interactive maps is the RouteFinder, which is a paddling route time and distance calculator. Get estimated travel distances and times from just about any point to any other! You can also see campsite ratings, photos, an portage information. 


Wilderness - Edge Experiences

Lacey's Ely Reccomendations

Ely stops before or after your BWCA excursion: Start at The Front Porch for a slice of homemade quiche and a custom tea blend or cup of coffee. Take a class at the Ely Folk School -- could be ceramics, basket weaving, cooking, or something in the forge. If an Ely Folk School class isn't for you, it's fun to walk up and down Sherian and Chapman Street, shopping in at the many locally owned businesses. Who knows what you'll find! Then amble around the Trezona Trail, stopping to enjoy the views and chit chat with passersby and their dogs. Bring a snack to tide you over until dinner, and have a picnic under the Veterans Memorial Pavilion along the way. Happy hour at Northern Grounds; they have the largest wine by the glass selection north of the Twin Cities (and craft cocktails on tap!). Dinner at Insula, where the American fusion cuisine is top-rated. Lastly, a movie at Ely's Historic State Theater, including a warm Belgian waffle and hot chocolate for dessert. 

 "Ely's Main Street is tucked away on the edge of town, and on that Main Street you can find a Greenstone lava pillow, which, at 2.7 billion years old, ranks among the oldest exposed rocks in the world."

Megan's Grand Marais Reccomendations

Before heading up the Gunflint, I've often stayed at the Grand Marais municipal campground. If I stay on the Gunflint, I really like East Bearskin Lake CampgroundFlour Lake Campground, and Trail's End Campground. I enjoy eating at Gunflint Tavern or Angry Trout when I'm in town, or Poplar Haus when I'm just getting off trail. There are also a lot of great hikes off the Gunflint including Honey Moon Bluff, Caribou Rock Trail, Magnetic Rock Trail and for a longer hike, the Border Route Trail, if you're looking for something closer to Grand Marais, the Pincusion Trails! I love walking out to Artist's point on Lake Superior at sunset.  There are a lot of lovely cabins and lodges up the Gunflint Trail where you can rent boats and do day trips into the Wilderness or go fishing.