Just like all of the different shapes and sizes a snowflake can fall to the earth as Boundary Waters routes come in all shapes and sizes. There are so many lakes and portages in the 1.3 million acre Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness they say there are over 1200 routes to choose from. I would guess there are even more routes than that since the park stretches over 150 miles in some places. No wonder folks have a difficult time determining what Boundary Waters Route they should travel with the over 2000 wilderness campsites to choose from who would know exactly where to go?
The first place I reccommend asking about canoe routes is a BWCA canoe trip outfitter. As an outfitter and an avid paddler I have paddled in most of the lakes in the Gunflint Ranger District and many of them out of the Ely District. Not all outfitters paddle the lakes of the canoe country but most of them have at one time or another. Regardless most BWCA outfitters have a vast knowledge of the lakes and portages in their area.
A wilderness canoe camping trip is normally a great experience but I've heard people tell horror stories about BWCA lakes and portages. When I've inquired asking for further detail and to show me on the map they'll point to some route that isn't even maintained as a route anymore or they'll describe where it was and I'll know from previous experience that's where a moose path is, not a portage. If they would have checked with an outfitter first then most likely they would not have spent an afternoon bushwhacking through shoulder high brush or dragging their canoe through a dried up beaver pond.
Most outfitters are willing to give you a little advice even if you aren't outfitting with them. We charge for a full map routing session but if it's just a question or two then we're more than happy to answer the questions. We want people to have a good BWCA experience so they will return again and bring their friends or their kids or their friend's kids.
Deciding your canoe route is an important decision you should think about carefully. We have a trip route planner on our website as well as maps to go along with it. If you have questions then feel free to give us a call or drop us an email. We can even send you maps of the area so you can plan and dream in the comfort of your own home.
While you're at it, keep an eye on the snowflakes and remember the BWCA has endless route possibilities just like the shape of a snowflake.