Canoeing Boundary Waters in August

Week of February 12-18, 1998
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Canoeing Boundary Waters in August
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Booking a hut in Yoho National Park
Canoeing Boundary Waters in August
Question: My husband and I are planning a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness this year. What is the best month to go to see a lot of wildlife and not a lot of people? Any favorite lakes to start on?

Teresa Burkett
Tulsa, OK

Adventure Adviser: Your question is truly difficult, largely because the best months to be in the Boundary Waters are usually the most crowded. Generally, August and September are the least bug-ridden, which makes them the most people-filled.

In May you won't have bugs, but you're likely to have frost, and in June and July, you'll be swatting mosquitoes in full force. I'd recommend waiting until mid- to late September after most people have settled into their post-summer work and school routines and the bugs have either had their fill or have been killed off by cooler weather.

Plus the leaves will be turning, the water will be heated from the warm summer, and the animals won't be scared away by the hordes of campers. One word about animals: Don't expect to see much more than ducks and loons as you paddle through the BWCA — most of the wildlife is pretty evasive, especially the wolves. In my 20 years of camping in northern Minnesota, I've only seen one. Your best chance of spotting moose is to plan a route through very swampy terrain. As for bears, be sure to hang your packs high in a tree — you may not see bears but they will definitely smell your food and help themselves if you make it easy for them to do so.

As far as routes are concerned, you really can't go wrong because all of the terrain is spectacularly rugged and beautiful. I prefer a lot of the lakes that are accessible by putting in off the Gunflint Trail, such as the U.S.-Canadian border lakes like Saganaga, Ottertrack, and Knife.

I also love the high ridges along Kekekabic, the alpine feel of Jap Lake (beware of a brutal mile-long portage), the amazingly complex coastline of Little Saganaga Lake, and the eerie feeling of South Arm Knife Lake, the purported home of native spirits.

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