Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario
THE PITCH Just over the border from Minnesota is a lake-riddled mecca boasting the kind of numbers that make otherwise calm canoeists go nuts. No, not the Boundary Waters. It's Quetico Provincial Park: 1.2 million acres of pristine glacier-carved wilderness, 600 interconnected lakes, more than 2,000 paddle-in campsitesand only 20,000 visitors a year. The perfect landing? Emerald Lake's southwestern point, a breezy jetty that gazes over incandescent waters and rocky shoreline. From this north-woods oasis, cast for smallmouth bass in neighboring bays at dawn, scan for moose with your binocs, and paddle across Emerald to the short Plough Lake portage to picnic under a 500-year-old, barrel-thick white cedarone of the park's largest.
BETA Provision in Ely, Minnesota, four hours north of Minneapolis. Fifteen daily permits are available at the closest entry point, the Canadian town of Prairie Portage. Follow the well-marked, modest portages from Birch Lake to Carp Lake, and into Emerald.
PRIME TIME July-August
RESOURCES For trip planning, permits, and maps: Ontario Parks, 807-597-2735, www.ontarioparks.com. For general info, maps, and guided trips: Piragis Northwoods Company, 800-223-6565, www.piragis.com.
Adirondack Park, New York
THE PITCH Around here, even the most sprawling lakes are called ponds. And the small island in the middle of St. Regis Pond (a mere six hours by car north of the Big Apple) is a pine-shaded treasure, with camping on soft, sandy soil and views of 2,874-foot St. Regis Mountain. One portage away from the put-in at Little Clear Pond, the lake is the namesake of St. Regis Canoe Area, New York's only wilderness canoeing park (read: no motorboats). From your shoreline base camp, trace the eight-pond Seven Carries Route, hike up St. Regis, listen to loons from your hammock, orwhat the heckall of the above.
RESOURCES For info: The New York Department of Environmental Conservation, in Ray Brook, 518-897-1200. For guided trips: Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, 800-491-0414, www.adirondackoutfitters.com.
Green River, Utah
THE PITCH Ah, springtime on the Greenthe water is high, temperatures are in the seventies, and the bugs are vacationing elsewhere. Start floating just south of the town of Green River, below the wind-varnished 1,000-foot sandstone cliffs of Labyrinth Canyon, at the Ruby Ranch put-in. Seven miles down this shimmering waterway, you'll float into the cottonwood-lined cove at Trin-Alcove Bend, 43 miles north of Canyonlands National Park. Nestle into one of several campsites at the base of the 300-foot-tall amphitheater, and explore the many slots and dry waterfalls branching off from Labyrinth's main canyon. Feeling ambitious? Keep paddling to within five miles of Canyonlands.
RESOURCES Free, self-serve permits are available at most put-ins. Camping is available at any point along the shore. For general information, call the BLM office in Price, 435-636-3622.
Somehow, the two-person, 17-foot Wenonah Spirit II Kevlar Ultra-light ($2,095; 507-454-5430, www.wenonah.com) confounds the water gods by being both a capable whitewater canoe and an easy-to-steer open-water cruiser that weighs in at a portage-friendly 42 pounds.