Paddle the Boundary Waters

Do you have a canoe camping trip in the BWCA planned? Here’s a way to get get a stipend for meals while you’re out in the Boundary Waters.  Sign up online at the Northwoods Volunteer Connection website.

Why monitor visitor use?

Many visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) seek a place separated from the modern world within the 1 million acres of undeveloped forest and water, where they can gain a sense of solitude and connect with nature. With more than 150,000 annual visitors, the chance of encountering another person is likely in the more popular areas of the BWCAW and in some cases this can change the dynamics of a wilderness trip.

In an effort to better understand the use that is occurring in the Wilderness, visitor use monitoring is conducted every year. This activity helps the US Forest Service to determine the opportunities for solitude or likelihood of encountering other people within the BWCAW.

Those individuals participating in this program travel a route on a specific date to conduct monitoring. Volunteers will spend part of the time monitoring use from a campsite and while travelling.

Monitoring Dates and Locations

Please fill out an interest form below and indicate your preference of dates and/or location.

LaCroix Ranger District

07/05/17    Trout Lake
07/30/17    Lady Boot to Boulder Bay of Lac La Croix
08/09/17    Slim Lake
08/11/17    Shell Lake
08/25/17    Lake Agnes
08/29/17    Eugene, Beartrack, Takucmich Lakes
09/15/17    Iron Lake
09/24/17    Hustler-Oyster Lakes

 Tofte/Gunflint Ranger Districts

07/04/17    Tuscarora
07/22/17    Long Island
09/18/17    Kawishiwi to Malberg
09/21/17    Long Island

Kawishiwi Ranger District (Ely)

07/18/17    Gabbro/Bald Eagle
07/21/17    West Knife
08/03/17    Ima Lake
08/28/17    Basswood River
09/19/17    Knife Lake

What is expected of Visitor Use Monitoring volunteers?

  • Be self-sufficient in the BWCAW.
  • Provide the gear needed to travel and camp in the BWCAW or rent through an outfitter.
  • Work in groups of two.
  • Perform monitoring activities for 8 hours on the day(s) indicated in the designated location.
  • Follow monitoring protocol.
  • Perform daily check-ins
  • Follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles.


Daily Schedule for Visitor Use Monitoring Volunteers

  • AM – Spend 2 hours in camp documenting any people you heard or see at campsites or on the water.
  • Travel the designated route (either around the lake you are camped on or to one or more adjacent lakes) documenting any people you see or hear.
  •  PM – Spend 2 hours in camp documenting any people you heard or see at campsites or on the water.

The Perks

Volunteers receive…

  • A waived entry permit fee (for groups with only two people).
  • Food reimbursements of $25/day
  • Some camping equipment may be available for use from the Northwoods Volunteer Connection depending on the timing of monitoring trips.

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Biggest Blueberry on the Gunflint Trail

There’s a contest this summer on the Gunflint Trail and it involves one of my favorite passtimes- picking blueberries. While the berries are starting to turn blue there are still way more green berries on the bushes than there are blue ones. It’s this time of the year I cringe to see anyone out picking because I fear they are damaging the green berries for future pickers. If we wait a little while longer then more of the berries will be blue and it will be worth picking.

If you just can’t wait to get out there and you find yourself in the posession of a big blueberry then head on over to an official blueberry weighing station. Not sure how Voyageur Canoe Outfitters missed out on the opportunity to be one of the stations but we do have one nearby at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.

Good Luck and happy picking!

blueberry picking on the Gunflint Trail


Biggest Blueberry Contest – Gunflint Trail

Occurs all day every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Friday, July 21, 2017 – Saturday, August 12, 2017

Gunflint Trail, MN

Can you find the BIGGEST blueberry of the season? The 1st annual Biggest Blueberry Contest will be held on the Gunflint Trail from Friday July 21- Saturday August 12. Blueberries will be measured by weight and must be picked fresh and not store bought. Even if you don’t have a heavy blueberry, we still encourage you to enter as you could win a prize through our randomly selected drawing.

The three rounds of Blueberry contests will be

  • Friday July 21 – Saturday July 29 with prize drawings on July 29
  • Friday July 28 – Saturday August 5 with prize drawings on August 5
  • Friday August 4 – Saturday August 12 with prize drawings on August 12

Look for an official Gunflint Trail weigh station to submit your blueberry! Weigh stations are Hungry Jack Outfitters, Nor’Wester Lodge, Rockwood Lodge, Golden Eagle Lodge, Tuscarora Lodge, Gunflint Lodge, Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center, Way of the Wilderness or Bearskin Lodge.

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Christmas in July on the Gunflint Trail

I’m not sure when our tradition started but every July the Voyageur Canoe Outfitter Crew celebrates Christmas. One of the best parts of our celebration is dining at Loon Lake Lodge. It’s such a beautiful place with the log lodge right on the lake and they do a terrific job of preparing food for us. This year they even had Christmas music playing for us!

The tradition includes making a gift for your Secret Santa. It’s so neat to see how creative our crew is. This year was no exception and everyone loved their gifts. Rachel made a video for me that I’ll have to share with you at a later date because she hasn’t emailed it to me yet.  There were homemade candles, oils, doilies, hat racks, lamp shades and much more.

A big thanks to Loon Lake Lodge for being a part of our Christmas in July.

Voyageur celebrates at Loon Lake Lodge

Posted in Gunflint Trail

Boundary Waters Canoe Trip Video

Brock Johnson provided us with a link to his youtube video of his BWCA canoe trip with Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. It’s filled with great Boundary Waters scenery and we knew you would enjoy watching it. Thanks for sharing Brock!  Check out his other videos at

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Moose Moment on the Gunflint Trail

We were visiting Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center yesterday when all of a sudden the woman working the desk said, “There’s a bull moose at the end of the road.” Everyone stopped what they were doing, hurried to their cars and took off to see if they could find it. I looked at my watch and it was after 5pm so I made the comment, “That’s one way to get everyone out the door so you can close shop.” My daughter was with me and thought it was just her way of telling everyone to leave so she was delighted when we pulled out of the driveway and spotted a bull moose in the pond.  Everyone who had been at the museum was parked alongside the road and taking photos of the moose as he dipped his head into the water to find submerged plants and get a slurp or two of water.

Gotta love moose moments on the Gunflint Trail.

gunflint moose

Moose on the Gunflint Trail


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Extraordinary Elsa

We are so lucky to have Elsa at Voyageur for another summer. She runs the kitchen and makes sure everyone keeps running by providing fuel in the form of food. I think this is her 8th season as our Chief Cook, Bottle Washer, Baker, Server, Sewing Repair Person, Housekeeper and anything else we ask her to do.

She’s in charge of everything food related at Voyageur. She prepares three meals a day for our crew as well as the pancake breakfasts for our guests. She makes our legendary Hudson Bay Bars, Voyageur Cookies and Gorp.

Most importantly she’s my blueberry picking buddy. We spend countless hours scouring the earth for little blue berries. We are like the postal service rain or shine we pick on. Bugs? What bugs? That’s part of the fun and so is the excessive heat we’ve encountered while picking too.

There is only one Elsa and we hope to hold onto her forever!

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Find Something Unusual?

I read an article the other day about a plane that went missing five years ago while flying along the North Shore of Lake Superior.  Neither the pilot nor the plane have been found.

The article also talked about other missing people including, “Nathan Williams, a 21-year-old University of Minnesota Morris student, was reported missing in 2004 in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Charles Johnson, a 51-year-old Silver Bay resident, was reported missing in 2002 and was presumed to have drowned in Greenwood Lake, but a body was never recovered.”

I’ve never thought about reporting something unusual that I’ve found while out in the woods or the Boundary Waters. Lake County Sheriff suggests, “Report things they see in the woods — even objects they think are trash could be something from the plane.”

It’s a good thing to keep in mind if you come across something peculiar when you’re out in the woods. You just never know.


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Summer Savings

If you were hoping for a summer deal on a canoe trip then I’m sorry for misleading you. This post is actually about saving energy and maybe some money while you are away on your summer vacation.  Of course we hope you are vacationing with Voyageur!

Going on summer vacation? Try some simple ways to save energy at home while you’re away- MN Department of Commerce
SAINT PAUL – While on summer vacation, you don’t need to pay for energy at home that you won’t use.

Whether you are leaving town for one week, two weeks or more, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce energy use in your home while saving money in the process.

The Minnesota Commerce Department and U.S. Department of Energy recommend the following:

Turn up the temperature on your thermostat. It doesn’t make sense to cool your home if you’re not there. Set your thermostat at 85 degrees so the air conditioning system will occasionally turn on to remove humidity. Learn more about thermostats.
Turn down the temperature on your water heater. Water heating accounts for about 20 percent of annual energy costs in a Minnesota home. Instead of the recommended setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, turn the control knob to “vacation mode.” Read more to cut water heating bills.
Reduce standby power loads. Many consumer electronics and appliances use power even when switched off or in standby mode, costing the average U.S. household $100 per year. To cut standby power, use power strips and turn them off or unplug electronics when not in use. Buy ENERGY STAR® products, which consume less standby power. But keep the power on for some appliances such as refrigerators and freezers. Read more.
Keep window shades and curtains drawn to block heat from the afternoon sun.
Make sure all lights are turned off. For lights on a security timer, use energy-efficient CFL or LED lights.
Whether to turn off your refrigerator depends on how long you will be gone. If it is just a week or two, it may not be worth the trouble. If you plan to be away for a month or more, you can save on electricity, but you will need to clean the fridge and keep the door ajar to prevent mold. Consult your owner’s manual. GE offers recommendations for refrigerator shutdowns.

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Voyageur Canoe Crew Member Maddy

We are so thankful to have Maddy back for her 3rd year as a Voyageur Crew member. Maddy is from St. Paul, MN and attends Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. This past semester she lived in Ecuador and had an amazing adventure.


Maddy 2017

Maddy 2015

When Maddy isn’t working during her time at Voyageur she likes hiking, canoeing and cliff jumping. She has been on a number of BWCA trips and her favorite BWCA Lake is Lake of the Clouds. Her favorite route is Round through Snipe and out through Ham and her favorite piece of camping equipment is a a good frying pan handle. I didn’t ask her the story behind that piece of equipment but I know there must be one because she used to say her hammock was her favorite piece of equipment.  Maybe you can ask her for the story when you visit Voyageur this summer.  The lake she most wants to visit is Blackstone in the Quetico Park and I don’t blame her. It is one of my favorite lakes in the

The lake she most wants to visit is Blackstone in the Quetico Park and I don’t blame her. It is one of my favorite lakes in the northwoods and I have many happy memories from there.

She likes to paddle solo and this summer she is most looking forward to floating the Cross River with the crew. After last year’s Seagull Creek adventure I really look forward to hearing about this crew adventure.

Maddy 2015

Although Maddy is in Environmental Studies when she grows up she wants to be the co-mail lady of the Gunflint Trail route with co-worker Sarah. It would be wonderful if she and Sarah took over the route because then they could continue to be a part of the Voyageur Crew for the rest of their lives.



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Voyageur Crew Member Sarah

Voyageur BWCA canoe outfitter

Sarah 2017


Sarah just graduated from the University of Minnesota with a major in Marketing. She has many talents and I’m sure she may change her mind but she says when she grows up she wants to deliver mail on the Gunflint Trail with Maddy. Both Maddy and Sarah are in their 3rd summer of working at Voyageur and get along remarkably. Maybe Sarah will take over marketing for Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and deliver mail on the Gunflint Trail?

Canoe Outfitting Crew

Sarah 2016

Time will tell but for now we’re just so happy to have her back for the 3rd summer. In her free time she enjoys running, nordic skiing, cooking, listening to podcasts and hammocking.  She loves to hang out with the crew and is looking forward to the canoe races this summer.
Sarah’s been on a number of canoe trips during her years at Voyageur. Her favorite route is Saganaga through Ottertrack, Ogish and out through Seagull Lake. Her favorite lake is Cross Bay Lake and the lake she most wants to visit is Little Saganaga. I’m hoping she’ll be able to get to Little Sag this summer or fall.  She likes to solo camp and her favorite camping equipment is a pair of wool socks.
We’re so happy to have Sarah on the Voyageur Crew!
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

Sarah 2015

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