Spreading along the border of northeastern Minnesota is one of the nation's most pristine regions to escape the noises and distractions of life in the fast lane. Minnesota is home to the Boundary Waters Canoes Area Wilderness, a federally protected slice of pristine nature. The BWCAW footprint spans over 100 miles (150 kilometers) along the border of Minnesota and Canada. It includes over 1,000 lake, rivers and streams and features nearly 1,500 miles (2,500 km) of canoe routes. Part of the experience is to "portage" between bodies of water with canoe and gear in tow.
Make the trek from Minneapolis-St. Paul or Duluth airports along Lake Superior's stunning North Shore Scenic Byway toward Grand Marais and the Gunflint or Sawbill Trails, or edge up through the north woods to Ely. Both communities serve as an excellent jumping spot to gather necessary provisions for "low-impact" camping: no motors, electricity, or telephone lines are to be found. No glass or aluminum is allowed into the protected area. There are no permanent structures, and camping is permitted only at designated campsites. Even travel dates and entry points are regulated, to spread the level of human activity throughout the BWCAW. Day tripping is also an option, with lodging at the perimeter of the wilderness, ranging from rustic to spa-like luxury.
Though 200,000 visitors enjoy the experience annually, one may go days without seeing another human. What can be abundantly found is wildlife: deer, moose, beavers, otters and the occasional black bear, porcupine, lynx or bobcat, among others. Some visitors may even spot a timber wolf, as the largest population in the lower 48 states is found in northeastern Minnesota. And below the surface is a vast array of aquatic life: walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and in the spring, lake trout. And taking to air are 240 species of birds, including bald eagles, loons, osprey and a variety of owls.
Customers can soak up some civilization before or after their wilderness experience in the artistic communities of Ely and Grand Marais. The former is nestled in the forests, the latter along the shores of Lake Superior. Both offer a variety of accommodations, great dining, interesting shops and cultural and arts venues to cap the visit. To find outfitters for your customer or group experience, head to the Group Accommodations section of our travel trade website: traveltrade.exploreminnesota.com, or the special Outfitters section of lodging options. General information is found at www.bwcaw.com.