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distinguished member(2320)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/24/2008 07:46PM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
This is probably the wrong place to post this message, so forgive my preaching to the choir.

Actually, I think the USFS and cooperators should require each group to read the essentials of Portage Etiquette before the entry permit is handed over....... and for us "seasoned" veterans, it don't hurt to hear it again (sort of like watching the required video when picking up the permit at Sawbill).

Portage Etiquette is not about rules, it is about respect for fellow travelers. (it seems our society in general is losing respect for most things). Maybe, we as believers in the value of Wilderness could promote a simple concept....... like respect for the wilderness and each other..........

I have had very few (2 actually) incidents that caused rage (items 1 and 2 apply). I copied this from and thought I would make the post.

The Pain of Portaging
By Kevin Callan
Article from

Portage Etiquette
1) When meeting someone coming the other way on the portage the person carrying the canoe should always be given the right of way.
2) All packs and canoes should be stored to the sides of the put-in and take-out areas. This prevents a traffic jam for others wanting to use the trail,
3) If you're holding up others walking behind you, take a second to move off the trail and let them pass.
4) If you have to relieve yourself, do it well off the trail, at least 100 meters from the water source and any blueberry patch found at the put-in or take-out.
5) Always double check the put-in and take-out areas for any garbage or forgotten piece of gear.
6) Place any lost piece of gear found along the trail in plain view at either the take-out or put-in.
7) Remember to say hello and give a smile to your fellow canoeists when passing them by.
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distinguished member(4446)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/24/2008 08:20PM  

sounds good to me..the jam-up at the landing by the people who want
to string up a rod--poke around for a candy bar--load film--while
they sit in their canoe is the one that gets to me..they could push off and move out a bit--butttt nooooo---and the "me first" bunch
are a hassle..the worse i ever saw was a guy who pushed thru the
guys who were loading up and dumped his canoe down on the bow of
a waiting canoe..he could have set it down and waited but he just
had to get that boat in the water--RIGHT NOW..i seldom see any bad
behavor in the Q..
distinguished member(2854)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/24/2008 08:40PM  
HPD, I believe you have a point well taken in that our behavior in portage situations should be dictated by respect for each other. It doesn't hurt to review the "rules" every so often.

I've seldom had anything upset me while actually on the portage. Most often it has been people going very slowly under a heavy load that won't let you pass by them. My son and I make it a point to try and not hold anyone up or get in their way. We'd rather get away from the landing quickly before pulling over and checking the map or breaking out a snack if there are others approaching the landing.

Last summer we had an experience at a landing where a lady was the last of her group to leave. She was struggling to get her pack lifted up to her shoulders and had fallen behind. As we pulled in we asked if she would like some help. She gratefully answered "YES", so we helped her lift the pack to her shoulders and she was happily on her way. Courtesy might go a long way if everyone helped to spread it. I figure I could be the next one to need some help from a fellow traveler.
01/24/2008 08:54PM  
wetcanoedog has it right! Quetico is the solution.
The Great Outdoors
distinguished member(5622)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/24/2008 09:01PM  
I agree with wetcanoedog that many people block the landing by sitting there, doing trivial projects, when they should get moving and pull over on an unoccupied site to complete their tasks.

Or they should move their gear to the side and let others "play through" if they are not in a hurry.

The worst ones I used to encounter were groups that had a leader, blocked the entire portage with canoes, packs, paddles, & life jackets while they took inventory and were giving instructions concerning the next leg of the trip.

These were extremely irritating, as they had no concern as to the line forming behind them.
distinguished member(24748)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/24/2008 09:04PM  
youre preaching to the choir high plains.......atleast i hope you are.
distinguished member(1792)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/24/2008 09:13PM  
TGO knocks it out of the park on this one.

Bah. Portagers.
distinguished member(24748)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/24/2008 09:29PM  
thank GOD i never go in the summer!
distinguished member (208)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/24/2008 09:46PM  
We quite often get run over by father and son church and scout groups and once by some fellows from what they said" Are you good enough to be in the Iowa canoe club" the ranger ordered them to wait their turn, they ignored her. I have never been run over at landings by experienced environmental yuppy types. In fact they are usually a joy to share a portage with.
distinguished member (235)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/24/2008 11:47PM  
This is one reason I love the Q. Put a couple portages behind you and you see no one. Every once in a while you run into another group and my experiance has been that they know what they are doing and don't mess around on portages.

If you get off the beaten path in the BW, you will find this too. Or if on the beaten path, get there early. My son and I did the numbered lakes in July and only met two groups. We started at 6 bells though.
distinguished member(3133)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 07:10AM  
A couple Octobers ago, four boats waiting offshore were not about to interrupt these people's casual lunch at lake Two. (I was a bit late with this photo, as the food had just been consumed.)
01/25/2008 07:14AM  

We were coming back up the granite river toward magnetic lake a couple years ago and came upon a large group blocking what little landing area there was while they were getting their fishing rods all setup. It was raining and we could only sit there clearing our throats.
distinguished member (436)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 07:18AM  
quetico isn't always the answer. we ran into a bunch of horrible people on portages last early august on the falls chain. and it wasn't just one group either. we had people standing in the water doing nothing in the only place to land a canoe on the portage during a horrible windy day, many people that just wouldn't get out of the way for the person carrying the canoe, all sorts of stuff. it was very frustrating.

On a more positive note, there was one group where it was a dad and his younger sons. we ran into the dad first and he very nicely explained that it was his kids first trip and that he was still working with them on etiquette and they may not remember to get out of the way when they should. that was rather refreshing to us. young kids are not always going to remember that stuff and it was nice to see that the dad was putting good effort in.

Oh, and the kids did a great job at giving the right of way when they should have - kudos to that dad.
distinguished member (132)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 07:32AM  
HowardSprague, I believe on the other end of that portage is the only place we had a problem last year.

Being our first year, my son and I were probably over-cautious about not getting in other peoples way. There were two or three groups waiting in the water for their turn to make the landing. When it was finally our turn, a group of three canoes bypassed the others now waiting and landed at about the same time we did. These guys were experienced and efficient, because they were gone by the time I came back for the second half of our double portage. But they made it seem that because of their experience they were too good to have to wait in line like the rest of us.
01/25/2008 07:43AM  
In 20 yrs and 50+ trips I have only run across 2 groups that caused problems. One was a young guide that was spending all his time telling the family, parents/3 young kids, what to do. He gave the wife a 60# food pack to carry even though she weighed maybe 110# and this was their first trip. The husband came back to get the final things and was frustrated, the guide showed up. The guide told the husband they needed to hurry up. I stepped in and told the husband, the guide works for you, you don't work for him. If something doesn't seem right say so, if the packs are too heavy for the wife or kids say so. The guide did not carry a single thing across the portage! I told the guide if you want them to come back you better work for them, carry the heaviest gear/canoe, or you won't get much for tip, have unhappy customer and no repeat business. He looked at the husband and said I sorry and we will change things.
The second time was portage hogs, we landed down the shore and then I walked up and started moving gear. They said thats our stuff and I said you need to put off to the side and let others land. They said ok and moved.
01/25/2008 08:30AM  
good thread HPD! seems like such common sense/courtesy and it should be-unfortunately sometimes people are selfish or oblivious or both.

i try to lead by example (both for people in my group and for other groups). short of being confrontational (unfortunately i tend to resort to that Minnesota passive aggressive "nice") how do you approach a group who doesn't get it?

maybe print the portaging commandments on something business card size and hand them out on the trails?

Arkansas Man
01/25/2008 10:46AM  
It has been my personal observation that those who block portages also do not take care of campsites... On my solo year before last I came to the 70 rod portage after Nina Moose on Moose River North and there were 3 canoes blocking what landing area there is there, and another about to be set down... (at about 9:00am) with people sitting around, kids running here and there, and packs everywhere. I got as close as I could to the landing area, got out and had to carry my first pack a good 50 yards up the trail while keeping an eye on my canoe because I had to leave it parked on a submerged rock instead of the bank. I went back and got the rest of my equipment and carried it to where my pack was then went back for the canoe, (they still had not moved anything) I slipped on a rock and that is when I think I broke the bone in my foot) I finally got up and got the canoe on my shoulders and headed across the portage. When I came back to get my last load (double portage) they were still there! I asked them where they had stayed and they said Agnes. When I got to Agnes the campsite I picked out looked like it had just been left, trash, twist ties, a sling shot, and all kinds of stuff was left behind. Along with that there was about 10 pounds of fish remains, left on a rock about 20 yards from camp, and evidence where a green tree or two had been cut down. While I cannot say it was them with 100% certainty!! I feel it was, due to the fact they were the only group I saw coming from Agnes that day!! Definitely Slobs!!

distinguished member (239)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 12:06PM  
I have canoe camped a lot, but last summer was our first BWCA trip.

I know you are never supposed to have more than 9 people and 4 canoes in one location, but what happens when you come across a portage like the one mile Basswood Falls portage to find a large group ahead of you waiting to launch and a large group just landing? There were 25 people there, probably no fault of anyone, except that we all intersected at that moment in time. We waited about 100 feet back from the portage until it cleared, then launched.

And on the Horse River, we came across a group of Scouts who had managed to get an aluminum canoe hung up on the rocks. We slipped past them with our 2 canoes while they figured out how to get unstuck, but should we have waited, or taken advantage of the opportunity.

We definitely never cut in line with waiting groups and most people we ran into were very polite.

distinguished member(542)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 12:24PM  
Ive hardly ever ran into "portage hogs", but the ones that i have ran into are usually just the type that never moves out of the way for the guys from other groups besides theirs who are moving faster on the portage or are carrying the canoe. Thats the only thing ive encountered that really busts my balls.
distinguished member(1479)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 12:44PM  
I think you're right, they should review portage etiquette along with the BWCA video we all have to watch. I've run into a number of the situations mentioned above.

Also add a #8 to list (and mentioned a lot above): Move out of the entry way as soon possible; check maps and set up fishing equipment away from the entry.
01/25/2008 01:31PM  
Great post, HPD.

I've run into my share of inconsiderate portagers ... or perhaps people who simply didn't know portage etiquette. I wouldn't mind having portage ediquette as part of the film or have pamphlet to hand out. Still, most folks I see are fine and the few "infractions" I encounter I just shrug off.

I have had one, encounter with what I would consider rage, not by me, but another group. I thought this guy was going to stroke out. He was a scout leader with a bunch of 13(?) year old boys. Geesh! What an example. Poor kids. It was probably their first portage ever. Probably the leader's too.

Anyway his group was blocking the portage from Seagull to Alpine and things were really backed up. Naturally groups started landing one by one and portaging around them. With every landing he'd scream himself red about exceding the 9 person 4 canoe rule. Then turn and yell at the kids to get them to hurry.

When it was our turn, we landed and he started in. I asked what his problem was and he said "There are only so many campsites on Alpine! And we were here before everyone else! They have to WAIT THEIR TURN!!!!" I told him to relax, that there were about 20 campsites on Alpine, that we were heading for Ogish or beyond, and so were most of the other people he was seeing.

Then he calmed right down and said "Oh. OK".

The guy was freakin' out cause he thought he wouldn't get a campsite.
distinguished member(603)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 02:12PM  
As a Scout leader who escorts boys to the BWCA every summer, I would like to ask all of you assist in the training of any youth groups you may encounter who are creating any of the kinds of problems mentioned in this thread. Just a quick reminder that "if you fellows could just move your gear off to the side to keep the trail (landing) open, it would really help us all" kind of thing. We try to prepare them before hand, but they are still boys. A kind word and a smile can go a long way. A brief chat with the leader would be good as well. Hopefully your comments will be received in the spirit in which they are given.
01/25/2008 02:44PM  
Maybe the U.S. Forest Service should also remind paddlers that portages aren't the place to be smoking weed. A few years ago on the Moose River we came upon two guys who figured the landing was the best place to finish their doobie. Maybe it was for medicinal purposes to soothe their aching muscles, but probably not the best place to be taking your medicine.

01/25/2008 03:12PM  
When I said Quetico was the answer, what I was getting at was that the BWCA issues too many permits per day. Quetico has the right policy in limiting the number of permits. Our beloved BWCA is being loved to death. Cut back on the number of permits per day and bring back the "Good Old Times".
01/25/2008 03:22PM  
Good advice Bellolake---it is hard for alot of us Minnesotans to confront people we are known as a passive aggressive lot by nature ya know :)

Most people that are clogging/blocking portages are not intentionally doing it. They just don't know any better (as dumb as it may look to us)---some people are really clueless to what is going on around them. Some well placed advice usually goes along way. If you word it well the usual response is "oh sorry I didn't realize we were blocking the way." Try to remember your first few portages and how clueless you were--that's what I do when I get frustrated.

I would say 99% of the people I run into are courteous. Really the only problems I've had from the 1% are the rare people who try to own the portage like it is a hockey goal (like Bannock's example). "We were here first and you can't land/cross untill I get all my stuff across first." I usually single portage, I'm sorry but I am not going to float out on the lake until you are finished with your 4th trip. I won't get in your way, I'll be courteous/friendly, talk about fishing spots, I may even help you get some stuff across but don't expect me to sit there all day if there is an appropriate amount of room for me to land/cross.

01/25/2008 03:40PM  
This is why i will never go to the numbered lakes again

every time, i have ever tried to go there, the portages from one to two are jammed, doesn't seem to matter what time either, sunrise, sunset, sun at zenith, afternoon tea time, nap time, any time

no-one cares if your waiting your turn, loading or unloading or whatever.
There is nothing worse than busting tail trying to get through as quickly and organized as possible, then have someone shove their canoe up your arse because they cannot wait 2 minutes to get their keg on shore, or sit down and eat their lunch, or put new line on the reel, or play in the creek.

the only time I ever get stressed up there in 25 years, is doing those two portages

so I don't do them any more

thanx for allowing me to rant

here's the soap box back

distinguished member (235)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 04:22PM  
I wasn't trying to be a Quetico snob, it just has less people. On late August trips we go for days without seeing anyone. Hope I didn't jinx myself as I just got a Falls Chain permit.

Overall I have had really good experiences. Most people are really nice.

A couple years ago after completing the 220r Long Haul portage(Pond/Gratton) in Quetico, we realized my brother in law had left my brand new Bending Branches Bent shaft paddle back at the portage landing. Since I wanted to make sure we found it, and I walk faster, I decided to go back for it. This was after we had double portaged the portage and I had alread walked 660 rods.

At about this time a large group shows up at the landing. Being the nice guy I am, I offered to carry a pack accross for them. I was kind of thinking a gear pack would be nice. They accepted my offer and proceeded to point me to the food pack. It was the largest their pack and I swear the thing had a couple cast iron dutch ovens in it. Not one to back down, I picked it up and took off. My buddies were trying really hard not to laugh as they watched the guy point to the big blue monster of a foodpack.

At any rate, I got across the portage first, put the pack down, found my paddle and headed back. I proceeded to meet all eight of them on my way back, with none of them even offering up a thanks! When I got back, we all had a good laugh. I felt good that I helped out, but was kind of ticked that it wasn't appreciated. I would still do it again though. I walked that dang portage 5 times that hot June day!
distinguished member (299)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 07:03PM  
Unlike driving, a lot of the people you might encounter in the BWCA are newbies or think they know how it works. We as BWCA veterans have the opportunity, no, the responsibility to use these encounters as 'teachable moments'. We should boldly step up and let people know how it is suppose to work. It is either that or bitch about it to your buddies or on this website. We cannot assume everyone we see in the woods know the drill, we have all been there before. I know not everyone is as bold, nor does the opportunity present itself always, but we can control to a certain degree the enjoyment of our own trip and the future experience of others by just saying something. May all of us have more enjoyable and less aggravating trips in the BWCA!
distinguished member(2320)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 09:24PM  
I have read all of your comments. Thanks for the response. I think the post hit on a number of your "hot" buttons. For the most part, there are good people out there. Then there are the exceptions.........

Buzz says it pretty nice. It is all about education and a number of you have said essentially that.

So where does education start?

Buzz, not everyone will be bold enough to speak his/her mind about the way it is done. Would an authority figure have more influence on the "newbies" than some crusty old canoeist on the trail?

This whole business of common decency and respect presents a real conundrum. It is real easy for the permit process to issues rules, but it is impossible to dictate behavior
distinguished member (299)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/25/2008 11:46PM  

This thread has spurred some great discussion. The permit process allows everyone the opportunity to experience the BWCA regardless of experience, etiquette, or age. The next time we come across the youth group, boy scout troop, or inconsiderate sob's at a portage maybe we can be annoyed but at the same time appreciate the fact they are experiencing the same beauty we are. We don't have to like their behavior but we can control ours. Portage etiquette or road rage?.....Definitely OUR decision.

I wish each group entering the BWCA had leaders like many of you out there. It would definitely limit the number of 'road rage' instances out there.

Happy canoeing in 2008.
Guest Paddler
01/26/2008 05:24AM  
distinguished member(631)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/26/2008 06:34AM  
Unfortunately I Have had portage rage. I usually don't say anything but my physical actions say it all, by the time I leave that portage they know that I was not pleased. Then I go on the trip without a thought.
This is where threads like this can still be useful to all us veterans out there. After reading bellolake, timatkn and buzz17 reply, I now understand that we do have a responsibility to instruct others on bwca etiquette.
I know that for now on I will try to have the patience to take the time to instruct them on the proper ways of the BWCA. If they accept the advice...then great. If they don't...then God help them!
distinguished member(2629)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/26/2008 06:42AM  
I have rarely encountered breaches of trail etiquette, and then usually relatively minor. Probably just lack of knowledge.

I think the numbered lakes attract a lot of inexperienced paddlers because they have a lot of campsites with minimal portaging, so you get more infractions there. The USFS won't be requiring quizzes on portage rules, but it would be nice if the outfitters could post the advice or mention to new paddlers some of the basics.

It still wouldn't hurt us to politely make suggestions.

Get out of the $#*&!! way!!!
distinguished member (101)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/26/2008 10:31AM  
Huh? Wow, I guess I'm much more fortunate than most of you. I mostly use the Gunflint area and other than some occasional waiting in line and the occasional large group, I've never had any real problem with a group totally occluding a portage. Campsites, now that's another story. Seems like the days of "Courtesy wood" are about gone and I think many don't think a twist tie is "Litter" anymore. Maybe these things are just symptomatic of a "Me first" society? Hope I didn't just "Jinx" myself into dealing with a lifetimes worth of "Portage slobs" this May! WW
distinguished member(2342)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/26/2008 04:29PM  
Well, I haven't exactly had portage rage. One thing that does irritate me is when a big clumsy group sort of races you to a portage only to clog it up with multiple trips etc. I like to fly through the portages--one trip, every person knows what they are carrying, etc. Be nice and let the faster groups through.

Course in the BWCA, I just accept it that there will be people on the portages, etc. I prefer the Quetico or Woodland Caribou, but don't always have the time etc.
senior member (65)senior membersenior member
01/26/2008 05:22PM  
What is courtesy wood? The one time we were in the BWCA there was a fire ban so we didn't have a fire and the subject never came up.
distinguished member (101)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/26/2008 06:35PM  
Used to be, you always left some firewood, kindling, and a bit of birch bark when you left your campsite. That way if someone urgently needed a fire when they pulled into the campsite, they could do so quickly. WW
distinguished member(3133)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/26/2008 11:40PM  
that's still pretty common.
01/27/2008 06:02AM  
We enjoy checking out empty sites (not sure why, as we have never gone back to the same area - so can't be for future reference, just curious I guess)and have found fire wood left at more than half the sites we checked. While traveling during last years fire ban we continued to leave/add firewood, maybe out of habit, just feel better doing it. We always have appreciated finding it.
Hoping it is something that continues.

distinguished member (328)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/27/2008 12:29PM  
I will be making my third trip into the BW's in mid June, so I'm somewhat of an amateur, compared to many of the people here.
Past trips we have used a bit of common sense, coupled with a bit of advice from our outfitters.
I was under the impression that if you were traveling a portage in the same direction as another group, etiquette dictated that you allow that group to get out of your way prior to starting your portage (i.e. you do not pass another group at a portage). After reading the posts here, I guess I was mistaken about the proper etiquette.
We always try to be as efficient as possible at portages, getting our gear off to the side (we double portage) before making our first trip. We almost never stop for a break, we drop our gear at the other end (again, off to the side) and head back immediately for our second load.

So when is it acceptable to pass someone on a portage? I was told that it was proper etiquette to let a group ahead of you unload their gear and start their first trip (if they double portage) before pulling up and unloading. Is it acceptable to carry your first load across before the previous group comes back for their second load (this seems reasonable to me)?
I anticipate running into a bit of traffic on this years trip (EP 16 in June), so this will be important.
01/27/2008 02:41PM  
A few years ago on the lake one portages comming back in from Insula there were people swimming at the portage landing and a large back up of groups ensued.
We could only sit there with the other groups, and exchange angry comments until the group of swimmers gathered up and left.
I still go out of lake one, but I tend to try and find the places that others have forgotten as my final destination. Needless to say it is a shock to come back and see the crowds of people on the "aluminum highway."
I'm not sure the Q is the whole solution, but I belive that permits need to be cut back on at several ep's like Lake one 18, Moose lake 27, and quite a few more.
distinguished member(521)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/27/2008 03:03PM  
I've never had this "rage" thats being talked about but I also don't put up with any s*** from people that are blatantly discourteous.

I will sit and wait for a bit to asses the situation. If its obvious that the group in question is jacking around I'll ask if they need help. Most of the time this kicks 'em into gear. If I am ignored or if I get a smart comment back... I just go through (not around, through).

01/27/2008 08:44PM  
I think what you are doing is acceptable. Groups lined out or going opposite directions on a portage is better than 20 people standing at a portage landing. Just make sure your group knows how to pile their gear in their own separate place on each end of the portage and keep moving quietly and politely. Have fun at ep16!
01/27/2008 09:16PM  
There are only two of us, one canoe, and we always double-portage. We are older, and my husband has type1 diabetes, so we often need to do a blood sugar check before he starts on a portage, especially if it is a long one. Depending upon the results of this check, sometimes a snack is an absolute necessity, or we will have lunch at the portage if there is room to be out of the way. But we do NOT spread our gear all over, nor do we block the portage so that others cannot pass through. And we wouldn't do this on a really busy portage like Lake One (at least not stopping for lunch).

This seems like common sense to me: you don't arrive at the portage and make it impassable for others. Some portages have lots of room to set your gear aside and some do not. Some trails are narrow and some are a wide path in the woods. But it is always possible to step aside when you meet someone carrying a canoe, or when you hear someone approaching from behind who is obviously walking faster than you. Heck, EVERYBODY walks faster than me (I have short legs in knee braces and I am 62 years old), so I just move aside when I hear anyone coming! You may have passed me. I usually smile and say "I am slow, but I am tough!"

It is especially important for large groups to be organized and get out of the way quickly because of the restrictions on the number of people allowed to congregate in any one spot at one time. So leaders of large groups need to stress that fact to their companions.

Maybe it is the school-teacher in me coming out, but aren't we just talking about manners here? Perhaps adding a comment to the obligatory video would help, but manners seem to be going out of style, so I somehow doubt it.

And yes, Spartan1 usually leaves firewood, too. :-)
distinguished member(3133)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/27/2008 10:20PM  
I agree about generally letting another group "get out of your way" first, although there are some groups to whom it does not occur to get out of the next paddlers' way. If they're in the process of landing, I don't get right on their a$$es. I'll wait on the water.
It really depends on the landing; at some, there is plenty of room - one group sets all its stuff to the right, another can move in and set its stuff on the left. But if I come up to a landing and there's room and a group is already there, I will land and set my gear off to the side and take something and hit the portage trail; whether the others have begun portaging or where they might be on the return hike is of no concern to me, as long as nobody's bumping into each other. But if I pass/ start ahead of them, I make darned sure I can keep up the pace and not slow them down once they get going.
If, however, there's no room to land until the other group clears, I end up waiting. That's why, when I reach one of those rocky, barely-room-to-fit-one-canoe-and-a-pack landings, I make sure I'm on the trail and moving as soon as possible. Never know when you might turn around and see an unexpected canoe arriving.
marc bates
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01/28/2008 08:36AM  
I do agree that groups should be educated on etiquette. I drill the boys I take in on how to behave properly in sites, on portages, and on the water. All the problems I have ever encountered, and I hate to say it, were with Boy Scout groups. Last year we had a group blocking a portage on the Moose River. They were eating lunch, with their canoes beached, tieing up the whole portage. Two groups were on the way out and three more were trying to come in, plus them. My boys were way more mad than I was. They couldn't believe how inconsiderate they were. I don't think the Scouts even understood the problems. I blame the leaders, not the boys.
01/28/2008 08:47AM  
On those "those rocky, barely-room-to-fit-one-canoe-and-a-pack landings" we'll get the canoes out of the water and up the trail 50 yards or so. Same with the packs. This keeps the landing open for others to land, etc. Of course we don't drop the canoe on the trail, but off to the side with plenty of room for folks to use the trail.

I/we always tried to say organized and compact on the landings. I will say there have been times when I have been really surprized seeing folks at what I would have thought were unpopular routes or off season. Last October was a prime example. During the season Stuart Lake has 1 permit available a day, so you wouldn't expect to see anyone else at least also heading in. Well sure enough, here it was a cold, rainy, October day at the Stuart Lake entry and there was another group entering.

As it turned out, we were the slower group. This other group had larger paks, heavier canoes, and both hunting and fishing equipment. They were locals and could really move their stuff! I think they were as surprized to see us as I them. But we had good habits and had our stuff organized and to the side and they were able to pass us quickly.

01/28/2008 09:53AM  
I'm usually very aware of portage etiquette to the point where if I meet someone coming the other way I'll make way, even if I'm carrying a canoe and they aren't. I think we all forget every now and then though, I've had the same experience as Bannock by being surprised by a group coming up behind me and then also not remember that it's a two way street out there. On a solo daytrip where I hadn't seen a soul all day, I parked right in the middle of the landing and decided to double portage instead of my usual single. When I got to the other side I found two groups had just pulled in. I hustled back and found two groups pulling in on THAT side too.

It was kind of funny that while on the other side I offered to carry a pack for one of the groups. They got this strange 'what does this axe murderer want with my stuff' look on their face and turned me down.
distinguished member (328)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/28/2008 09:45PM  
This has been a very educational topic. I'll be a bit smarter this year. After reading all these posts, I realize that I just need to treat it like the golf course:
If you're holding things up, let the group behind you play through.
Don't hit until the group in front of you is out of range.
Always walk the course and carry your own bag.
marc bates
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01/29/2008 10:08AM  
Very good analogy. The only difference I would say is that I don't mind carrying someone else's bag, if it is being courteous. I will carry if my hands are free and I am going that way anyway.
member (11)member
01/29/2008 10:59AM  
I am the leader of our group and I usually take rookies. We single portage(is there any other way? wink wink :)

I teach how to portage on the first couple and we don't have any problems afterward. Our theory is, when you get out of the canoe, you automatically pick up your pack and other gear, hoist the canoe and take off. When you get to the other end of the portage, set the canoe down and put your gear directly into the canoe. This is effiecient and avoids lost gear. We have time to relax once we are in our canoe and in open water.

We have definately ran into inconsiderate groups, but all we need is room for one canoe to land and we are gone whithin 3 minutes. Other groups are not going to affect my trip. I do not let them.

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01/29/2008 11:32AM  
Fortunately have never come across any one with rage at the portages. Also have been lucky not seeing any scout troops either (we go during school time).

We double portage, as soon as we land we move our gear and canoe as far to the side and away from the water as possible leaving the landing open for others.

Where we have seen others causing a problem is with the people still stuck in the (car camping mentality). The people who do not believe in gear bags, velcro or bungee cord. I've come across groups that set their 100+ pound canoe down at waters edge on a tight portage and then proceed to carry all their gear loosely (3 metal minnow buckets, big tackle boxes with things falling out on the trail and other unneeded gear while dragging their life jacket through the mud by the strap. They have so much loose gear they have to triple portage and then finally move their canoe that has been blocking the portage for an hour. Almost forgot, the big bag of gorp laying open on the canoe seat during their portage.

Please come prepared. If you can't afford good gear bags, army duffel bags are cheap and will still work.

01/29/2008 11:43AM  
Part of the problem regarding portage ettiquette is what is being taught at the Ranger station. The rookies are the ones that pay the closest attention to the video and the video states the limit of 9 people per portage trail. We argue about what that exactly means, but to many, especially the newbies, it means no more than 9 people going in one direction. To them that means no one can be passing me if I am part of a large group. Most of the experienced knooers feel they have a right to proceed because they single portage and they are able to go faster then the group in front of them. The Ranger Station does not teach the same potage ettiquette as many of us want practiced by others. But I also agree that it would cause a lot less stress if more people helped those in front of them in whatever way rather than add to the rage.
distinguished member (235)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/29/2008 11:55AM  
Single portaging does solve a ton of problems as you have all your gear with you. It really forces us to limit what we take with, so we end up with less gear. No worrying about whether our gear is in someones' way or not. Don't have to worry about bears taking the foodpack:).

When I go on the adult trips, we single portage. When we take the kids, it becomes a bit tougher. We double portage, but with similar weight to a single portage. The kids are getting older now, and can start carrying more weight, so this is just a short term problem.
01/29/2008 05:36PM  
Knoozer brings up a good point about the 9 person 4 canoe rule. If you ask a Park Ranger in the field they will tell you this rule was made to cut back on scouting/youth groups that travel in packs. For example they will be 18 people 8 canoes all canoeing/portaging together then they will stay at separate campsites with separatre permits. So they were complying with the written rules, but not the spirit of the rules hence the rule change on travel and portages so they had a means to crack down on these massive groups.

So if you are obviously together you will get a warning or a fine, but if you obviously a separate group don't worry about getting fined.

The confusion runs with if you ask one of the part time people that man the desk at the Forest Service Centers, who doesn't enforce the rules---they will tell you it applies to everyone becuase they don't want to encourage these large groups at all.

I have been at many portages where the 9 person rule 4 canoe rules where supposedly violated and the ranger just goes along their way not saying a word about it becuase everyone was obviously from separate groups, being couteous, and getting out of each others way. One time another group was upset that we were "passing them" and reported us to the Ranger at the portage--he laughed and said the rule states "your group cannot exceed 9 people or 4 canoes" "they are not part of your group"---
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01/29/2008 06:03PM  
I have been following the thread, not wanting to post more for fear of being accused of "hijacking the thread" :) :(

The thread has developed a life of it's own, and I feel pretty good about contributing something that has gone this far. It started to go a bit off track with the courtesy wood (there was a post on that some time ago), but did not stray too far.

I need to clarify on the use of the word RAGE. I used the word with a little artistic license.... it got the topic moving for sure. Rage is a strong feeling, and I doubt any of us have felt real rage on a portage trail...... annoyed, disbelief, impatience, maybe a bit of anger, but not losing it in RAGE.

In respect to Ranger Stations and teaching etiquette. Rangers have a tough job dealing with people from all walks of life. Generally they stick with the rules and possibly teaching something about natural resources. I do not find them worrying too much about etiquette.
01/30/2008 08:39AM  
I think the last few points made are very good. Multiple groups travelling quickly and efficiently on portages should be acceptable and needed to keep the traffic moving. Being organized is important. Sometimes that occurs only thru a learning curve.
I took a group of newbies from Lake One to Insula in Aug. a few years ago. The short hop between One and Two was a zoo. Three to four groups deep coming and going. We all kept our cool and I told them by Lake 4 we would be past the crowds. We have to is a public place!
I have only "lost my cool" once. I was putting in at LIS. The group in front of us took "forever" to get their canoes loaded and get going. Reshifting packs, who's taking the dog, hey, where's my pack, wait, I wanna paddle with so and so, switch ends.....on and on...
I finally snapped and from a head high loft I dropped my canoe right between their canoes. As the spray and waves settled I started tossing packs into my canoe. Not a word was said and they seemed to get going on their way. We passed them on the first portage because they were carrying their canoes, half full of gear, one person on each end style. They were on the wrong side of the learning curve.
Was it rage...I prefer to call it a helpful nudge!
01/30/2008 09:17AM  
I have been enjoying this thread and thinking back if I have caused any rage. I know I have never been enraged by anyone in the BWCA. I actually enjoy watching how everyone tackles the portages in their own way. I am on vacation and the only thing that enrages me are the biting knats and flies that I can't kill and the dropping of the Al Cans so they sound like gunfire.

I have run into a couple of grumpy men. One was PO because we didn't grab his tackle box, stringer, fishing pole and rod holder that he left 3 lakes back. Like how would we know what direction to take his gear. My 8 year old son piled it up nice and neat on a rock instead of the spread out all over the place the way he had it. His wife was laughing at him behind his back. I chuckled all the way to camp.

Be organized.
Be courteous.
Use common sense.
Enjoy yourself.

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