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05/05/2021 08:12PM  
My wife, my two children (3 & 5), and I are thinking of possibly coming to the area to do a two night paddling/camping trip. My wife and I are both outdoor educators. We have never visited this area before and would like some advice about areas and places good for our family to explore. Thank you in advance!
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distinguished member(3899)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/05/2021 08:38PM  
Welcome, do you want to do a "true" Boundary Waters entry with a permit and stuff or do you just want to day trip in from somewhere and go back to a car camping type campground? Or back to town for the night?

What do you want to see or do when you're in the park? Or on the drive up? Waterfalls, pictographs, fishing, cliffs, etc. North shore of Superior is cool if you've never been and on and on.
distinguished member(5058)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
05/05/2021 09:13PM  
Welcome to!

Perhaps a trip to Big Moose? All river paddling until you get to the lake, only a couple of moderate portages (perhaps some beaver dams?), several good hiking trails and a sandy beach at the portage landing to Duck Lake.

Big Moose trip report
05/06/2021 06:09AM  
Your first decision is Ely or Gunflint or what general area?
05/06/2021 06:21AM  
With kids that age I always looked at entry lakes without portages. Then maybe go one more lake in if there is a short portage. Areas like Kawishiwi, Sawbill, Brule, and Lake One are some ideas.
distinguished member(3563)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/06/2021 08:47PM  
If you are just now considering a boundary waters trip you may find it quite difficult to procure a permit. I was helping a friend search a few days ago and pickings were slim. We ended up looking at available permits as opposed to looking for places they were interested in and then hoping for openings. Being as you are traveling with children and getting a late jump on it other options might be better.
05/07/2021 01:24PM  
I second not traveling very far in. With such a short trip and young kids you won't want to spend all your time in the canoe. We've taken our kids (now 4 and 8) to both Slim Lake and Wood Lake for two night trips and they had a blast even though we just stayed on the entry lake. It left us plenty of time to explore the campsite, fish, give the kids a chance to paddle around, swim, and just enjoy. Wow, I just checked the permit availability for those two lakes -- there are some available but I've never seen them booked like that before! These are usually our go-to lakes because they're close to Ely and usually have really good last minute availability.
distinguished member(571)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/07/2021 05:56PM  
I would take a look at Sawbill Lake. There is a very nice campground right there at the entry point and lots of campsites right on Sawbill, plus many more on Alton Lake just one very easy portage away. And if things are not going well you could just pull back to the Sawbill Campground with your vehicle and perhaps some needed amenities near by.
distinguished member(5094)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
05/07/2021 08:48PM  
A few years ago, we did precisely this sort of trip with our niece and her husband and their two sons. The boys were just about the ages of your kids. The boys had done lots of car camping but no backpacking or canoe camping. Our niece and her husband had done a long BWCA trip with us about a decade earlier.

We simply went in at Lake One and wound up taking the first campsite we found. It is one that isn't on many maps because it is only several years old. Basically when you come out of the main channel and turn east, it is just a bit down the north shore. No portaging involved.

We spent two nights there and had a great time. It is a sprawling site with lots of ups and downs over rocks. We actually had a fair bit of wildlife (loons, an eagle, a mink, geese). The boys had a grand time running around and swimming. On our middle day, we took a loop around the eastern part of the lake to look at the area and the rapids.

Our three day trip is a paddle that we've done in a day trip. Actually, an afternoon trip. OK, a late afternoon trip! But we all had a great time. And that includes my wife and I who prefer trips that are 8 to 10 days with a mix of long paddling days and rest days. It was a joy to share the BWCA with the boys and that day in the middle captured the magic of the BWCA.

BTW, the boys wanted their own paddles. To get one small enough for the three year-old we got a souvenir paddle at Zups (they are by the checkout counter). He loved it so much that he carried it everywhere back at our cabin, took it swimming, and it is now a cherished possession that went home to Israel with them.
Guest Paddler
05/22/2021 10:43PM  
Guest Paddler
05/22/2021 10:44PM  
We took young children last year and have taken them on other canoe trips. In my experience, the first two days are the hardest because the kids aren't used to being outside. Once day 3 hits, the kids hit their stride and it's the adults who are ready to go home and get a shower. So, I actually think a longer trip might be better because the kids get comfortable in nature. Kids can do a lot in the canoe while you paddle (nap, color, play with blocks, all kinds of stuff). We found swimming was one of the best ways to improve moods when they got a bit tired or crabby. In our experience, the Western side lakes have fewer suckers and are therefore nicer swimming but others could probably speak to that better. By age 5, they can paddle for real. Before that, it's a toy. At least with my kids.
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