BWCA Quetico visitor numbers '23 Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
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senior member (99)senior membersenior member
08/02/2023 11:36AM  
The Atikokan thread got me wondering about what's happening to visitor numbers in Quetico these days with Covid and border restrictions in the rear view mirror.

Anybody been in this year? See many other parties?

We're going in on Friday at Cirrus and got our permit two weeks ago, no problem. There were Cirrus and Quetico permits available for every day this week except Saturday. Kind of surprised.

We'd originally thought we'd stay away from high traffic areas like the eastern end of Q/Jean and the Chatterton Falls area but...maybe they aren't so much high traffic.

I do love some solitude, but it's not good for Atikokan or the park if it gets too quiet.
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08/02/2023 02:47PM  
We have a permit for later this month: 10-day, southern entry. Also did similar trip last year in the Park's northwest corner (Beaverhouse entry)--lots of folks in Beaverhouse, Cirrus, and Quetico Lakes, but crowds thinned out as we paddled away from those lakes.

08/02/2023 03:38PM  
We were in Q for a week back in June. Went in at Stanton Bay. For four days, we never saw a soul. Only on Day 1 (one canoe) and Day 7 (two canoes) did we see anyone, and they were a long way off in the distance.

If people want solitude, the northern entry points of Quetico offer a great experience.
08/02/2023 04:28PM  
Boundary Point on Saganagons in June was the busiest we had ever seen. Lots of canoes and the sites were all full.
senior member (73)senior membersenior member
08/02/2023 09:17PM  
We went in Beaverhouse on July 7. And came out on July 14. We saw four different groups on our entry day at portages but after that, we only saw in the far far distance a kayak, passed two canoes as we went to look at the pictographs on Quetico lake, and then one day two canoes paddled towards our site, but then quickly turned around. We stayed on an island site in Quetico lake for 4 days. It was very windy!
Make sure you have all your food and supplies. We actually decided to come out early because of the smoke from the Alberta fires. By the time we got to our car on the night of July 14, it was 8 PM. We had left our site at 10:15 AM. We were exhausted. We could’ve tried to get a hotel at Atikokan but we decided to continue on to Thunder Bay. There is nothing I repeat nothing along the highway on your way to Thunder Bay after you leave Atikokan.
Next trip I plan to leave some protein bars in car in a smell proof sack for when we exit. We could’ve pulled over and let up our stove and cooked up a meal, but we were totally exhausted.
Enjoy the solitude!
08/02/2023 09:56PM  
Nym entry last 9 days of May. It was pretty quiet....but the ice had only been out 8 days. A few people on east end of Q, couple on Jean, had Burntside to ourselves, nobody seen on Sturgeon up to Walter. Last 2 nights on Maria we saw a few people and quite a few paddling out through Batch last day but by then the weather had been hot and water warmed quickly.
senior member (99)senior membersenior member
08/02/2023 09:57PM  
Jackfish: If people want solitude, the northern entry points of Quetico offer a great experience."

We enjoy the quiet and I'm done with the days of figuring out where we'll find a site when the last 5 we checked were occupied. Our BWCA trips are strictly before fishing opener and late fall now.

So low numbers are fine for us. We like quiet. But jeez, it'd sure be good to see folks in Atikokan be able to make a little money from this incredible park. And places like Q always need more advocates.

Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge. Interesting that it's busy near Cache Bay but quiet up north.

bobber, we actually took a look at permits for that corner of the park and they're much more booked up. Someday I want to make it to the falls area so...

Canoeing gal thanks for the heads up on food and supplies. We've only been to Atikokan once and it sounds like there's even less than when we were there a dozen years ago.

We're actually head the other direction, west to I Falls. There's nothing and nobody that way too! Our other time we arrived at the White Otter at about midnight after having crossed at I falls at about 10 PM and then made that long dark drive east. The folks at the White Otter let us know how lucky we were that we weren't off the road all tangled up with a moose.

Too bad about the smoke. No fun paddling with eyes watering.

We have 10 days and we'll see what we find! Should be more eagles than screens, so it's sure to be good.
distinguished member(2814)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
08/03/2023 07:18AM  
I noticed on my week trip in June that every group I saw consisted of one canoe and two older men. I saw canoes every day but never more than one at a time and every canoe had guys with grey beards or grey hair.

Speaking of Atikokan, yes visit the town! The grocery store has everything you need but it doesn’t open til 8AM.

Pack a bag with fresh clothes, a bottle of water and dried food if you want. Stash it in the car for when you get out. I love clean clothes for the ride home.

member (23)member
08/03/2023 08:02AM  
We were dropped off at Brewer on the 23rd and picked up at Bottle on the 29th. Saw quite a few people and occupied campsites on the northern part of McAree. After that, we saw one group on Wicksteed, one on Darky and one on Argo. Nothing on the north side of Crooked or Iron until we got picked up.
08/03/2023 11:33AM  
We went to Sarah and back and only saw one person after leaving North Bay and even that didn't seem too busy. There was one solo man that went by on Sarah lake, and two men in a canoe were pulling into the Burke portage as we got to Bayley Bay on the way in, some scouts on a campsite as we exited Isabella creek coming out and one group of a couple of canoes went by our Lost Bay campsite. That was all we saw until we hit Prairie portage other than maybe a few distance sightings on Bayley Bay.

We did go during the week of July 4th which seems to be a low time. Also the Agnes/ Louisa, S- chain area seems like it would be more crowded since it is a virtual highway to and from Atikokan. We got every campsite we wanted until after we crossed Prairie portage to Burke, even though we were getting to them late.

distinguished member (217)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
08/03/2023 09:43PM  
We were on Agnes, the S-Chain, and North Bay in June. We saw a few parties on most days, but it wasn't obnoxiously busy by any stretch. On our way in on Saturday morning, Prairie Portage was hopping pretty good, with maybe 40 people there, both going in and heading out. Made us worry that it was going to be crowded, but that wasn't the case. Southern Agnes had multiple campsites occupied, and so did North Bay. But plenty of sites were still available. The other areas just had a group here or there.

I have always worried about Quetico PP- that if it weren't that busy, maybe some politicians would get some bad ideas. Hope that never happens.
member (6)member
08/05/2023 07:07AM  
We did a 6 day trip through Prairie Portage mid July. I'd say we saw quite a few other park visitors, but we were in a busy area. Surprisingly, we were the only grey beards I remember seeing all week - lots of younger people. On our way out we were early for our tow at Prairie Portage so I visited with the Ranger there. She said that for that area they were seeing numbers similar to pre-Covid this year. She acknowledged they'd be even higher but RABC Pass issues were keeping some people from coming.
08/05/2023 07:39AM  
Jackfish: "
If people want solitude, the northern entry points of Quetico offer a great experience."

I have better luck with solitude from the south. All it takes is getting off of Basswood or Agnes.
08/07/2023 04:02PM  
Just returned from 10 day trip.

Entry point: Stanton Bay Friday July 30
Exit: French Lake: Sunday Aug 6

Summary: Numbers are very trip dependent, both time of year, timing, and type of trip. I don't have any actual data from Park officials, but my experience is that numbers are pretty stable overall, perhaps increasing somewhat.

That said, this past trip I encountered more groups and occupied campsites than I've experienced in the past during the same timeframe and type of trip.
08/14/2023 09:59PM  
I just returned from a Saganagons trip, and there were more people at hook island and Silver Falls portage than I've ever seen before. And I've been going since '97.

Went out early and still had to wait behind 3 groups at the ranger station. However, after crossing Dead Man's Portage, we saw very few people for the rest of the week.

Just from what I saw, I'd say the numbers are up. At least for the week we went and the area. Parking at Seagull Outfitters was completely packed.

All that being said, I've never caught the quantity and quality of fish as we did for August. A ton of walleyes, several over 24 inches, most smallmouth bass were in the 3 to 4 pound range, and most of the pike we caught would have been too large to keep. We had to find them every day, but when we did, they were way bigger than average. It was an awesome week!

Then it rained on the paddle out. :-(

08/15/2023 07:22AM  
We got into Quetico Lake on Friday, July 28. We pretty much had our pick any site but one. By Saturday the bay was mostly full. Between Sunday and Monday we had penetrated the entire eastern leg of Quetico Lake and every spot was available.

We hit Jesse late on a Tuesday and there were at least four groups on the lake that had all left by Wednesday. We had a layover day and didn't see one group arrive even though we were on the 5-star Ritz site near Grand Central Station.

Batchewaung was another story. Almost completely full when we arrived on Thursday.

senior member (99)senior membersenior member
08/15/2023 09:05PM  
Thanks everyone for all the info. We completed our trip on Saturday 8/12, entering at Cirrus. As others have suggested it was somewhat hit and miss but nowhere too busy.

Saw one other party on Cirrus. Next day dropped south to Quetico and traveled the lake east. Saw a few parties, mostly near the western end. Traveled from Quetico through Jean and Burnside. Stayed on Burntside. Nobody there. From there, Jean Creek, where we encountered another party coming up Jean Creek, doing the loop from Nym to Dore then southwest down Sturgeon and back north via Jean. Then....nobody for 3 days. Went from Jean east on Sturgeon to the island sites, then returned west up Bentpaddle Creek to Bentpaddle Lake. Nobody, even in several miles of Sturgeon. Then to Trail and....attempted Trail Creek. No go in low water. Weren't up to trying to bushwhack through the '21 burn into what looked like swamp on Little Pine. So we turned around and paddled back to Burtside. 13 miles back nobody still. Then 3 other parties on Burntside! And scattered parties the rest of the way back to Beaverhouse, most concentrated near the EP. Great sites the whole way. Already planning a return to Trail Creek in higher water May '24.

Visited the Atikokan grocery store. And the coffee shop next to the White Otter has homemade cannoli! Holy Moly! Go for it!
08/21/2023 07:34PM  
We must have come out the same day as 24kGold, we came out on the 11th in the rain. For years, we rarely saw many people in Quetico from Cache and Janis would tell me the average age was like 65. This year, we saw many groups at hook, at the ranger station, and Silver falls. Quite a few on Dead Man's portage too. Most were younger and many had families along. In spite of the crowding at the portages, I loved seeing younger people and especially families in the Q. We had a great trip and loved every minute.
08/24/2023 01:08PM  
BergieT: "We must have come out the same day as 24kGold, we came out on the 11th in the rain. For years, we rarely saw many people in Quetico from Cache and Janis would tell me the average age was like 65. This year, we saw many groups at hook, at the ranger station, and Silver falls. Quite a few on Dead Man's portage too. Most were younger and many had families along. In spite of the crowding at the portages, I loved seeing younger people and especially families in the Q. We had a great trip and loved every minute. "

We were at Hook at 12:30 on the 11th. We also saw several families on the day in and day out. We had Dead Man's portage all to ourselves both days, but Silver Falls was very busy. However, everyone used great portage etiquette so the increased traffic went smoothly.

08/28/2023 10:18AM  
I haven't seen official Quetico Park Numbers for many years, not sure where to find the data but it would be interesting to look at.

Generally speaking the high point for Quetico for users was in the 90's, since then the usage may vary per year but was on the decline in the 2000's.

I went in at French Lake this year with the family on July 5th. We only went in for 4 nights. For an easy entry point it was not busy at all. We booked our permit 2-3 weeks before our trip and I believe at that time every permit was available. On the day we entered every site on Pickerel in the East side was open. We picked a small site on the North East end of Pickerel. We saw and heard more people come into the East side as the weekend hit...most of the sites seemed full when we left.

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