BWCA Quetico weather mid September Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
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David B
senior member (77)senior membersenior member
07/26/2016 06:40AM  
Anyone care to share their experiences with respect to the weather in Quetico in the middle of September? I appreciate that 'unpredictable' may be the best descriptor, but I would still like to know what you've experienced so I have some sense of the average weather conditions as well as the extremes you've suffered. Also I would happy to hear about fishing success and typical water levels then. The issue is, shall I go to my 50th high school class reunion - Sept 9-10 and then to Quetico, or Quetico and then my reunion, or perhaps the least painful option - skip the memories of high school altogether and go to Quetico during the reunion. Thank you in advance.
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Old Hoosier
distinguished member(638)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/26/2016 07:50AM  
As far as the reunion - you are on your own! :)
With respect to Quetico in Sept - been going in Sept for 30 years.

Normal weather is 40 Deg nights and 60-70 Deg days. See more clear, blue bird days than not, but there is always the exception. We'll discuss that later. Wind is usually very reasonable (but it is NOT zero wind!) and manageable. Low humidity makes for fabulous star watching and wonderful full moons. Almost ZERO bugs and very few people.

Fishing is best after Labor Day up to early October - or whenever the water cool down is underway. Fish come back shallow and start the aggressive winter feed -up. So I suggest mid-Sept is best for your choices outlined. I troll noisy crank baits at 6-12 feet to locate fish then work that local pattern hard. If warm, they are still deeper.

Fall weather in Q can literally be life threatening. Water is still pretty warm (high 60s to low 70s), so water hypothermia risk is much lower than early spring. But wind can get very ugly and cold rain with snow/ice for 2-3 days is not unusual. This is what can kill you. So prepare with serous thought:
1) take a big tarp that can be your wind shelter (drop down one side to make a wall) as well as allow you to cook outside your tent or dry out some things if needed.
2) Take winter clothes - wool hat, wool gloves, wool socks, long underwear, good rain coat and pants (no cheap parka) And have extra dry clothes in dry bags - a MUST have.
3) Get a 2 day supply of tinder, kindling and wood collected, broken down and dried in from rain/snow BEFORE you start fishing. Never let it get low. Gathering wood in a 30 MPH wind and snow/ice is the sign of a rookie.
4) Take SEVERAL good fire starter methods - quality lighter, matches, cotton/petroleum aids, etc. You might need them all. Keep them separate and dry at all times.
5) Prefer camp sites protected from West and North winds.

Just as examples of some "memorable" Q trips in Sept - rained 9 inches in 5 days and never got above 45 degrees, spent 10 days in Q and never rained a drop and temps were 50 nights and 70 days, had to spend over 48 hrs in camp due to wind and rain (glad to have a tarp !), was delayed on outbound trip for 2 days due to headwinds (from west/north), kids were playing with building fires and used/lost 3 of my 4 fire starter methods. Was literally down to one lighter left (in medical kit) -everything else was either wet or gone.

I advocate a simple rule - expect the best but plan for the worst. If you are prepared for the worst, then you can COMPLETELY relax and enjoy whatever comes your way.

Old Hoosier
distinguished member(1757)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/26/2016 09:05AM  
Good question. Great answer! (Old Hoosier probably has more September trips than I have total trips.) My limited experience says he is right on and I will be adding a couple of his tips to my list when I go in this Sep. 14. Last year we went in on Sep. 15 for 8 days and had mostly clear/fair weather. One big quick T-storm as we were breaking camp one AM. (Summer doesn't technically end until Sep. 21?) A few days were almost hot, and several nights were downright chilly. Wind was not a factor except on Pickerel when we were exiting. Bugs were gone! (I took long johns/fleece jacket/down vest, but did not wear them.)

As for the reunion, I'd say skip it. I've never been to one of mine! :-)

--Goose/Class of '62
Old Hoosier
distinguished member(638)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/26/2016 11:55AM  
Hey Gary - glad to see you are going to Q again. I am headed in on Sept 11 for a week on Omeme and Cub. Hope to get to Bearpelt for the first time if all goes well.

David B - one other comment - fall fishing is very different than spring in that the weed beds are absolutely maxed out in the fall while in spring they are at best just starting to grow.

The weeds offer shade from the sun as well as cover for ambushing prey. They also hinder water from flow and hence are usually holding warmer water than open areas. All these contribute to fish in and around the weeds. Some of my very best walleye fishing was at high noon on a blue bird day fishing over the tops of submerged weeds. And we even caught the trophy pike (over 40 inches) as they were lurking there as well - often attacking our "eater" walleye as they struggled.

Hope you both have a great trip.

Old Hoosier
distinguished member(1181)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/26/2016 01:30PM  
I have only a paltry 15 Sep trips under my belt, but what OGG and OH wrote is spot on.
David B
senior member (77)senior membersenior member
07/26/2016 04:15PM  
Thank you for all of this useful information and I appreciate the specific suggestions and advice, even the advice to skip the reunion.
07/26/2016 09:02PM  
At the risk of just repeating/confirming what has already been said, here's my experience -

I've been on three trips to the Q in the middle of September, all about ten days starting on September 12 or 13. The first two trips the weather was unseasonably warm, paddling in t-shirts or shirtless, pleasant swimming, crisp but not cold mornings. On the first of those warm trips there were still a lot of mosquitos, not so much in the day time, but at dusk they came out - and because dusk is 7 pm that time of year, that's more of a problem than mid-summer. But all in all the weather was awesome (despite one day toward the end of one of those trips when it rained so hard so continuously that it shall forever be known as the Day of the Deluge).

On the third trip, the weather was unseasonably cold, and stayed that way the whole 10 days. We never went for a swim, mostly wore multiple layers even when paddling, had campfires every night for warmth. Up to a point it was pretty nice, but when it was cold and cloudy and windy for days in a row, the threatening gray weather of fall got kind of old.

In other words, be prepared, head out, hope for the best, and have fun.
distinguished member (227)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
08/02/2016 01:15PM  
Great thread, thanks for all the detail fellas. I have a half dozen fall trips under my belt, and it's my favorite time of year too. I have been blessed with many more pleasant days than difficult ones, and I have not yet seen snow or ice.

We're going in via Beaverhouse on 9/21, and planning is in full tilt now. It's getting tiresome bringing all the cold weather stuff since we seldom need it, so it is helpful to be reminded that it does become an issue.

I appreciate the fishing tips too, we plan to make it more of a focus that previous trips, so we're looking forward to better success!
distinguished member(7895)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
08/03/2016 12:28AM  
I have a whopping ONE September trip on my paddling resume'. Third week of September...

First night, slept on top of my sleeping bag in my underwear because it was so hot.

Second night, I slept inside my sleeping bag wearing long johns and with my mummy bag zipped up to my face.

Third day, rain gear all day. I may have unzipped my sleeping bag a little in the night.

Fourth day, a little windy. Warmer at night, but bag still mostly zipped.

Fifth day... exit day. Absolute DEAD CALM and a nice day. It was like we were paddling in a vacuum.

Does that help? LOL In other words, come prepared for every extreme.
David B
senior member (77)senior membersenior member
08/03/2016 06:24AM  
Wow! Yes, it does help, Jackfish. But I'm going a week or so earlier so I'm SURE I don't have to worry about all that. Besides, it's very bracing huddling close to a campfire, and shivering in wet gear ..... Well, maybe I should bring the warmer sleeping bag, good rain gear, hot chocolate mix and a book of native American prayers for good weather. Thank you.
distinguished member(583)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
08/03/2016 10:03AM  
Last year it was unzipped sleeping bags every night.... That was 3rd week... Year before, same week, one night in mid 20's, most nights in 30's and low 40's and lots of rainy days... go figure!
distinguished member(1757)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
08/04/2016 07:25AM  
Take a pair of lightweight LJs like Wickers. Pack a down vest, which may double as a pillow, or even a fleece jacket. Your rain gear can double as a warm layer if necessary. Check forecast right before departure and adjust your gear by it. Most of all don't take an old tent that's lost it's waterproofing like I did one September. ? --Goose
distinguished member(1757)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/05/2022 12:52PM  
Here's a great old thread that's worth reading for anyone heading in this September.
distinguished member(506)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/05/2022 07:42PM  
I agree. September be prepared for all weather. My one September trip went north through Prairie Portage, Sunday Lake, Louisa Falls, Glacier, McEwen, lower Falls Chain, northern Agnes, S Chain, and to Burke through North Bay in beautiful weather.

The last day across Bailey Bay and down to the Moose Lake landing was thankfully in a mild wind, but a very heavy snowfall, such that the shore could hardly be seen. Looked like a Winter Wonderland!
09/08/2022 11:12AM  
No matter what the forecasts call for, I’ve learned to pack for 80 degree weather, and 30 degree weather that time of year. Never trust the weather man in the fall in the Boundary Waters.
distinguished member(2353)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/08/2022 11:36AM  

Thanks for the reminder. I'm going in next week to Quetico, and even though the weather looks pretty stable, I'm packing my wool pants. I remember one time, though this was an early October trip, of canoeing down through Basswood and into Horse in a sleet/snow precipitation. If I hadn't been prepared, canoeing would have been brutal.
Randy Kuhens
Guest Paddler
09/08/2022 09:56PM  
Third week of September trip, Indian Summer temps were low 70s with mid 50s at night. Was like that for six days, then on day seven, our paddle-out day, we experienced drenching rain, 42 degrees and fog the whole time with wind out of the north. Absolutely bone chilling miserable, wet conditions.

Folks have covered your options on clothing. Two words of advice - rain suit! Buy the best you can afford. It will be a bad day if you get wet. then cold. In my opinion the most important clothing you can have and very versatile Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

I would take a Garmin Inreach Satellite communicator with GPS. You can send and receive messages and, if necessary, you can trigger an SOS 24/7 to a global emergency coordination center via satellite. Great to have if needed!
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