Home The Bucket List The Big Lake and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)

The Big Lake and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)

The Big Lake and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)
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There are several ways to go with this, but let’s focus first on kayak tours on the Big Lake (Lake Superior) out of Grand Marais, MN. What makes this a bucket list adventure is Superior is the same body of water Gordon Lightfoot memorialized in the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The lesson here is no one wants to be remembered in a Gordon Lightfoot song.

To keep from having a sad song written about your tragic demise, the guides from Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply are certified in water rescue and very experienced. What they are best at is avoiding situations where they need to rescue clients. And they don’t want to be caught out in rough water and high winds any more than you do, so they will always err on the cautious side. Weather-related refund policies, therefore, are customer-friendly. Short tours are usually three hours, launching from just behind the store and traversing the Grand Marais Bay. Longer tours can be booked for an entire day on one of the nearby inland lakes in the BWCAW. Stone Harbor also has multi-day kayak trips to Isle Royale or Lake Saganaga. Beth, a veteran guide and instructor, started out with ocean kayaks when her Marine Corps husband was stationed in Hawaii.

If you are reasonably fit, Beth says, you can kayak. Stone Harbor’s website is encouraging: “No previous kayaking experience is required. Your tour begins as you get fitted into your equipment. Next, you have a lesson on the beach that teaches you how to adjust, paddle, and get in and out of your kayak. All participants are trained in basic kayak safety. Then your guide takes you out on the water, where you experience the thrill and beauty of paddling Minnesota’s North Shore.”

The BWCAW, however, is much better known for canoeing than for kayaking. The folks who reside in or around the Boundary Waters live here by choice and many have been on epic canoe adventures. One local just finished a two-week journey with his brother. Another took his new wife (from the South) on a multi-day outing that was, unfortunately, both cold and wet. Her observation: “You people do this for fun?” Yes, they do this for fun. Another great thing about the canoe trips is you can combine your canoeing with northern Minnesota’s famous fishing.

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For the adventurous, Beth suggests paddle boarding, which, with a little instruction, is a great way to spend a few hours on the water. Stone Harbor also offers paddle board tours in the Grand Marais Bay.

But Beth admits she’s a bit of a water snob. “I love being in a kayak. My second close favorite is paddle boarding. My least favorite is canoeing. Going from a high-end kayak to a canoe is like switching from a race horse to a cow.” She admits, however, that if your trip requires stability and lots of gear, a canoe is definitely the way to go. It’s also a great platform from which to fish in the BWCAW.

There is a good reason the Grand Marais population swells from 1300 locals to 20,000 over the summer. And you can play the license plate game just walking down the street because it’s not just southern Minnesotans vacationing up north. It won’t take long to see an Arizona tag. But even during the summer surge, Grand Marais is never crowded. Just call ahead for restaurant reservations. And call Beth at the store if you want reservations for any type of water tour or if you have reservations about being on the water. Beth or one of the other guides can answer all of your questions about equipment and tours.

About the author:  Beth Poliquin lives in Grand Marais, Minnesota, and guides for Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply. If you are looking for a bucket list experience either on Lake Superior or in the Boundary Waters Canoe area, you can contact Beth at Stone Harbor.