We returned to the Boundary Waters for the first time since Harlan was born! And I’m so glad he got to experience it so early on in his life. This trip was extra special because not only did we bring our 4 month old (at the time), but we also invited Nick’s parents and tried something totally new to us — worked with a BWCA outfitter. Voyageur Canoe Outfitters made the trip as seamless, easy and efficient as possible.
I think everyone should experience the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness at least once in their lifetime — and if you can, do it with an outfitter. Whether it’s the pristine waters or secluded wilderness, the call of loons, eagles soaring above, the milkiest of milky ways or the fantastic fishing — there are so many reasons Nick and I go back several times every year.
GETTING OUTFITTED WITH VOYAGEUR CANOE OUTFITTERS
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters is an outfitting service at the end of the Gunflint Trail. They have access directly into BWCA country through the Seagull River. The outfitter helps you plan your trip for both the Boundary Waters and Quetico Provincial Park.
Using an outfitter never crossed our minds because we have our own canoe, canoe packs, camping gear, etc. and we usually have our go-to routes. But after working with VCO this fall, I am sold. VCO made our BWCA experience a million times easier, efficient and so doable with our 4 month old son. Here’s how they made that happen:
STAYING AT THE CABINS AT VCO’S GUNFLINT TRAIL RESORT: We are so thankful for the cabins at VCO’s Gunflint Trail Resort. If you have a baby or young kids with you, the cabin options make the BWCA a whole lot easier. It allowed us to do day trips with Harlan and take him canoeing and hiking for short periods. It was nice because we could come back to the cabin to take a nap, do diaper changes, warm up milk, etc. Plus, my in-laws spent a couple days watching Harlan while Nick and I did overnight paddles.
We ended up staying in the Riverside Cabin, a two bedroom modern cabin which was perfect for a fall trip. It has heat, a kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom and a dock you could launch your canoe or motor boat from. There are three other cabins, which you can checkout on VCO’s website. These four cabins are available this winter for rent!!! Grab those snowshoes, your ice fishing gear and make a reservation because there is nothing better than sitting in a cozy cabin with the fireplace going in the middle of winter.
FINDING A MANAGEABLE ROUTE: Matt, one of the managers at VCO, helped us plan our route. Nick and I wanted to fish for lake trout, camp near cliffs so we had a beautiful view, and get back in time to relieve my in-laws of our son. We ended up doing Saganaga, Ottertrack and Ester. Gorgeous views and great fishing! Both Nick and I ended up catching and releasing several lake trout. We canoe trolled with the PEETZ Anchovy Spoon Lure in Novacane. Not sure if it was the UV or the action of the lure, but the lakers loved it.
TOWING: I personally think the best part about VCO is the tow boat service. Since Voyageur is on the Seagull River, they have direct access into Saganaga from the docks. Want to opt in for just the towing service? It’s as easy as driving to VCO, unloading into a towboat and getting dropped off at American Point with your gear, and picked up at your chosen day and time. This saves so much time and gets you deep into the BWCA quickly. Time is priceless when you’re in the Boundary Waters!
THE GEAR: VCO has everything you need to survive in the wilderness so if you don’t have your own collection of lightweight camping gear at home, no problem. Checkout the Complete Outfitting Package, Partial Outfitting Package and rentable outfitting equipment. They even get your permit ready so you don’t need to stop at a designated ranger station.
THE FOOD: The menu is outstanding. We were so impressed with how the camping food was efficiently organized and easy to cook. I have the most stressful time planning out our camping menu when we do it ourselves. Trying to make it as lightweight as possible yet tasty can be a challenge. The Day One food was very impressive, including very thick bacon and eggs and a steak dinner. The Hot Apple Cobbler mix was super good for dessert. The Voyageur GORP was also a fun treat for snacking at portages.
THE BUNKS: There are simple bunkhouses that come with the outfitting packages. The bunks have electricity, beds, a grill, picnic table and nearby bathroom/shower house so that you can sleep and get an early start in the morning. That is valuable time that you’ll save, instead of having to drive up there bright and early in the morning.
There are some very secluded bunkhouses on the other side of Seagull River which you can canoe or motorboat to in a minute. It’s the perfect location for a fish camp if you plan to go up with a bunch of friends or family. VCO is currently in the midst of building a sauna on that side, which is all the more reason to check out the bunks!
The most memorable part about VCO are the people. Cassidy, Matt and everyone who worked at the front desk, towed us over to American Point and back, made breakfast and helped us with our packs made sure we had a fantastic experience in their neck of the woods.
Be sure to start planning for 2020! It’s never too early to make those reservations. Voyageur Canoe Outfitters will answer all your Qs and help you plan the best route for your next canoe adventure. Got any questions for me? Drop them in the comments below! 🙂