Beginner's trip suggestions?

-- Last Updated: May-29-13 9:31 AM EST --

First off let me say that I have an Old Town Discovery 158 and due to a ton of reasons I won't be getting another canoe in the near future. I know it is heavy compared to many others, but it is what I have and likely what I will have.

With that out of the way, My youngest son who just turned 14 and I want to do a canoe trip next year. We are in central Ohio and would like to be able to paddle in, fish and camp.

So where should we go? I know the BWCA is going to have some portages but are there areas we can enjoy ourselves without having to portage a ton? I would be content to find a good lake and stay there for the week.

Any other places? Michigan, Ontario or even Ohio etc?

I should add that while he just turned 14 this week he is 6'1", 215 and a strong kid. I just don't want our first trip to be one that ruins any future outings.

If the OT 158 is going to be a major hinderance I am sure there are a ton of rental places, but would like to keep costs lower if possible.

Your canoe
I am unfamiliar with that area of the country, so can’t really offer a suggestion as to where to go.

But as for your canoe…don’t worry about it. Although it is heavy, it is a great canoe-camping canoe. So long as you aren’t going for huge mileage on your trip (not recommended anyway for a first experience) and if you keep any portages short and manageable, the OT will be able to handle anything you throw at it.


Oops-posted reply wrong
you’re looking at the BWCA, you’ll need a permit, and can only camp in designated sites. Alternative is the Superior National Forest below the BWCA. No permits, can camp anywhere not just in designated sites. Great fishing & solitude.Order a map for $10-covers both areas. The online map is not good.

I make several trips per year there, so if you want more intel, email me.

I have an OT Disco 158, and I made…
Up blocks out of the grey high density foam for portaging it.

With that said, I recommend the BWCA, and you could rent a lighter Penobscot or equal and give him the trip of a lifetime.

Jack L

How about…
Killarney Provincial Park in Ont.? From Central Ohio that would be a shorter drive and offer a similar experience to the BWCA. Its quite a bit further for me to drive there so, I’ve never been there - its on my “bucket list” - but have repeatedly spoken with rangers from that park at the Canoecopias I’ve attended and it sure looks good to me. And so perhaps it might to you - worth looking in to, anyhow.

One thing I have heard from those rangers, though, is that perhaps if great fishing is your primary goal there might be better locations. The lakes there are apparently nutrient poor, some acidic, and not huge fish producers.

BUT they’re among the clearest waters in North America (along with Crater Lake and L. Tahoe) and some of the lakes have a white quartz bottom.

I expect permits and perhaps a schedule to let the rangers know where you are would be required, (and a passport is needed to go to Canada these days, I’m told) but that’s getting to be “par for the course” in many of the larger paddling parks.

Another suggestion…
From central Ohio, Ontario offers good canoeing and Killarny was suggested. However, Algonquin is a little closer and offers great canoe wilderness camping. There are multiple access points like the BWCA, and similar procedures, also a daily fee per person. If you want to minimize portages try entry point 1 into Tea lake. If a little portaging is OK try entry points 3 or 4 and head for Misty. Check it out on line as you will need a reservation, same for Killarny. Both web sites give a lot of information. I live in north West Virginia, and my travel time to Algonquin is 10 hours, 21 hours to BWCA.

If you want to go to the BWCA a Kevlar canoe is rentable cheap from one of many outfitters.

Fellow Buckeye
Here in Ohio we have crap for canoeing opportunities. Most water we share with wave runners, magnum bass boats, and there’s very little peaceful water. There’s been times when I couldn’t go to BWCA. The U.P. of Michigan was the answer. You can do the Big Island Wilderness, which is only a few miles wide by about 6 miles long. Or, you can do Sylvania Wilderness in western U.P. It’s got mature forest, great fishing, and the portages are a few yards. I did it with a 68 lb. boat and a pot belly one year. The only problem is they charge by the night in most lake places in the U.P. You can also do the rivers on the U.P. The Manistique is beautiful, but not great fishing. Campground right southwest of Germfask is nice, and not too pricey. The Escanaba has clearings where hunters camp right next to the river, you can get to with a 4x4. We pulled our camper there and shuttled our canoes upstream and rod down. You just need to bring a mountain bike to shuttle your vehicle. Hope this helps. Take that boy camping. You only have a few years.

where in midwest

– Last Updated: Oct-10-13 11:50 AM EST –

I would try an easy river in Michigan like the Ausable. Great water there.
It is easy to find quality boats to rent if your trip involves much in the way of portaging.

Or the Manistee
which starts right next to the AuSable but flows west. State forest camping along much of it. The AuSable below Mio is in National Forest land. You will need to pull permits in advance for the sites there.

The James River in VA is nice, but challenging at certain rapids. There are a few rivers in the UP - Ontanogan (sp), Sturgeon. Pick up a Canoeing Michigan guide, there is an updated version on Amazon (don’t get the one from ten years ago!)

suggestion in northern PA
You should not be all that far from north central Pennsylvania and the 228 mile long West Branch Susquehanna River Water Trail. Lovely wilderness river that goes through deep forested canyons with moderate flow, only a few portages around low head dams and fishing and camping along the route. Not as wild as Boundary Waters, but sometimes being near enough to towns to flee the river in really bad weather is a bonus. This site has excellent information on it and sells a very good laminated set of maps for the water trail with all the information you need for $20.50. Outfitters like McCrackens in Shawville (you can put in right near them, just below the low head dam at the small power station) both rent canoes and kayaks and offer shuttles to various takeouts downriver and upriver.

BWCA is doable “next year”
“So where should we go? I know the BWCA is going to have some portages but are there areas we can enjoy ourselves without having to portage a ton? I would be content to find a good lake and stay there for the week.”

If you want to do the BWCA, it is doable for you, since you have enough time to plan and prepare. You definitely need to spend some money to make a decent portage yoke - you need to get bolt on or clamp on portage pads for the portage yoke to make portaging that beast manageable for one person to carry. IF that’s not possible, you could do a two man carry, and just take your time - the portage to Basswood is essentially an old road. with a Moose Lake entry, a single portage would get you into Basswood Lake (big lake with lots of bays), where you could spend a week exploring and fishing. Saganaga Lake, on the Eastern side is similar, starting from Gull Lake.

either choice would work - but you need to plan now, and be prepared to make a reservation for your entry, especially if you are thinking of entering on a Saturday or Sunday ( have several options and take what you can get - weekdays are a bit easier to get, but both are popular entry points and the available permits get reserved fast - starting in January.

Voyageur’s national Park is similar terrain, but one big lake

you would see some motor boat activity in BWCA (motors are limited to certain areas), but not much. Voyageurs NP has more boats.

Greenbrier River is holding water well

– Last Updated: Jul-23-13 9:08 AM EST –

this summer. Located in southern wv it is four or five hours from you. Mostly flat and moving water, decent smallmouth fishing, a few rapids to keep it interesting. No portages. A little web research and you should be good to go. The Greenbrier river campground located near Alderson can provide a shuttle, or you can probably get me to help you out with the shuttle and advice on class II rapids. I'm not sure when you are planning to go but now would be a great time to take advantage of unusual summer water levels. "Low runnable" levels on the AW website would be perfect for first timers.

Just Back From Algonquin
Our scout troop in Wadsworth just got back from Algonquin. We had kids from 12-14 years old and did the Big Trout Lake Loop. We covered 40 miles in 5 days. It was a 450 mile 9 hour drive from can make a loop to suit you so if you want to keep portaging to a minimum you can layout a trip o suit you. You can also rent a Kevlar canoe for $40/day if you so desire. It’s a lot closer than BWCA and the campsites and port ages are well maintained.