BWCA 1st timer....

Greetings, I am planning my Dream trip…I am sure I will learn much on my first trip, making the ones to follow even better. One concern that I have is the time of year? I planned on mid to late May from the Gunflint area. How bad is the weather? generally? Or are the bugs worse? I personally don’t mind either too much, as they are part of the adventure. However I am taking my soon to be wife who is very new to this. I would like it to be enjoyable for her. She is pretty tough and has survived some training missions that I have taken her on in Yellowstone and Grand Teton backcountry canoe/camps. Also I prefer solitude over crowds, granted I am going to the most popular canoe hang out in the world. Any help or suggestions on where to go would be much appreciated. Thanks

I am going up to that area in early June. From what I have been told it can be Quite cold. The bugs can be bad. However, the only time I have been up has been in August so I cannot say for sure.

Potluck weather

Mid to late May - it’s trying to be spring in NE Minnesota about then. You’re about 2 weeks past ice out, so expect water temps to be below 55F. A warm day will be in the 70’s. Expect frost at night when there are clear skies. Rainy/drizzly/foggy weather can set in for several days at a time. A thunderstorm is possible but they are more prevalent later in June. Snow season should just about be over, however, sometimes flurries happen. Expect wind from every direction as cool and warm air masses duke it out on a daily basis. Lake Superior is a definite influence at that time of year. You can increase the warmth of your trip by as much as 15F and also improve your weather experience by tripping on the West side of the BWCA at that time of year. I’d definitely have a couple tarps along on a May trip. A cheap one to cover the hearth and seating area of the campsite and another to get out of the wind.


Blackflies come out in late May after a couple days of temps in the 70’s. Some years they can become fierce. Expect woodticks. It should be a little early for a major assault from anything else.

Fishing Opener
DM made many good points. The seasons in the BWCA are being stretched – that is, people are going earlier and later in the paddling season. It used to be that you didn’t see many folks prior to the fishing opener or after Labor day. That is no longer the case.

The fishing opener is mid-May (I believe the Saturday after Mother’s Day). The day before and through that weekend it will be very busy. The following weekend will be busy as well. Then the bugs come out. Mosquitos are bad. Black flies are worse.

For late May trips you should be prepared for bugs, rain, and cold. You could get sunshine and no bugs, but you don’t have to prepare for that. :slight_smile: You can get lows in the mid-20s and highs up to 60. Fishing should be great.

My experience has been that by late May the black flies might be out. Sometimes later. Mosquitoes are not too in May. They usually wait for mid-June. May 10ish sees quite a few fishpersons with the opener. Later in May it dies down for a few weeks. Weather can be nice in the low 70s or it can be cold and rainy. We had 6 inches of snow in early June once on a trip. That was an exception. Anticipate/bring clothing for 30ish nights and up to low 70s. It could rain (cold rain) for a week or be dry. I have found that things are pretty quiet there by about 10 days after the fishing opener until the end of the 3rd week of June. Things pick up then and increase until the last part of August. Mid July to mid August are busy, but you can find solitutde if you like to portage. Mem Day weekend brings in lots of people for short trips for the long weekend (Thurs - Monday day). If you want solitude get in a couple of portages away from the day trippers and weekend base campers. I have never had a problem with ticks in the Gunflint/Sawbill areas. The 20th and on in May can bring some good solitude.

Not Much I Can Add
Darryl’s right about 'ol Gitchigumee cooling the weather in the Gunflint area. I still prefer the Gunflint since I know it so well, and think it’s prettier. I prefer small, more sheltered lakes in spring. Prepare for cold, I’ve seen snow left over in shaded areas up into June. I’ve also had temps down into the 20’s in June. BTW, I have a guide for the Eastern BWCAW by Robert Beymer I’d sell if you’re interested. Don’t really need it, don’t use it anymore since I am so familiar with that area. Take care. WW

Thank you

Thank you very much for the information, it was great, and just what I was looking for. Travel to the Western region was a question that I had, and did not ask in my original message.

Could you recommend in the Western region? I will be needing a full outfit as I will be flying in from Utah to save time. The airline said that my canoe and packs could not be a carry-on! Ha ah

Thanks again for the very detailed info. that you provided. I may pick your brain somemore about specific lakes, if you don’t mind. There is just so many to choose from, all of my reading on the area does not match the knowledge of someone who has been their. Thanks Wolf

To:WW,DM,MK, & KE Thanks
Hey you guys thanks for the info. it was very informative and appreciated! Anything else yo would like to share that could help, feel free! Like good fishing,camping,etc., things to see and do, outfitters. If you guys ever venture West let me know. I have spent a bit of time canoe/camping in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Not as many lakes, but absolutely breath taking…Hope to hear more about BWCAW, I can’t wait to go… Wolf

Gunflint outfitter
Call Dave Seaton at Hungry Jack Outfitter ( They’re located midway up the Gunflint Trail. I did a complete outfit a couple of years ago before I got all of my own stuff. Great people, first class equipment, very knowledgeable, clean bunkhouse and shower. They have a smaller operation and provide excellent personalized service.

I already have a copy of is Eastern and Western region. Great books