BWCA in Aug/Sept

I’m considering a week-long trip in the Boundary Waters this summer. I’ve never been there, but I have tripped several times in Algonquin and the Adirondacks, so I know basically what to expect from a lake-and-portage trip.

Any advice on crowds of people and crowds of bugs in August and September? I don’t mind doing a couple of good portages on the first day to put the people behind me.

Weather? I don’t mind cool, but I don’t want to spend a week in cold rain.

My default entry point would be Ely, because that’s the only place I’ve heard of, but maybe there are better places?

Thanks for any info.

– Mark

Grand Marais
Grand Marais is also a great place to enter from. I personally like this side (the Grand Marais) side better, and that’s why I decided to live here.

Typically, Aug and Sept. are pretty decent for bugs. Crowds thin after labor day, so keep that in mind if you want to avoid them.

There is no specific one week that can guarantee no cold rain. You have to take what you get.

Ditto what Bryan Said
August is a popular month. September is getting more popular, too. After Labor is better. However, I certainly wouldn’t allow the prospect of seeing some people deter me from a BWCA trip. You’ll enjoy it.

Bugs should be minimal - maybe a few mosquitos the first hour of dark.

Put a couple of portages behind you and the crowds thin out.

As Bryan said, there are no guarantees for the weather. August usually bring some good storms that come and go quickly. September less so. Temperatures are usually good for both months. But again, no guarantees.

Grand Marais is a great area, but so is Ely. Generally speaking, Ely is closer to the entry points than Grand Marais. Outfitters are in Ely, while Grand Marais area outfitters are outside of town closer to the entry points. Ely is blue collar in the interior of MN. Grand Marais has a “touristy” feel to it and is on Lake Superior. The cities are very different, but both very nice and should be experienced.

September is my favorite time of the year in the bwca. The days are usually in the low 70’s, not many bugs or people. Remember the longer the portage, the less people you will see. A friend of mine told me that and we usually pick a lake to basecamp on that has at least 1 or 2 100 rod portages to get to. Try Sawbill lake too. The outfitter there has lots of trip suggestions and its a very pretty area of the bwca. All of the bwca is beautiful anytime you go. You will always see people, just get a good start in the morning, and make camp early in the day. Thay way you will have a better pick of campsite.

limited experinece, but
my one trip to BWCA was a week in Sept and out of Ely. I would certainly do it again. No prob with bugs or crowds.

bwca entrys
enter where ever you can get a permit, there are 86 entrys to bwca and some may be booked up at the time you want to enter


Sept is my choice
after Labor day, school is back in and you won’t have nearly the amount of people.

we lucked out when we went, and had swimming weather every day.



What Vinnie said…

Thank you all for this info.

I do understand that I will have to take the weather that I get. I just meant that I would avoid a time when bad weather was likely.

One question I forgot: It always bugs me to fly somewhere, rent a car, park it at a put-in, and then leave it there for six days at $70 a day or whatever. Anybody know of public transpo or private shuttles among airport, towns, outfitters, and entry points? It can be fairly expensive and still beat the cost of an unused rental car.

Speaking of airports: I’m assuming Duluth. Any better options?

– Mark

Try Sawbill

– Last Updated: Jun-04-08 1:12 AM EST –

Sawbill Canoe outfitters advertises that they will pick you up from Duluth or Minneapolis.

Others may offer it as well.

Oh, and the Duluth airport will do, assuming you can find a flight there. Otherwise Minneapolis is your best bet.

We went up last year and entered at Sawbill Outfitters on September 9th and finished our trip on September 15th. Beautiful weather and lakes. Crossing the Laurentian Divide with many tough portages the cool days were welcome. The bugs were gone, as a matter of fact on the last day we actually got a light powdering of snow. A 25 degree bag was adequate for the trip.