Canoeing in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) is one of the very special things we do at Birchwood. We have literally hundreds of canoe routes starting from our dock. Thousands of lakes all connected by rivers streams and portages are why 250,000 people visit the BWCA every year.
Even though that sounds like a big number, the wilderness permit process limits the number of people into the BWCA every day. The size of the group is also limited to 9 people. This insures that every adventure feels like an independent experience, without climbing on top of other groups.
Another aspect of all of our wilderness trips is the technical connectivity to our groups. While there is no cell reception in the BWCA, we are still connected to every group. Each primary trip leader has a little orange gadget clipped to their life jacket at all times. This gadget is a GPS transponder that pings a satellite and beams back exact location every few minutes. This allows us AND you to see where our campers are on a live computer map ALL of the time they are out of camp.
In the event of a change or question from a counselor on the trip, they have the ability to send us a message and vice versa. In an emergency situation there is a SOS button that alerts help to their needs and location. While campers use maps and compass to guide their adventure from lake to lake, we know exactly where they are at all times.
When a campsite is chosen, there are jobs for everyone. Tents need to be setup, firewood needs to be gathered and depending on the time of day, fish caught, books read, games to play, berries to pick, swimming, cooking dinner and sight seeing. Swimming is a popular campsite activity and is done with water shoes, life jackets and one lifeguard-certified counselor supervising until everyone is out of the water.
At Birchwood Wilderness Camp, we accommodate canoe trips of various lengths and duration. Some trips last three days, some last four and five days. If we have campers that are interested and meet the requirements, seven to ten day trips are possible too.
Three-day canoe trips are often taken by our youngest campers or new campers to Birchwood. These are fun picturesque trips that either head North to Lake Saganaga or South to Seagull Lake. Both routes meander through hundreds of islands and beautiful forests. The trip starts in the dining room at camp, with trip selection and group formation. The process then goes to trip planning where the kids and staff plan the route, plan the menu, prepare a food list as well as an equipment list. The necessary supplies and equipment are gathered up and packed for a morning departure. After breakfast, trips that are heading out that day are questioned and briefed on there preparation, planned route and estimated ETA back. Even though the staff have already checked all these details with the director, the kids are held responsible for their own trip. Every trip has a minimum of two adult staff members.
In the morning, breakfast is prepared at a time that is decided on by the group to meet the days goals. Often there is time to cast a line and sometimes breakfast is waiting on the other end of the fishing pole. Campers who have special dietary restrictions are accommodated for. After camp is struck, a different camper navigates and the adventure continues. These are moments people remember for their entire lives. The life of a Voyageur!
On the canoe trip, campers take turns navigating their way from lake to lake. Campers have snack food on their person at all times, are reminded to apply their sunscreen as needed and drink plenty of water. Some times they land their canoes to prepare lunch and sometimes, in calm water, the canoes raft-up and lunch is served on the water. They use their paddles as a make-shift table.
Campers have the option to fish along the route, pending weather conditions. When the time is right, the group picks out a campsite, they are all marked on the map. If the campsite is not occupied, usually not, they setup camp for the night. Each government campsite has a fire ring and a pit toilet. If a campsite is occupied, the next one is usually just a little bit farther on their route.
After dinner is cooked, eaten and everything is cleaned up and put away, more camping fun continues. Often campfires burn, stories are told and sometimes the Northern Lights illuminate the sky. The Milky-way is often so bright, you can really see the depth in the heavens. Sometimes, it rains and some of this fun moves under the cooking tarp or into the tents.