Canoe Trip Tips

A woman gets ready to launch her Kevlar Canoe.
Here are some important canoe trip tips and facts that will make your visit to Seagull Outfitters and the BWCA/Quetico wilderness areas go more smoothly. For a detailed packing list, check out our The Ultimate Canoe Trip Packing Checklist… it’s one of the most popular features we’ve posted!

Before You Come

You need to register for your BWCA Permits and Quetico Permits. Menus must be sent to us one month prior to your arrival if we are packing your food. If we do not receive your selections at least two weeks prior to your arrival, we will make the selections for you. You may download your menu form online by clicking here. Special requests require four weeks’ notice.

To help us serve you better…

Please keep us informed of your plans. Always reference your arrival date and party leader’s name in any e-mails, faxes, or phone calls.
We must charge for equipment, services, and food that you reserve, so make sure of your plans!

Freshen up on your Boundary Waters lingo before you arrive by reviewing some of these common Boundary Waters terms. Don’t forget to download and read the Quetico Park rules and the BWCA rules.

Watch these Videos: Understanding the BWCA Rules & Regulations

We highly encourage you to watch these videos with your family and to print and read the BWCA Rules and Regulations. We want to ensure you understand them thoroughly to keep you and the wilderness safe.

Packing For Your Canoe Trip

General Canoe Trip Packing List

  • Rain jacket and pants…essential!
  • Two pairs of shoes
  • Two pairs of wool socks
  • Two pairs of long pants
  • Two t-shirts
  • Two or three pairs of underwear
  • Two pairs of shorts or swim trunks
  • One long-sleeved shirt
  • One sweatshirt or long jacket
  • Personal toilet articles
  • Small towel
  • Camera
  • Paperback book
  • Add gloves, a stocking cap, long underwear, and an extra sweater for spring or fall trips
  • Pack toilet articles and towels for use at our base camp
  • If using your own sleeping bag, keep it on top so you don’t have to carry your whole pack up to the lodge
  • Don’t forget clean clothes and a towel for your trip home
  • Please leave your radios, walkmans, guns, fireworks, flares, and large knives at home
  • Beer balls are not allowed in the BWCA or Quetico
  • Pets must have a current rabies certificate
  • Please bring your social security number in order to get a Minnesota fishing license once you arrive at Seagull. With the electronic licensing system a social security number is a must!

Fishing Tackle Packing List

Camfire on the shore of a Northern Minnesota lake at dusk.

  • Two-piece spinning rod in 6-1/2 to 7-foot length
  • Spare rod tip and super glue
  • Freshly oiled spinning reel with fresh 8-pound line
  • One backup rod and reel for the party
  • Polarized fishing glasses
  • Depth locator
  • Small tackle box
  • Pliers
  • Stringer
  • Leech locker and/or a worm box
  • Lindy-rig and slip-bobber set-ups
  • Split shot sinkers, small hooks
  • Lead head jigs; Mr. Twister jigs and spinnerbaits
  • Casting spoons like DareDevle
  • top-water lures like Rebel Pop’R, Tiny Torpedo, Hula Popper, Jitterbug, and Rapalas
  • Steel leaders
  • Crankbaits like Shad Rap, and other Rapalas
  • Spinners like Mepps

For the fly angler:

  • Two-piece fly rod (8 weight)
  • Single action fly reel
  • Floating weight-forward bass line
  • Twenty-pound backing
  • Tippet spools
  • Dry flies
  • Streamers like Wooly Buggers
  • Poppers

On Your Way!

How To Find Us

Take Highway 61 north from Duluth to Grand Marais (see our map). Turn left on the Gunflint Trail and follow it 55 miles to our door. Our office, store, and outfitting building are on the left side of the road. The bunkhouse and bathhouse are on the right side of the road. We have a large sign on the road which is lit at night.

Where To Stay Along the Way

Motels are found all along the way. We strongly recommend reservations if you plan to stay in Grand Marais or Duluth! Here are some recommendations.


  • Edgewater Best Western (800-777-7925)

Two Harbors:

  • AmericInn (218-834-3000)
  • Country Inn (800-456-4000)

North Shore:

  • AmericInn at Tofte (800-625-7042)
  • Best Western Cliff Dweller (800-223-2048)
  • Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior (218-663-7296)
  • Caribou Highlands Lodge–formerly the Village Inn at Lutsen (800-642-6036)
  • Cascade Lodge (800-322-9543)
  • Grand Superior Lodge on Lake Superior (800-627-9565)

Grand Marais:

  • Aspen Lodge (800-247-6020) or (218-387-2240)
  • Best Western Superior Inn (800-528-1234)
  • East Bay Suites (218-387-2800) or (800-414-2807)
  • Gunflint Motel (218-387-1454)
  • Harbor Inn Motel (218-387-1191)
  • Lakeside Cabins (218-387-2754)
  • Lund’s Motel & Cottages (218-387-2155)
  • Mangy Moose Motel (218-387-2975)
  • Sandgren Motel (218-387-2975)
  • Sawtooth Cabins & Motel (218-387-1522)
  • Shoreline, The (218-387-2633)
  • Super 8 Motel (800-247-6020)
  • Tomteboda Motel (800-622-2622) or (218-387-1585)
  • Traveler’s Rest (218-387-1464)

Where To Eat Along the Way

Having Shor Lunch fried fish just caught in the BWCA.
In Duluth, Grandma’s Saloon and Deli in Canal Park is a favorite; Va Bene Caffe Italian Restaurant and The Pickwick on Superior Street; or right at the end of the HWY 35 interstate is Black Woods Grill & Bar which has a second location in Two Harbors, twenty minutes north of Duluth on HWY 61.

*If you’re towing a boat, both Black Woods locations will be the easiest to access parking lots.

In Grand Marais, The Angry Trout Cafe is very popular; we also like The Gunflint Tavern, My Sister’s Place, The Pie Place and Sven and Ole’s Pizza.

Sea Island Lodge Restaurant, which formerly was in the next bay of Seagull Lake, has closed. We recommend Trail Center (Black Bear Bar & Restaurant), which is halfway up the Gunflint Trail, and the Bistro at Gunflint Lodge which is just 10 minutes south of us.

Points of Interest on Your Way North

  • Gooseberry Falls
  • Split Rock Lighthouse
  • Tettegouche State Park
  • Cross River
  • Superior National Golf Course at Lutsen

Once You’ve Arrived in the Area…

  • Please call us when you arrive in Grand Marais so we can be ready when you arrive at our base. Our phone number is (218) 388-2216.
  • Check-in time is between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • If you will be arriving late… we will leave a note on the office door, directing you to your room in the paddlers’ lodge. Your sleeping bags and packs will be left for you if you’re getting complete canoe outfitting from us. We insist on absolute quiet in the bunkhouse after 10:00 p.m.; therefore, we do not allow arrivals after 10:00 p.m.
  • A payphone is located on the store/office deck for your convenience.
  • No smoking is allowed in any of our buildings.
  • We do not allow any pets in our paddlers’ lodge. Please plan on your pet staying in your car while you are staying in the lodge.

While You’re On Your Canoe Trip

Canoe Trip Tips

  • Pack out all your trash and any you find along the way.
  • Leave your ax at home, use your stove for cooking and keep your campfire small. Don’t cut anything live, and put your fires out completely!
  • Wash your dishes, do your bathing, and go to the bathroom at least 50 paces from the shore. Get your water 50 yards offshore.
  • Practice catch-and-release fishing! Keep a medium-sized fish for dinner; have your camera ready for the big ones.
  • Be quiet at all times! You’ll see more wildlife, and everyone can enjoy the solitude.
  • Be proud of your wilderness conduct, and set a good example for others.
  • Respect the land, and practice low impact camping; in other words, Leave No Trace of your visit.
    • Pack all garbage out with you
    • Burn only paper trash, do not burn plastic
  • Respect the wind and be smart when conditions aren’t favorable
  • Follow your map closely to always know where you are
  • Don’t worry about getting your feet wet, it makes landing the canoe much easier
  • Step cautiously on portages, a sprained ankle can ruin a trip
  • Keep a journal of your trip you’ll be glad you did later
  • Keep your camera handy in a waterproof bag
  • Choose your campsite around 1 or 2 pm during busier times of the season
  • Paddle close to shore, it’s not only safer, but you’ll see more wildlife
  • Load your canoe while it’s in the water, it’s easier on the canoe and you can better determine the weight distribution
  • Be courteous to other paddlers and pull your gear off to the sides at portages
  • Fill water bottles out away from shore in deeper lakes
  • Stay hydrated
  • Land your canoe parallel to the shore
  • The bottom of the canoe makes for a good camp table
  • Pull up to shore during lightning
  • Turn around to look where you’ve been occasionally, it will help you get a good idea of the landscape for your trip back
  • Pull your canoes up away from shore at night and secure them
  • Look for wildlife more so at dawn and dusk along shorelines
  • Explore quieter and less used lakes, you may be handsomely rewarded
  • Double portage if you need to, most paddlers do
  • Don’t eat in your tent
  • Alcohol is allowed in the canoe country but only in the proper containers
  • Cut only dead and downed wood and keep fires small and in the fire pit
  • Remember that we are visitors in the wilderness
    • The bugs can only affect your trip if you let them
    • Prepare for mosquitoes on portage trails
    • Carry a head net during buggy seasons
    • Mosquitoes can’t fly upwind if the wind is 12 mph or more
    • Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2, and only females bite
    • Black flies and horse flies are more active on sunny days
    • Black flies are attracted to the color blue and are more prominent near running water as that’s where they breed in the spring
    • Anything more than 30% DEET is just overkill

To Ensure a Successful Canoe Trip

Cooking on a Camp Stove Tips

  • Pack light (if you can live without it, leave it at home)
  • Do some research (you’ll enjoy the trip much more)
    • About your route
    • About the BWCAW in general (know the rules)
    • About the fishing
    • About canoeing
  • Prepare for inclement weather
  • Consider the experience and capability of your paddling partners before choosing your route
  • Have good rain gear, it can save a trip
  • Consider the type of canoe that will be best for your particular trip
  • Wear a good pair of boots
  • Don’t wear blue jeans, they don’t dry very well
  • The campsites on the south and west shores of islands and points will generally be less buggy and offer better fishing from your campsite.
  • Campsites with a view to the north will offer a front-row seat during the nights that the northern lights show themselves
  • Always carry duct tape
  • Smaller groups will travel faster
  • Wind generally is out of the southwest
  • Make travel plans early
  • If traveling the Quetico
    • Be sure to apply for RABC permit 6 weeks prior to your trip
    • Fishing licenses can be bought at the Ranger Station
    • The Ranger Station accepts Visa, Mastercard, and AmEx
    • No live bait legally allowed across the border into the Quetico Park

Fishing Tips

  • Take only a small selection of your tried and true fishing lures
  • Overcast and rainy days can make for the best fishing days
  • While paddling, troll a fishing line out the back of the canoe
  • Clean your fish on an island or shoreline away from any campsites
  • Keep only a couple of smaller fish for dinner
  • Make sure to have pliers and a stringer
  • Bend hook barbs down to decrease the chances of an accident
  • Fish the windward sides of lakes, you’ll increase your catch
  • More in-depth fishing tips can be found on our fishing page