Today’s post comes from Jill Legault, information specialist for Quetico Provincial Park.
Have you been paddling for years in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and are looking to change your route?
Here are some reasons why you should try paddling across the Canada-US border to Quetico Provincial Park.
If you try Quetico for a night or two, there’s a good chance you’ll end up having a lake to yourself. This is a distinctive, palpable feeling that only needs to be experienced once before it becomes a necessary part of your life.
Loneliness stops being something that the most resistant can endure and becomes therapeutic.
Quetico’s rugged beauty, its towering rock cliffs, its majestic waterfalls, its pine forests, its tranquil campsites and its picturesque rivers and lakes remain truly wild.
To maintain an environment with little human disturbance, you will instantly notice some differences between Quetico and BWCAW. The absence of marked campsites, fire pits, and thunder boxes in campgrounds. There are still premium campsites with well-used tent platforms and established campfires.
We also allow ecological processes to occur wherever possible, such as letting fires burn to renew forest habitat or letting beavers control water levels.
Wildlife sightings are an important part of the BWCAW and Quetico experience.
The relatively large landscape and lack of disturbance allow species that require large home ranges to thrive, such as gray wolves, elk, lynx, and lake sturgeons.
Catch the BIG one
With far fewer fishermen than the BWCAW, there is far less fishing pressure.
This, combined with the absence of live bait, barbless hooks, and a strong catch-and-release ethic, makes Quetico a sportfishing dream.
Welcome witness of the past
Full Disclosure: I’m Quetico’s information specialist, which means I’m in charge of maps and our archive and library. So if there’s anyone who’s going to be interested in threads of enduring wild lore or snapshots of the region’s 10,000 years of human history, it’s me!
Paddling through Quetico is the closest you will get to seeing the same landscape as someone more than 300 years ago, without needing to take a seaplane. When you travel through Quetico, you travel to the past.
You see the same cliffs that others have seen, you walk the same transportation that others have walked. You fish the same sandbars that others have fished and you camp in the same places that others have camped. The cycle of your journey is the cycle of history.
Quetico is also the land on which much of the rich history of the Lac La Croix First Nations took place, long before the creation of the park. When you paddle through the western sections of the park, chances are those transports have been cleaned by a member of the Lac La Croix First Nation.
The Beaverhouse and Lac La Croix ranger stations are also managed in partnership by Lac La Croix First Nation. In Quetico you can easily enjoy the rich Anishinaabek cultural heritage, and you are a welcome witness to the past.
Don’t forget your map
Consider purchasing Chrismar Quetico’s map when you visit our ranger station.
At the park, we work tirelessly year after year to keep the map as accurate as possible and reprint it periodically. We are constantly rerouting shuttles via GPS, noting how the rivers have changed, updating where we have had to add or reroute shuttles due to beaver activity, etc.
With a few exceptions, our backcountry rangers clear a minimum of every transport on our map each year.
Our portaging maintenance map is now available online in the Ontario Parks online store. Although we do not recommend browsing this map, we update a version every two weeks with the latest approved transports and a PDF of our transport maintenance map is free to download.
This is valuable information for all of our early summer paddlers who want to avoid purge-ridden transportation.
A felt difference
The differences between the BWCAW and Quetico can be seen in the different rules and regulations. However, the differences are also something that I think should be felt firsthand and not just read about.
Sometimes we think that a landscape is “out there,” but the difference between the BWCAW and Quetico is not. It’s in your eyes and ears. It goes up through the nose and down through the throat. The difference is felt.