BWCA vs Adirondacks

Joined
Feb 29, 2012
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1,820
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Schenectady, NY
I see many of you are from MI or WI, and talk much of paddling in BWCA...
I grew up visiting the Adirondacks and know nothing (but for what I read on the interweb) of this BWCA.

So, for those of you that have paddled and camped in both areas, how about some first hand comparisons.
I get the need for permits, I guess...we have specific regs within the blue line too...
I suppose you have to plan your spontaneous trips over there.

And I have seen some of the photos of the BWCA, absolutely breathtaking...but is that only because I haven't been there? Would photos of the Adirondacks be as impressive if I weren't so familiar?

And lastly, I prefer routes less... no that's not right, uhmmm, routes not traveled. No problem for me to paddle spots where it's been years since the last visitor.
Can you find the same sort of experience in the BWCA??

And am I even referring to the BWCA correctly? Or is it just BWCA??
 
Joined
Dec 1, 2012
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393
Location
Altoona, Pennsylvania
I make trips to both places frequently. I think the topography and flora are very simiar as is the seasonal weather. I think that may be becasue they are very nearly at the same latitiude. IMO the biggest difference is the volume of continuous wilderness in the BWCAW vs. the ADK where it's pretty hard to go 70 miles without seeing a manmade structure or other people. (I'm not an expert on the ADK, I'm just basing that off my trips there and routes I've looked at). I think you can get awesome pictures at both places.

One Spring I did Old Forge to Floodwood area and looped back to Tupper. It was at iceout and while I didn't see people most of the trip, it didn't feel like a wilderness trip. Last Spring I went to BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) and did a 77 mile loop and saw one person. I didn't see a single man made structure, there were no roads. There are no signs marking lakes and portages. No one had been through as I had to cut open every portage except the one that led to my car at the end of the trip. I saw a moose and my first wild wolf.

It only takes me 8 hours to ge to ADK and 22 hours to get to BWCAW. I would love to live adjacent to either place. I'm actually debating a Whitney loop trip vs a BWCAW trip at the moment.....

I got a shovel some snow and get to work. I might try to post a picture or two of both places to expound on my meaning.

I always enjoy your pics Stripperguy (ADK Forum and here). You and your wife seem to enjoy being in the thick of it. Great historical photos too.

Have a great day.

Barry
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
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3,670
Location
Appleton, Maine
I did a week in Quetico or is it "The Quetico" in 2004, my last group trip in Canada. I have done many weekend or 3 day canoe camps in the ADKS plus a few 1 week hunting trips via canoe and wall tent in the ADKS.

I agree with Waterdog, the continuous wilderness is the big difference. Some of the lakes we traveled thru had bays as big as most ADK lakes with arms stretching out that begged for exploration. On our rest day, I went up one arm in a lake and explored all day by myself, fantastic walleye and lake trout fishing, along with some great SM bass. I climbed a high ledge and sat eating my lunch, wondering if anyone had ever shared this spot, it was that wild, no trail, no stumps, no sign of anyone ever there. We saw few people on the trip and we never left a popular route.

I have learned to time my trips to the ADKS and avoid seeing many people, or most times they are packing up and leaving and I'm heading in. I have done very few lake to lake trips in the ADKS, St Regis is a nice area to trip, but it's more pond to pond trip with a lightweight outfit vs what I carry on a Quetico/WCPP loop. I did a Saranac Lakes trip way back, and a Long lake to Tupper Lake trip, all great paddling destinations, but you run out of that wilderness feeling too often to compare it to Quetico.

But, after saying all that, the Adirondacks have a special lure and seeing those mountains off in the distance while paddling your canoe is hard to beat. It is hard to believe that someone was smart enough to preserve the vast amount of wilderness there when it's so close to so many people here in the northeast. And to be able to just show up, drop your canoe in the water and paddle away without fees or permits has it's own special attraction. I hope that never has to change.
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2011
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459
Location
Dodgeville, Wi
Stripperguy,

I have never been to the Adirondacks. However, I have traveled a good bit of the western and central Boundary Waters. If it is wilderness and solitude you are looking for, they can be found here. However, the time of year can have a huge impact on the number of folks you are likely to see. Also, there are easy main routes that are still very nice looking but are full of people. With some planning and sweat equity, you can be alone as you dare with little to no evidence of past travelers ... you just gotta know where to look.

I can help you with some ideas. Also, you can get a map that shows almost the entire BWCA and the quitico (this is just a start, often it is impossible to identify if a creek or marsh is navigable) . I usually start there and then dig deeper, ultimately getting a map ( Fisher or Mckenzie ) and look to refine my float plan. The BWCA has what they call PMA's Primative management Areas. These would be areas that are truely "less traveled", to say the least.

I feel the "price " for a permit in the BWCA is very small. For your entry fee, you can stay as long as you wish ... one price fits all. One night, 20 nights, an entire summer ... it is the same price.

If you are really wanting to investigate this further, I would be glad to help you with researching a route. PM me if interested.

Good luck,

Bob.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,392
Location
Raymond, ME
I've done the BWCA twice, Quetico six times and the ADK's quite a bit (used to live there so no count). Did the BWCA in June and it was a madhouse near the entry point (Sawbill). Then the weather soured and it rained for a week and we really did not see anyone (that was 1973 though!). Next trip was in 1989 and we again entered at Sawbill mid summer. Pandemonium at the beginning..there were two boats of rangers checking all the permits. We fled for Cache Bay and Quetico (Falls Chaine) but looped back around to the BWCA. I remember that we did have to be cognizant of getting a campsite early before the five pm rush started when we got back to the BWCA near any EP.
Since then I have learned its possible to avoid getting trampled in the BW . Go in May or Sept. The scenery is quite pretty..its not as mountainous as the Daks but not monotonous either. Canadian Shield campsites prevail with big rocks at the waters edge in the BW..not so the Dake though there is some of that, not nearly as much.

Kind of like the Adirondacks in mid summer. SRCW isnt much of a wilderness then either. Yes there is more room in MN to wander without running into a road. Its hard to get a 100 mile trip in the Adirondacks without running into some sort of vehicle or road.

I have a preference for Quetico (similar to BWCA) simply because I have always just been able to show up and go. While there is a permit quota at both the BWCA and Quetico, Q is far emptier. (Its easier to get to for me too). It IS more expensive. Going to Q led me further astray... some dozen trips to Wabakimi (very different from any of the others) and Woodland Caribou (again very different from all the others).

Closer to home if you can get to Canada, Algonquin Provincial Park is very similar to BW. Again it suffers from crowding in August and July, but in June and Sept it can be empty. (Its only 3 hours from Toronto). It too has an entry quota at each entry point but you should not have to compete for campsites. Its kind of a PITA but you have to reserve each lake for the nights you want to camp. That said in bad weather I have gone off permit a little and not had issues...but perhaps its because I was there June and September and had my pick of campsites. You just have to indicate what lake you will be on..not a particular site. There are non maintained routes. I have not taken them but I have heard on Algonquin Adventures that they are not for the faint of heart nor for those who want to see anyone.

And Temagami is similar to Algonquin, Quetico and the BW but on steroids.. With lots of waterfalls and quite hilly terrain, its a gem; even the portages are spectacular. No reservations required. You just get your permit when you show up. Parts of it require a Crown Land Camping permit which you can get at Finlayson PP. Temagami is about 3-4 hours north of Algonquin.

I guess for me the main issue with the BWCA is two border crossings( its 31 hours going through Chicago and 25 going through Thunder Bay) and my lack of understanding on how to get a permit and my confusion over how to register my canoe in Minnesota. I don't have any bills of sale. I could register it in PA..which I know how to do. I can't register my boat at home..they don't do it.

Is it possible to just show up at an EP and register your boat somewhere close?

I got motivated enough to find this link to reserve your EP in the BWCAW. It took a while

http://www.recreation.gov/wildernes...actCode=NRSO&parkId=72600&topTabIndex=Permits
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
1,820
Location
Schenectady, NY
Hmmm,

Thanks all for the insight. Boat registration? None of my canoes are commercially built nor do they have a HIN...I have been through the process of securing a HIN for some sailboats I have built, so that's not a show stopper.
The BWCA certainly does look appealing. Although, expansive lakes are definitely not my thing, I much prefer small waters...
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,392
Location
Raymond, ME
BWCA has plenty of small lakes. The first trip there was with our two year old. We picked a small lake route . A week..44 portages. I wish I remembered what the route was though Polly and Alton and Malberg were on the route. I think we went in at Sawbill that time.

One thing you will find there that you won't in the ADKs is more moose ; also wolves.
 
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
70
Location
Western NY between Buffalo and Rochester
Hmmm,
The BWCA certainly does look appealing. Although, expansive lakes are definitely not my thing, I much prefer small waters...

I came to the same conclusion, because my canoe and skills are better for small flat waters. I feel like I need to get there once though...and that might lead to far more!

I just wanted to add one to Yellowcanoe's list; Killarney PP. It is on the north coast of Georgian Bay and has unusual white quartzite peaks, ridges and rocks....very picturesque....different from the other Canadian Shield areas. People are now booking for July(5 months in advance on the reservation system) and it fills up fast. I just can't bring myself to pick what lake I will be on way ahead of time, I'm more spontaneous than that. The BWCA system sounds easier except for the registered canoe thing.

Maybe those with BWCA experience can describe some routes or entry points that avoid large waters. (There are lots of larger waters in the ADK's I avoid too like the Saranacs and Cranberry Lake...just not my venue)

I'd love to see some more pictures and trip reports from BWCA too.

Winter trip dreaming is fun!
Scott
 
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