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What types of trips are offered?

Northern Lakes Canoe Base (NLCB) offers three general types of trips, varying in length from 3-10 days in the woods (4-11 days total, including a pre-trip planning and training day). The in-the-woods experience is very similar for each type of trip.

Standard Trip – These trips are scheduled in advance throughout the summer and advertised through our council camp guide each spring. In-council girls often sign up for these trips individually or with a friend, and they are matched with up to six other girls who signed up for the same session. They range from a Get Your Feet Wet session (3 days in the woods) to an Old Pro session (10 days in the woods). Girls are typically dropped off by a parent at the Canoe Base outside of Ely, MN, on arrival day, and picked up on departure day. We also offer a Women in the Wilderness session each year for adult women who have always wanted to go on a BWCAW trip. The per-day cost for a Standard Trip is the same as the per-day cost for a Flex Trip. All-girl standard trips always have two trained guides. The council camp guide is available in February or March every year at our Council website.

Flex Trip – These trips are scheduled up to ten months in advance by Girl Scout troops or council-sponsored groups from Girl Scout councils across the country. The adults who are traveling with the troop or group typically go on the trip with the girls, and groups larger than 8 are split into smaller crews to comply with BWCAW's Leave-No-Trace regulations. Flex Trips are typically 5 days in the woods (6 days total). The per-day cost for a Flex Trip is the same as the per-day cost for a Standard Trip. Flex trips with adults have one or two trained guides. All-girl Flex Trips always have two trained guides. While we know moms/dads and daughters often want to be in the same crew, we have seen that splitting up moms and daughters leads to a surprising amount of growth. We even encourage you to consider splitting up into an all-adult crew and an all-youth crew! Contact us now to start looking at possible dates for next summer. These trips are also called Getaways on GSUSA’s website.

Destination – These trips are offered through GSUSA’s travel program for older girls, attracting individuals from all over the country. They fly into Minneapolis, where they are met by our staff, who escort the girls as they rock-climb and kayak in Duluth, and then drive to Ely for a 7- or 10-day wilderness canoe trip. These trips typically go into Quetico Provincial Park, the Canadian wilderness area adjoining the BWCAW. Destination trips are all-youth trips, so they are accompanied by two trained guides. Girls apply for Destinations in the fall, but should feel free to contact us later, as we often have openings even in springtime.


We offer three general types of trips, varying in length from 3-10 days in the woods (4-11 days total, including a pre-trip planning and training day). The in-the-woods experience is very similar for each type of trip.

What is a typical trip like? 

A typical crew might have five girls, perhaps one or two parents or troop leaders, and one or two trained Girl Scout guides (all groups will include at least two adults). The crew will paddle three canoes. The BWCAW limits group size to nine to maintain the character of the wilderness area.

Feel free to use Google Earth or another map to actually see the lakes described here, as they are real lakes that Girl Scouts travel regularly!

On Arrival Day, crews travel to NLCB, on the shores of Moose Lake, 18 miles ENE of Ely, Minnesota. They spend the rest of the day training and preparing for their canoe trip together.

On Day One, crews will launch around 9am into Moose Lake with all their packs packed and ready to travel. Moose connects to Newfound, where we often stop for lunch on the shore around midday. After lunch, we’ll continue paddling into Sucker Lake before taking our first portage (carrying our canoes and gear over land) into Birch Lake or Basswood Lake, where we’ll set up our tents, gather firewood to cook dinner, and enjoy a refreshing swim. Crews traveling to Canada will cross the international border at the portage! On Day Two, the crew might head to Knife Lake or continue into the Canadian Quetico via Lake Agnes or Lake Louisa, portaging several times and eating lunch along the way. Teamwork is key as Girl Scouts portage, with every girl having a buddy or two, and guides working with girls to make sure every girl is contributing in a way that is challenging but achievable for her. The crew again finds a campsite, pitches tents, cooks dinner, and perhaps sings or tells stories around the campfire.

Day Three (or the middle day of any length trip) is a layover day, so girls may sleep in, cook pancakes on the fire, and go exploring. Crews may visit "Root Beer Lady" Dorothy Molter’s old home on Knife Lake, climb Thunder Point's steep trail to a very scenic vista, swim in Louisa Falls, or paddle to see ancient pictographs left by indigenous cultures. Swimming, writing in journals, picking blueberries, resting, and having fun together are all great ways to spend a layover day.

On Day Four and the latter days of longer trips, the crew packs up gear again and may head toward Ensign Lake, doing two challenging portages into and out of Vera Lake on the way. Quetico crews may be tackling tough portages into Kawishiwi or Argo Lakes, or making their way down Silence, Sultry, Summer, Noon, and Shade Lakes in expert, coordinated short portages to reach Basswood Lake again. Again, teamwork is key on these portages, as girls take turns carrying packs and canoes, always with a buddy, and plenty of water and rest breaks. On this last night of the canoe trip, girls often want to cherish every last moment and the crew may stay up late to make popcorn, watch the northern lights, or stargaze.

On the final day of the trip, the crew breaks camp for the last time and paddles back down the chain of lakes to Moose Lake, stopping for lunch on the way. You 'll arrive back at the canoe base around 2pm, shower, pack up, and wave goodbye until next time!

Flip through a slide deck to see our smiles!

What happens at the end of the trip? 

On the last day of their trip, girls return to the base at 2pm, shower, have a snack, fill out an evaluation, and say goodbyes before leaving around 4pm. We cannot promise an earlier arrival to our base, as paddling conditions vary. It is reasonable to reach Minneapolis the same evening for a flight the following morning.

Do I have to know how to paddle or portage?

No! On your arrival day, after a warm welcome and introductions, the afternoon is spent preparing for the trip. All participants will learn to carry canoes, paddle, and swamp (submerge) and empty a canoe. You will practice your skills on your trip under the supervision of our trained guides, wearing approved life jackets (PFDs) while paddling, and portaging in pairs. These are very learnable skills, and you only need to bring a willingness to apply yourself! Your guide will help you sort and pack gear into our canoe packs. Everyone will get a chance to practice safety and teamwork in wilderness travel.

After dinner on the fire in the campsite area, participants learn about leave-no-trace principles and wilderness safety rules. Without compromising our seriousness about safety, we make the evening safety program fun and participatory for all. Crews sleep in their tents in our campsite area before departing by canoe on their adventure the following morning.

I'm in! Specifically, what trips are offered?

We offer trips with pre-scheduled dates for individuals or small groups, or if you have a large group, contact us to set up flexible start dates around your schedules!

11-Day Trips (10 days in the wilderness). Participate in route planning, navigation, and advanced camp skills while exploring some of the remotest areas of the Boundary Waters. Cost $740. Grade 9-adult.

8-Day Trips (7 days in the wilderness). Get off the beaten path and watch for wildlife, pictographs, and northern lights as you paddle and portage on a wilderness adventure. Cost $565. Grade 7-adult.

6-Day Trips (5 days in the wilderness). A perfect blend of challenge and relaxation. A great first trip into the Boundary Waters. Paddle beautiful lakes, try out portaging, and enjoy swimming, singing, games, and nature. Cost $455. Grade 7-adult.

4-Day Trips (3 days in the wilderness). Paddle beautiful lakes and take it easy while swimming, singing, and exploring near-by islands and bays. Cost $320. Grade 7-adult.

Destinations – North Country Rock-n-Wilderness (did you miss the application deadline? Contact us anyway to see if we have spots!)

Spend 7 days in the wilderness plus time for rock-climbing and kayaking in Duluth, MN. Ages 12-14.

Spend 10 days in the wilderness plus time for rock-climbing and kayaking in Duluth, MN. Ages 15-18.


Guide-in-Training: For girls ages 16+ who want to learn to lead wilderness canoe trips. Plan to attend a minimum of three trips to assure adequate training. Please fill out our interest form at the bottom of our Girl Scout Canoe Base Guides page and the Program Director will contact you.

Other Opportunities

Camp Care Day. Help prepare the camp by planting gardens, cleaning cabins, raking leaves, and more. Participants will receive a $15 coupon toward registration at any summer camp.

Touch the Wilderness. Girls in grades 4-6 can enjoy this short three-day adventure, including two nights of camping at the canoe base, and a full day paddling into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where they practice cooking on a fire and learn about the area’s natural and cultural history. On the last day, girls have the opportunity to hike to Ely’s Kawishiwi Falls and visit the International Wolf Center. Cook over a fire, sing songs, go for a swim, and spend two nights under the stars. Grades 4-6. 3 days, $225.

Canoe Base Sampler Day. Arrange a date with our program director to visit and explore the canoe base. Learn some paddling basics, meet the guides, and enjoy a floating lunch. The program runs from 10am-4pm and is usually of interest to Brownie and Junior troops within a few hours driving distance of Ely. $30

Canoe Base Visit / Free Paddle. Any troop or Girl Scout and her family is welcome for a free two-hour visit to explore the canoe base, practice portaging a canoe, go out for a paddle in the bay, meet our guides, or make a campfire. All ages, free. 

Women in the Wilderness. Take an all-adult trip with other wilderness women. Let your guides know what you want – challenging portages, relaxation by the lake, or both! For women of all ages, 18+. 6 days, $475.

Please contact to schedule.

What is Included in the Cost? 

The cost includes almost everything you would need for a canoe trip, including:

  • Canoes, lifejackets, paddles, maps, BWCAW wilderness permit.
  • All camp equipment, including tents, pots, dishes, stove, soap, fuel, water bottles.
  • Nutritious meals, with vegetables and meat. We eat “real” food in the woods and often bake dessert on the fire!
  • A first-aid kit and emergency radio.
  • Trained Girl Scout canoe guides with Wilderness First Aid, Lifeguarding, and CPR certification, and specific training in safe BWCAW travel practices.

You are responsible for bringing your own clothing, rain jacket and rain pants, boots, and a sleeping bag. With some notice, we can provide some of these items for some people in your group, from our large stash of donated and lost-and-found items. Contact if you'd like to inquire about borrowing gear for your trip.

What if I'm too young, or just not ready for a full trip? 

Our wilderness trips are open to girls ages 12-18 and adult women. If you’re not old enough yet for those, you can check out the canoe base at one of three different shorter options described above: Free Paddle, Sampler Day, and Touch the Wilderness.

NLCBAA works closely with Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines on promoting this small but mighty program.

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