Jump to content

Anyone been to Northern Tier High Adventure recently ?

Recommended Posts

I know Philmont is the 'mecca' of the scouting world. But, I was wondering if anyone has been to the NTHA lately? Specifically to Charles L. Solmers WCB? It was a trip my father made as a scout and one he took me on as a scout.


I am already looking forward to planning a trip with my son (how's only a Wolf right now). I'm sure its changed a great deal. I'm sad to hear the "Rootbeer Lady's" gone and her cabins torn down and relocated to Ely... What a sight to come into her camp for a root-beer after 5 days on the water drinking nothing but water and kool-aid!!!


Anyways - anyone have any info - I'd love to hear stories.

Link to post
Share on other sites



Our Venture Patrol did Northern Tier High Adventure Base in the summer of 2005, but we went to Atikokan Canoe Base in Ontario, Canada, and they loved every minute. When we got tired of paddling, we lashed our canoes together, tied our dining flies to our paddles, raised the sail, and cruised down the lake at about 4 knots per hour. There are very few places more beautiful than the North Woods where the loons lull you to sleep and the fish are huge and delicious :cool:. I highly recommend it!

Link to post
Share on other sites

We have always bypassed the outfitters and done our own thingy. It gets the boys more involved in the planning and execution of the event/trip. Planning a 9 day expedition without resupply and support is quite a challenge to plan out, but half the fun is the planning.


By the way, if one get's caught setting sail in the BWCA waters, they will have a fine and their permit revoked. No mechancial means to propel watercraft, paddle only. A sail, even if jury-rigged is mechanical. And of all the National Park Service people, the BWCA are by far the most sneakiest. They will appear in your camp and have looked over your stuff long before you even notice they're there. Great people, but don't be doing anything against the rules.







Link to post
Share on other sites

They may not apply in Canadian waters, but I do know that if one is in US waters, the rules apply. There are also some lakes where mechanical means, including motors are allowed. Better know the area and where one is, ignorance of the law is no excuse. The rules are provided with the permit applications.



Link to post
Share on other sites


I think you may be reading the rules incorrectly.

As of 9 years ago, paddle boats where allowed in the BWCA. They are no longer allowed because of the grease on the paddle wheels and bearings. When they talk about mechanical it means anything that has grease and such. I would bet my paddle that if an ranger saw canoes with a dining fly as a sail they would not say anything unless they where interfering with others canoeist.


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Hey JBlake,


Regarding your comment, "By the way, if one get's caught setting sail in the BWCA waters, they will have a fine and their permit revoked. No mechancial means to propel watercraft, paddle only. A sail, even if jury-rigged is mechanical."


Nothing could be further from the truth.


Sailing down a lake with the means mentioned in this thread is perfectly legal and it's practiced by many canoeists in the BW and Quetico.


I encourage you to reference the specific rule if you're going to make such a statement.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...



No other motorized or mechanized equipment (including pontoon boats, sailboats, sailboards) is allowed. All other lakes or portions of lakes within the BWCAW are paddle-only. Motors may not be used or be in possession on any paddle-only lake. Motor-powered watercraft are permitted only on following designated lakes:



On these lakes, the possession of one additional motor no greater than 6 horsepower is permitted, as long as motors in use do not exceed 10 horsepower.





North Fowl


South Fowl


Seagull (no motors generally west of Three Mile Island)


Sections of Island River within the BWCAW.


On these lakes or portions of these lakes, the possession of one additional motor no greater than 10 horsepower is permitted, as long as motors in use do not exceed 25 horsepower.



Basswood (except that portion north of Jackfish Bay and Washington Island)


Saganaga (except that portion west of American Point).














East Bearskin


South Farm






Little Vermilion




Lac La Croix (not beyond the south end of Snow Bay in the U.S.A.)


Loon River. "





Until the website changes, I would suggest sticking with the official comments from the people themselves.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok Stosh... you made me do it.


You did your homework by posting the rules and regs. I called the Ranger station today. Here's the answer and rule interpretation I got:


A canoe with a makeshift sail is not considered a sailboat, nor is it (obviously) considered a sailboard. Rigging a sail with a poncho between two paddles or by some other jerry-rigged fashion does not constitute a mechanical device and is legal in the Boundary Waters.


The lady said that store-bought "canoe sails" are not considered legal and the people in the canoe could (and she repeated 'could') be fined. They more than likely would receive a warning first and be told not to use it anymore.


I can only predict that Quetico would give the same answer.


Sailing in the fashion stated above has been done for years and years in both the BW and Q and I knew I was right about what constituted a mechanical device and what didn't. You just made me look a little deeper for the rule and it's interpretation. Thanks for that.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

We just took 3 crews to Northern Tier at the Sommers Base this Auguset. It was a fantastic experience for all involved. Even though we could only do a 6 day trip, we all had a great time. It was physically challenging, beautiful, and a growth experience for the boys. The scouts who went gain confidence and really bonded. They are the troop leaders this year.


That said, the trip had some limitations. You need to make sure everyone, scouts and adults, are in excellent shape or you won't have much fun. We went at the end of they year (second week of August) and, while the bugs were not a serious problem, two of our three guides from the base were clearly exhausted and didn't add much to the trip. The base seemed a little disorganized - maybe it was just our guides - so the leaders had to be on their toes asking questions. The show at the end of the trip was wonderful, though, and the training before was excellent. They information provided before the trip did a good job of letting you know what to pack and what to expect.


I will definitely be back with another crew in a year or two, but I might try one of the more remote bases next time. It will be much easier to plan having done it once. As for using other outfitters, I think that would be fine and some in our troop have done that. However, the scout base seemed to really have the issues of safety under control and that is important with scouts that age. They knew how to handle scouts and provided appropriate activities as well as the opportunity to earn badges. We'll go with Northern Tier in the future I expect.



Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm interested in leaders' experiences too. I have a 10 day BWCAW trip planned for my troop the summer of 2010. It's planned two years ahead because so many scouts and leaders could not physically or technically qualify today. (By "technically" I mean most do no know how to canoe, though some do have their canoeing merit badges. By "physically" I mean ... well... you know). We will be doing a lot of canoeing this summer.


We do not plan on using Northern Tier, primarily because they require we take along their guide and they require 3 scouts per canoe (though I believe you can request 2 per canoe and pay extra). I've talked to a few scouters who have used NT and I have not heard good things about their guides or their gear. But my investigation is limited so take it with a grain of salt.


There are many outfitters in Ely and Atikokan and my scouts will be choosing one. They've already received brochures and DVD's from 7 or 8. The outfitters tour the Boat, Sport & Travel shows in the winter and my boys will be going to ours to interview them. Picking the outfitter, deciding on how many days canoe, choosing the route, coming up with a fundraising plan, all these things are activities that keep their heads in the game and make winter a bit more tolerable.


So without stealing DeanRx's thread (I think), can you folks also comment on your experiences with private outfitters at BWCAW and Quetico?





Link to post
Share on other sites

We are making our first trip to Northern Tier this summer. From what I've learned, you can go with 2 per canoe, if you like to do a lot of walking. With 3 per canoe, a crew should be able to make a portage in just one trip - 1 carrying the canoe, 1 carrying the "kitchen", and 1 carrying all the personal gear. With 2 per canoe, expect to make multiple trips over portages.


Also, with 3 per canoe, the non-paddler can navigate, fish, rest or sleep.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For Mike R. (and perhaps others):


I'm going to share some very positive thoughts on going through Northern Tier so you can hear another opinion. This may be a little bit of a "soap box" speech (so I apologize in advance), but I feel very strongly about the NT program and what they offer to Scouting, particularly for a younger and inexperienced group of paddlers.


I will tell you upfront that my first experience with Northern Tier was about five years ago when I helped our Troop organize a canoe trip through the Sommers base at Ely, MN. We took three full crews of eight people each, most of which had never before paddled on an extended wilderness canoe trip. If they had any canoeing experience, it had only been gained with their families at the lake or at Scout camp.


Currently, I am a Venturing Crew advisor, as well as our council's volunteer high adventure chairman. We have sent council contingent crews to NT every year since I became HA chairman a few years ago. When I took the position, I chose to send our crews to NT vs the private outfitters, but before I did that, I did a lot of research on pricing, what programs were offered, gear - the whole nine yards. When I added it all up, especially after considering that NT is a national high adventure base of the Boy Scouts, I felt it was the right decision to go with NT as our high adventure canoeing opportunity. After many successful trips and another contingent going next summer, I'm convinced it's the right way to go.


Being an experienced Boundary Waters and Quetico paddler myself, I, too, questioned the need for "three to a canoe". The folks at NT assured me that for young paddlers, regardless of experience level, paddling (and more importantly, portaging) three to a canoe would be the most efficient and effective way of traveling that a group of Scouts could do.


I can assure you... after the first or second portage, I agreed! Here's why:


When tripping in canoe country, efficient canoeists single portage. That is, when they hit the portage landing, they get out of the canoe, grab all their gear, carry it across the portage, put it back in their canoe, get in and paddle on. The alternative to single-portaging is double-portaging where one carries part of the gear across the portage, walks back across the portage empty-handed, then grabs the rest of the gear and carries it through. Three trips vs. one trip. When you have a half-mile portage, you can walk a half mile or you can walk a mile and a half. Going three to a canoe allows one person to carry the canoe, one to carry the gear pack and one to carry the food pack. The pack carriers always will carry the peripheral items like paddles or fishing poles.


With young Scouts, you could go two-to-a-canoe, but then you're forced to put more weight on the kids' backs at each portage, or you have to double portage. What works best for you depends on your goals for the trip. In your post, you say you're planning a 10-day trip. I would assume you're not going to go in two or three lakes, set up base camp for seven or eight days, then paddle out? You're probably going to shoot for 50 miles, at least, (you'll do that easily, btw) and see some of the beautiful lakes and forests of the BWCAW. If your plans are to travel, you must plan to single portage if at all possible. The Northern Tier plan works beautifully that way.


The other advantage to having three paddlers per canoe is the duffer (i.e. the person in the middle) can be the official navigator for each canoe and can also paddle when necessary (maybe it's windy and you need some extra 'horsepower'). You can rotate who gets to be the duffer at each portage so everyone gets a chance to navigate, not to mention catch a little rest from paddling. You can't underestimate how important that is to younger Scouts or those who aren't quite as physically strong as others. You need to realize that you're not always paddling on glass or with a nice breeze at your back. Boys will get tired and two 14 year olds paddling a canoe loaded with gear straight into a headwind can be very tiring, not to mention, potentially dangerous if waves pick up. Three to a canoe works for Scouts!


Regarding the Interpreter...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding the Interpreter...


I'll say this about the NT Interpreters, they can become an integral part of your crew. They carry their share, cook their share, and do their share of the crew duties. They're also part of a 3-person canoe so they paddle and portage their share, too. Typically, Interpreters are former Scouts between the ages of 18 and 30 who love to paddle and have done canoe trips in the past. I don't believe this is always the case, but Interpreters are chosen, in part, because of their experience. Many are Eagle Scouts who have, obviously, had leadership positions in their respective Troops and know how to lead and do things the Scouting way.


From time to time, I hear stories about how certain crews can have a bad experience at Northern Tier "because of their Interpreter". This may be true, but it may also have something to do with the crew members themselves. Usually, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.


I'm a firm believer that if all parties live by the Scout Oath and Law, being especially aware of "A Scout is "Friendly", "Courteous", "Kind" and "Cheerful", crews can have a wonderful time with their Interpreter. He or she can be a valuable resource to each crew because they've been trained in Wilderness First Aid and are adept at navigating in canoe country. They may also be able to add to the crew's experience by sharing some Boundary Waters or Quetico history, being particularly skilled at fishing, knowing how to cook a great dessert that will top off a great evening meal, by being a great story teller around the campfire or being able to identify the constellations on a clear night. You never know what you'll learn from an Interpreter. I'd be willing to bet that there are plenty of Interpreters who get Christmas cards or at least thank you notes from their crews.


The bottomline is this - don't underestimate the advantages of having an Interpreter on your crew. Based on multiple experiences and feedback from our council contingent crews, they are great additions to the crew.


A few other points about Northern Tier:


They're very well organized at the base. Check-in goes smoothly, good off-the-road "Yurts" to sleep in, showers, sauna, and bunkhouses for off-the-water crews, good meals in the dining hall and a great trading post.


Gear at NT is good quality (some might say 'sturdy') so perhaps it's slightly heavier than what might be available at the private outfitters, but I have found that the private outfitters aren't afraid to charge for lightweight equipment. As I like to say, "it's kind of a horse apiece" as one balances the cost vs. weight thing. I can assure you this much, however. The gear you get at NT will work very well for you and you'll have a successful trip using it.


Remember this about the NT gear, though. Go through it all with your Interpreter before you hit the water and make sure you have everything. Checking the tent zippers, rain fly, etc. is standard operating procedure, but always check your cook kit and utensils so you have everything and are set. "Be Prepared".


I can't overstate the fact that you also earn the Northern Tier trek completion patch and can also buy other patches and memorabilia so you can remember your Northern Tier trek. Completing a trek at Philmont or Sea Base are no different than completing a trek at NT. You earn a patch that can't be purchased anywhere but by completing a trek at that respective national high adventure base. That patch is something you can be proud of forever.


I warned you upfront that I was going to get on my soap box a little, so again, I apologize for being a little long "winded". I've "been there, done that" with all the same thoughts you and your Troop are having and chose NT as our high adventure canoe trip outfitter. I've never second guessed my decision and have always been proud of the fact our Troop completed a trek through NT and our council contingents go there successfully every year. If you end up going to Northern Tier, it's my guess that you'll enjoy their program as well.


Good luck!(This message has been edited by Chief Decorah)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...