Keep your binoculars handy as you glide through the glassy waters of the great north: Eagles soar overhead, bears forage in the dense border forest, and moose bugle in the long evenings. The price of admission? Numerous false channels, wind-whipped bays (see below), and rocky portages in this million-acre liquid wilderness. But come with sharpened navigation skills for this 38-mile point-to-point—and you’ll leave with an entirely new definition of solitude.
INFO Permits required ($28); enter lottery for summer trips from December 1 to January 15. (877) 550-6777; bwca.com. Get a CANPASS to cross the border ($30; allow 4-6 weeks; cbsa-asfc.gc.ca) and a camping permit for Quetico Provincial Park ($32; 807-597-2735; ontarioparks .com). Trip data: backpacker.com/hikes/30772
1. Trails End
0656793E 5337538N; mile 0
Ride the current into Saganaga Lake. Tip: Turn back and snap a digital photo of the river mouth to recognize it on the return trip.
2. Natural wind break
0653676E 5342000N; mile 4.7
Head for this protected channel between Long and Munker Islands—or use your GPS’s “Go To” to eliminate the guesswork.
3. Hook Island
0651259E 5343224N; mile 6.6
Wait in lee-side cove for a calm water crossing into Quetico Park.
4. Enter Canada
0647729E 5341754N; mile 9.1
Present passport at Cache Bay Ranger Station for a permit. Head 323 degrees northwest to channel across the bay.
5. Silver Falls portage
0644414E 5343884N; mile 12
Rocky, half-mile trail leads past foamy, 20-foot-high cascade.
6. Dead Man’s portage
0646219E 5349122N; mile 16.1
Scan pine trees for this .2-mile trail. Relaunch to the northeast.
7. Island camp
0648172E 5351166N; mile 18
Grill a smallmouth bass (use crayfish for bait) as dusk settles.
8. Cache Bay camp
0646903E 5341483N; mile 28.7
After side trip to petroglyph, camp across from ranger station.
See more trip options.