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How to Portage a Canoe Solo at Boundary Waters in 26 Easy Steps (Day 54)

September 11th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Before going on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip, I figured the hard part of portaging the canoe would be having to carry the canoe around. Not that carrying the canoe is fantastic or anything, just that — it’s more the inconvenience of having to unpack and re-pack every time than it is the canoe hauling. IMHO.

Here are photos to help you sympathize (empathize? I’ll take what I can get).

bwca_portage-landingStep 1: Land ahoy! Identify the landing up ahead (in this case, it’s where those rocks are on the right-hand shore).

bwca_land-the-canoeStep 2: Beach the canoe by paddling sort of hard and aiming the bow for a soft, rampy spot (if available).

bwca_climb-outStep 3: Carefully — *carefully* — climb up to the bow of the canoe and get out, making sure to maintain a low COG and balance all the way — this is expecially (you heard me) true if the landing is more rocks than sand.

bwca_haul-canoe-onto-landStep 4: Pick up the canoe at the bow and haul it the rest of the way onto land.

bwca_remove-bear-cannisterStep 5: Remove the bear barrel from the canoe and put it on the ground somewhere.

bwca_remove-backpackStep 6: Take your backpack out of the canoe.

bwca_attach-yokeStep 7: Attach the yoke to the canoe by lining up the clamps and tightening them down. Then, tighten them further.

bwca_empty-canoeStep 8: Take the plastic cover off your backpack, remove paddles, fishing poles, and anything else still lying around in the canoe, then take a picture of it all.

bwca_stow-pack-coverStep 9: Stow the backpack cover into one of the side pockets on your pack.

bwca_backpack-onStep 10: Put your backpack on. Almost ready to go, sport!

bwca_lift-canoeStep 11: Lift canoe over head. But don’t do it like I’m doing it in the photo — grab it around the middle and work it out that way. Trust me.

bwca_canoe-on-headStep 12: Put yoke around neck with pads on shoulders.

bwca_transport-canoeStep 13: Start walkin’!

bwca_arrive-at-put-inStep 14: Arrive at put-in location (the end of the portage).

bwca_put-canoe-downStep 15: Remove canoe from head. This will, 60-percent of the time, result in having your hat fall down over your face.

bwca_remove-packStep 16: Take off your pack and PFD.

bwca_cover-packStep 17: Put the plastic cover back over your backpack.

bwca_hike-back-mapStep 18: Head back to where you left the bear barrell and paddles. Maybe check out your map along the way.

bwca_put-on-barrelStep 19: Once you’ve arrived at the take-out, strap the bear barrell onto your back.

bwca_pick-up-paddlesStep 20: Pick up your paddles and fishing pole and whatever else.

bwca_carry-paddlesStep 21: Carry them back down the path toward the put-in location.

bwca_re-pack-canoeStep 22: Throw everything back into the canoe.

bwca_put-on-pfdStep 23: Put your PFD back on.

bwca_put-canoe-in-waterStep 24: Push, pull, and drag the loaded canoe back into the water.

bwca_get-into-canoeStep 25: Carefully get back into the canoe. This is trickier than getting out, especially on rocks (as shown).

bwca_shove-offStep 26: Sit down and shove off, matey! There are bigger adventures — and longer portages! — yet to come.

Anyway, point being: carrying the canoe isn’t that big a deal when it comes to portages. And it takes about 4x longer to do a portage if you’re trying to photograph yourself doing it. And to a certain extent, the portages break up the sometimes-monotony of paddling. And the trip I did didn’t have all that many portages (five each way, the longest of which was a half-mile). But every portage I did required me to hike the route three times (there, back, there), whereas people not doing it solo would probably only hike each one once.

C’est. La. Vie.

More to come on the actual, like, trip part of the trip. You’ll see.


  1. September 11th, 2009 at 22:00 | #1

    Enjoyed the “play-by-play” —

  2. Telkontar
    September 12th, 2009 at 09:21 | #2

    I want to live peak-to-peak — no valleys, no portage play-by-plays necessary for me. That’s why my plans for the day include a birthday party for an 8-year-old at a gymnastics center in Illinois.
    If you don’t see the island where the moose and the wolves play the circle of life, what’s the use of going up there? Take lots of pics at Ely Wolf Center.

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