West for Success – The BWCA and Quetico’s Best Kept Secret

Published On: June 14, 20205.4 min read
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BWCA Entry Point Crane LakeThe Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park covers well over 2 million acres, straddling an international boundary in the heart of the boreal forest. It’s as close to a wilderness experience that most people will ever encounter, but occupied campsites, busy entry points, and canoe races to packed portages are a daily occurrence especially in the popular portions of the BWCA. It’s an ironic surprise to many of the uninitiated, to travel great distance in search of solitude, only to find as many or more people in a wilderness area as they would on small local lakes throughout the country.

Great BWCA Access From Crane Lake

That’s where the western end of the BWCA has a distinct advantage. Less of a traditional entry point, the west-end of the Boundary Waters is a host of access opportunity found mostly through water, and originating from a motorized shuttle that puts paddlers to the head of the line. Mark Anderson of Anderson Canoe Outfitters serves this part of the wilderness area, and caters heavily towards anglers and remote nature seekers alike. “In a two hour boat trip, I can get you 50 miles in and shave off nearly a two-day paddle,” says Anderson, a fixture in the Crane Lake, MN area.

It’s an attractive option, in a portion of the BWCA that’s quiet in comparison to busy access areas throughout the rest of the wilderness area. Anderson notes, “We host a lot of repeat customers who won’t ever revisit old entry points because of how remote we can get them.” With a boat-ride head-start, paddlers get access to portions of the BWCA that are the very furthest from civilization. “That’s before we even start talking Quetico,” says Mark.

BWCA Quetico Crane Lake, MN

Explore Canada’s Quetico From Crane Lake

The Canadian portion is for anglers and adventurers that require even more distance, peace, and solitude. “It’s a popular option for us,” says Anderson, who notes “we can offer a similar experience in the BWCA, but the Quetico just doubles our available area to spread out guests and avoid crowding.” The Quetico does have more rules and restrictions than the BWCA, so it’s not for everyone, but between the two, there’s something for any kind of paddler.

Full Service Outfitters

Anderson’s offers the full gamut of canoe outfitter services too. “We offer everything from partial outfitting of just a canoe, to all gear, meals, packs and permits. Just bring your fishing stuff and you’re ready to go,” says Mark. Perhaps the best part of the trip however? They take care of all the permits, which are surprisingly plentiful given the sheer size of watery entry that guest can use. It’s a rare advantage to have so much water to access, which makes the vast western portion of the BWCA both remote, but also easy to access via Anderson’s canoe shuttle.

Get Fishing Tips and Current Conditions

For guests whose primary interest is fishing, Anderson is an incredible resource. “Our clients have brought some big fish to the canoes so far this year. A 22 3/4”, 7 ½ pound Smallie, a girthy pike right around 40”es, and a massive Walleye at 32 ¼”es,” says Mark. “We keep detailed tabs on where anglers are doing best, and we help anyone who asks by marking up maps and getting them the latest info. Most of our guests are anglers, and with constantly changing conditions, we know to help them out that fresh reports are best,” says Anderson, who has the pulse of fishing in the entire area. “We just hosted a group who did nothing but fish for smallies in the shallows using topwater flies, and were able to point out shorelines and points for them that would be successful.”

Anderson Outfitters BWCA Crane Lake

Easy Access For Younger Families or Older Guests

For many older guests, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to still enjoy the Boundary Waters. “I have groups that simply can’t portage like they used to, which isn’t a problem here. Lac La Croix and connected waters have so many remote bays and great fishing grounds with good camping, that I can turn them loose in a canoe without them ever having to cross land to get to lakes,” says Anderson. “It’s a great option for young families too, who want to get their kids involved but maybe can’t handle big portages and full packs.”

Anderson’s also runs a well-stocked convenience store and gas station in Crane Lake, MN, so you can drive up from the water when enjoying the area and get what you need. For anglers heading in, Anderson’s has an extensive selection of bait and tackle, especially items that are locally proven commodities. “We stock what works up here, and while that may change from week to week, I talk to the groups coming out to make sure we have what people need and want to fish with,” says Anderson. For folks that just took the shuttle back to civilization, “It’s really nice for campers coming out of the BWCA to get a treat, and be welcomed back,” says Anderson.

Crane Lake Is The Best Way To Access The BWCA and Quetico

Mark sums it up best by saying, “We’ve simply got the least amount of people and more fish, you just More solitude, and no fighting for camping spots.” It’s a rather undiscovered gem, and really, the best way to access the BWCA and Quetico. Whether you’re up for the fishing, or just looking for a head-start to get you to places that few have ever been, Crane Lake’s western edge of the BWCA offers your best chance for a true wilderness experience and all the benefits that go with it.


The Crane Lake Visitor & Tourism Bureau can assist you with ground, water, or air transportation, lodging reservations, group planning, meeting facilities, and any special consideration required to accommodate a unique condition or disability.

If you would like more information about the Crane Lake area or to access our Visitors Guide, please visit our Contact Page. Thank you for your interest in our beautiful area.

Crane Lake Visitor & Tourism Bureau
7511 Gold Coast Road
Crane Lake, MN 55725
800-362-7405 · 218-993-2901