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Campsite Hunting

6/11/21 – With permits filling up and the busy season shifting early and hard into gear, I’m reminded of an article I came across while exploring the Sawbill archives this past winter.  “In Search of Campsites,” written by Jay G. Huchinson and David W. Lime (autumn and winter 1972 edition of Naturalist), discussed common travel patterns that still ring true today.

After digging into the data from a Forest Service “BWCA Trip Diary” survey of about 1,100 groups of campers; Hutchinson and Lime found that only a few groups break camp as early as 8am, almost two-thirds were gone by 10am, and pretty much everyone else by 1pm.  They also make note that “crowding is seldom seen farther back on the canoe trails.”

“Congestion on some portages helps explain why many groups have difficulty finding an un-occupied campsite.”

For best campsite availability I recommend getting an early start to your trip and traveling at least a few lakes away from the entry point.  Finding a place to land by early afternoon is preferred, as things really start to fill as the day wears on.  This also gives time to deploy a backup plan if your initial destination is already full.  Personally, I like to move camp most days of my trip in order to explore more of the Wilderness and put even more distance between myself and the crowded entry points.  -Jessica