Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places

What's New?

March 29, 2022

Looking out the window, I can't help but feel excited. The sun is shining, the days are longer, and the snow is slowly giving way to grass. It won't be long now until I can slip my canoe into a quiet lake and dip my paddle into the still waters.

Here at Paddle Planner, we have been hard at work making your planning, and dreaming, a better experience.

New Look and Feel

Last year we introduced the new website design. This January we made the new design the face of Paddle Planner. Thank you to all those that gave us feedback on the new website and helped us make it better. We must give a special thank you to Josh Vermast, who voluntarily gave countless hours because he believes in what we are trying to accomplish. The design that you see mostly came from his vision of what Paddle Planner could be.

We know that some of you liked the old design. It has not gone away, and if you would like the address, you can ask us for it. However, we would encourage you to use the new site since we will not be updating or adding new features to the old one.

We continue to welcome any suggestions on improvements. We would not be where we are without your input.

New Membership Options

With the new features, we have revamped some of the membership options. The Map Enthusiast membership has remained largely the same with the addition of the new benefits. We have replaced the Premium membership with the new Expedition Leader membership. This change is more than just a renaming of the membership. In addition to all the old benefits, the Expedition Leader membership now has:

  • A Free McKenzie Map! (for annual memberships - details below)
  • High-resolution Map Image Exports (this is mostly relevant to the new map background discussed below)
  • 5 permit alerts (brand new feature)

We also added monthly options for the Map Enthusiast and Expedition Leader memberships. The annual prices are a much better value, but the monthly options will be valuable for paddlers that just want to plan that one trip or grap a GPX file before they leave.

We want to give a big thank you to our Premium customers. In the past, there was not much difference between the Map Enthusiast membership and the Premium membership except the price. To show our appreciation for their support, we are upgrading our Premium customers to Expedition Leader and giving them each a free McKenzie map. Details on how to redeem the map are below. Again, thank you for supporting us!

Free McKenzie Map

With our new Expedition Leader membership, you will receive a free McKenzie map! We have always encouraged people to bring a high-quality, accurate, water-resistant map, and McKenzie certainly fits the bill.

What does free mean? Well, it means FREE! We will pay for the cost of the map, shipping, and sales tax. Expedition Leaders can fill out the form on our website to claim their free map. The map will be shipped directly from McKenzie.

We encourage you to bring at least one good map, but more than one is even better! We can only give you one free map, but if you want to order more from McKenzie, we can pay for the shipping. Fill out the form to claim your free map and indicate you are going to buy more from McKenzie. You will be emailed a free shipping code. Then fill your shopping cart on McKenzie's website, enter the free shipping code, and check out. Your free map will be included with your order. (Be careful not to reorder your free map from McKenzie. They will ship the free map plus everything that you ordered on their website.)

McKenzie Maps covers many of the areas that Paddle Planner does, including a few that we don't. They cover the Boundary Waters, Quetico, Voyageurs, Apostle Islands, Isle Royale, much of the Minnesota Arrowhead region, and parts of Lake Superior.

We are looking at options to provide you with maps for the other areas that we cover, especially the Ontario parks. If you have any suggestions for covering these areas (i.e. companies to contact), please let us know.

Of course, we had to put certain restrictions on pricing and memberships, which you can read on Paddle Planner. If you have any questions about the offer, please contact us.

Missed that permit? Be alerted if it opens up!

As most of you know, getting permits this year has been difficult. At least, getting the permit you wanted is difficult… We have some new things to help you with that.

You can now view permit data directly in Paddle Planner. In Explore mode, click on an entry point (BWCA/Quetico) or campsite (pretty much any other park). You will see a small permit display at the bottom of the screen next to the location's other information. By default, the small permit display shows the permits for June 30th through July 2nd. You can change this date by clicking on the calendar on the toolbar. To view the entire season's permits for that location, click on the little permit display to bring up the entire calendar. Clicking on any of the available permits on the full calendar will take you directly to the reservation site.

Now for the really exciting part. We know that many people (including us) did not get our "first choice" permits this year. In all the parks, permits are snatched up as soon as they are available. However, we also know that many of those permits will not be used, and people are cancelling permits all the time. If you have an upgraded membership, you can receive an email if the permit becomes available. That way you don't have to check the reservation site every half hour - we do it for you.

Does it work? Yes! I personally have been testing it for the past month, and I have been receiving emails whenever a permit becomes available. For example, this morning around 5:30, someone canceled a permit for the Mudro Lake entry point on May 21st. I received an email 15 minutes later. For those that are not familiar with Mudro, this is a very popular entry point in the Boundary Waters. Almost all permits are reserved for the entire year, but now I know there is one available on May 21st. This permit was available for at least 8 hours, but it is now gone, and many people probably never knew it was ever open. Because of the alert I received, I could have reserved the permit if I had wanted it.

To set up an alert, open the full permit calendar by clicking on the location's small permit display. Then click on the date you are hoping to reserve. A little form will pop up (very little - it asks just one question). And that's it. You are signed up to receive an email if that permit becomes available. Also, make sure your email address is up to date since that is where the alert will be sent.

The number of alerts that you can have depend on your membership level. The higher your membership level, the more alerts you can set up. There are other websites that provide a similar "permit alert" service, but they can charge over $100 per year just for the permit alerts. And they don't have the other cool stuff that we have!

You can view permit data and receive alerts for the Boundary Waters, Quetico, Voyageurs, Sylvania, Quetico, Algonquin, Killarney, and Frontenac. We will add the Apostle Islands, Everglades, and Yellowstone soon.

Of course, we cannot guarantee that you will get the permit that you want, but your chances will be much better if you receive an alert. We check and update our permit data every 30 minutes. We also cannot guarantee that the alerts will continue working since we rely on third-party websites for the data. If, for some reason, we can no longer get the permit data, we will let you know as soon as possible.

New Background Option

While there are already many map backgrounds to choose from, this one is special. We urge you to check it out. On any map, go to Settings, Map, and switch it to "Paddle Planner Vector (experimental)." As the name suggests, it is still experimental, but it seems to be working well. This background uses a different technology than the rest, and it offers many possibilities for the future. We will continue to work on it. In the meantime, let us know what you think.

New Maps

In the beginning of 2021, we added Wabakimi Provincial Park to our expanding list of maps. Since that announcement, we have added several more:

We are currently working on Temagami, which has often been requested.

With any of our maps, please let us know if you find any mistakes or things that need to be updated.

We Listened to You! Options to Customize the Maps

When we released the new website preview last year, we heard two suggestions quite often. The first request was a way to hide the portage lengths. Second, many people wanted the map's "fullscreen" option to fill the browser tab instead of the entire screen. Both have now been added.

To get to the options, first make sure you are signed in. Then click on the Settings button on the map and expand the Other Options section. The new options are the first two shown on the list. (Note: the options will not appear if you are not signed in.)

These settings are saved to your account, so they will be applied on whichever computer or browser you are using as long as you are signed in.

Receive Messages on Paddle Planner

We added another way to communicate in addition to email. You may notice a yellow message alert at the top of the screen. Click on it to see your unread messages. You can receive messages from us, fellow paddlers, permit alerts, and a few other things. To view all your messages, go to My Messages in your account.

New Prices

We know that no one likes change, but it has been 6 years since we looked at the prices on Paddle Planner. This is not the same website as it was 6 years ago, so we decided to update the membership prices, too. You can see the new prices on the membership levels page. We still believe that we are a great value in helping you plan, and dream about, your canoe trips.

With the new prices, we also updated the discount that you get for contributing to the website. As we promised years ago, if you contribute, you will be rewarded. For those of you that did not know that you can get discounts for contributing photos and campsite reviews, well, here you are.

We also promised years ago that we would never charge for accessing the paddling community, and we stand by that promise. Campsite reviews, photos, portage comments, and trip reports will always be free to everybody. The free membership options have NOT changed with this update. Everything that was free before is still free now. Some of the new features, such as viewing permit data for entry points and campsites, are free, too, so you should have even more tools to use now, no matter which membership you have.

Since the beginning, our tagline has been "From Put-In to Take-Out." For a long time, this was more of a goal than reality. With these newest additions, Paddle Planner can truly help you from start to finish, from the initial dreams in the middle of winter to maps while on the trail. Happy paddling!


Ben, Auralee, and Jay

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