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

Books & Gear Guide

By no means is this a comprehensive list of the great paddling books out there, but here are the favorite ones in our library.

The links below go to AmazonSmile. AmazonSmile is a program where 0.5% of the proceeds go to your favorite charity. If you have not set it up yet, you will be asked to pick a charity. Many charities are available, both big and small, including the conservation organizations that Paddle Planner supports.

If you purchase using the links below, we get paid a small commission. You should also know that, for some reason, sometimes these books on Amazon are very overpriced. You can find the same books at many outfitters for a much more reasonable price. By purchasing from an outfitter, you also would be supporting a local business.


Cliff Jacobson has written many books about camping, canoeing, and outdoor skills. Above are just a few of them, but you can see the rest on Amazon.

Michael Furtman has several good books. His book on fishing is especially good. Fishing in the wilderness from a canoe has limitations that fishing from a motorboat does not. For example, you are limited in weight and space, so you probably cannot bring all of your tackle. Furtman addresses this and other concerns and gives tips and tricks for novices and experienced alike.

Magic on the Rocks is another great, and unique, book. Pictographs are scattered throughout the Boundary Waters and Quetico, and Furtman talks about each - where they are, what is depicted, and what they might mean. If you are interested in pictographs, you must get this book.

Route Planning

These three books are the definitive BWCA route planning guides that should be in your library. They have trip planning suggestions, route considerations, portage descriptions, and helpful hints and tricks.

There are not as many choices for books about Quetico routes, but the ones that have been written are excellent. Kevin Callan's book is very good and up-to-date. Beymer's book is an oldie but goodie. It was in my dad's library, and growing up I would lie on the floor reading it and imagine all the places I could go.

If you are thinking about paddling Manitoba's rivers, this book is a must-buy. It has detailed maps and explanations, including rapids, portages, and campsites. It is amazing how detailed it is. The authors, Hap Wilson and Stephanie Aykroyd, personally paddled and mapped rivers from the southern Manigotagan to the far northern Caribou River that flows into Hudson Bay. Despite the title, they also cross into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario and cover the Bloodvein and Gammon rivers. Really, you must get this one, even if it is just for dreaming.

Algonquin Provincial Park is popular, and there is no shortage of books on it. Kevin Callan's guide will give you a good idea of what to expect on any route.


Sigurd Olson was instrumental in the creation of the Boundary Waters as a protected wilderness area. This is his story.

Dorothy Molter, the "Root Beer Lady," lived on Knife Lake for over 50 years. She received her nickname because she would give root beer to passing paddlers. She was more the just the "Root Beer Lady," though. She was an amazing, independent woman that lived almost her entire life on Knife Lake in what became the Boundary Waters.

Janice Matichuk spent over 30 years as the ranger on Cache Island in the Quetico. She was a larger-than-life figure who was taken before her time.

Inspirational, Memoirs, Conservation, etc.

Both of these are exciting, real-life stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Lost in the Wild has two stories about, what else, people getting lost in the Boundary Waters and Quetico. Gunflint Burning is the story of the 2007 Ham Lake Fire. Cary J. Griffith is a great storyteller, and I am glad that he took on these projects. Highly recommended!

Amy and Dave Freeman spent a year in the Boundary Waters to bring awareness to the necessity of protecting this special place. This is an exquisite book, full of beautiful photographs and inspirational reflections.

Sigurd Olson was an instrumental and inspirational conservationist that helped bring the dream of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to fruition. There is nothing better than sitting around the campfire in the Boundary Waters reading one of his essays. You can purchase the books using the links above, but it would be better to purchase them through the Listening Point Foundation to support the preservation of Sigurd Olson's legacy.

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