Question about motor boats in BWCA

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Question about motor boats in BWCA

Postby sackhouse80 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:02 pm

We are just back from our first 8-day trip to the Boundary Waters, and for the most part loved it immensely. What a gorgeous place! Of course having been there once, we'd change some things the next time - like not starting from Moose Lake (where the outfitters was) and heading east during the busiest weeks of the year.

That noted, however, we really were shocked at the number of and behavior of some of those driving motor boats on Moose and Sucker Lakes. Perhaps this especially hit us as half our group were young teenagers, many of whom had little canoeing experience, and who several times were cut off by or almost run over by those driving these boats (including transport boats) at what seemed to be high rates of speeds.

What's the story behind this? I know there is a 25 hp limit on the lakes, but what about a speed limit, or some kind of courtesy policy? This IS a canoe area right? Shouldn't canoes have the right-of-way and wake curtailed in their vicinity (particularly at times of high canoe traffic?)? From what we observed, just the opposite was the case.
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Re: Question about motor boats in BWCA

Postby VoyageurNorth » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:45 am

Most times the towboat drivers are pretty courteous. They try to stay away from canoeists when at all possible and usually travel the middle of the lake unless there is a low spot/rocks that cause them to veer closer to the shoreline.

But I can't say for the rest of the people who take their rented/own motorboats up there. I'm sure some like to "hot-rod" it and some just don't take too much notice of the canoers and the problems they have with the waves, etcetera that a motorboat creats.

Do canoes have the right of way, hmm. I don't think one has the preference over another but I should think that a rule sort of like "do no harm" is probably one the Forest Service would have.
Not to commercialize, but just to let you know I am one of those "outfitter types" :-)

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Re: Question about motor boats in BWCA

Postby BWCA Blog Lady » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:17 pm

We have tow boats on Saganaga Lake that is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We can use up to a 25 horsepower motor as can anyone who has a day use motor permit. We instruct our tow boat drivers to slow down to be courteous to people paddling even though slowing down causes a larger wake, it's perception. We also instruct our drivers to make sure none of the canoes have troubles(like getting swamped).

There are areas on Saganaga where there are reefs and tow boats must avoid these while canoeists can pretty much paddle anywhere. Sometimes canoeists will paddle 4 canoes abreast and the towboat driver has to get close to them in order to not wreck the motor.

We find most motor boat users on Saganaga, what few there are, are quite courteous to paddlers.

Before the area was made into the BWCA motors were allowed everywhere. There were cabins on the Minnesota side of Sag and there are still cabins on the Canadian side of Sag. While almost all lakes are now canoe only, negotiations were made for motors to have access to the area as well.

Almost all entry points are canoe only so in order to avoid future problems I would suggest entering at one of those entry points. There are plenty of lakes for everyone to enjoy. I hope your next trip into the BWCA is even better.
Happy Paddling,

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Re: Question about motor boats in BWCA

Postby VoyageurNorth » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:59 pm

Good reply Sue! We don't actually do tows ourselves on Moose Lake, we hire Willie Vosburgh to do tows there, so you have more experience with this kind of thing.

As outfitters, we can only try to control our employees conduct, right? Can't do anything about the public except report them if necessary.
Not to commercialize, but just to let you know I am one of those "outfitter types" :-)

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