High-Adventure Week: A look back at Northern Tier

HAW-MondayNorthern Tier National High Adventure Base is the oldest national BSA high-adventure base. Scouts first took to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters in organized treks as early as the 1920s. The “Region 10 Canoe Trips” were organized by the area council, and deemed suitable for older Scouts and Explorers.

In the early ’40s, a base was constructed and named after the Region 10 Chairman, Charles L. Sommers.

Today, this destination includes three canoe bases that make up Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases — from the original location in northern Minnesota (outside of Ely) to its bases in Northwest Ontario (Atikokan) and Northeast Manitoba (Bissett).

Northern Tier isn’t just known for canoeing treks, but also its OKPIK cold-weather camping programs.

Take a look back at some snapshots from the Scouting magazine archives, featuring the popular canoe base. Plus, we’ve included some images from this summer to help give you a glimpse at the excitement to come in future trips.


A canoeing trek at Northern Tier helped solve this young man’s “senior Scouting problems.” (Scouting magazine, March 1944)


A Quetico canoe trip (based out of Northern Tier) was ranked as one of the top 20 high-adventure trips to envy in the ’50s. (Scouting magazine, February 1956)


 The Charles L. Sommers High Adventure Base is the “place to go,” as noted on this illustrated cover. (Scouting magazine, January-February 1983)


An Explorer cross-country skis during the OKPIK program at Northern Tier in 1993. (Scouting magazine, January-February 1993)

NorthernTier_Lights A 2014 snapshot of the Northern Lights over Moose Lake at the base, shared on the Northern Tier Facebook page. “Like” the page for lots of updates, including great photos like this one.


Fishing at Northern Tier, courtesy of the base’s Instagram feed (2013). Follow @NorthernTier on Instagram for even more photos.


A crew setting off for their summer 2014 adventure. Photo by W. Garth Dowling.


Northern Tier OKPIK visitors enjoy sled-dog adventures. Photo by W. Garth Dowling.

– By Gretchen Sparling


  1. Northern Lights Council has an arrangement with Northern Tier for a Troop to have a crew during their week of summer camp. You need to sign up by Dec 15th of the year before your week in camp. If there is not enough interest, you get a refund of the Northern Tier cost.

  2. I and my family put in on Moose Lake in July 1969, for the 1st time. I was 13 yrs old – I paddled in the stern of a fiberglass covered Old Towne canoe. We returned to the Boundary Waters at least 15 more times. The last time was 2 years ago, when my parents invited my family and I, my sister, my brother and my brothers daughter and husband to spend a week in a cabin on Snowbank Lake. Always fun and always a good time

    My Dad (RIP) was staff member at the “Region 7 Canoe Base” in Wisconsin in the late 1940’s – at that time Charles L Sommer base was known as “Region 10 Canoe Base”

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