Northern Tier is your gateway to pristine lakes, rivers and forests

High-Adventure Week is a once-a-year Bryan on Scouting event that celebrates the once-in-a-lifetime experiences offered at the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases.

High-Adventure-Week-2015---Northern-TierDespite being the BSA’s oldest national high-adventure program (in operation since 1923), Northern Tier was the BSA’s best-kept secret for years.

Not anymore. Registrations for summer 2016 are approaching the all-time high. It seems the word is out about the magical canoeing retreat spread among three Northern Tier bases: Ely, Minn.; Atikokan, Ontario; and Bissett, Manitoba.

Northern Tier is canoe country. Scouts and Venturers who enter Northern Tier’s wilderness each summer get to explore a vast series of navigable lakes and rivers. During the 6- to 14-day journey of 50 to 150 miles, crews follow in the footsteps and paddle tracks of 1800s French-Canadian voyagers.

Ready to experience the magic? 

Northern-Tier---Brian-Payne-12016 availability

Northern Tier opened its lottery for summer 2016 crew reservations early in 2015. Those openings are now scarce, but you can check here to see if any spots are still available.

Individual program registration, though, just opened. Here are the highlights:

  • NAYLE: The National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) is an exciting program where young men and women enhance their leadership skills through team building, ethical decision-making, problem solving and service to others.
  • OA Wilderness Voyage: The Order of the Arrow Wilderness Voyage program is an experience like no other. For two weeks, you will join Arrowmen from around the country and experience all that the Border Lakes region of Northern Minnesota and Ontario has to offer.
  • Forest Corps: Forest Corps is a coed, two-week leadership training course for outdoor enthusiasts. The course consists of 10 days of canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and includes training in conservation, Leave No Trace, field science and outdoor education.
  • Lone Voyageur: Want to attend Northern Tier but your Troop or Venturing crew can’t make it this year? No problem. The Lone Voyageur program allows Boy Scouts (at least 14 years of age) and Venturers to attend Northern Tier as part of a provisional crew.

2017 availability

For summer 2017, you still have time. Once again those spots will be allocated using an online lottery.

Registration for the lottery opens Jan. 5, 2016, and closes Jan. 8, 2016. Do it all at the Northern Tier website.

Northern-Tier---Beth-Wald-1Northern Tier in the winter

Who would visit northern Minnesota in the winter? Plenty of Scouts and Venturers, it turns out.

Scouts and adults from California, Florida and other temperate climes show their fourth-season fortitude at Northern Tier. They go dogsledding, head out for a ski, build a snow kitchen, stand on a frozen lake and dip their line through the ice-fishing hole. Learn more here.

Why Northern Tier?

I shared this during last year’s High-Adventure Week, but I have to share it again.

Bill Berklich, a Scout leader who took a Northern Tier adventure earlier this summer, wrote this letter thanking the staff.

This is probably my favorite line:

While I’m sure we could have found something cheaper, I strongly doubt we could have found something better. I believe the value in the program is because it’s designed specifically for Scouts. The Northern Tier Interpreters are focused on teaching Scouts canoecraft, woodcraft and leadership skills which is not something available from the other outfitters.

Other Northern Tier news worth reading

  • Noise pollution? Not here. No motorized machinery is allowed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park.
  • There are no set itineraries at Northern Tier. Participants work with a staff member to plan a route through the wilderness that works for their abilities and interests.
  • Northern Tier participants gain access to 4.5 million acres of wilderness. That’s about the size of New Jersey.
  • Northern Tier is open year round. Alumni, conferences and troops especially enjoy visiting in September and October to take advantage of fewer people, nice weather, fewer bugs and the beautiful autumn foliage.
  • In 2015, Boy Scouts successfully camped overnight in minus-36-degree temperatures with a wind chill in the minus 50s! No Scouts were harmed in the setting of this record; in fact, they had a great time!
  • Staff members at Northern Tier come from many different backgrounds. Some are college graduates, others are just graduating high school. Some are from the South, others are from the North. Some have years of experience, others have an enthusiastic willingness to learn new things. Throughout the summer, hundreds of staff from across the country and work as a team to create wilderness adventures that last a lifetime. Hiring has started for summer 2016. Learn more here.

How to register and learn more

Visit the Northern Tier website or call 218-365-4811.

Photos by Brian Payne and Beth Wald. Thanks to Keith Nelson at Northern Tier for the info.

About Bryan Wendell 3269 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.