2020-2021 preview: Northern Tier National High Adventure Program

Grab your paddle and venture into pristine wilderness as part of the Northern Tier National High Adventure Program.

During a 6- to 14-night trek of 50 to 150 miles, Northern Tier crews explore the natural frontier of Minnesota and Canada.

After loading their canoes with gear for the entire journey, Scouts and Venturers follow in the footsteps and paddle tracks of 1800s French-Canadian voyagers. They explore millions of acres of crystal-clear lakes, meandering rivers, dense forests and fascinating wetlands in northern Minnesota, northwest Ontario and northeast Manitoba.

In the winter, with Northern Tier blanketed in snow, Scouts and Venturers head north for the BSA’s premier winter high-adventure program. It’s called Okpik, and it challenges Scouts and Venturers to learn how to thrive in subzero temperatures, travel across frozen wilderness lakes and construct their own sleeping structures out of snow.

Because Northern Tier’s demand often exceeds available space, the base allocates spots using an online lottery system. The lottery for 2021 Northern Tier Wilderness Canoe Trips and 2020-2021 Okpik Programs opens Jan. 7, 2020.

Northern Tier registration and lottery info

2020The lottery for summer 2020 spots occurred in January 2019. However, some spaces are still available. Go here to see details; look for the button marked “Trip Availability.”

2021The lottery for summer 2021 reservations (and 2020-2021 Okpik winter reservations) will open at 9 a.m. Central Time on Jan. 7, 2020. It closes a week later: 5 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2020.

Northern Tier lottery tips

  • Entry into the lottery is online only. Register at ntier.org.
  • You don’t need to enter right when the window opens. Any entry within the window carries an equal chance of being selected.
  • Only one person per unit should enter the lottery; duplicate reservations from units will not be considered.
  • If you’re picked: Crews selected for a Northern Tier trek will be notified via email by Jan. 24, 2020. Crews selected in the lottery will need to submit their $800-per-crew deposit by Feb. 14, 2020.
  • If you aren’t picked: Any crews not selected will be notified by Feb. 1, 2020, and a list of alternate dates will be provided.
  • Remaining available trips will open on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Feb. 1, 2020.
  • Fill out this form to be alerted when the lottery is live.

What’s new at Northern Tier?

New winter program: Okpik-Kapvik

Because of the growth of Norther Tier’s popular Okpik winter program, the base has expanded its Okpik offerings to a second location. The Okpik-Kapvik program will take place at Gerber Scout Reservation in Twin Lakes, Mich. While the same base Okpik program will be offered, some new activities will be available, including Snowshoe Trekking and Fat Tire Biking. (There’s no dog sledding at this location.)

The program is the result of a partnership between Northern Tier and the Michigan Crossroads Council. Even though the program takes place at a local council camp, it is still a national high-adventure program, meaning it qualifies for the Triple Crown and Grand Slam awards.

Okpik Program celebrates 50 years in 2021

During the winter of 1971-72, military groups first came to Moose Lake for cold weather survival training. This program, was used as a bouncing off point for Okpik (the Inuit name for “Snowy Owl”), which was originally developed as an adult leader training program to be conducted in local councils or at the Moose Lake base. Scouts attending Okpik in 2021 will take part in the 50th anniversary of winter camping at Northern Tier.

Canadian Operations celebrate 50 years in 2021

During the summer of 1971, crews made their first adventures into the Canadian Waters, as the BSA explored options for Satellite Bases in Canada.  Eventually these programs/locations became our current operations of Bissett, Manitoba and Atikokan, Ontario.  Scouts attending Northern Tier’s Atikokan or Bissett Bases in 2021 will take part in a 50th anniversary celebration of these operations.

Other Northern Tier news you need

  • Fall is a beautiful time to visit Northern Tier, and the bases offer custom fall programming. This includes wilderness canoe trips, retreats in the conference center and more.
  • Participants must be 14 or have completed eighth grade at the time of attendance.
  • Summer programs at Northern Tier are located at three separate bases, in three distinct locations. You must arrive at the location you registered for.
  • Winter programs at Northern Tier are located at two separate locations. You must arrive at the location you registered for.
  • All summer participants must wear boots that have full ankle coverage, a rugged stitched or vulcanized sole, and drainage at the instep. Boots should not be waterproof. (Read why here.) Crews arriving with inadequate footwear can purchase boots in the trading post prior to their departure on the water.
  • Northern Tier can fully outfit you and your crew for winter programs. You will need to provide your own base layer, and Northern Tier will provide the rest. This means you won’t have to invest in lots of expensive winter gear you may never use again.
  • Staff positions are availableLearn more here.
  • Northern Tier makes special accommodations for Scouts with special needs. The bases have specialized equipment to serve Scouts with physical disabilities. Contact Northern Tier for more info.
  • 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.
About Michael Freeman 133 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.