High-Adventure Week: Grab your paddle and head to Northern Tier

Pristine waters, impressive waterfalls and secluded forests await Scouts who head into the backcountry of Minnesota and Canada.

It’s canoe country, but summertime isn’t the only time to find amazing treks.

Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases accommodate adventures into that backcountry all year long. Summer adventures offer chances to paddle across the many lakes there; in the winter, Scouts can travel across the snow by snowshoes, skis or dogsleds as part of the Okpik program.

Northern Tier registration 

The 2024 summer registration is almost full, and 2025 summer registration opens Jan. 18, 2024.

To register, crews will choose between two trip options depending on the base they are attending:

  • Sommers Base in Ely, Minn., for seven- and 10-night trips.
  • Rogert’s Base in Atikokan, Ontario, for eight- and 10-night trips.

You can also sign up for updates via the BSA’s high-adventure page. To Be Prepared for the best possible experience on registration day, make sure your My.Scouting account is up to date.

What is Northern Tier?

Scouts who visit Northern Tier’s wilderness can explore millions of acres of navigable lakes and rivers. Crews follow in the footsteps of 1800s French-Canadian voyagers.

In Ely, you can choose:

    • Seven- or 10-night summer expeditions paddling into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park.
    • Three- and six-night autumn expeditions.

In Atikokan, you can choose eight- or 10-night expeditions paddling into Quetico Provincial Park or into the Canadian Crownlands.

You can also choose “Base to Base” expeditions, in which you start at the base of your choice and spend 10 nights paddling through the Canadian Crownlands to the other base.

In the winter, Northern Tier hosts Okpik, where Scouts experience a true Northwoods winter at the Ely base. There, they learn how to thrive in subzero temperatures, travel across frozen wilderness lakes and construct their own sleeping structures out of snow.

Other Northern Tier news you need

Participants must be 14 or have completed eighth grade at the time of attendance.

Autumn expeditions include:

    • Three-night “Get your Feet Wet” programs. Designed for younger Scouts, this is an introduction to canoe camping.
    • Six-night fishing expeditions, designed for those who want to catch lots of fish. The guide assigned to these expeditions will have extensive fishing experience.
    • Six-night canoe expeditions: a traditional Northern Tier canoe experience with the added benefits of fewer insects, cooler days and fall colors.
    • “Build Your Own Adventure.” If none of the traditional Northern Tier autumn adventures work for you, give the base a call and they will help you design dates and programs that will meet your needs.
    • Adult canoe expeditions: Northern Tier will accommodate adult-only crews during its autumn adventures.

All summer participants must wear boots with full ankle coverage, a rugged stitched or vulcanized sole, and drainage at the instep. Boots should not be waterproof. Crews arriving with inadequate footwear can purchase boots in the trading post before 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.

Northern Tier makes accommodations for Scouts with special needs. The bases have specialized equipment to serve Scouts with physical disabilities.

Participants can work with a staff member to plan a route through the wilderness that works for their abilities and interests.

Worried about noise pollution? Not at Northern Tier. No motorized machinery is allowed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park.

Northern Tier is open year-round. Alumni, conferences and troops enjoy visiting in September and October to take advantage of nice weather and the beautiful autumn foliage.

About Michael Freeman 445 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.