Over the course of the last year I have been cataloging and reviewing Boundary Waters Canoe Area campsites in the area and sharing them with anybody who is interested on our website. Along with pictures I jot down a couple of sentences about the site that helps to give people a general idea of what to expect. During the process of finishing up the Caribou campsites I got to the campsite on Little Caribou and thought it deserved more than a sentence or two.
Over the course of our season I hear about this campsite more than every other site in the immediate area combined; it is rare to go more than a few days without a group coming in and telling me they are going for the Little Caribou spot. It happens so often that I can see it coming from a mile away, they don’t even have to finish the sentence “so what do you know about that campsite on…” for me to know its the campsite on Little Caribou they are asking about. This is followed up by “we read about it online, and heard it’s a really nice campsite”. Based on the number of times I hear this and similar sentiments one would have to assume an endless keg of ice cold beer, a perfectly prepared cedar fire underneath a skillet filled with sizzling golden walleye filets and a never ending version of the best sunset you’ve ever seen would greet you upon first arrival.
With all that being said though I have stayed at the campsite on Little Caribou and it is a great site, but it’s not perfect. There are a few drawbacks to the site and the biggest one is the downright treacherous landing and subsequent climb to the actual site. The area around the canoe landing is very steep and it can be difficult to find the space to store more than two canoes. Some may not be bothered as much by this but one of the other down sides to this spot is its location on the lake and its effect on privacy. It sits at the pinch point of the lake and you will almost be face to face with the traffic moving from one end of the lake to the other, which will be almost endless in July and August. These downsides are greatly outweighed by what makes this spot special. The fire grate area is one the finest I have ever had the pleasure to experience, its elevated grate, perfect rock seating and lofty views to the west though without the beer, walleye, or perfect sunsets will make you feel like you are going to live forever. The tent pads are nice and flat and well away from the water to maintain privacy. Fishing right from camp from the nice drop off for walleyes is another bonus.
There is one other caveat to consider when talking about this and any other renowned campsite in the BWCA and that is the Catch-22 paradox and this has been my biggest fear about my campsite reviews in general: if everybody knows about it nobody gets to experience it. Don’t get your hopes up in anticipating the availability of this campsite as it is occupied almost every night from June-September, but don’t despair there are plenty of other fine options down the line. I don’t have hard numbers to support my claim that this site has 100% occupancy throughout the summer, but based on the reports from other paddlers and the fact that the latrine has moved three times (something I have never seen anywhere else) tells me this spot gets used a lot. I will tell you the same thing I tell people who get discouraged when I tell them about how popular the site is: somebody has to get it.
Campsite on Little Caribou Closing Remarks
I will finish with the thoughts I opened with when we rolled out the campsite review experiment. These opinions are my own, the grades I give these campsites are wildly subjective and any campsite in the BWCA is what you make it. I’ve never heard anyone remark “I remember my first trip as a kid back in 1975 we stayed at this campsite with two tent pads, mediocre landing and smaller than average fire grate area, overall I would give it a C+”. The memories created at these campsites will gloss over most of the negative aspects about campsite layout, and the memories are why we do it.
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