I’m thankful to Chicago Voyagers for giving me an adventure of a lifetime. ... I feel a sense of accomplishment for not only paddling over 50 miles, but also making a positive impact on so many kids that need help.
— Vikram, past paddler

Take the Challenge... It's a WIN-WIN!

All levels of experience welcome. Pre-trip training is provided. 

Learn from our experienced leaders:
• Wilderness navigation & weather reading
• Efficient portaging & campsite selection
• Enhanced canoeing & portaging skills
• Leave No Trace environmental stewardship


How It Works

Chicago Voyagers utilizes a Give-Get fee structure for this trip. The cost per paddler is $500 (this fee is only half of comparable guided BCWA trip rates of $995), plus your commitment to fundraising a minimum of $500 to directly support the low-income, at-risk youth served by Chicago Voyagers. The final group will be limited to 9 paddlers – trips are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. The trip is 8 days – 6 days are spent on the water. Despite our rigorous canoeing (50+ miles) and portages (up to 20), you can expect plenty of time set aside for swimming, fishing, hiking, or simply relaxing!

Sat. 8/20 – drive to Ely, Minnesota (overnight accommodations in Ely)
Sun. 8/21 early morning – canoe entry at Lake One
Fri. 8/26 – canoe pull-out on Moose Lake (overnight accommodations in Ely)
Sat. 8/27 – drive back to Chicago

Included: Transportation from the Chicago area (we take two personal cars and provide a $100 rebate for drivers) and reservations in Ely for the nights of 8/20 and 8/26 are included, as is all group gear, canoes, food in the BWCA, and tents. Incentives for top fundraisers!

Extras: You will need to cover your own meals in Ely and along the drive, a fishing license if you desire one, and all personal gear.


Contact us for more information

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It was a wonderful way for me to experience the Boundary Waters, meet a terrific group of people, and support an organization that contributes to the quality of life of many young people across the Chicago area
— John G., past paddler

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do it?
Have you ever wanted to go on a canoe trip to the BWCA but needed someone to organize it? need people to paddle with? need experience and know-how? just need to unplug and get-away?

We can help with all of it! The loons are calling – get away and experience pure nature by day, and magnificent skies by night. Develop skills and know-how from our expert leaders, and build new relationships through the natural camaraderie of our 9-person team (2 experienced Chicago Voyagers BWCA leaders and 7 like-minded outdoor/paddling enthusiasts). While there’s no doubt it’s hard work, you’ll have plenty of time to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy the serenity and beauty of the BWCA.

Can I do it?  I’m just a novice paddler, but I’ve dreamed of doing a BWCA trip . . .

Of course you can! The BWCA Benefit Paddle is designed for adult paddlers with all levels of experience – our leaders will provide pre-trip training when necessary to ensure you are comfortable and confident. A wide variety of people travel in the BWCA, many are over the age of 50 and our leaders have gone with youth as young as 12 years old. You only need a moderate level of fitness (no major health issues such as a bad back, or heart problems for example), a can-do attitude, willingness to wear a PFD while on water (for safety and insurance reasons) and of course, a few good friends to support your fundraising efforts. Please note, we do collect medical and emergency information from all participants.

Can I support a paddler's fundraising efforts?

ABSOLUTELY! Please click on the name (link) below to support our youth through one of our participants:
Bob Faber, Randy Pfeifer
Top Fundraiser INCENTIVE – for your efforts you receive a custom-made wooden paddle built to your specifications. 

Interested? WHY NOT do it?

Reserve your spot below with a deposit of $250 (first-come, first-serve until full) – second payment of $250 will be due June 20th. Group training and planning sessions will be in April/May (at least one paddling session with be held at a local lake to practice canoe rescues and other safety skills). We’ll work with you individually beforehand to make sure you’re ready; group final planning in mid-July.

Please complete the online form below, or mail a check with your contact information (daytime phone and email) to: Bernie Rupe, Chicago Voyagers, 318 N. Elmwood Lane, Palatine, IL 60067.


Comments from Our Past Paddlers

“I’m thankful to Chicago Voyagers for giving me an adventure of a lifetime. Amazing journey back in time. Wouldn't have been possible without Randy and Bob's leadership. They knew exactly what to do, and their experience made us feel safe on our adventure. They were super patient with my zillion questions before and during the trip, and were flexible with food preferences, etc. I feel a sense of accomplishment for not only paddling over 50 miles, but also making a positive impact on so many kids that need help.”
– Vikram

“The trip to the boundary waters provided a complete break from every day routines and stress. It was a wonderful way to live in the moment and enjoy the serenity of the surroundings.”
– Marian C.

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in a Chicago Voyagers trip. It was a wonderful way for me to experience the Boundary Waters, meet a terrific group of people, and support an organization that contributes to the quality of life of many young people across the Chicago area.”
– John G.

"Oh, wow- I was very comfortable and happy with the leaders. Really. Both Bob and Randy have terrific attitudes. They are competent, confidence-inspiring leaders, warm, respectful and enthusiastic. Each has an individual style, but they share a sincere openness to feedback and ideas. Randy and Bob’s attitudes undoubtedly helped the group feel comfortable with the adventure and each other.”
– Jessica R. 

“Superb leaders, surprisingly really good eating, hiking, paddling, swimming, fishing, star gazing, this trip has it all and for a truly bargain price.”
– Helen