Boundary Waters Canoeing

Boundary Waters Canoeing for Veterans

Canoeing courses for Veterans draw on the healing benefit of teamwork and challenge amidst the pristine wilderness and beautiful vistas of the Boundary Waters.
These courses are designed to provide veterans and service members a chance to heal through hands-on opportunities to challenge themselves, both physically and mentally in a group that is working towards a common goal each day. Veterans’ courses build on individual strengths while reinforcing the positive aspects of military training.

Building camaraderie, establishing trust, sharing stories and validating experiences among fellow veterans allows participants to once again be a part of a unit working towards a common goal. Time spent in the wilderness enables the rediscovery of strength and peace of mind which helps work through the day to day aspects of civilian life.

Participants are considered crew and not passengers as they paddle and portage the serene lakes and unspoiled woodlands of Northern Minnesota.

Throughout the course, you will push yourself physically over water and through trails while working as a team to reach the next campsite on the horizon.

Come join us with fellow Veterans in an unfamiliar and protected wilderness to gain an appreciation for the awesome presence of the natural world and the vital role you play in it.

Course Area

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
Established in 1964, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a labyrinth of lakes and rocks that has been specifically protected as a true American wilderness; no roads, power lines, or motorized craft may enter its borders; therefore the Boundary Waters has changed little since its unveiling when the glaciers melted 10,000 years ago. Over 1 million acres in size, the BWCAW extends nearly 150 miles along the Canadian border. With over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, nearly 2,200 designated campsites and more than 1,000 lakes and streams, the BWCAW is an amazing place to experience the wilderness.

The BWCAW contains portage-linked lakes and streams, interspersed with islands, forests and crags. It has no piped water, prepared shelters or signs to point the way. Within these borders you can canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of the French-Canadian Voyageurs of 200 years ago. The Boundary Waters’ 1,200 miles of paddling routes offer outstanding opportunities for solitude, remoteness, teamwork, adventure, and challenge.

Veterans Courses
Outward Bound Veterans expeditions build on camaraderie and the challenge of the natural world as a pathway to healing. These expeditions encourage participants to connect with existing strengths and bond with fellow veterans in a safe, positive, mission-driven environment. As they harness the power of wartime experiences like carrying heavy packs, moving fatigued muscles and sleeping outside, these courses help build the self-confidence and sense of purpose veterans need to continue serving as leaders in their families, communities and the nation.

  • Build core skills: Veterans receive hands-on training on expedition and personal skills. As part of an inclusive, supportive crew, they gain communication skills, establish trust and validate experiences among other veterans.
  • Practice Outward Bound values: Instructors focus on Outward Bound core values like compassion, integrity, excellence, inclusion and diversity to help veterans reflect, share insights and live in the present moment.
  • Process and Reflect: Journaling, one-on-one and group discussions help veterans understand how Outward Bound experiences might translate to coping skills back home.
  • What participants learn: Veterans return home inspired, ready to tap into rediscovered strengths and eager to find new ways to contribute to society.

Listed below are a few of the activities:


During your journey, you will complete an extended canoe expedition. This expedition includes learning the art of paddling a canoe in a variety of water conditions as well as portaging, map and compass reading, navigation, expedition planning, and Leave No Trace® wilderness living. Paddling partners work together to navigate a variety of waterways such as lakes, rivers and swamps.


To travel between lakes or around challenging rapids, your group will work together as a team to carry packs and canoes over trails. Portage trails are rugged and often rocky and hilly. They vary in length from 10 yards to a half-mile or longer. The group will work to sensibly and safely distribute portaging responsibilities, as you work in teams to share hauling personal and group gear as well as canoes. Personal packs weigh at least 40 pounds and sometimes considerably more. In addition, your group will carry several heavier packs loaded with food and equipment; these packs weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. The canoes weigh 75 pounds.

Ropes Course

Looking out over the top of the boreal forest, the High Ropes Course is an incredible obstacle course set 30-feet in the air. You will test your balance; conquer the height above the ground while trusting your belayer to catch you if you fall.

Students will swing from Tarzan ropes, walk on tightrope wires, and climb a cargo net before jumping off the zip line for a smooth ride back to solid ground.


Weather and time permitting, an Outward Bound Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives you the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience through solitude and journaling in your own campsite.

On this one week expedition, your solo could last as little as a few hours to overnight. You will receive sufficient food, water, and shelter to keep you safe and healthy during this time.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Visit the Voyageur Outward Bound School frequently asked questions page to learn more about the application process, scholarships, what to expect, how to pack and where your course begins.

Upon enrollment on a Voyageur Outward Bound School course students receive a day-by-day course itinerary, detailed packing list, and detailed arrival and departure information specific to their course.

Scholarship Info

These courses would not be possible without the generous support of private donors. To make a difference in the life of a veteran please DONATE NOW.

Packing for a Voyageur Outward Bound School course

In general, Outward Bound provides sleeping bags, sleeping mats, rain gear, and all group cooking, camping and traveling equipment. Students need to provide their own clothing, footwear, toiletries and a few other items, like a headlamp and water bottle.

Traveling to and from the Voyageur Outward Bound School

MN Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students meet in the Duluth International Airport baggage claim at 1:00 PM on the first day of the course. Students typically return to the Duluth International Airport around 11:30 AM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 1:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

TX Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students arrive in El Paso, TX the day before their course officially begins.  Students spend the night in a local hotel (not included in course-cost) as directed by their Course Advisor. Students typically return to the El Paso International Airport around 1:00 PM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 2:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

Explicit travel directions will be shared with you after you enroll on a course.  Students should refrain from making travel plans prior to being approved for their course and receiving travel details for their specific course as the exact details may differ slightly from the directions listed above.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Veterans Wilderness Canoeing
Dates Days Age Tuition Course #

Boundary Waters Canoeing for Veterans Inquiry

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Boundary Waters Canoeing for Veterans Inquiry

Applicant Information


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