Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) is excited to partner with your school for a leadership adventure like no other. Your Leadership Expedition (wilderness trip), will take place in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). You and your crew will learn to travel by a traditional and efficient mode of BWACW transportation, the canoe.
The Boundary Waters is a protected and pristine wilderness, with more water than land, and the canoe is well-suited for surviving and thriving in this biome, and it stretches across the northeastern border of Minnesota. The area communicates important stories about conservation, people and place. From geology, to mining and indigenous culture, the BWCAW invites curiosity, inquiry and leadership. You will be challenged to reflect on your place in the world, and you will be called upon to lead with your peers. There is zero light and noise pollution; this may be the first time you truly encounter the wonder of the night sky and really hear wilderness. Numerous lakes, islands and portages create great conditions for learning leadership. You will be part of a crew, and not a passenger. Together, with your peers, you will learn to survive, adapt and thrive in one of the most beautiful, interesting and challenging places on earth.
Your BWCAW Expedition is designed to support your compassion, resilience and leadership. You will travel in a crew of seven students, with two highly experienced, very caring Outward Bound Instructors. You will learn through the group and for the group. You and your peers will progress through Outward Bound’s time-tested and proven Theory of Change, found in the next section.
See what previous students have said about their experience:
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)
Over 10,000 years ago, continental-sized glaciers scraped their way across much of Ontario and northern Minnesota leaving deep ruts, ravines, and holes in their tracks. Eventually, as the glaciers melted, these ravines filled with water, creating a seemingly endless interconnected web of lakes and rivers.
In 1978, the United States designated over 1-million acres of this Northern Minnesota landscape as a protected wilderness area called the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Because no roads, power lines, or motorized craft may enter its borders, the BWCAW has remained relatively unchanged since the glaciers receded. The BWCAW extends nearly 150 miles along the Canadian border and encompasses more than 1,000 lakes and rivers. Over 1,200 miles of navigable routes lead to over 2,200 campsites and provide an unparalleled opportunity to travel by canoe and dogsled.
In the winter, the BWCAW transforms into an even more severe and remote wilderness. While more difficult, winter enthusiasts’ travel over frozen lakes and rivers by dogsled, cross-country ski and snowshoe. Winter in the Boundary Waters is mesmerizing, peaceful, and exhilarating. It is a place of spectacular extremes, trackless snow, bracing cold air, glowing warm embers, and powerful silence.
Homeplace, Voyageur Outward Bound School Basecamp, Minnesota
Homeplace is located at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. Situated where the Kawishiwi River meets Birch Lake in the Superior National Forest, the Voyageur Outward Bound School basecamp provides an ideal location for launching/ending BWCAW paddling and dogsledding trips, and practicing white water paddling skills. The surrounding boreal forest also makes Homeplace a great location for spotting moose, wolves, beavers, deer, woodpeckers, eagles and black bear.
Canoeing – It’s possible to canoe to the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans from the Voyageur Outward Bound School basecamp in land-locked northern Minnesota. These journeys, which take anywhere from 3 months or longer, always begin in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW); a million-acre protected expanse of interconnected lakes and rivers. It is also one of the most historically significant and remote wilderness areas in North America.
Because all Voyageur Outward Bound School canoeing courses are un-resupplied, groups paddle with absolutely everything they will need for their entire expedition, allowing students to journey deep into the wilderness. This type of extended wilderness experience, along with our highly-trained Instructors, help students develop and refine new expedition skills, cultivate a deep connection with the environment, form meaningful friendships, and develop a better understanding themselves through challenge and discovery.
During a Voyageur Outward Bound School canoeing expedition, students learn a variety of paddling skills to contend with diverse weather and waterway conditions as they canoe from campsite to campsite. Wind speeds tend to increase around noon and sometimes remain strong throughout the day. For this reason, groups will often rise early to take advantage of flat waters in the morning and then enjoy a longer lunch break as they wait for the windiest part of the day to pass. Paddling partners work together to steer and power their boats through rivers, swamps and lakes, usually traveling between 8 and 20 miles a day. Students also learn how to portage, navigate with a map and compass, cook over a fire or stove, and employ Leave No Trace® wilderness ethics.
Course End – All courses end with a shower, graduation ceremony and celebration dinner. Shower facilities are available at the basecamp.
The following is an example of what your course itinerary may look like. Your actual itinerary will vary according to weather, student skills and abilities, and instructor preferences.
Day 1: The course begins at the Duluth Airport before transporting to your first campsite near the Voyageur Outward Bound School basecamp in northern MN. Meet your Outward Bound Instructors, organize your equipment, eat dinner and sleep in tents.
Day 2: Participate in a half-day of rock climbing at a stunning outdoor rock climbing site before entering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to begin the expedition. Learn to paddle and portage a canoe, set up camp, and cook over a fire. Travel until it’s time to set up camp each night.
Day 3: Continue paddling and portaging from campsite to campsite as you refine your wilderness skills and get to know your group.
Day 4: Experience Solo. Take time to rest and reflect at your own little campsite on the shore of a lake. You will not travel during this time and your Instructors will check on you occasionally.
Day 5: Travel back to the Voyageur Outward Bound School basecamp. Clean your expedition equipment, experience the high ropes course, and enjoy sleeping in a bunkhouse.
Day 6: Participate in the Personal Challenge Event, shower, and attend a graduation ceremony before enjoying a final banquet celebration.
Day 7: Eat an early breakfast and depart for the airport to travel home.
Wilderness Leadership Expeditions
Theory of Change:
On Expedition, each participant learns and executes a specific role each day to support safe and successful group wilderness travel and survival, activating peer and personal leadership through trust and vulnerability. Participants develop character and community together-- more resilient and compassionate people, for a more resilient and compassionate world.
The Leadership Expedition develops key social-emotional skills across four Domains of Thriving, leading to vital character outcomes for success. Outward Bound promotes belonging, strength and purpose for developing leaders through hands-on intra and inter-personal skill development.
Belonging, Courage, Physical Engagement, Reflection
Minnesota’s weather can be unpredictable with a wide range of temperatures. In the summer the temperature tends to stay between 60 and 85 degrees. Summer brings occasional thunderstorms and rain showers. Expect cooler evenings, misty mornings, occasional rainstorms, and hot days perfect for swimming.
Up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination is required to participate in this program. You will need to provide proof of vaccination with your enrollment paperwork. COVID protocols on your course will likely include masking indoors, physical distancing, and testing on Day 1 & 4 of the course.
Please review our COVID-19 Practices page for all our pre-course and on-course policies.
Please utilize the resource below to physically and mentally prepare for your course. The more preparation you do, the better your experience will be!