voyage banner

Main | On the Water | Required Skills | Wet Gear | Webinar (5/30)

Registration is now closed.

Atikokan, Ontario to Ely, Minnesota

Exchange Program Goes International

By Lee Huckstep, PSA and Alex Nepple, SAA

The Exchange Program of your Philmont Staff Association, the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association and the Sea Base Friends and Alumni Association is pleased to announce the first-ever Exchange Program event to take place outside the United States.

The 2012 Exchange Program Voyage – August 22 to September 1 — is an exciting 9 day, 8 nights-on-the water paddling adventure where you will be able to experience the extremely remote interior of the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. This is a place where few others travel.

Voyageurs will begin their voyage near Atikokan, Ontario where the Northern Tier’s Donald Rogert Canoe Base is located, and will paddle in Canadian waters until the end of the trip when they cross the international boundary and finish the trip at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base near Ely, Minnesota. The voyage offers various routes ranging from easy to strenuous with lengths between 80 to 95 miles. Voyageurs who complete the trip will be awarded a participant’s patch from both the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base and the Donald Rogert Canoe Base – what could be a better deal?

Voyageurs will arrive Wednesday evening, August 22 (5 p.m.) at the Northern Tier’s Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base for dinner. After dinner voyageurs will begin outfitting and route planning and will spend the night at the base. The next day at 6:30 a.m. voyageurs will depart by shuttle to the Donald Rogert Canoe Base in Atikokan. Participants will enjoy a brief tour and lunch at the base. The voyageurs will then proceed to Nym Lake to begin their voyage. The voyageurs will spend the next 9 days and 8 nights (Thursday to the following Friday) exploring the wilderness and solitude of the Quetico – a place where wolves, bears, moose and bald eagles abound. (The fishing is rumored to be good, too.) On Friday, August 31 the voyageurs will arrive back at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base. Upon arrival, the voyageurs will be greeted by the beginning festivities of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association’s “Rendezvous” reunion. After breakfast on Saturday voyageurs have the option to stay for the Rendezvous weekend or head home.

Voyageurs will be responsible for

  • Participation fee. Includes Northern Tier program and Quetico Provincial Park camping fees.
  • Passport Book or Card. It is very important you apply well in advance.
  • Personal gear. After you register a packing list will be provided. Northern Tier provides most items including tents and stoves.
  • Crew gear. Individuals will be asked to contribute a few items the crew must provide (first aid kit, etc).
  • Transportation to and from Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base (Ely, Minnesota). As it takes about 5-6 hours to drive from the Minneapolis airport to the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base, voyageurs should plan flights which land no later than 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 22. It is even suggested that voyageurs travel to Minneapolis on Tuesday night. On-time arrival by 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Charles L. Sommers Base is very important. Car pooling will be organized to assist voyageurs in getting from Minneapolis to the base. Hotels are available near the airport and downtown, which is easily accessible by light rail.


  • Wednesday, August 22 – Arrive at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base (Ely, Minnesota) by 5 p.m. Dinner, outfitting, sauna and a good night’s sleep.
  • Thursday, August 23 – Depart by shuttle at 6:30 a.m. to Atikokan, Ontario. Tour Donald Rogert Canoe Base, eat lunch, check-in, and begin voyage on Nym Lake.
  • Thursday to following Friday – Paddle the Quetico Provincial Park.
  • Friday, August 31 – Arrive back at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base on Moose Lake. Another sauna.
  • Saturday, September 1 – Breakfast. Stay for the weekend reunion or head home.


As this voyage is longer than previous voyages – and in the Quetico – the cost is higher than past voyages. The adult participant fee includes $139 in Canadian fees; the youth fee includes $75 in Canadian fees. The fees are:

  • $750 per person for adults, $686 for youth under 18 for the full duration of the trip.

The fee includes the shuttle to Atikokan, trail food, canoes, paddles, most crew gear and a Northern Tier Interpreter. If the fee is a little higher than the tentative fee you will be billed for the extra, if the fee is lower you will be refunded the difference. Either way, the difference will be small.

A deposit of $250 should accompany your registration. The balance must be paid by July 1, 2012.


  1. Be a member of the PSA, SAA, SBAFA or voyage-eligible family member.
  2. Be a member of the BSA.
  3. Have a completed Northern Tier medical form.
  4. Be at least 13 years old by December 31, 2012.
  5. Present a completed Northern Tier swimming certification form. Non-swimmers are not allowed.
  6. Be in good physical shape.
  7. Have a valid passport or card and be permitted to enter Canada.

The swimming requirements are simple: jump feet first into water over your head, swim 75 yards in a strong manner using a forward stroke, turn over, swim 25 yards using a resting back stroke and then float motionless on your back for one minute.

Prior canoeing experience is not required, but it is helpful. If you do not have canoeing experience, pick up and carefully read (several times) the Canoeing Merit Badge book.

Voyage-eligible family members are your spouse, child or step child, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew or in-law who meets the eligibility requirements above.


Registration cut-off is July 1, 2012. Use the printable form or purchase online: adult, youth, or .