It is my hope that the owners and proprietors of Tuscarora Lodge, Andy and Ada, will accept my apology for this long-overdue review that was promised to them after our 2016 summer BWCA adventure. I was reminded of the outfitters while listening to Morning Edition yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio who acknowledged the Tuscarora Lodge for programming support. Please allow me to thank them for their contribution to public radio.
*Ada, I further apologize as I mispelled your name on my tripadvisor.com review.
My wonderful girlfriend and I are avid outdoor enthusiasts and are no strangers to back country camping. I began searching for regions in the BWCA that I wanted to visit and I have always been enthralled by the Ham and Cavity Lake fires and their effect on the ecosystem. That said, I also wanted to be immersed in the lavish wilderness that only the BWCA can provide.
I submitted "contact us" inquires to most of the outfitters along the Gunflint Trail ranging from Gunflint to Seagull Lake requesting basic information. I stated that we had, or would provide, most of the required gear and that we were interested in a portage pack rentals and a Kevlar canoe. Andy from the Tuscarora Lodge responded within 24 hours with a pleasant email confirmation that they could satisfy our requests and non-sales driven invitation to give them a call if we had any further questions. 2 days later, I had a very informative brochure in my mailbox. No other email correspondences came from any other outfitter in the time that it took Andy to have a brochure at my door... Though I would eventually be contacted by other outfitters, most were rather pushy in their equipment, lodging and meal packages that we were were not interested in.
I was enjoying the 2015 December HolAday season with my family who was very interested in hearing about the BWCA trip that we were planning for the following summer. I am not sure what drove me to do it but I picked up the phone before I realized that I was calling Tuscarora Lodge on a Saturday, which happened to be the day after Christmas. Andy picked up the call in 2 rings. I felt bad and apologized, asking if this was a good time to entertain some basic questions. Andy's enthusiasm to help, understanding of my preliminary research, and suggestions related to our trip planning prompted me to submit the deposit for our reservation that day. Between December and June, Andy would check in to from time to time to confirm that our BWCA permit dates were secured and also to provide some local fishing reports. May and June were very dry months leading up to our trip and a quick phone call to Andy set me at ease concerning any fire bans.
Upon arrival, the grand beauty of the Gunflint Trail was not hindered by the lodge and it's surrounding buildings, despite the swarm of mosquito (which Andy had warned us about), the grounds were clean and organized. Andy greeted us kindly and asked if he could be of assistance. I jokingly replied that we had come to "buy a car". Though I use this joke often at the barbershop, Andy went in to a slight panic as he had recently sold a Suburban on Craigslist, questioned himself as to if he removed the add, and began to apologize. At that point, formally introduced myself and steered away from the icebreaker. Andy had our gear prepared for us, as little as it was, and began to go through the formalities of the BWCA permit. Andy asked a couple of qualifying questions to reassert our outdoor capabilities and once he felt comfortable, he sped through the process, provided us with our permit, marked some points of interest on our map, provided up to the minute trail and portage conditions, and offered us the option of a sleeper house if we arrived late upon our return. Andy joined us at the shore to demonstrate a few tips and tricks for loading gear and entering and exiting the canoe and sent us on our way.
While I could go in to great deal on the trip itself, I will briefly state our route as this is a review of the outfitter and not a play-by-play of our epic adventure. We put in at Round Lake at the dock of Tuscarora Lodge and proceeded to Entry Point 52, Brant Lake. Our destination was Gillis Lake to establish a base camp and then explore the surrounding areas. We put in around 11 am and I would recommend leaving a little bit earlier even though there was plenty of light left to establish camp on the far side of Gillis in the middle of June. On the journey, we could see the effects of the fires which mostly effected the north side of our route: Round, West Round, Edith, Brant, Gotter, Green, Bat, and finally Gillis Lake. Bat Lake and its surrounding area seemed to be the most effected. While at base camp, we explored the surrounding areas but due to bad weather, we had to do so with caution. Gillis Lake can get quite chippy when windy. I do not recommend making a solo trip across Gillis Lake in windy weather in a light canoe. We did have one glorious and sunny day to travel to Tuscarora Lake and on our way, we encountered a pair of rangers to which Andy later stated, is less common than seeing a moose... We didn't see any Moose. The rangers were quite friendly and asked to see our permits and as I had fishing gear, verified my MN licence as well. They offered a couple of friendly tips and sent us on our way.
During the week we spent in the BWCA, I can only recall seeing around 10 people (back and fourth) on the portages and maybe another 5 or 6 groups traveling across Gillis while at base camp. Needless to say, this is a very nice and remote area to get away from it all. On still nights, you will hear other groups camped on Gillis as sound travels very well across the lake. All the same, this did not hamper our trip in the slightest and the majority of campsites are place some distance from each other and mostly out of sight. .
Our return to the outfitters was quick and easy as we had become accustomed to paddling and portaging. It takes about two days for the body to break in to the posturing and muscle movement required for such a trip if one is not previously prepared. Bring Ibuprofen. We must have gotten a late start that morning as we did not arrive back to the lodge until shortly before closing. Andy offered us use of the shower house and even kept the lodge open for me so I could purchase a couple of souvenirs and most importantly, two cold craft beers. Hands down, these were the best beers of 2016!.
Though our time an interaction with Andy and Ada was brief, they were very accommodating and friendly. If their hospitality expands to the rest of their services, I am confident that one would not find any unexpected surprises and have a wonderful experience. What topped the trip off for me was something so small, but so very kind, that Ada did for me after we had left and were making our way back home. My mother had called the lodge as we had not checked in (do not expect cell phone service on the Gunflint Trail and embrace it). Ada greeted my mother and confirmed that we were fine, had gotten off the water a little bit ago, and that we probably hadn't check in yet as we were en route to Grand Marais. When my mother told me about this, I was a little embarrassed as it reminded me of being in High School which was more than 20 years ago. My mother said that Ada was very kind, friendly, and understanding of her concerns. Though a trip in to the BWCA may be out of my mothers ability, she stated that if she were ever to travel to the Gunflint Trail, Tuscarora Lodge would be on her destination list. Thank you, Ada, though that may seem like a small gesture, but it meant the world to my mother and that means the world to me.
For our experience, I will list the following ratings:
Booking: 10 out of 10 - All correspondences were prompt, friendly, and done so without a sales pitch.
Pricing: 9 out of 10 - I only provide a less than perfect score as there are cheaper options available along the Gunflint Trail. That said, the price differences were minimal and only equated to a $30.00 - $50.00 difference for our entire week. Though I cannot compare Tuscarora Lodge to cheaper options at this time, our investment was well worth it and I feel as though we were provided a premium service at a competitive price.
BWCA Location: 10 out of 10 - The destination is a must see for anyone wishing to experience the BWCA. There is plenty of wildlife and an abundance of isolation. Truly a slice of peace and tranquility. While some may shy away from the fire damaged areas, it should be recognized that the effects of man (Ham Lake Fire) and nature (Cavity Lake Fire) are a part of life. Though Ham Lake was accidental, fire can and will happen. This area offers a diversity of old and new forests that can be enjoyed by any outdoor adventurer.
Customer Service: 11 out of 10 - Andy and Ada went out of their way to provide excellent information and make us feel welcome. They catered to our requests with sincerity and taking the extra effort to assist my mother was icing on the cake.
Overall Experience: 10 out of 10
Thank you Tuscarora Lodge and I have and will continue to recommend your services.
We recently took a canoe fishing trip in the BWCA. It was our second such trip; father and two sons. This time we brought some friends along. We went out for a week on the Gun Flint Trail departing from the Tuscarora Lodge. We had a great trip but unfortunately on the last night our friend, Mike Kline, passed away in his tent while we slept. It was a tragic event. One of those things that you’re shocked and not sure what you should do next. We had to leave him and get back to the Tuscarora Lodge to get help. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Ada Igoe and Andy McDonnell and everyone else there that helped us through the ordeal. They took over the situation and handled it in the most professional and compassionate way. Also the people from the Gunflint Fire and Rescue Team were most professional and courteous. Thank you also to the people at the Gunflint Lodge who were very kind in providing us with lunch and offering us any help we needed. Also thank you to Deputy Chris Schrupp of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department . You never know what each day will bring and it is very comforting to know there are people like the one’s in your community that are willing to help complete strangers who are so far from their own homes during such a hard time. Thank you and Bless you all.
The Kline family, Mitchell, SD
The Vlasman family, Mitchell, SD
The McNeely family, Talking Rock, GA
I made my first trip up to Boundary Waters the weekend after Labor Day, and couldn't have done it without Tuscarora. Their super extensive website helped clue in this rookie to routes, equipment, and logistics. Their flexibility in booking was completely unexpected and made planning super accommodating. They were quite tolerant of a plethora of phone calls in the week leading up to our departure, shoring up last minute details.
When we finally made it up, the bunkhouse, hot breakfast, and shuttle service provided a seamless send off. Plus, after a few days in the BWCA, the hot shower on the tail end was a must. We had a fantastic first trip, 5 of us rookies and 1 second-timer. We will certainly be back and will happily work with Tuscarora again to do so.
My daughter and returned last week for a week in the Boundary Waters. This was my first time using Tuscarora, and it wasn't long before it became clear that they are different from my recent experiences with outfitters. The equipment was in good condition and very clean, as was the bunk house. Andy helped us with a route that gave us some challenges, but also allowed time for rest days in camp. I would highly recommend the Liz Lake to Cross River route (we took the northerly route and avoided Brule where we were prevented from crossing last year for three days due to high winds). There are a couple challenging portages, including over a beaver dam that at first we didn't believe was our portage; but we got through it safely and will make for great memories.
Tuscarora has become a recent favorite for myself and my elderly Mom. Cabin 2 at waters edge gives us an easy access, rustic, front row seat escape into this wonderful wilderness. Ada and Andy make the reservation process easy and our arrival ever so welcoming, with the sweet "Welcome' sign pointing the way to our cabin 'home' for the stay. It's been a pleasure to have been guests upon their first year, and thereafter @ Tuscarora......A favorite is the trickling sound of the creek that runs alongside Cabin 2, singing you to sleep, including the foot bridge that leads to a wonderful hiking trail, rising along Round Lake. Lucky are those who visit in early June taking this trail, to be greeted by several beautiful Lady Slippers and Bunchberry Dogwood flowers. There is nothing that can replace the view from the windows or when seated in the adirondack chairs in front. Bliss, peace, everything stressful simple floats away... Another great perk is the canoe or Kayak that is included in the rental for a great paddle on beautiful Round Lake. Another thing I enjoy about staying @ Tuscarora, being an entry point for BWCAW trips, is being able to greet & talk with groups heading out or in from a canoe trip, and hearing details about their experience. Being here is always a gift. A gift of memories made, with loved ones, new friends, and Mother Nature. We WILL return.
Highly recommended. I needed a canoe for a six day trip exploring BWCA. It was an extremely smooth and pleasant process from start to finish. It could not have been any easier. Making the reservation was quick, pick up was immediate, and someone (I did not catch her name) literally had our car keys waiting for us when we dropped the canoe off at the dock. Excellent service all around and everyone was very pleasant. The canoe I rented was in very good condition and performed admirably during the trip. They also had fuel I needed for stove on hand. Great location with several entry points and good route planning options. I did not stay at the cabins, but all the facilities I saw were clean, organized, and well-maintained. I will definitely be using Tuscarora for any outfitting needs when I return to the area.
We were looking for a resort along the Gunflint Trail that had kept the wilderness as part of its surroundings. Tuscarora Lodge & Cano Outfitters on Round Lake and butting up to the BWCAW turned out to be wonderful. From our cabin at Tuscarora, we could canoe Round Lake and fish and swim. We also were in the area of hiking trails and dirt roads to catch close looks at the beautiful plants, birds, and critters. The cabin and entire resort was well taken care of and clean. In driving around to see other resorts in the area, this one was the best for us. We would and hope to return.
After canoe tripping in the BWCAW and Quetico for 55 years without a miss, and often multiple trips each year, it finally had to end. Unfortunately, at 78 it has become unsafe for me to paddle, portage and camp. Several acquaintances had mentioned staying at Tuscarora Lodge or using their outfitting facilities over the years and always highly recommended it. Of course over 55 yrs there have been several owner/operators. When I could no longer actively participate in the canoeing scene I still needed to be close to the BWCAW, and Tuscarora Lodge has been the perfect answer. I was fortunate to have visited Tuscarora several times while Sue and Andy were the resident owners and now have had the great pleasure to witness the transition of ownership to Andy and Ada. I happened to be visiting the week of the actual transition of ownership and from all appearances it was smooth and seamless. The best to Andy and Ada in their new endeavor and looking forward to reading the skilled blog Ada has begun penning. Hope to return for at least a few more years..
Our first time in BWCA and at Tuscarora! The bunkhouse was perfect for the 4 of us with nice mattresses and very clean. Showers and Lav's were also very nice and kept quite clean. Staff were very helpful and friendly. Breakfast was super too! Wish we could have stayed longer. Should have asked to see one of the cabins (for next time)! 3 days to get there . . . but quite worth it. Thanks
Thanks to Sue Ahrendt and the knowledgeable and helpful staff at Tuscarora Lodge for helping us find the right route, letting us know about the tougher portages, and providing us with great gear. Your expertise, warmth, and professionalism are greatly appreciated. Tuscarora is a great place to start and end your journey. Thanks guys!
Your resort exceeded my expectations. The grounds, the buildings, and your equipment are kept in top shape. The bunkhouses are simple, but provided a great night of sleep on they way out and coming back in. The french toast breakfast was unbeatable. It was convenient to pick up our permits from you and launch right from the dock. Your family and staff are knowledgeable and experienced. I particularly enjoyed hearing Dan recount his experience of the Ham Lake forest fire. I hope to be back before long.
I just wanted to say thank you to you guys for the advice on how to fish Lake Trout and providing us with a canoe. I've been up in the spring before and done ok fishing but this was the best I've done so far for lake trout, thanks to Andy's advice along with advice from some of the boys cleaning the canoes.
I really did enjoy working with you folks. I was the only member of my crew that had been out in the Boundary Waters before and I was glad to see that the gear was in good shape and the food was first rate. I’ll definitely recommend you for a BWCAW trip.
I want to extend our thanks to you for your kindness and generosity extended to us on our recent trip. Andy, I appreciate the time you spent with us going over routes, making suggestions to accommodate Cindy's injured foot, and and personally sending us off at the Cross River landing. You went beyond just a business dealing and genuinely cared about our trip. Thank you. Sue, we very much enjoyed our conversation with you afterward. Benjamin is seriously considering your offer of employment, and would like to follow up on that offer when the time comes. Both of you have the gift of hospitality, from which we greatly benefited. Also, it was a delight to meet your son, Daniel, who picked us up at Windigo. He was a cheerful host and great conversationalist.
All the equipment worked well and we were more than adequately equipped for our trip. The food was a highlight, with generous quantities to accommodate the appetites of our sons, and such excellent quality and variety. We looked forward to opening each meal pack to find what delight was in store for us. A special thanks to Allie for her careful packing of the meals.
What really makes your outfitting service stand out is the care you have for your customers. You genuinely desire for your guests to have as good an experience as possible, and you do all you can to ensure a good trip. Thank you for your generous hospitality. Blessings to you, your family, and your crew.
Shannon and I really had a great time once again at Tuscarora and the Boundary Waters. Your hospitality, friendliness and expertise cannot be beat! Thanks and Cheers
Thanks so much to the crew at Tuscarora. This was our first trip to the BWCA. We felt very welcome, and were impressed with how clean and organized everything was. We were set up in the bunk the night before, then sent out with the right gear and given expert recommendations and suggestions to make our experience amazing.
Despite the crazy cold winter temperatures, we truly enjoyed our beautiful winter get away! The cabin was amazing and such a cozy place to relax in after being out in the elements. Thank you for a wonderful experience!
What a wonderful winter get-a-way! Beautiful cabin, wonderful host. Loved it all. Thank you for your hospitality!
I would love to return to Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters. Our cabin was perfectly outfitted for a comfortable stay and spotless clean. The décor lent to a very authentic wilderness feel with nice furnishings and very comfortable beds. Rachel and the crew there we helpful and extremely knowledgeable about the area. They led us to a remarkable vacation of hiking and kayaking seeing all the BWCA had to offer. The wildlife we saw was awesome; Canadian Lynx, bear, deer and a Moose. The weather and fall colors, October 2013 was amazing and Tuscarora Lodge exceeded our expectations!! Loved it!!
Spent three days there Oct. 23013. Loved the cabin. It was spic 'n span clean, modern, well equipped, and sat right on Round Lake, a beautiful, quiet setting. The management (Rachel, assisted by her pooch Lucy!) was very friendly and helpful with information about the local hiking and kayaking. This is an extremely beautiful and remote area of Minnesota and America. Saw a Canadian Lynx, a bear, a deer, a bobcat, and a female moose. It was tough to leave and we 'd like to return.
We had a great trip and everyone was impressed with the bunkhouse, breakfast, boats, and showers! Can't wait to book our trip for next year. Thanks.
We are infinitely grateful for introducing us to the best of BWCA experience in such a nice way. We were really happy to discover such traveling as a perfect endeavor for our family. We also feel really fortunate to get to know you and your wonderful children. We hope ours will turn our part as well.
We all love our time spent at Tuscarora - LOVE it. And, oh the stories we could tell. Each year, of course, holds its own special memories. But, I think this year's memory will be when Gram ran and jumped off the end of the dock...the kids got a kick out of that!
See you next summer!
7/25/13: We stayed in cabin #2 for our first visit to Tuscarora Lodge last week. We loved it! It was exactly the North Woods experience that I wanted after several years of tenting, moving to a pop-up trailer, and now moving further up in the world to a cabin! No, it wasn't fancy, but is sure was cozy and so close to the lake and babbling creek that we sure enjoyed the scenery and being able to push off in a canoe whenever it pleased us. Thank you, Ahrendt family and staff for your hospitality and services!
Nita and Larry
I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know what wonderful service we received during our brief stay in one of you bunkhouses prior to our journey into the BWCA. The accommodations at the bunkhouse were exactly what I had expected, but that is not what sets you apart from other accommodations I have received from other outfitters. As an avid (maybe crazy) outdoor enthusiast I have come across all kinds of customer service but I have never seen the level of personal attention that you provide. It was if I was dealing with a close personal friend. It was the perfect beginning for what was to be another outstanding adventure into the wilderness. Thank you and keep up the great work!
Sue, thank you for the hospitality and welcoming environment. We all enjoyed our time at Tuscarora—what a beautiful spot on earth! Best to you and your team for making our trip so memorable!
Tuscarora’s location is spectacular. I’ve left the crowds at Ely and Moose Lake behind in favor of Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail. Located on the western elbow of the scenic Gunflint Trail, Tuscarora is placed smack dab in the middle of the wilderness. From there, the number of routing possibilities will keep you paddling new routes year after year.
Throughout the pre – post trip process, I always felt like both of you were really listening to and understanding our group’s needs.
This summer was the second time I have stayed at Tuscarora. In one sense I didn't have a choice where to stay. However Cal has come to Tuscarora on so many trips and has always spoken so highly of it I don't think I would want to go anywhere else. Different owners had Tuscarora the last time I was there but you have kept the same spirit about the place which is wonderful. It is clean, efficient, comfortable and friendly. There is enough to do if you want to and yet you are not bothered if you want to be alone. This year after experiencing a little of other outfitters by taking the basket weaving class and the canoe races, I truly appreciated Tuscarora even more. I really liked the young people's (your workers) attitudes and behavior. I felt safe around them and knew you all were there to help if needed. I like the quietness of Tuscarora rather than so much of a resort atmosphere. Little Cabin 2 was a wonderful retreat. Just enough to make it homey, but simple enough make it relaxing. Since I am not a fisherman or even a boat person I really enjoyed the land, watching the lake, seeing the other lakes and looking for wild life. The grounds are well kept and attractive. The lake mesmerizing. You have kept this area of God's creation beautiful and available to everyone. I thank you for that. People that drive by the Tuscarora sign on the Gunflint Trail don't realize what could be waiting for them down that dirt road. May you continue to pour yourselves into Tuscarora because it shows how much you care for the land, the business and the people.
The magic of Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters is found in the owners: Andy and Sue Ahrendt. They have a deep abiding love for the Boundary Waters and helping others to experience this unique wilderness is what they do best. From reservations to routing, you work directly with Sue and Andy. They have a great staff of able college students helping them outfit your journey. But it is Andy and Sue who are there to greet you. It is Andy and Sue who make sure you are ready to go. It is Andy and Sue who help you determine your route through the wilderness. It is Andy and Sue who have paddled the places you will paddle. As Outings Director for a huge Scout Troop, I send at least two crews a year to the Boundary Waters and some years as many as five. We’ve used other outfitters. But we’ve returned time and again to Tuscarora because of Andy and Sue. At other outfitters, I’ve felt like just another rushed customer in a busy line of eager canoeists. And getting good route information was the luck of the draw being assigned a staff member who may or may not have experience. At Tuscarora, I feel like a treasured client, that my individual trip is important to Andy and Sue. There are other crews coming through at the same time. But Andy and Sue carefully handle each group with intelligence and an easy state-of-mind. This gives me the confidence that I need when setting out on a canoe trek, together with a slower pace of living that I always seek in the wilderness. Tuscarora’s location is spectacular. I’ve left the crowds at Ely and Moose Lake behind in favor of Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail. Located on the western elbow of the scenic Gunflint Trail, Tuscarora is placed smack dab in the middle of the wilderness. From there, the number of routing possibilities will keep you paddling new routes year after year
Andy & Sue, After a year of working with 500 students and their parents, telephones ringing, cell phones, faxes, E-mails, web pages, school board meetings, fifty occasionally upset employees, making budgets stretch, conducting school safety drills from criminals and terrorists, and this week the death of three students in a car wreck. I want a place where the telephone doesn't ring, my cell phone doesn't work, and there is no television. It is me vs. the fish. I can read or relax. I was in the BWCA when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and I didn't know until I tried to buy gasoline in Duluth. The price was three times higher than a week and a half before. Thanks for providing a refuge from the stress of life. The people at Tuscarora want me to have a pleasant, enjoyable vacation. Whether I bring a group of high school boys with trash bag packs or a group of business associates who are going first class, they have always treated us with care, concern, and respect. The equipment is first rate and clean. I actually like most of the pack food, except the carrots, and I am always thankful how they manage to pack fresh food that stays fresh for days with no refrigeration. A fellow principal came with me after having gone out through Ely a couple years before. At Ely he had been basically told "fish in the blue and camp in the green." He was amazed at the detailed preparation and quality of equipment at Tuscarora. He returned the next year with his wife, and several years later brought his two boys. His only regret was that his wife caught more fish than he did. One year I brought my best fishing buddy for what we hoped would not be his last trip. He had been to Tuscarora several times with me when he was healthy. On this trip his oncologist said the only restriction was to not let Bill carry more than ten pounds. He had just had a complete colostomy. We put him in charge of his own tackle box and rod. The folks at Tuscarora found a route that included only two moderate portages and with a long tow got us on the fish the first day. We base camped and caught more than three hundred fish in four days. Bill caught smallmouth, pike, lake trout, walleye, and largemouth. Though tiring, he had a great trip. The next month they found bill had a brain tumor. He never fished again, but Tuscarora made his last trip the trip of a life time. We like the road less traveled. We often use two lane roads instead of major highways. We appreciate quality, hospitality, and courtesy. We grew up in the forties and fifties without instant everything. Hand crank telephones, my grandfather's draft horses, and the "path" were a part of our everyday lives. Friendship, family, and faith have always been important. Tuscarora is where you can be comfortable and enjoy the important values in life. It is more than a place. It is people who care for others. I hope you can use some of these ramblings. I have spent thirty-five years visiting the BWCA. I have fished the Amazon, and I have hiked the Andes. When I want a non commercialized escape from the world and its turmoil I return to Tuscarora. Kerry and you folks have done it right.
These are the intrepid Boy Scouts of Troop 30 from Austin Texas. We had 2 crews of 9. We trekked from East Bearskin Lake to Clearwater Lake with a run down Mountain Lake on the Canadian boarder. Tuscarora did an outstanding job for us, can't say enough about them. We had a memorable trip, great scenery, fishing, and weather!