Bearskin Lodge and Nova Craft Canoes - Review

This year our annual BWCA excursion took us to a new outfitter and new lakes.  We were invited to come stay with the folks at Bearskin Lodge for the night before our canoe country voyage began and to test their new fleet of Nova Craft Canoes.  We took our time in getting from the Twin Cities to Grand Marais, the last populated city before turning up the Gunflint Trail and into BWCA territory.  9 hours to be precise.  We made stops along the way, with our stop in Duluth at Frost River and Bent Paddle Brewing as highlights of our journey north.  Nothing more Northern Minnesota than checking out waxed canvas canoe packs and a tap room to get you in the proper mindset.

Upon arriving at Bearskin, we quickly realized that the crew there had given up on us and headed home.  They left a nice note and the door open so we made ourselves at home in a georgous two-story, three bedroom condo attached to the main lodge.  Our crew of 8 guys had just enough room to crash, only after we made sure we finished off the growlers we picked up back in Duluth and that our gear was all properly packed (though maybe not in that order).

The next morning we loaded up our gear and we were off to the woods.  Entering at Swamp and Lizz lakes (EP 47), we paddled and hiked south through Caribou and Horseshoe lakes then headed west into Gaskin Lake where we were able to snag a beautiful campsite on the island.  This was our home for the next 4 days, a huge sprawling site where we were able to find hangs for 7 hammocks and a nice pad for the one guy still holding on to a tent.  The setting was pristine and aside from our inability to catch fish, it could not have been better.

One of the primary missions of this particular adventure was to test out the new line of Nova Craft Canoes recently added to the Bearskin Lodge fleet.  As the only dealer in Minnesota, they have a unique opportunity in Canoe Country.  First impressions of these boats were incredibly high.  The finish was impeccable and the gel coats were so glassy you could practically shave in them.

We took out two of Nova's 17 foot Eagles and two Souris River Quetico 17's, simply for comparison purposes. We are very familiar with the Souris River boats, so it was a good baseline to work from.  Just as the guys from Bearskin had said, they looked and carried almost identically.  Weighing in around 48 pounds, the Nova was a tad heavier but very well balanced.  Once loaded down and in the water you started to really see the differences.  The Nova rode higher in the water, as did the paddlers within the boat.  This made them faster than the Souris Rivers, when hauling gear, while not sacrificing tracking or maneuverability.  It was nice being in the Nova on our way in, as we were able to keep pace with the more "rigorous" paddlers without issue.

Once we got to camp and emptied the canoes, we started to notice more ride differences between the two. The Nova canoes felt a bit more unstable when empty.  Fishing from them was the true test, an exuberant cast or hook-set nearly sent us for a swim on more than one occasion.  It was definitely a trade off.  While sitting higher in the boat had the effect of bringing the center of gravity up making it more tippy, it was more comfortable to sit for long periods of time and helped me to see into the water to try and spot fish and structure.  After a few days in the Nova Craft Canoes we had become accustomed to the differences and felt completely at home.

If you are in the market for a new canoe, DO NOT BUY ONE until you've had the chance to paddle the line of Nova Craft Canoes.  From the "Eagle" to "Bob's Special", there is a perfect canoe for whatever you want to do.  Give the folks up at Bearskin Lodge a call, book a room, rent a couple canoes.  Seriously, can you think of a better test drive?
8 dirty dudes, immediately post paddle.
Special thanks to the folks at Bearskin Lodge for their hospitality.

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