Photo: Theo Theobald

Course Details


Boundary Waters

Expedition Type


Additional Activities

Ropes Course, Sea Kayaking, Whitewater Canoeing, Whitewater Kayaking


Wilderness First Responder


Instructor Development

Upcoming Courses

This course is done for the season. 2016 courses coming soon.

Immerse yourself in the field of outdoor programming through this comprehensive course for aspiring outdoor educators. Designed for those interested in careers in adventure and experiential education, this Boundary Waters course focuses on canoeing, sea kayaking, backpacking, and rock climbing skills development. Learn group facilitation methods and creative course planning strategies. Study risk management with groups in a variety of settings and situations, planning for and actually teaching local youth.

Wilderness First Responder and Leave No Trace® courses are included and academic credit is  available.

Your group of six to ten students will complete an expedition in the style of Outward Bound, learning about wilderness education through direct experience. Instructors and experienced staff will enrich your expedition with seminars and discussions about how to teach both the skills you know and learn, plus broader issues concerning how to manage a wilderness experience to achieve specific goals for individuals and groups.

In addition to developing outdoor technical, group, individual management and teaching skills, students will learn philosophy and curriculum specific to Outward Bound, the world’s original outdoor education institution.

Successful graduates will be well positioned for future work with camp programs, wilderness trip providers, high school or college outdoor programs, and Outward Bound.


Instructor Development courses seek to position aspiring Instructors for future work with camp programs, wilderness trip providers, high school or college outdoor programs, and Outward Bound expeditions. As they learn the Outward Bound expeditionary learning philosophy and curriculum, participants also develop the outdoor technical skills, group facilitation skills, individual management, and teaching skills they will need to safely lead a group of students through the wilderness. Although each expedition is unique, certain key components are a part of every Instructor Development expedition. The expedition begins with hands-on, progressive training in a variety of expedition and teaching skills. As they re-learn how to cook, sleep, stay warm, navigate and select routes together, students consider the dynamics of group leadership and followership and reflect on how the “crew, not passengers” approach contributes to a supportive, engaging, inclusive course environment.

Throughout the expedition, students build, practice, and reflect on skills, conduct service projects and also spend several days learning about rock climbing and ropes course management and exploring various debrief and facilitation styles and the best uses for each. Participants process key takeaways during structured reflection activities such as journaling, one-on-one Instructor conferences and large and small group debriefs. When offered, the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) portion of the expedition provides comprehensive and practical training on how to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments. During the Final phase of the expedition, students put their hard-earned skills to the test with a one-day teaching practicum in which they plan, facilitate, and conduct a full-day lesson with a community youth organization or local school in one of the activities they have mastered.

Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.

Sea Kayaking

Student groups will travel to the Canadian shore of Lake Superior. From there students begin their sea kayak expedition from Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA) along Lake Superior’s north shore. Students learn the art of paddling a sea kayak in varied weather, landing the craft in a variety of conditions, as well as navigation and rescue techniques. Instructors will share the secrets of balancing your boat, handling it safely in the elements, and how to effectively teach these skills to others.

Students will develop their paddling and teaching skills as they come to know the group while traveling and camping along the rugged, rocky shoreline. Students will experience challenging open water crossings where fog, waves, and weather challenge the entire crew to employ their newly acquired navigation skills.


The 18-20-day canoe expedition across the rugged and remote Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness provides opportunities to explore gigantic 150,000 acre lakes, paddle challenging primitive sections, and may include conquering the Grand Portage, a nine-mile historic portage overland from the Pigeon River to Lake Superior.

The Boundary Waters surrounds a thousand year old trade route, which now defines the US Canadian border and was originally used by the Ojibwa people and Voyageurs.

To travel between lakes or around large rapids, the group will work as a team to carry packs and canoes over portage trails that can be as short as 30 yards or as long as a mile. Personal packs weigh at least 40 pounds, sometimes considerably more. The wilderness canoe expeditions in the Boundary Waters are not resupplied.

This backcountry expedition requires participants to become a high-functioning group that is able to communicate effectively, make decisions, and take on challenges. It is the perfect backdrop for analyzing teamwork and learning how to facilitate and foster it, which are key skills to successful delivery of outdoor programming and all Outward Bound expeditions.

boundary waters canoeing trips


There will be 4-5 days focused on rock climbing and ropes course facilitation and management.

Rock Climbing and Repelling in Boundary Waters


Service is an integral part of the Outward Bound curriculum. We encourage service to the environment in the form of leaving campsites cleaner than we find them and practicing Leave No Trace® ethics throughout the expedition. We coordinate service projects with land managers (US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, local land trusts) as well as with select social service agencies (nursing homes, hospitals). During your course, you may have the opportunity to participate in trail work or another service project.

Students will also plan and facilitate a one-day teaching practicum where they will instruct a community youth organization or local school in one of the activities they have mastered.

sea kayaking and canoeing boundary waters


This Wilderness First Responder (WFR) portion of your course is the ideal medical training environment for leaders in remote areas including outdoor educators, guides, military, professional search and rescue teams, researchers, and those involved in disaster relief.

The WFR curriculum is comprehensive and practical. It includes the essential principles and skills required to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments for days and weeks if necessary.


We typically end our courses with a Personal Challenge Event (PCE), an individual final physical push. This might take the form of a run or a triathlon-style challenge such as a sequence of distance paddling, portaging, running or walking.


Boundary Waters, Minnesota & Lake Superior

The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA) is a wilderness archipelago along the Canadian north shore of Lake Superior. The LSNMCA is a rugged and pristine landscape of sparkling, clear water, cliffs, pebble and sand beaches, and numerous islands. It is the largest fresh water, protected marine environment in the world and an ideal destination to hone your sea kayaking skills.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) - Established in 1964, this labyrinth of lakes and rock 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.

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.

Getting Started

If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.

To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee. Click here to learn more about the complete enrollment process.