BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

October 18 2017

Entry Point 4 - Crab Lake & Cummings Lake

Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 23 miles. Access from Burntside Lake with a 320-rod portage to Crab Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1406 feet
Latitude: 47.9337
Longitude: -92.0269
Crab Lake & Cummings Lake - 4

Crab Lake: A Jewel

by Boppa
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 26, 2007
Entry Point: Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
PROLOGUE - This was a return trip for us to the BWCA via Ely and North Country Canoe Outfitters, although this trip was just 2 of us (wife and me; our son and daughter-in-law were home with a new baby). The drive from the airport brought remembered sights and went quickly. Once at NCCO, we reconnected with owners John & Kathy. After watching the film (seemed better this year?), we went over our route in detail with John who provided his expertise on sites, portage info and fishing. Then it was off to Ely where we stopped at The Great Outdoors for an introduction to leeches and to thank Jim for much good advice found on this site. Jim was out but Brian was a great help. Being a former New Englander, he recognized my adversion to hooking leeches and explained that I (still living in New England)was used to a different species (blood suckers). Brian gave a demo on leech hooking technique and then I gave it a try; I left feeling not quite proficient but at least I had an idea of how to handle the bait. Next stop was to Mike's where we picked up our beverages in plastic containers. Dan helped us again this year and asked if we were in town for the Blues Festival. Bette remarked since I was spending so much time in the bourbon aisle, tapping my foot, it was a natural assumption. After leaving Mike's, we headed to the Ely Steakhouse (our 1st visit). Mike was the host and led us to the bar where we waited for a table. We were seated within 20 minutes (not bad for a Saturday night) and had a terrific prime rib dinner - generous portions and nicely done. Then it was back to our cabin where our packs were waiting. Mitch and Jessie had done a great job with equipment and food. All packed and ready, we took a walk to the lake to enjoy a nightcap and the sounds of loons.

Day 1 of 6


Sunday, August 26, 2007 - A beautiful, sunny, cool and calm morning. We were in the van, headed to Burntside Lake, before 7:00 AM. John had remembered my request for a Wenonah Boundary Water canoe. We put in at the public boat launch and headed across the lake to the Crab Lake portage. We were about 1/2 way across when Bette and I had our 1st differing opinion on which direction to take, when a passing motor boat with 2 fishermen cordially pointed us in the right direction to the portage. Big lakes, and Burntside is a very big lake by Connecticut standards, are not my forte. After paddling in the direction indicated and following the landmarks John had provided, we were having our 2nd difference of opinion on direction when we heard hammering coming from a cabin on a small island. We pulled up along side the shore and politely asked for directions to the portage entrance. The owners came down to talk with us and also offer coffee. We spent 5 minutes chatting with them, learning they were retired from Yonkers, NY and were fixing up the cabin, a summer retreat. They pointed us to the portage entrance, not 500 yards away - very visible, with a portage sign! It helps to be looking in the right direction.

We quickly unloaded and began the trek. It has grown to 420 rods (latest Fisher map)and while not tough, the beginning requires your attention; the 2nd half is just a walk (a long walk) in the woods. We doubled portaged and were done in under 2 hours. Once on Crab Lake, we headed for an arm of the lake where John had identified a site he thought we would like. On the way, we noted that the first 2 sites we passed were occupied. We found the site John had marked on our map and decided to spend the night. We had originally intended to get to Little Crab on Day 1 but this was a great site; it fit us perfectly, with good views and privacy. Also, truth be told, we were tired and ready to relax. We found a great landing area and were soon ashore and setting up camp. Our first night dinner was a tasty stove cooked steak (fire ban was in effect), along with bourbon for me and chardonnay for Bette, while we reflected on a wonderful day 1.

The winds had grown stronger during the day but nothing we have not experienced. That night however, I did wake up around midnight to a howling wind. I guess I let my imagination run a bit wild because I got up and put on my pants and shoes, made sure Bet's pants/shoes were handy (she slept through the whole experience)and sat in the darkness of the tent listening for cracking tree limbs. I had an escape route and cover picked out (2 large boulders to the right of the tent)but fortunately nothing dramatic happened. By 2:00AM the winds were diminishing and I fell back to sleep; awoke at 4:00 - the winds were gone and I slept til 6:30.

 



Day 2 of 6


Monday, August 27, 2007 - The day was cloudy and quite still. Thunderstorms were predicted so we set up our Cook tarp and went fishing. While I was no speed demon getting the leeches on the jig I managed, and caught a small mouth, and then another, and another; they were all from 10-15". Wanting to explore the lake, we began trolling a big lipped silver rapala and caught inside of an hour (all between 15-21") on 4 lb. test. Now that was fun! Definitely one side of this arm of Crab held fish and there was a hot spot I was able to return to later in the week and continue to find fish.

But for now, we had to turn back as thunder could be heard. We got back to camp to secure the campsite and wait out the rain. We cooked under the tarp and went to sleep to the patter of rain drops. We do enjoy the tranquility that a gentle rain brings at night. It certainly was a well needed rain but not nearly enough to end the fire ban.

 



Day 3 of 6


Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - We got up at 7:00 to thick fog. Quiet prevailed as we ate french toast, bacon and coffee; a kingfisher was nearby, working for his breakfast as well.

With our Day 2 explorations shortened due to storms, we wanted to continue paddling around, also letting the gear dry. We were so pleased with our site, we were not in a hurry to move. After playing with a rambunctious squirrel, using bread on a fishing line, we took off for the day. I fished a little cove with good success; both northern pike and small mouth were hitting my lure. We then paddled around Crab to check out open sites, an activity we enjoy. As most sites were unoccupied, we were able to get out and look around as we pleased. We took notes on several sites and had lunch at one in the west branch. We did not see any paddlers and the 2 sites occupied when we passed on Day 1 were now vacant. The fishing continued to be good although nothing of any size. By this time, the winds had built so it became a chore to paddle. We returned to camp, feeling that our touring had given us a good understanding of the lake.

A nice evening, with temps down to 43. The chill sent us to the tent and warmth of our bags; we slept well.

 



Day 4 of 6


Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - We woke to a nice, dry but windy day. We decided to do something we had not done before - stay for a 4th night at the same site. Our reasoning - we had yet to see another person, our site was awesome and we could day trip to other locations without moving camp. So we set off to explore Cummings, with a packed lunch and keen eyes for new sights. The portage to Little Crab was quite easy, with a gentle sandy landing area. From a distance, we could see a tent on the one site on Little Crab but no sign of people or a canoe. We paddled to the outlet to Korb River and thoroughly enjoyed the gentle ride. There was little wind and the lily pads and views were terrific. We were surprised that we did not encounter any moose but there was of evidence of animal activity (likely beaver and muskrat?)at various sections of the shore. Eventually we came to a good size beaver dam, unloaded and carried around it. When we reached Korb Lake, we saw that the single campsite was occupied and saw a single person in a canoe, fishing by the shore of the camp. This was the first person we had seen in 3 days, although we did not make direct contact. Once on Korb, we were again exposed to wind so decided to return to Crab rather than taking the portage to Cummings. We retraced our route, took numerous pictures and stopped at a site on Crab for a late but enjoyable lunch. As we trolled back to our site, we saw an eagle soar but no other paddlers; the wind was at our back as we headed to camp.

Back at camp, around 4:30, we took turns taking a sun shower. Then I sat, fairly clean, with a cigar in one hand and a rum and mango tea in the other. All days should close so nicely. As we called it a day, we noted a full moon and a chill in the air.

 



Day 5 of 6


Thursday, August 30, 2007 - In the morning, the temp on our pack thermometers said 37 degrees but it was sunny and no wind. Pancakes, bacon and coffee were enjoyed. We decided to explore the eastern leg of Crab a bit more and other points of interest. I have often wondered how camp sites were chosen. Was there a formula or plan that used certain criteria? There were several locations that we thought looked like perfect sites, but were not designated. I even landed and checked out a few close up. Some seemed like ideal spots, even better than other designated ones. I guess the latrine location is probably critical and is likely a factor, but what about distance from other sites, tent pad spots and landings? Just some idle wonderings.

Explore we did, stopping at numerous sites, looking them over and noting pluses/minuses (it is a favorite past time of ours). I fished certain areas, with moderate success; before long, the wind was building and it became a chore to paddle into to. We found the portage to Clark Lake, then turned around and went with the wind all the way back to camp. Once at camp, I got restless so decided to head back out, drifting with the wind, using jig and leech. Small mouth again cooperated but nothing of any size. I headed back and started to break down tarp, etc since we planned an early return to Ely the next morning. It was another cool night; tonight we missed a camp fire.

 



Day 6 of 6


Friday, August 31, 2007 - We were up early, head lamps on, granola eaten; camp was soon dismantled and we were off. We portaged back to the entry on Burntside. this portage seems to be growing as I have seen it listed at 360, 390, 420 rods since it was rerouted. I am glad we did it before it gets any longer.

The wind had built up again but we were a little stronger and now accustomed to it; the paddle back to the public boat launch was uneventful. We found familiar landmarks so didn't have any directional disagreements on the return. We did however have a nice feeling of accomplishment.

Mitch arrived in the van, right on schedule; we loaded and took off for NCCO, with a really cold beer in hand.

Back at NCCO, we showered, changed, visited with John and then went into Ely, where we spent a few relaxing days at the Grand Ely Lodge, along with visiting the Dorothy Moulter Museum, the International Wolfe Center and just being tourists. While a weeks worth of paddling may have burned a lot of calories, we compensated by visiting and enjoying a number of Ely's food establishments.

While there, we had a great visit with "The Great Outdoors", whom I finally got to meet and thank him for previous advice. He is very informative and gave us another, more scenic route, to get us back to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. We enjoyed the route which took us through Finland and south towards Duluth.

A great trip for us. Our return in 2008 is ensured.

POST TRIP MUSINGS - 1. This was the 1st time we kept to 1 site (base camped); although this site was perfect for us, we would probably limit our stay to no more than 3 nights in the future. 2. While I will always prefer a camp fire for the evening, the fire ban did not lessen our BWCA experience; the lack of an open fire has become less of an issue for me. 3. The wind was a big consideration for us throughout 2007; whether in the BWCA, Vermont or the Adirondacks, we had more wind than in prior years. For me, wind is more troublesome than rain. 4. While we enjoy solitude, no one got to see the BWCA cap that Bette wore and the tee shirt I wore. 5. Finally, a sincere thanks to so many on this board for your advice and suggestions. Much appreciated!

 


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