BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

April 27 2017

Entry Point 16 - Moose/Portage River (North of Echo Trail)

Moose/Portage River (north) entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by La Croix Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 27 miles. Access is a 160-rod portage heading North from the Echo Trail.

Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1348 feet
Latitude: 48.1230
Longitude: -92.0991
A favorite route offering many trip options and memorable things to see including;

World Class fishing for all four BWCA Species
Pictographs
Soaring granite hills and cliffs
Small lakes
Small rivers
Tumbling rapids and waterfalls
Wildlife, including Moose
Vistas from high points across the region if you're willing to climb. Rating Easy to Moderate. Day One. Get to EP16 off of the Echo Trail early. The initial portage is long, but well worn and smooth, sloping gently downgrade to the launch area. Load your canoe and head North. You'll be paddling with the slight current on this narrow winding river. The water is clear and make sure to tell the bowperson to watch for looming rocks!

Father-Daughter trip to Iron lake via EP16 Iron lake

by Eric7753
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 27, 2015
Entry Point: Moose/Portage River (north)
Number of Days: 9
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
Prologue, this was my 7th trip to the BWCA and my daughter, Elizabeths first. The previous year, I had taken a trip with her twin and this year it was her turn to discover the beauty that the Boundary Waters holds. Our trip was originally scheduled for later in the fall with the coveted EP23 reserved, but my daughter's leave from the Navy was altered and so our trip dates changed and the EP became 16 on the short notice. Living in Indiana, the trip is half the battle. My ideas on a BWCA trip is, any vacation day not on the water, might as well be a work day. With that said, my trips generally start at 6:00 PM EST with the loaded car and an 806 mile journey ahead. After a 13 hour drive, the familiar Ely water tower is just ahead at 7:00 AM CST. And so begins day 1.

Part 1 of 10


August 27, 2015 - Day 1 of 9, actually a long continuation of day 0 and the 13 hour drive with little sleep, we made a stop for breakfast in Ely then very quick stop at Voyager North outfitters to pick up our canoe and night crawlers, and we were off on the 26 mile drive up Echo Lake trail to EP16.

I had forewarned my daughter of the initial 175 rod portage and she was looking forward to the challenge. Once the gear was unloaded and the first of two trips ready to begin, I explained the portage process. One trip was the personal pack and misc. gear then the other trip was the 58 lbs. food pack and canoe. Being the fit 5' 2" 100 lbs. challenge taker, she chose the canoe. She did very well and made the entire length of the initial portage with no problems. I took the opportunity at Nina Moose River to point out the canoe resting point about half way through the portage, she was not impressed with the afterthought information. By noon, we were finally on the water.

It was a beautiful sunny and warm day, especially for this time of year. The high was near 85 degrees and made for nice travels. With my daughter being in the Navy, it did not give us any chance to take part in a practice trip or work on paddling techniques. This was a bit of a challenge, but was easily overcome quickly. OJT is the best teacher, good thing we had calm waters and good weather to learn in.

Once we were seated in the canoe and ready to take the first stroke, I explained to Elizabeth the most valuable piece of gear we brought with us, the map. Just as my dad had done with me so many years ago, I explained the fold, placement and constant referencing of the map to always know where you are on a lake. I believe it is always easier to stay found that to get un-lost. (That phrase is from a forum user, I don't remember who, to give proper credit). She was in the front seat, so therefore, the role of navigator was hers. We would make periodic stops just to validate location.

We negotiated the two additional marked portages, the one unmarked (fallen tree) portage and several beaver dams that we were able to drag over. We made it to Nina Moose Lake and set up at camp site #1789 by 3:00 PM. We got the needed gear unpacked, fire going and had a well-deserved supper of hot dogs and mac & cheese.

It was a beautiful cloudless evening with a nearly full moon. Given the previous night’s drive, it was a very long day and even with the excitement of actually being on the water, it was very easy to fall into an early sleep after the 8:30 PM sunset.

Elizabeth on the first portage, 170 rods. First and last portage taking the canoe.

Get in, I am ready to go...

First night on Nina Moose lake with a nearly full moon.

Nina Moose Lake

 



Part 2 of 10


August 28, 2015 – Day 2 of 9 we awoke at around 6:30, well rested. Once we made it out of the tent, we found that the morning brought us a dense fog, but that did not stop the necessary coffee making process and planning for the day over oatmeal and pop tarts. Elizabeth, being the go-getter, wanted to push through all the way to Iron Lake. I thought it was a lofty goal for a pair of canoeist that had only the previous days experience together, but we decided eat and pack up to see what the day would bring.

We were on the water by 8:30 and did the two portages into Lake Agnes fairly easily. Elizabeth quickly relinquished the canoe carrying duties to me, after the initial 175 rod portage, and she handled the food pack. We had a nice tail wind through Lake Agnes and we were enjoying another warm, beautiful day. The portage out of Lake Agnes into Boulder Bay, lived up to its posted reputation. The Boulder Bay end was very muddy and I was deceived by the look of the trail. It appeared to me that just off the muddy trail was a nice place to walk, however stepping in this area with the canoe, proved to be a mistake. This apparent path was actually a bog and I nearly lost my canoeing water shoe in the process. Elizabeth still to this day, laughs about my difficulties and when I mention the word “portage”, she will immediately say “Do you remember the swamp monster that tried to eat your shoe?...”

Shortly after arriving on Boulder Bay, we were graced with a late morning rain shower, but there was no stopping the progress. We dug out the rain gear and continued on. We decided to take the portage from Boulder Bay to LLC rather than canoeing around. The thought process was our arms were tired and our legs were fresh. We finished the portage and ate a quick lunch by the ranger station. Once we were on LLC, the wind picked up just a bit, and we did a little zig-zagging learning how to work together with a cross wind. We made it to the Bottle Lake portage on the Canadian side and ran into a medium sized group that were outfitted from an LLC outfitter.

My daughter often likes to emulate Jerry Seinfeld and arbitrarily give people or groups nick names. The group that we encountered were wearing very high end clothing and boots, and avoided any sort of mud at all cost. Nothing wrong with renting gear or nice clothes, but this group just looked so out of place and from that moment on, Elizabeth dubbed them the “Richie Rich” guys.

We made quick work of Bottle Lake and were on the last portion of our trip for the day, crossing Iron Lake to hopefully get to the well-researched southern island camp site, and hope it was open. We rounded the south end of the island and found camp site #1837 was open, luck has been with us!

We unloaded and got the camp all set up, bear ropes hung, and supper started. As the sun began to set, we could see clouds coming in from the SW and could hear thunder far off in the distance. We got the camp “ready for rain” and headed to the tent once darkness set in. We played some cards and reviewed the eventful day as a complete success.

Nina Moose lake from our camp site.

Iron Lake as we entered from Bottle Lake.

Lake Agnes, Boulder Bay, LLC, Bottle Lake, Iron Lake

 



Part 3 of 10


August 29, 2015 – Day 3 of 9. We were very glad we took the time to prepare for the un-forecasted rain, during the night a torrential thunderstorm rolled through. The tent survived with minimal leaking, but some of the tent gear did get wet, so we awoke to some dampness. There was a very nice strong SW breeze, so we hung out all the wet gear and the drying process was quick. Coffee, breakfast and the days planning were first order. We were feeling the effects of the previous days 13 ½ mile journey and the 5 portages, so we decided to do some local fishing and take it easy today. We finished drying out, reset camp and headed to the south bay of Iron Lake for some morning fishing. The standard “first fish, most fish, biggest fish” wager was in place and the looser would have the honor of driving through Wisconsin on the way home (beautiful state, but a long drive north to south). I secured the first portion of the wager with a little small mouth, but first fish is still the first fish. Elizabeth started fishing with night crawlers, but switched to a baby bass artificial with a jig head, and started killing the walleye in 12’ of water. We returned to camp for lunch and thought an afternoon paddle to Curtain falls would be nice.

We headed to Curtain Falls and enjoyed some sights on the way. With Elizabeth as the navigator, she was getting very good at monitoring current locations and finding reference points, we ran across a pair of geese and she was quick with her camera to catch one as took flight. Taking time to enjoy a small event like this resulted in a nice picture that was my desktop image for some time. As we navigated around the north side of three island, we spotted a rock with an international boundary marker. Elizabeth found that fascinating and had to stop for a picture and the ensuing jump from one side to the other saying in a rhythm “Now I am in Canada, now I am in the US, now I am in Canada” and so on. She seemed to enjoy the quick international travel.

As we came around the east end of three island, we found a larger group camped on the North Eastern most camp site. It was the Richie Rich group from yesterday, and they did not seem to have fared as well with the rain last night. It looked like they had ever single piece of their gear hanging out to dry. I felt for them, that is an unfortunate start to any trip. We made it to Curtain Falls and had a snack, walked the portage and spent the rest of the afternoon fishing the bottom side of the falls. It was a good thing I had “first fish” secured, because Elizabeth was starting to pull away from me with the “most fish” category.

We returned to camp in the late afternoon, cooked up supper and tried some late evening fishing in the South bay again. Elizabeth has always said she wasn’t a math whiz, but she sure could keep an exact count on those fish totals, as her lead grew every trip. We returned to camp and enjoyed a beautiful sunset to finish off a great day. The cloud cover was thick enough that we weren’t able to view the stars and the night time sky I had told so many stories about, but maybe tomorrow night we will get the chance. We retired for some cards in the tent and casual conversation about what tomorrow would have in store.

Drying out camp after the rain.

Elizabeth always ready with the camera, great timing.

First fish, little, but first.

 



Part 4 of 10


August 30, 2015 – Day 4 of 9. We awoke early at 6:30 or so when the sun came up and we decided, over coffee and eggs to spend most of day four fishing the deeper sections of Iron Lake. As a mental note that wasn’t in my journal, it is amazing how good instant coffee made with lake water tastes first thing in the morning on day four. Not so much on day one, but after four days and the view we had, instant taste pretty good that day.

We set out after breakfast with high hopes of larger fish, the success was limited to a couple of medium sized walleyes that we decided would be that night’s supper. The wind picked up and made open water fishing more difficult, so we headed back for lunch and then back to Elizabeth’s favorite south cove where the “most fish” differential grew larger. Just to add context to the fish she was catching, these were not little rock bass or perch. She was catching 4-6 pound walleyes in 12-15 feet of water on the last second purchase, baby bass rubber minnows. These baby bass minnow have become so infamous, that every gift giving opportunity since has included a pack of them. I think she has nearly a life time supply by now.

After many hours of being out fished, my back thought it may be nice to return to camp and explore the island we were camped on. We walked the south shore and followed it around, then worked our way inland a bit as we continued around the island. The beauty of the shaded, seemly untouched forest can never be adequately described. Elizabeth spent some time getting some nice pictures and unique close-ups and as I look back on those pictures, as beautiful as they are, they just can’t capture the overall wonder the back woods has to offer.

We returned to camp after a couple of hours of exploring and had a nice meal as we watched the sunset. We were fortunate that evening to have a cloudless sky and there was no sign of the moon yet. This would be a perfect night for star gazing. Elizabeth has always been fascinated by the night sky, stars, planets and space in general. When the sun had completely set, and darkness overtook the lake, we laid out on the southern rock landing and just looked up in amazement. With the lack of nearly any light pollution, the view was amazing. We laid there and just took it all in for an hour, having a running total of passing satellites vs. the number of falling stars. The view was so nice, I could have easily stayed there until sleep set in, but I knew that my back would hate me in the morning, so the now usual cards in the tent and then sleep was in order.

Elizabeth's eye for the unusual

Who needs grass...

The old guy with a bum knee makes it to the top of the island.

Beautiful camp site sunset. I love sunsets, it is just a reminder of how beautiful the day was.

 



Part 5 of 10


August 31, 2015 – Day 5 of 9. We awoke with the sun again and the great taste of the instant coffee and oatmeal got us primed for the beginning of another beautiful day. Again it was sunny and nearly hot, with the unseasonably warm weather. We decided to take a day trip down the Iron lake south bay to Beartrap River, take in the sights and fish along the way. We left late in the morning and took our time as we played the “how many different animals can you find” game. We saw a variety of wildlife, including a very sizable beaver den. We made it down to the Bear Trap river portage, ate lunch and fished for a while. Need I mention again the fish quantity differential grew larger, yet again.

We made it back to camp later in the afternoon and had an early supper. After having some down time we decided to go back to fishing for the evening, because when you catch and release, you can never catch too many fish.

While fishing the south bay we ran across a pair of canoes with four college aged guys that were all looking at their maps and clearly disoriented. We fished over towards them and they finally asked for some assistance to gain their bearings again. We gladly paddled over and they fully expected to have the grizzly old guy in the back seat pull alongside and lend a hand. I however, parked Elizabeth right beside the apparent leader of their group who had an old outdated map and proceeded to let her impart her navigational skills to them. Elizabeth looks very young for her age, at the time 22, and these guys probably thought they were just schooled by a 16 year old. They were about half a lake off of where they thought they were and she got them quickly oriented and on the right path. As they headed off to the camp site they were looking for, Elizabeth pulled a Seinfeld and dubbed them the “Lost Boys” from that day forward.

As the sun began to set, we paddled over closer to camp, but watched the sunset from the canoe. It is amazing how the evening beauty can offset the wet wipe baths and instant coffee. We retreated to the camp for our nightly card game and well deserved sleep.

Large beaver den.

Falls on Beartrap river.

Another beautiful evening.

 



Part 6 of 10


Sep 1, 2015 – Day 6 of 9. We slept in until 8:00 this morning and took the time to cook up a nice hot breakfast of eggs with bacon bits and coffee. During this trip so far, I think Elizabeth has caught the fishing bug and wants to constantly go fish some more. We decided to explore the south and western shore of Iron Lake and follow back up to the bottle lake portage.

The fishing was spectacular this day and while trolling along the southern bank of Iron Lake, I hooked into a whopper. I fought it for 10 minutes or so and as it came alongside the boat, I could see it was a nice sized pike, probably 3 ½’ to 4’ long. I really did not want to pull this big guy out of the water since I had no intention of keeping him, so as I tried to retrieve my Rapala, off he went with my lure. Here in lies the technicality of our wager, as this we most certainly the largest fish, but Elizabeth wasn’t going to concede driving through Wisconsin for a fish I didn’t fully land.

We continued having great success fishing and debating the technicality as we headed north along the western shore. When we got to the inlet from Bottle Lake we met a group of women paddling along and had no gear. This really puzzled Elizabeth and when she ask, they said they were camped on Lake Agnes and were day tripping up to Iron Lake for some fishing. As they paddled off, they earned the Seinfeld title of Wonder Women.

We headed back to camp late in the afternoon to get started on supper and found a group of otters playing on a nearby island. We watched them for a while and got some nice pictures. It was enjoyable watching them have so much fun.

As the evening approached, we cooked up supper and had a little red squirrel that had become bold enough to join us around the fire. We finished eating, and retired to the tent for cards and a bit of small talk about the perfect weather we have been blessed with. It was saddening that the end of the trip was drawing near.

Elizabeth catching another one, increasing the lead.

Elizabeth's favorite lure, the baby bass jig.

Another guest for supper.

 



Part 7 of 10


Sep 2, 2015 – Day 7 of 9. We woke with the sun again, not being a normal morning person at all, getting up early was refreshing when the sounds of birds, squirrels and water are in the background. We fixed pancakes this morning and were in no real rush to do anything special. It was the warmest day so far and would be a high in the mid 80’s, so we decided it was a nice day for the shade of camp and we would do some camp maintenance, cut some more firewood and do some swimming. It was kind of nice just having a day to relax and take it easy. We did some more exploring around the island and during the course of the day, we saw many canoes skirting the edges of Iron lake, looking for camp sites. Many of them passed by our site and one group even said they couldn’t find an open site on Iron lake, so they were going to push on to Crooked Lake. I thought this was unusual for a Wednesday, but felt very fortunate to have gotten the site we had planned on.

Elizabeth found time in the afternoon to do what she insisted was mandatory backwoods eye brow maintenance. I thought it was very inventive to use her cell phone as a mirror and her multi tool as tweezers. I couldn’t resist sneaking that picture.

We had an early dinner and spent the very mild evening fishing in Elizabeth’s favorite south bay. Once she had surpassed 60 measurable fish, doubled my fish count and no longer believed I had a chance to catch her, so she quit counting. It was a great evening fishing and watching the sun set for the last time on Iron Lake.

We retired to camp, cleaned up and headed off to the tent for our nightly card game. We spent an hour or so reminiscing about the adventures we have had and the fun we would having the next two days heading out.

Eyebrow maintenance

Another one of Elizabeth's nature shots

"Group" photo, last evening on Iron Lake.

 



Part 8 of 10


Sep 3, 2015 – Day 8 of 9. We slept in to the late hour of 8:00 AM. We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and pop-tarts, then began the camp tear down and packing. We had hopes of making it to Lake Agnes, so the last day would be a nice easy leisure day. We followed nearly the same route back out, Iron > Bottle > LLC > Bolder Bay to Agnes. We chose the 2 portage route out of Boulder Bay rather than the single 115 rod portage (See day 2 and the swamp monster). These two portages were a little rougher than the single portage, and we tried to single trip the short 26 rod portage. I now know why I like the 2 trip method…

We had traveled this path and made good time, eating lunch on Boulder Bay and making it to a very full Lake Agnes by late afternoon. We ended up at campsite #1805, not a prime choice, but it would do for the night. We had intended to do some fishing on Lake Agnes, but this was the only day that we experienced above average wind, so after the days travel, we decided to have our dinner and walk down the hill to the lake and watch the sunset. We had a perfect western view as the sun crept below the tree line. The card game for that night was short, for the day had worn us out. Tomorrow would be the last day…

Lake Agnes camp

Lake Agnes sunset, this would be the last sunset of the trip.

 



Part 9 of 10


Sep 4, 2015 – Day 9 of 9. We awoke to a beautiful windy day, but much of our travel for the day would be on Nina Moose River, so not as concerning. We packed up after breakfast and were on the water by 10:30. We didn’t have too much trouble with the wind, but it did add to the challenge of crossing Lake Agnes. As we paddled along, we were enjoying the beauty that we would be leaving behind and happened to notice a Bald Eagle sitting in a pine tree, just along the shore. Being from Indiana, this is not a common sight at all, so we took a break and made sure to get a couple of pictures and watch for a while. It was very surreal.

Nina Moose River was a nice paddle, even though we knew what awaited us, the end of the trip. We did the long portage out with good cheer knowing that the traditional steak dinner at the Ely steakhouse would be a nice reward. The last picture was for my physical therapist, who is also an avid Boundary Water visitor. I had knee surgery just a few months before our trip and he did a wonderful job in the rehab. I am probably one of the very few displayed on his wall that wasn’t a sports related picture, in all my grubby glory.

An hour drive back to Ely, a quick shower, and off for a steak and a beer!! Society has its conveniences, but during dinner our main conversation focused around “The next trip” and of course, who was driving through Wisconsin.

Bald Eagle on Lake Agnes

The end of the long portage out, proof for my physical therapist that he did a good job on my knee.

Ely Steak House, steak and a beer.

 



Part 10 of 10


Epilogue – This was my 7th trip and my daughters first. She now has the Boundary Water bug, so I have successfully passed the torch, much as my father did for me years ago. 2016 will be a busy year with weddings and 2 daughters leaving the military to move back to Indiana, so no trip this year. We do have a 2017 trip already detailed and planned out. Elizabeth, her twin sister, my wife, a family friend and I will be heading back North in August. This will be my wife’s first trip, she loves to tent camp, but this will be her first exposure to the isolated canoeing type of camping. She is not big on fishing, so I hope she doesn’t get bored, so future trips will be in the forecast.

For anyone that read the entirety of our trip and was wondering about who drove through Wisconsin, we called it a draw and split the drive, it seemed a fair compromise after a glorious trip.

 


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