BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 20 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1348 feet
A favorite route offering many trip options and memorable things to see including;
World Class fishing for all four BWCA Species
Soaring granite hills and cliffs
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!
Moose River to LLC
September 12, 2007
Moose/Portage River (north)
Number of Days:
Cousin Carol (Cuz), her husband Donnie, my wife Nanette and I arrived in Ely at 4:30 PM after a 5-hour drive from the MSP airport and a 2-hour flight from Atlanta. Met the guys at Piragis, found our gear that we’d shipped to them, put our packs together and checked in at the motel. Supper at Cranberry’s, along with a couple of cold Labatts, then early to bed to rest. I’m the fanatic fisherman of the group, and since I’m writing this there will probably be more detailed accounts of the fishing than most would provide. We also decided to come up with a “quote of the day” which would either put the day in perspective or remind us of mistakes we’d prefer not to make a second time!
Early breakfast at Britton’s then a shuttle ride at 7:00 AM with Piragis to EP 16, Moose River North. Pretty adventurous start to the trip with our fast driver. Started to rain before we got to the entry point. We’re good at making it rain. Need rain? Just call us. Nanette and I were in Montana in May, in an area that gets about 12 inches of rain annually, and at least half that amount fell while we were there. Anyway, back to the trip. We made our first portage, the 160 rods to Moose River, without too much trouble. We were glad later that none of the other portages were that long. And let it be acknowledged up-front, that the two girls in our group carried their share when it came to portages. We managed to get all of our gear transported in two trips. We planned to go to the far side of Lake Agnes for our first camp, but 4 portages and a lot of paddling, along with cold wind and more rain, made us take the first campsite we hit on the SW side of the lake. Fortunately, the site was excellent and was well sheltered from the wind. Also fortunately for us, the burning ban of the previous few weeks had just been lifted, so we were able to light a fire. I brought along a small bundle of Georgia fat lighter (heart pine with a very high resin content), and used a stick of that to get a good fire going in no time. After several adult beverages, a good supper of grilled bratwurst and more, and a few Advil, we were ready for bed.
Quote of the day (from me after the arduous start to our adventure): “We’re gonna need more liquor.”
We’d planned to head on to Tiger Bay today, but we were pretty worn out from the day before, with joints and muscles unused to the tasks they’d been asked to perform, so we elected to spend another day at this camp. When the rain started up again pretty soon we were glad we’d decided to stay. When the rain turned first to sleet and then to snow, we were very glad we’d stayed. From camp we watched as several groups left the lake headed out. Nanny asked if they knew something about the weather that we didn’t know. It was so cold and rainy we headed to our tents for warmth and shelter. Southerners are not used to this type of weather in September. Late in the day the weather improved and Donnie and I did a little fishing in the SW cove. I missed a hard strike on a popper, but that was the only action.
The night was cold, the fire felt especially good, the drinks were fine and we hit the sleeping bags soon after dark. We’ve all been enjoying the Mountain House food, which is really pretty darn good, besides being easy to carry and to prepare. We also discovered that a certain chipmunk had apparently had positive interaction with other humans at this site. He was certainly very social and very interested in our trail mix.
Quote of the day (from me after realizing that setting up your sleeping bags on a side-ways slant is not the way to go): “Come on Nanny, scootch over here an shore me up!”
We had frost on everything this morning, but at least the sky was clear and the precipitation was gone. After lots of coffee and a good breakfast we packed up and headed north across Lake Agnes. This trip was pretty hairy due to high waves caused by a strong following wind. Cuz especially disliked this part of the trip. We carefully paddled into the bay on the north end and turned out of the wind headed around the point to the east. We were surprised to meet as many groups as we did. This must be a popular route. Those coming out always asked, ‘How was crossing Lake Agnes?’ We told them it was grim. We did the short portage with no problem, met a nice couple from Texas along the way, and I caught the first fish of the trip --a smallmouth of about 3 pounds, at the base of the rapids. We portaged into Boulder Bay, naming the crossing “steep portage” for the tough up-and-down route that it is. We went on into Tiger Bay, checked out the campsite in the west cove above the marsh and decided to look elsewhere. It looked great from the water, but when you got out of the canoe to head up to camp you sank in the mud, not the best of footing to haul 50 pounds of gear. We next looked at a site on the point to the east, and found that it had everything we wanted; nice view, big camp pads and even a fine ‘loo – including a bath area – complete with curtain and solar shower. These we brought with us and they were much appreciated after several days of paddling. The girls made quick use of the shower. We settled in for a base camp there, and it worked out great.
Caught our first Northern on a “Mega-diver” type fly late in the afternoon. Lost a better one that struck a “Crease fly” that didn’t have a wire bite tippet. We found out quickly that a short piece of single-strand wire was essential for the pike. We also found out when we filleted, breaded and fried the first one in olive oil that these Northerns make some fine eating. In this computer age, I’d found out how to filet out the “y” bones by watching a YouTube video on the subject. Nice night, warmer and dry, but still cool enough that the campfire felt great. The warmer weather also brought out the field mice, and we had one very brave little soul that was determined to dine with us. After discovering the little guy about to take a nose-dive into a cup of wine, we kept our eyes on everything – especially the double chocolate dessert that was delicious.
Quote of the day (from Cuz after seeing the muddy, boggy yuck that was at the shore of the west cove marsh campsite): “I’m sorry guys, but I’m going to be whiney. We are not staying here!”
Got up at daylight and trolled the mega-diver in front of camp. Didn’t go 100 yards before I caught a nice Northern. Had him for breakfast and then we went exploring to the north. Went up past Warrior Hill and on up the supposed location of the pictographs. I could swear we were in the right place according to the map, but we never saw anything that looked remotely like what we expected. Found a sandy beach and plenty of sun. Carol continued to have issues getting out of the canoe and did a perfect 4 point landing face down on the bow of the canoe. Carol decided to stay on the beach and read while we fished. We caught some more pike, with Donnie catching his first ones on the spinning rod and me catching another one on the fly rod. Caught a nice smallmouth, too. Enjoyed a lunch of summer sausage and cheese while talking about our adventure.
We had a long paddle back to Tiger Bay, against the wind the whole way. Things did get a bit tense and Cuz a bit testy when Donnie insisted on boating the pike he caught trolling in the rough water. Relaxed in camp and ate more pike. They were wonderful! This was another nice night, not too cold. Apple crisp for dessert this time. Excellent.
Breakfast of pike and grits (remember we’re from the South). We’d planned to go to the Bottle Portage, but were a little tired from the long paddle back the day before, so we just hung around camp and took it easy. We explored the woods, saw moose droppings, fished from the bank, read, enjoyed the hammock. We also enjoyed watching one of the neighborhood eagles glide in for the fish carcasses we’d left on a rock up from the camp. Donnie and I fished awhile and missed a few strikes, but never boated anything. The girls also tried their hand at fishing – Cuz on a spinning rod and Nanny with her fly rod. They struck out as well. I’d heard about how to store fish fillets in a Ziploc bag in the lake to keep them cold, and it worked great, so we had the rest of the pike for supper. This time dessert was chocolate mousse, good, but not the best. Sometime before midnight, a nasty thunderstorm rolled in. We stayed reasonably dry, but did have a small leak in our tent.
Quote of the day (from me as we were finishing dinner and thinking about how to prepare camp for the rain that was obviously coming our way): “We might want to turn the canoes over before we go to bed.” Good advice…’wish we’d remembered to do it!
Packed up after breakfast to begin the trip out. As we didn’t remember to turn the canoes over, I bailed many gallons of water out of each. Live and learn. We planned to make it to Nina Moose Lake, which means 4 portages, with 3 of them longer than 60 rods, so we wanted to have all day. This was the calmest day of the trip, with Boulder Bay and later Lake Agnes both mirror smooth. We crossed the steep portage into the unnamed lake on the north side, and headed toward the portage on the other side of the lake. On the way Donnie hooked and lost a fine smallmouth below a little inlet stream. We unloaded at the portage, strung the fly rods and headed to the base of the inlet stream. Nanny missed a nice smallmouth on a popper and let out a girlish shriek of surprise. We moved around to the bigger stream and she caught her first smallmouth, which put up a tough fight. She landed a nice pike a few casts later. Cuz caught a pike and Donnie caught a couple, and then I caught one on my fly rod. We decided to call this lake Fishing Lake, as we were all successful. While here, we saw a mink at the stream and 3 otters in the lake. At the portage we saw a grouse and heard more drumming in the woods nearby. I ‘d only heard them in the spring before. We continued to hear them from time to time all day.
We decided to cross Agnes while it was still calm, and it really was smooth as glass. It was such a different crossing from the rough trip of a few days before that it felt surreal. Oddly enough, the smooth-as-glass water made both girls a little queasy and light-headed. With the shoreline reflection, it was difficult to get any sense of a horizon. It was a very unexpected sensation. We were amazed to see how much more colorful the leaves were than when we arrived a few days ago. Agnes was easy to cross; the stream to the south was easy, too. We got to the first portage in time to see a couple of guys with an aluminum canoe finishing their portage. These guys were really loaded, with 2 coolers that we saw, suitcases, lawn chairs and lots more stuff packed in black trash bags. They got in the canoe in an inch of water and basically pried it over the rocks to where it would float. They had so much stuff that the stern man literally couldn’t see the bow man. Never saw anything like it. We offered to help but they insisted, ‘We got it, We got it’. Hate to see the expression on the outfitter’s face when they return the canoe.
While we were unloading, 2 guys walked up and provided a great contrast to the previous group. These guys looked like they didn’t have an ounce of body fat between them, had only 2 packs, and obviously single portaged what little they were carrying. It took them about 30 seconds to get the canoe in the water and smoothly glide away. I joked that they were stalking the other 2 guys and planned to raid their camp in the night to grab the beer. On second thought, though, these guys didn’t look like the domestic beer type…. We did the 2 portages into Nina Moose pretty well, and camped on the peninsula on the north side. We joked about the day being so calm, that it must be the calm before the storm. Turned out that we were right on the money. Vicious thunderstorm during the night, and it rained even more than last night. However, we stayed dry, so it wasn’t too bad. We were definitely on the downhill stretch now.
Quote of the day (from me, after another long day of paddling and portaging): “We may not be running out of propane, but we’re certainly running out of gas.”
Packed up and left camp, went across the lake and headed up Moose River. We expected this river to be calm and serene like it was on the way in. Nanny stated she hated for the adventure to be over. The Lake was just too calm. Well, thanks to Nanny, we found a very different river from the calm one on which we’d paddled in. After about 5 inches of rain during the night, the Moose was really flowing---naturally going the wrong way. We had to fight the current all the way up, but stayed tight to the grass and on the inside of the bends, so it wasn’t too bad. Cuz did get wet to the waist trying to cross the first beaver dam, but that was really our only mishap. Cuz and Donnie were able to use their knowledge of sailing a couple of times as the ‘tacked’ across the creek. Often we would hear Donnie, ‘Draw Carol, draw!’
We made it up to the 160-rod portage without too much trouble, and finished our second and last trip through the portage just before 3:00 PM. Laura from Piragis was right on time with the shuttle, and we enjoyed the comfortable van seats on the ride to Ely. We got everything boxed back up and shopped in the store at Piragis for a while. We had a fine supper at Cranberry’s, along with several Labatts, and later a bottle of wine topped off the evening. We relaxed in the motel for the evening, and had a post-mortem discussion of the trip. We all felt we’d done well for age 50 some (I am the youngest) and that it had been a real adventure. We’re already planning what we’ll leave and what we’ll take the next time.
Quote of the day (from Donnie during the difficult trip upstream in the swift water): “Carol, when in doubt, don’t think, just paddle!”
Woke to another wet morning, what a surprise. Breakfast at Britton’s, then a long drive back to MSP for the flight home. Everyone was tired but happy and still talking non-stop about the trip. I’d say it was much more than we expected. I think the girls were proud of how well they did and how much they contributed. Also, the four of us did really well at pitching in, not complaining and not taking ourselves too seriously.
Quote of the day (from Donnie after sleeping through a rainy night in the motel): “ Hey, look! It rained and we didn’t even know it.”