BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

July 22 2017

Entry Point 27 - Snowbank Lake

Snowbank Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP max). This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 24 miles. Access is a boat landing or canoe launch at Snowbank Lake. Many trip options for paddlers. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Latitude: 47.9716
Longitude: -91.4326
Snowbank Lake - 27

Snowbank/Ima/Thomas

by GSP
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 22, 2008
Entry Point: Snowbank Lake
Number of Days: 10
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
Second trip of the year with a new canoe and area new to my paddling partner.

Day 1 of 10


Friday, August 22, 2008 Churchguide made it to Mankato about 4:30 pm. We dropped my dog at his babysitter for the week and went to Scheels and Gander Mountain to look at things we didn't need and had supper at Culvers. Everything was packed and loaded on/in the pickup by 9pm and we slept until 3am. We headed towards the Twin Cities before traffic began picking up. We stopped in Hinkley to have pecan carmel rolls at Tobie's and continued north. Our next destination was Spring Creek Outfitters and exchanging canoes. We bought a Wenonah Champlain in the spring and found it to be stable but hard to handle in big winds and did not cut the waves. I had spotted a Mad River tandem in the shed on the first trip and asked Chuck about the possibility of exchanging them. The MR was a Borealis only made in 2003. Chuck said it needed to have ribs to prevent oil canning, which they were willing to install. We exchanged canoes for $100 more with a new portage yoke/seat. We headed toward Ely and checked into VNO, bought a new water bottle and hat and put our things in the bunkhouse before going for pizza. Later that night Lynn brought another group over to the bunkhouse and they introduced themselves and shared they were headed to Quetico for a week. CG slept soundly but I was awake all night.

   [paragraph break]  

 



Day 2 of 10


Saturday, August 23, 2008 Getting up and 5:30 we headed over to the office and got coffee and then next door to the gas station for breakfast. Ohh, someone in the other group left their shoes out over night so I filled the toes with toilet paper. We took a leisurely pace to Snowbank Lake and arrived about 6:15am and started to unload the new canoe and heading across the lake. The wind was starting to blow from the SSW and we were taking the 140rd portage into Disappointment Lake. It had been almost 15 yrs since the last time I had done the portage and remembered why quickly. The portage seems to go up and up and up then down and up and down and up, but is mostly open and rocky. We were trying to make it in 1 1/2 trips but this quickly changed to 2 trips. CG did more than his fair share and I was following him as he headed across with a pack and canoe. I had all my gear in one pack or on one pack, which I regreted within 60 rods. I was doing ok, huffing and puffing up the hills, knee feeling ok after surgery this spring when it happened. I slipped and fell on my side, didn't hurt my knee but was turtled. I was on my back legs sticking straight out and unable to rollover. My chest strap was on tight and there was no way I could roll over. It took me several minutes to get the strap loose and get out of the shoulder straps. I was glad no one showed up with a camera. I stripped weight off the pack and continued on my way and would come back for the second load. Getting to the other side CG was patiently waiting and I explained my predictament and we headed back to get the final pack and my pack. The high humidity made it difficult for me to get my breath, since I have scarring on my lungs from medical treatments during the first year I tripped with CG. One portage down and 5 to go for the day.

There was a stronger wind on Disappointment as we headed up the lake. The sky was cloudy with no sun showing at all. This would come back to haunt me for a short while. We literally began surfing across the lake, noticing most of the campsites on the south end were open. When we got to the middle of the lake we went straight to far and had to double back to the northwest. We noticed then the Borealis definitely was a better canoe in waves, sliding over the water and we liked how it handled. We were the only canoe moving up Disappointment and felt blessed the wind was to our backs. We didn't have time to stop and take pictures at least until the smaller lakes. We arrived at the 25rd portage to Ahsub Lake quickly did the short up and over with no difficulty. There was a young couple headed north on the portage having stayed overnight at the campsite just to the east of the portage. We meet a group of 3 aluminum canoes and 6 young guys headed into Disappointment.  We shared what campsites were open and the fact that the lake was really building up waves.

CG was impressed with the difference in terrain compared to the west side where he has always gone. Ahsub was a clear and clean as I remember and definely much colder than Disappointment. The wind was still behind us and blowing strong down the lake as we headed to the next portage. The east end is in complete contrast to the main part of Ahsub, very shallow and a bog bottom. In a foot of water you could push the paddle all the way down without hitting a firm bottom. The landing has room for 2 canoes at the most and there are many rocks to avoid. Next was the 15rd portage into Jitterbug Lake which I remembered as being shallow and filled with waterlillys. We pushed our way into Jitterbug using the small log dock that existed on the east side. The wind behind us we quickly covered the lake to next portage. The wind had shifted slightly and was blowing straight north. We were shortly to the 40rd portage into Adventure Lake. After the 140rd portage starting the day out 40rds was hardly a warm up for CG. I was still struggling getting my breath. I was sweating and getting eaten by mosquitos and he was dry and hardly a mosquito bite. He sends me first as bait. The east side of the portage has a good landing and the portage itself is a gentle up and down. Adventure Lake was rolling with waves white capping most of the distance. We meet the young couple again and they were headed toward Ashigan, Ensign and Boot. We informed them of the bear activity and wished them good luck with the wind. The portage into Cattyman was less than 5 rods down a dry creek bed with a rocky shallow landing on Cattyman side. We had meet two groups on the trip so far and recieved compliments on the MR.

Given the low water levels I didn't think we could walk the short rapids on our way to Jordan Lake. We ended up taking the 58rd portage into Jordan the skies had cleared and temps were in the 80's with high humidity.  CG started across with the canoe and I followed with a pack and rods. I was out of breath and not feeling well on the other side. I finished my water and CG gave me what he had left. He headed back and I took a few minutes to catch my breath and recover from the walk. I don't like struggling with catching my breath but humid air makes it much harder. I shortly joined Eldon on the other side and we finished the last long portage for the day. The portage is slightly up hill and drops off to a rock face which can be treacherous on the other end. We moved the canoe to the side and had a short snack of cheese and jerky. I decided to have a cigar, since we had a nice paddle coming up and into an area where CG would like to take photos. I tried to smoke one on Disappointment but had trouble keeping it lit. We headed cross-ways with the wind and headed to the narrow stretch of Jordan Lake. At least 2 sites on Jordan were taken and no one was paddling, don't know why! Maybe it was the white caps. Just entering the narrows of Jordan we meet a canoe with 2 older gentlemen and 2 youngsters. They were out for a day trip and trying to stay out of the wind. 

We drifted down the narrows to the final portage of the day. The 5rd into Ima Lake. The landings are rocky at both ends and the east side is very rocky out into the lake. We looked over the map and I laid out the plan for looking for a site on Ima. We would hug the south/southwest shoreline and look at campsites available. We didn't check the first one in the big bay at the portage, wanting a site on the main lake. Wind and waves were picking up and no problems with bugs. White caps were readily available on the main lake. We hugged the shore heading for the west and south sites. The first one had a high rock face with crappy landing and no trees for hanging a bag. We worked our way south hoping the site by Alworth Lake portage would be open, but getting close we could see it was taken. We either had to go back or move on with the wind and down the pensuila towards the island on the east side. We surfed down the lake and cut the corner to take a break from the wind. The west site on the island was open, but waves were pounding on shore with winds in the 30's and higher gusts. We cut the waves at 45 degrees and worked around the backside of the island. The east side site was taken, which didn't break my heart since it ways grassy and weedy. One word, Mosquitos. I decided we would sneak up the backside or north side of the island and see if we could land. We found a shallow rock face to land and a short walk to the site. We we were home for the next couple days. The wind was really gusting and being on the water was not a good choice for the rest of the day. 

We spent the afternoon setting up the bear bag, tarp and tent. The filter bag was filled and we sat down to lunch of jerky, cheese and crackers. I was tired and ready to rest. I had promised to make CG a crispy cheese casadea for supper and it kept him busy wondering what I was talking about. After trying several areas to cook we finally decided to cook behind the boulder near the firegrate. The quiet spots in the woods were not acceptable to me. CG could stand there and be fine, I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos. While cooking supper we a close encounter of the bird kind, grouse. We eventually counted a total of 8 during our stay. We headed to bed shortly after dark due to being tired and mosquitos.

 



Day 3 of 10


Sunday, August 24, 2008 Slept in and finally got up to clear skies and light breeze blowing from the south. A quick breakfast of oatmeal and trailmix and we were on our way to, no place in particular on Ima. We planned on checking reefs and shorlines for fish. Using the depth finder is always interesting watching the change in depth, especially the drop offs and long reefs that show up. We marked plenty of fish supposedly and tried to catch them to no avail. We trolled shallow to deep, spinner baits to deep diving crankbaits, leeches on slip bobbers, leeches on single hook, leeches on floating jigs, spinner baits, spoons, mepps, plastics and most anything but gummy worms. The lake was flat and sky clear and it was hot. We saw 3 groups of canoes headed out and 4 groups coming in as the day progressed. We checked several campsites during the day. The sites on the northern side are mostly surrounded by shrubs and bushes having been hit by the blow down, which seemed to have hit only the northside. The south sites are in good shape and there is still a site just south of the east portage on the mainland, this was not shown on the McKenzie map, but has a good view of the sunset, with shade and wind protection. Late in the day with the wind coming up we headed back to camp. We noticed smoke to the north of Ima and discussed if there was a small forest fire developing. 30 minutes after getting back to camp a FS plane flew north headed to the smoke.  A little later there were two more planes, these looked to be water bombers. Then there was a helicopter. Later in the afternoon then flew back in the direction of Ely. While this was going on we were constantly visited by the grouse that called the island home. We had a supper of Kung Pao chicken and rice with an apple dessert. We sat up watching the sunset and first stars coming out and then went to bed in the dark. Later we were both up at different times marveling in the brightness of the stars.

We had discussed needing to name the Mad River Borealis. We both had picked several names but finally settled on "Gisselle". She is long, sleek elegance and class.

 



Day 4 of 10


Monday, August 25, 2008 Just repeat day 2. Plans to head over to Thomas Lake the next day. The wind was stronger and made paddling difficult in afternoon. We made onion rings for supper and snacked on trail mix. I sat on the rock and smoked a cigar while CG was catching crayfish on a leech.

 



Day 5 of 10


Tuesday, August 26, 2008 We are up early and packing the gear for a traveling day. Our plan and goal is Thomas Lake and plan on starting on the northside looking for campsites. The landing at the Ima/Hatchet portage is one of my favorites, setting in a small cove with room for one canoe to land. We paddled in and unloaded and began the portage, no one was around and it was a good portage to start with, 50rds with a good climb at the start. The skeeters were eating, I was slapping and CG was grinning. I hate being used as bait, its just wrong. Moving into the narrow stretch of water headed to Thomas Lake we saw many white water lillys and a few yellow that hadn't started to open. We meet two canoes just exiting Hatchet Lake and headed toward Ima. All of the portages are easy on this stretch with shallow water in between. Landing are generally narrow with room for two canoes. We meet one group coming out from Frazer Lake, they mentioned it was the 20th year they had been going. It was evident by the trees the wind would be blowing on Thomas. We arrive at Thomas and take time to grab some jerky and cheese for lunch. We paddle a little ways out to get a better view of the lake and determine where to head. White caps are evident, but the wind is behind and travel will be at a 45 degree angle on the crossing. Being in big waves were of little concern after paddling in them on the first day. We decided to head to the notheast corner of the lake and checkout the sites. Except one canoe coming in behind us there was no one on the lake or camped at sites we passed. The two sites in the NE corner are brushy with few big trees and limited tent pads. We decided to work out way back along the east shore into the wind and check sites. There being only one until you get to the middle of the lake and then there are several island sites. The east mainland site is tucked into a back bay and has limited wind blowing in to keep insects away. We headed for the island sites, the first site in the middle of the lake had one good tent site, good trees for hanging bear bag and protection from storms. MORE important was there were litterally no skeeters. We paddled around to check the west island site and decided to head back to the east island. We setup the VCS16 screen shelter/tarp for gear, hung the bear bag and pulley system and the tent. This was another night for crispy cheese pie. We ate supper and then took a bath in the lake just to rinse several layers of sweat off. Tomorrow would be a fishing day.  

 



Day 6 of 10


Wednesday, August 27, 2008 Getting a late start on the day we headed to the north to fish and fish and fish and do 2 and only 2 catchings. Added together they may have measured 10" in length, but definitely not a foot. We didn't get too upset, catching is nice but doesn't determine a good trip. We saw no one on Thomas, no one passing through or camping. CG was the guide that day and I found the front seat needs to be wider because it cut circulation off to my legs and lactic acid was building up. My cheeks and legs were getting sore. We started back late in afternoon and fished a variety of areas, from deep to shallow and finally CG caught a slimey northern for supper. We also noticed since the start of the trip that few eagles were around, having only seen 5 total in 5 days. Seagulls were not abundant and loons were not as present as usual. There were very few mini-bears anywhere we camped. Another night of onion rings and the only fish meal, we were to have this trip. Onior rings were cooked first and fish followed. We decided to spend the next day fishing the south end of the lake. With the gear under the tarp and food hung we headed to the tent in a light rain. 

 



Day 7 of 10


Thursday, August 28, 2008 We fished, fished and fished. Deep, shallow in between and the same luck as before. We marked several deep spots with fish and decided to come back later and try for lakers. Thomas has a great variety of structure, reefs in the middle of deep water, long points under water, short deep drop-offs and flats. This was the first trip I had never caught a fish. I donated money to the fishing economy losing several raps, spoons, crankbaits, jigs and spinners to the lake. We paddled the east, south and west shoreline checking sites as we moved. Most of the sites are adequate, none of them great and a couple are in the "desperate" category. We decided to fish the big bay area in the SW corner of the lake. After working the shoreline, drop-offs and points we noticed the south and west had clouds building. They were not building in height but were a gray/green/blue color, layered and ominous. We headed back to camp, not wanting to be caught in severe winds and waves away from camp. We stopped just south of the campsite between the islands and tried deep water for lakers but kept an eye on the storm. You could gradually hear the rumble of thunder, rolling thunder that lasted for 10-20 seconds at a time. We headed to camp as the wind really started building. We quickly had Gisselle sheltered for the night and gear put away we decided to wait the storm out in the tent. We ended up in the tent for the night, there never was hard rain but steady rain. The lightning was sporadic but immense when it cracked. They seemed to be the big super bolts and one was close. Laying in our bags talking we saw, saw/heard and felt the bolt at the same time. It felt like a small amperage of current was running through my body for minutes afterward. Both of us agreed it was the closest or in top 3 of strikes we experienced. CG reminded me of our first trip together 1992, we had just made it back to camp in the dark using lightning as our guideing light. Everyone was in their tents and I decided to empty my bladder. Just as I was getting ready a crack of lightning hit a tree near us, it was the same flash, crack and boom all at once. We fell asleep to the light rain falllin on the tent. Tomorrow would be a moving day.

 



Day 8 of 10


Friday, August 29, 2008 We planned on heading back and staying on Hatchet Lake for two nights and fishing and then going to Disappointment Lake for a night and then leaving. The paddle to Hatchet would not take long so we took time to make fry bread and pulled out jerky/cheese for the day. Taking our time we packed the gear and started a leisurely day of paddling. Knowing all the portages were short we didn't worry about going back for small things so the rods/reels were velcroed together and we even took the jug of water that was filtered. Just before the portage to leave Thomas we saw the first group of people camped since arriving. There looked to be two canoes, they were out of the wind fishing. It was a sunny day with strong breeze but perfect for paddling. 

I am not sure if it was the water we were drinking or real, but I believe we meet a canoe with my ex-wife Gail and her husband coming into Thomas. I didn't realize it could be her until we had paddled past. We haven't seen each other in 10 years and both have gained some weight and I sure didn't expect to see her, so it didn't really click in my memory until a little later. Either way I hoped they had a good trip. Gail and I went on her first trip both in solo's in 1991.

We finished the short day paddle arriving at Hatchet Lake. The first site was open and had a good view of the west and breeze to keep the skeeters away. We set up camp, bear bag first, tarp and then the tent. I don't remember what was for supper could of been cheese/crackers/jerky. We had spent most of the afternoon fishing and just investigating the lake. Hatchet was similiar to Ima with the north shore line being hit hard by the 1999 blowdown and the south still having large pines standing. The second campsite was hit hard by the blowdown and has little to offer for shelter or cover. The south end of the lake is very shallow but the northwest corne was water over 40' deep. CG caught a nice northern but it was bigger than two people could eat so back to the lake. We decided the next day would be a fishing day and we could check out several of the areas that looked promising. We made a big pot of popcorn with butter and sat talking about the trip and how our friendship has grown in the last 6 years. 

 



Day 9 of 10


Saturday, August 30, 2008 Quiet day with little excitement or catching of fish. But I shared numerous lures with rock bass and spent my time sitting in the stern smokin cigars, eating jerky and spitting sunflower seeds. We discussed the upcoming day and plans for paddling to Snowbank. We knew the portages out and felt getting to Snowbank would be an easy paddle, small lakes with short portages. We packed everything we could in the packs while things were dry, broke down the rods/reels and put tackle in the big packs. We only had to take the bear bag down and pack the tent in the morning. We were amazed to see a solar eclipse and marveled how it moved in so fast and then disappeared. 

 



Day 10 of 10


Sunday, August 31, 2008 We arose early finished packing and headed to the first portage into Ima Lake. Entering Ima we began seeing canoes on the first two sites and would see many more before the day was over. The wind was picking up and waves were starting to crest. We had become very comfortable with Lady Gisselle, heading straight across the lake and making good time. We had the wind to our back most of the way in and we would now have the wind in our face the way out. We meet a young couple with a springer spaniel, at the Ima to Jordan portage.  The next canoe we meet was between the portage from Cattyman to Adventure. The were paddling a new Sawyer canoe, model that I don't remember. The did say it took both of them to portage it 80 lbs, but they had bought from someone for $100. I don't think it had a single scratch. Just as we were leaving their was a young couple who came in single portaging and moving fast. We talked for a short time and found out they both worked at REI. We would meet them several more times at portages on the way out. We meet them on 3 more portages on the way out. Each time they were ahead of us, but we moved faster and knew the portages. By the time we got to Adventure the wind was picking up to 20 mph and building. The paddle across Absub Lake was the beginning of the adventure of the day. With the wind blowing from the south it was funneled into the east side of the lake and white caps stated rolling up. We knew the rest of the day until making camp was going to be a tough paddle. We meet one more group going in at the south end of the portage and they had no idea of what they were doing. We moved passed them on one side standin out in the lake to keep the canoe from pounding on the rocky shore. The young couple headed out had chosen the east shoreline to follow and find some shelter. We headed across the bay, straight south into the waves and wind. We were making good time and sliding through the waves. But, there was that feeling the wind was building and would challenge us the rest of the day.

Paddling south the campsites were full and no one but the young couple from REI and we were paddling and they were taking a break behind the first island. We skirted the first island and headed almost straight south into the wind. Paddling hard and moving at a reasonable pace, we made the middle of the lake near the narrows and took a break to get a break and a compass heading. The paddle across Disappointment would be directly into the wind or quartering from there on. All the campsites were taken and now and we knew that Parent Lake was our next choice for a site if possible. The wind was blowing hard, I would say over 30mph with strong gusts. The MR was handling everything that thrown at us and we moved forward. We saw one group on the lake coming in and they were just landing at a site. We watched from a distance and they didn't need to paddle, making good time with the wind. We made the portage at the SW corner of Disappointment a little over an hour with a short break. There was anothe group sitting at the portage heading in and we informed them to check the south side for campsites since the west and north ones were taken. One guy was from Wyoming and anothe was finishing off a chinese take-out lunch. I told Eldon we would take the two portages to Snowbank rather than the 140rd we had taken on the way in. I knew paddling Snowbank was going to be difficult at best, but didn't know the biggest challenge would be Parent Lake. We decided that paddling out was our option.

The portage in Parent is very nice, little rock, nice foot bridge over a stream and mostly shaded. The Parent side has a gradual rocky put in, with big waves crashing on shore. Double portaging we moved the canoe and gear to the lake. This was not going to be an easy paddle and would be at a 45 degree or more crossing the waves. I walked out into deep water and held the canoe as CG loaded everything and tied things in for the travel. CG climbed in and I told him to start paddling and then climbed in with ease, we hadn't moved yet. I told Mr. Smead we needed more power and both of us started working harder than anytime in the trip. We took water over the front and sides at time. In order to keep a reasonable distance from shore we occasionally allowed the waves to push back towards shore. We then had to paddle hard to make progress again. The wind was switching to the SW and blowing consistently over 30mph and strong gusts. No time to rest, no time to look around just keep the canoe from being taken sideways and move forward. We were taking water on almost every wave with the direction we were moving up. Being close to shore if we needed to bail out and recover at shore we would, wasn't time to bail water, wished I had a bilge pump. Just as we started discussing or cussing the need to bail water, we noticed a couple sitting on the shoreline reading books. I thought they were at the second campsite so we had a little way to go. But it didn't look like a campsite and we asked if that was the portage. YES, it was we had made it and felt relieved. The landing was tough and waves kept trying to pound us into the shoreline. Unloading and setting things to the side we took a short break and talked with the couple. They were staying at the cabins on the eastside of Snowbank and reported that waves were big on the lake. It had taken almost 40 minutes to cross Parent Lake.

Moving to the west side of the portage we sat and checked the maps and picked the northside of the big island as our first goal. It provided the shortes crossing of big waves in that stretch. The crossing was uneventful. Given the challenge of Parent we found this stretch to be an easy paddle. We then headed to the small island just west and found a square stern canoe with a father and son fishing. They had hoped the wind would die down and were fishing. The last stretch was at a angle to the waves but we had no problems. There was a group south of us hugging the shoreline of the big island headed in and a family at the canoe landing. The family consisted of two daughters, mom and the dog in a canoe and son and dad in second canoe. The dad was standing in the water holding canoes for everyone to enter and the waves were making it extremely difficult. The first canoe was suppose to go south and to a campsite. They were blown north around a corner and we couldn't see them. I mentioned to the husband that being on his best behavior would determine his fate later that night. Low and behold the canoe with the ladies and dog came back around the corner. The dog was now in the middle of the canoe not the stern and wet. The dog was biting at every wave and paddle that came by and was having fun. Last time we saw them they were headed south along the shoreline. We just climbed out in deep water rather than using the loading dock. Unpacking we brought the pickup down close and began packing. Two young guys were just heading in, they were taking dress pants, shirts and ties off in the parking lot.

We headed back to VNO and showered and then downtown for pizza. We left town about 6:45 headed to Mankato.

 


Routes
Trip Reports
a
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
x
Routes
Trip Reports
fd
hgc
Routes
Trip Reports