BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
November 18 2017
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
Snowbank Lake - 27
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
First Ever BWCA Trip
May 28, 2010
Snowbank Lake Only
Number of Days:
This was my first ever trip to the BWCA. My husband has been twice before and has talked about the BWCA for years. I finally agree to go because I want to see what its all about. We traveled 38.5 miles including 1360 rods of portaging in 5 days. I have never worked so hard on vacation and loved it so much. I am totally addicted and ready to plan the next trip.
Day 1 of 7
Friday, May 28, 2010 Today I had to work until 3:15 pm. It was a very long day at work, I couldn't focus on anything. I was ready to go. I drive home and quickly change clothes. Stephen has the truck packed and we hit the road at 3:51 pm. A quick pit stop at Story City, IA and another stop to refuel and get something to eat at Owatonna, MN. We decide to take I-35 E and go up through Cloquet. Around 1:30 am we are just outside Tower and decide to sleep a few hours in the truck.
Day 2 of 7
Saturday, May 29, 2010 We wake about 5:15 am. Head towards Ely. Stop at a gas station in Tower, change clothes and freshen up. We make it to The Great Outdoors around 6:30 am. Visit with Jim and get some fishing tips, tackle and a map. What a great guy! Breakfast at Britton's Cafe. Huge portions.... Stephen has the ham and cheese omelette and I had the veggie stuffed hashbrowns with homemade raisin toast. Very good! We visit Piragis and some other local stores. Then head to Semer's Park for Sun Splash 2010. Stephen padled a Wenonah Prism and Bell Magic, he liked the Prism the best. Next stop the Bear Center. We just took the short nature trail deciding not to take the formal tour. We drive by the Rootbeer Lady Museum. Next a quick stop at the Spirit of Wilderness store. Met Steve....nice guy. Now on towards Smitty's.....our place to stay tonight. We stop at the Rookie Pond lookout point. Appears just shallow water but a nice lookout. Another stop at the Red Rock Wilderness Store, we decide to pick up a few more "yellow" hooks. We arrive at Smitty's. Kind of a run down place definitely in need of paint. We check in, not sure of the guy's name but a odd fellow for sure. There is no key for the room....okay? We are in room 13. Tired from sleeping just a few hours in the truck the night before we decide its a good idea to take a nap. It is warm outside today and rather stuffy in the room. I look around to turn on the a/c. Wait! No a/c?!? For $75/night I was expecting at least air conditioning. We ask the guy at the office to write out our permit. I called before the trip and the person on the other end said sure no problem we can do that for you. Well he drags his feet and suggest we go back into Ely and take care of it there. So we head back into town. Stop at the Ranger Station to get the permit, I have to watch the Leave No Trace Video since it is my first trip. Back to the Spirit of the Wilderness to register the canoe, $24 for 3 yrs. Next stop The Great Outdoors to pick up line Jim spooled for us earlier. Then to the Boathouse Brewhouse for dinner. I had the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and Stephen had the All American Burger. Also sampled their brews, my favorite was the Blueberry Blonde and yes it is a total "girl" beer. Last stop in Ely, Spirit of the Wilderness, to get leeches and crawlers. Back to Smitty's to get ready for the trip! Off to bed by 10 pm.
Day 3 of 7
Sunday, May 30, 2010 We are awake before the alarm at 4:30 am. Surprised at how bright it is outside already. We are excited to start the day. Hit the shower and pack up our stuff and head to the Entry Point on Snowbank. Unpack the truck, snap a few pics, load the canoe and on the water by 5:45 am. Snowbank is beautiful, the water is calm. We see a couple of loons and a bald eagle on our way across the lake. We arrive at the portage to Boot at 6:15 am. I am relieved to be off of the "Big" water. We stop to fish at the portage. I catch a small large mouth bass and so does Stephen. We shed a few layers of clothes. It is warmer than we expect. We are ready for the first portage. He helps me get my pack on we are off. We are organized to single portage and do so this time and for every other portage throughout our trip. 50 rod portage to a small pond then short paddle and another 30 rods to reach Boot. I'd probably rate the portages 3/10. Pretty rocky. At the end it was a boulder field trying to put the canoe in the water was a bit tricky. We meet 2 other canoes and 4 young guys upon are entering Boot. They crowd right in and do not even attempt to wait for us to get out of their way. Paddle across Boot was uneventful, easy paddle. Portage to Ensign 220 rods. It is kind of rough, up hill, rocky, roots, some boardwalk. We rested 3 times. I would probably rate 7/10. We paddle on Ensign and took a campsite on an island. Its okay, probably 2 star. Good landing but uphill to campsite, about 3 tent pads none of which were great, not a good place for tarp and only 1 tree for the bear rope. We set up camp. It is now 10:45 am. We mess around camp for a while and decide to eat lunch. Lunch is summer sausage sticks, string cheese, and crackers. Off to Slash Lake for fishing. Just after we enter Splash, Stephen catches a decent smallmouth. We paddle on in. I am trolling a spoon hoping to catch a northern. I thought I was hung up on a log or something. I couldn't reel it in at all. I handed the rod to Stephen as he was hoping we wouldn't have to snap the line. He pulled and pulled and it finally budged. I had caught a nice large mouth bass. We pull over to a rock and take some pics then release the fish. Clouds roll in and the wind picks up. We decide to head back towards our campsite. We have to stop and pick up the canoe over the shallow area between Splash and Ensign. It is now raining harder, we put on our rain gear. We continue to fish a little bit with no luck. Wind dies down a bit so we paddle on to our campsite on Ensign. We changed our wet clothes and napped in the tent for a bit. We have a visitor at our campsite. Its a snapping turtle. She (okay I'm assuming here) appeared to be digging a nest. She was around all evening but was gone in the morning. Hole that she dug was covered. Then it is dinner time about 5:30 pm. Dinner is Spanish rice with rehydrated ground venison on tortillas with shredded cheese. Neither one of us is very hungry. We cannot eat more than about a 1/3rd of the meal. We end up packing out the rest with us. It tasted okay but was way too much food for 2 people. We ate our dinner under the tarp as it continues to rain. Dishes cleaned, food bag hung, canoe tied down. Now what? We reviewed the map and the travels of the day. We had traveled about 11 3/4 miles total. Bugs on this site not too bad. We are tired, off to bed around 8:30 pm. Snowbank Lake, Boot Lake, Ensign Lake, Splash Lake
Day 4 of 7
Monday, May 31, 2010 We area awake and out of the tent by 6:30 am. I slept comfortably but Stephen a bit chilly. Everything is wet from rain and dew. We try for a while to dry out the tent's rainfly and tarp. We pack up the remaining gear and shove a Cliff Bar in our PDF pocket for breakfast on the water. Canoe is loaded and we are on the water by 8:30 am. We stop to fill our water bottles then treat the water then paddle on to the portage to Vera. Nice landing. The portage is 180 rods of HELL. Straight up hill, rocky, very steep did I mention that? We stop to rest 3 times. The view from the top is amazing. I quickly learn that I cannot stoop over with a pack on my back. Just as I try to return to standing, down I go right on my @$$. Stephen puts the canoe down and comes to my rescue. We both laugh and head on down the portage. Yes Down thank goodness. I could not take another step going up hill. We make it to Vera in just about an hour. Vera is beautiful. We enjoy some jerky at the end of the portage trail. We are the only ones on the lake for what I can tell. We check out 3 campsites before deciding on the southern most one on the center of the lake #1236. Its prob a 3 1/2 star. Not a good place for the bear rope. We select the tent pad next to the waters edge. Okay its about 15 feet from the water on a rock ledge. Previous campers had left bits of trash, fish bones, batteries, had dumped noodles into the water and carved their names into the logs. We decide to stay anyway. We set up camp and then eat lunch of foil packet tuna salad on bagel thins with string cheese. It was very good. I was pleasantly surprised. GORP for dessert. I picked out the M & M's. We head out to the lake for water and to try out some fishing. No luck with the fishing. Back to camp. Stephen heated some water and was my "shower". Ahh clean hair and body. Put on clean clothes. Amazing! Dinner of stove top stuffing with foil packet chicken and gravy. Split recipe in half. Just right. It was pretty tasty. Rain starts to move in before we finish eating. We hurry up and get under the tarp. Light rain for about 25 minutes, ending with a beautiful vibrant rainbow. After the rain we tried a bit more fishing from shore. No luck. We are very tired so we hit the tent early about 8:30 pm. Reviewed todays travels, set plans for tomorrow. I journal. Ensign Lake, Vera Lake
Day 5 of 7
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 It rained all night. We wake up early about 6:30 am. It is Sunny! Yeah. Breakfast of oatmeal, coffee for me and hot cocoa for Stephen. Gathered up our gear for the day and we're off for a day trip to Trader and Neglige. It takes us a while to locate the portage to Trader from Vera. Its tucked back in a little cove. 80 rods. Pretty easy. The landing at Trader was tricky. We had to lift the canoe down to the water. Trader is very shallow warmer water lake. We see 2 bald eagles, 1 immature eagle, a float plane and another small engine airplane. Its a short paddle to the portage into Neglige. Another tricky landing at a rock wall. The portage trail is very overgrown. We decide to walk it first before carrying the gear through it. It is rocky, lots of roots, very narrow overgrown path. We walk back to our gear thinking we can get it through. As we return clouds roll in and it starts to rain pretty heavy. We wait it out for about an hour. It is not letting up. I am getting cold and start to shiver. Stephen decides it is not safe to make this portage in the rain. We return to Trader then back to Vera all in the rain. Upon returning to Vera, we meet another canoe. 2 guys hoping for our campsite. They are wet and cold. We suggest a campsite across the lake from us. We get out of our wet clothes and sit under the tarp for quite some time eating jerky and GORP. Still raining we head to the tent for a nap. Rain lets up so we get up and decide to make a fire. We just get it started good and here comes more rain. Again we head to the tent, another nap. Towards evening rain lets up we try a bit more fishing. No luck. Sun comes out and dries out our wet clothes. Dinner of Ramen noodles and toasted bagel thin. Dishes done and food pack hung. I make a short video of camp. We organize for tomorrow's departure. Black flies come out. They love Stephen. Off to the tent we go. Stephen marks today's travels on the map. We plan tomorrow's and I journal. Good Night! Vera Lake, Trader Lake, Neglige Lake
Day 6 of 7
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 We wake to SUNSHINE! Everything is wet with dew. We pack up and head out of Vera today. Stuff a Cliff Bar (I learn I really don't like Cliff Bars) in our pockets and on the water by 8:20 am. We arrive at the portage from Vera to Ensign at about 8:37. We meet a group of 4 guys and 2 canoes coming into Vera to fish. I was dreading the portage. I can still remember the HELL from Monday. We stop to rest 3 times. Not really needing to but more to take pics. It was mostly downhill this time so it was not nearly as bad as the first round. We stop to fish at portage trail when we get to Ensign. Stephen caught a couple of smallies. We paddle through Ensign leisurely, taking pics along the way. 55 rod portage into Ashigan. Mainly uphill and very rocky. Short paddle then 105 rod portage into Gibson. Again uphill. Another short paddle then 25 rod (I'd say it was much longer) into Cattyman. We leave the gear and go check out the falls. Beautiful. Stephen takes pics and I take a video. Short paddle then 10 rod portage into Adventure. Difficult put in thanks to the beavers. Short paddle then 40 rod portage to Jitterbug. Easy portage. Jitterbug is marshy. We meet some other paddlers at the portage. After short paddle on Jitterbub we reach the 15 rod portage into Ahsub. Wow! I'm awestruck. It is beautiful. Steep rocky sides, tall tall pines. And that smell....the pine trees. I love it! We paddle slowly through Ashub soaking it all in. Easy 25 rod portage into Disappointment. We check out 2 campsites not really pleased with either and finally decide on a 3rd. Its awesome easy 4 1/2 stars. I don't really know what could have made it better but Stephen said not to give it 5 stars. Its an island with tall tall pines. We are pretty tired from todays travels a little over 8 miles. It is about 2:35 pm. We unpack and hang wet things out to dry. Stephen acts as my shower again. Awesome! We set up camp and mess with the gear. We decide we should eat. Neither one of us is very hungry but we haven't eaten more than a couple bites of Cliff Bar and a piece of jerky all day. Dinner of grilled cheese on bagel thins and hashbrowns smothered with bacon and cheese. YUM YUM! Our favorite meal so far. Do the dishes, hang the food back. We decide to try a little fishing. We catch bunches of little small mouth right off the shore. Another couple is heading in looking for a campsite. We exchange hellos. They say oh you guys must be the ones from Missouri. I must have looked puzzled then they say we saw a truck with MO plates in the parking lot at Snowbank. Hmm.....do we really have an accent? We venture around the island a bit. Someone has made a shelter out of pine trees. Yep breaking every rule their is. We both thought the other took pics of it so you guessed it no pictures. Just imagine Bear Grylls style. We reach the back of the island to watch the sun set behind the tall pines. We see a nest at the waters edge. The egg has been broken by what I would assume was a predator. It is a fairly large egg, light brown with darker brown spots. We venture back to camp and head to the tent. It is about 9:30 we head to the tent. I take 2 Benadryl....I'm gonna sleep good tonight. Vera Lake, Ensign Lake, Ashigan Lake, Gibson Lake, Cattyman Lake, Adventure Lake, Jitterbug Lake, Ahsub Lake, Disappointment Lake
Day 7 of 7
Thursday, June 03, 2010 Great night's sleep for me! We wake around 8:00 am. Get up and around slowly. Beautiful morning. Sunny and only a few clouds in the sky. We eat breakfast of oatmeal and coffee for me and hot cocoa for Stephen. While eating breakfast we are discussing what to do today. We decide it is is beautiful we may just go ahead and head on in. That's it. We've decided to leave today. We start to break camp around 10:00. So nice to pack up dry things. 3 to 4 other canoes pass by. Another group comes by. They ask if we are leaving. If so they would like to have our campsite. 3 canoes and 5 guys. They are from Iowa and the Chicago area. They plan to basecamp. We forget our bear rope. They bring it down to the water to us. We are on the water headed in at 11:40 am. We paddle slowly through Disappointment. Soaking in all the beauty. We arrive at the portage and meet 2 guys. We gave them our remaining leeches and wished them luck fishing. They are double portaging and offer to help with our gear. We decline having single portaged this whole time, we've got it down. 140 rod portage to Snowbank. It is fairly level some small inclines and declines. We reach Snowbank and take off for the other side. It is a nice paddle with only a slight cross wind. We arrive at the canoe dock, unload the canoe, load the truck, tie on the canoe. Its 1:45 pm. We head to Ely. Now for a place to stay for the night, a shower and some food. We settle on the Super 8. Stephen lets me go first for the shower. I take every bit of 40 minutes. It feels amazing. Now his turn. We make phone calls to our daughter who is RVing with Grandma and Grandpa and to my mom. We do a little shopping in town, buying a couple of tshirts and some rootbeer. Dinner at the Ely Steakhouse. For me fried walleye, fries and salad. For Stephen ribeye steak, steak fries, and salad. Great food and great service. My first Diet Coke in almost a week. I didn't miss it as bad as I thought I would. After dinner back to the motel to rest. I can't believe its over. What an amazing trip! My favorite lakes: Splash, Ahsub, and Disappointment. Most challenging portage: Ensign to Vera. Favorite meal: smothered hashbrowns. Things I've learned: I cannot stoop over with 50 lb plus pack on my back and return to standing without falling on my @$$, every portage has an end, you cannot possibly eat as much as you normally would, powdered Gatorade mix is not good, treated lake water tastes just like water from a garden hose, and 5 days in the wilderness with your husband is PRICELESS! Disappointment Lake, Snowbank Lake
Lakes Traveled: Disappointment Lake, Snowbank Lake,
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