BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

May 27 2017

Entry Point 47 - Lizz & Swamp Lakes

Lizz and Swamp Lakes entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Gunflint Ranger Station near the city of Grand Marais, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 28 miles. Access from Poplar Lake by 51-rod portage to Lizz Lake and 100-rod portage into Swamp Lake only. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1864 feet
Latitude: 48.0420
Longitude: -90.4998
Lizz & Swamp Lakes - 47

The Gunflint Shows Its Beauty, Again

by Boppa
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 30, 2009
Entry Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
Some random introductory thoughts: 1. We flew into Duluth again this year and were able to manage better flight times but the price has jumped considerably and it was a very tight schedule. Our rental car flap with Hertz last year at the airport was averted this year. This year we used Travelocity and Alamo; everything went smoothly and much cheaper. We will use both again. 2. The ride from Duluth to Grand Marais is really quite nice. We enjoy this ride very much, as it starts to put us in a canoe tripping mode. The occasional views of Lake superior are awesome and greatly enjoyed. 3. On our last two BWCAW trips we have encountered great solitude, one time it was expected, the other time it just "happened". A concern for us this time was that we were entering the BWCAW through a very popular entry, #47. We questioned would our overall experience be diminished in encountering a larger number of other canoe trippers? Well, we are pleased to say that it did not diminish our trip experience at all. We think because a) we expected to see more people and did; b) most trippers were very respectful of each others "space". We appreciated this courtesy and I think it's a good sign overall for trippers. 4. We had a very wet summer in New England this past summer and actually chose to cancel two shorter canoe trips to the Adirondacks, as staying under a tarp the majority of a long weekend loses its luster fast. With our yearly trip to the BWCAW, canceling is not an option so we know we deal with whatever weather we are dealt. Upon our arrival in Duluth, it was raining. As we drove up the Gunflint Trail, the road was still wet and with numerous puddles. We knew the BWCAW had a wetter than normal summer as well, just from the lack of fire ban post/threads on this site. That was OK with us, since our last two BWCAW trips have been under a fire ban. But not this year; firewood gathering was on the agenda. 5. We made a couple quick stops in Grand Marais for purchases (hand sanitizer, liquor) and arrived at Rockwood Outfitters about 4:30PM. We quickly find Mike and begin to catch up, eventually Lin is able to join us. It was good to see them both, but it had been a long day for them. The two days of rain had finally stopped but the 3 " of rain had a number of trippers come out early, creating a long day for them. Also, Lin had been tending a pet cat that was in its last hours; most of us know how hard it is to lose a long time house/family pet. We felt sorry for them. 6. Our packs were ready for us to make our personal adjustments, adding and substituting some of our gear, shipped earlier to our outfitters by UPS. We want to have it already for a 6:15AM departure Sunday morning. We take off to purchase leeches at The Ugly Baby bait shop and then dinner at the Trail Center. A good meal is had, as expected, on our short drive back we see foxes at two different spots. Our first wildlife sightings... we are in bed before 10:00PM for our early start.

Day 1 of 6


Well, the watch alarm may have gone off at 5:00AM but we never heard it. I awoke on my own at 5:45AM. We move quickly, take our last hot showers for a while, dress and while I go to store some items in the car, I noticed the windshield has enough frost on the windows to scrape, WOW, and this is still August. As we walk down to the equipment building we ease up a bit as there is a thick fog across Poplar Lake and I know I need to wait till the fog begins to lift to find my way around/thru the islands. We choose a canoe, a Souris River Quetico 17, carry it down to the lake, put the packs in and trim it off. As we look out onto the lake the fog has begun to lift, so compass in hand, we are off by 6:45AM; not bad.

Mike's directions and compass headings to the portage are dead on and as we approach the far side of Poplar Lake an Eagle flies low over our heads. We take this sighting as a good omen. The portage is easy to find. It is an easy take out and our first portage (50 rods) to Liz Lake is a quick climb and then a nice level walk to be enjoyed. The put in at Liz is easy as well. As we paddle along this narrow little lake we have two otters cavorting 20 feet away, just enjoying themselves and basically ignoring us. A muddy landing greets us, but things are off to a great start, the sun is out and we are alone, except for the wildlife, so far. We take the portage (70 rods) to Caribou Lake, again, a nice walk, a few muddy spots but nothing to fret about or slow you down leading to a fine put in at Caribou. We are immediately struck by the beauty of this lake as we sit and enjoy the pastry Lin provided. We understand now why so many choose to make this lake their destination; it is beautiful. Paddling off, we notice a site directly across from the portage. It is empty, as are the next three sites, all decent looking sites. We decide to look for the Swamp Lake portage as our site exploring has taken us in that direction. We find it, a little hidden by our angle, but findable. So far we see only one site occupied, and suspect from all the footprints going in the opposite direction on the portages that the heavy rains of Friday and Saturday took their toll. We continue to paddle to the 25 rod portage to Horseshoe Lake, another easy take out and put in.

Another BWCA gem unfolds from a wide to narrow lake that shallows out in many sections, making it a moose attractor, with a lot of aquatic vegetation and a few long arms to explore. No wonder the moose like calling this home. We pass four campsites on our way to Vista Lake, three are empty and the fourth is occupied by a noisy group of guys; heard them yelling in conversation hundreds of yards away, glad we are continuing on. The sun is getting stronger, we are going along just fine and another eagle flies by, this is almost surreal. We find the portage to Vista and have our first rocky take out. Although short (21 rods), it has a lot of rocks to step over and work around. It is an equally rocky put in on Vista so I wet-foot the canoe out a little deeper. I know we are starting to sound like a broken record but Vista is a pretty lake, so many seem to have there own character and identity, they just beg to be paddled. All loaded up, we head to the southerly arm to check out an often mentioned preferred site. As we paddle to the side of an island my Bow Partner uses her monocular to confirm some disappointing news. Trippers are walking around on the site so we quickly go to plan B and head over to the western site in the same arm. Well, lets just say we are not impressed. It has a so-so take out/put in, a steep walk up to the fire grate, an unimpressive view and nothing to savor for a tent pad site. We have a quick snack and develop plan C, which has us going back to Horseshoe Lake where I have heard of a great one pad site that is seldom used. As we get into the canoe and paddle over to get behind an island to block a little wind we notice that a canoe has left the other site. My Bow Partner glasses them and confirms that their packs are in the canoe . I make a direction shift and as we come to voice distance, their bow paddler yells over that if we are indeed looking for a site they are leaving and "it is a good one". We thank them and head over to it. We agree completely, site #771 is a keeper, it has a good landing, great view, a sunning rock, great tent pad and wood left at a nicely set up fire grate. Sometimes it pays to be lucky for if we had awoken on time and had no fog we would have been much earlier and probably never have gotten this nice site.

Camp set up goes quickly and well. I like the Mountain Alps tent that Rockwood Outfitters provide, it goes up easily, affords us plenty of room and proved its water shedding abilities on last years trip. I locate two suitable trees for the food bag hanging and we don't bother with the tarp since the weather and forecast are next to perfect. We gather some more wood for our steak dinner, along with butter potatoes and corn. A great meal to end our near perfect first day back in the BW. The anticipation of returning is already satisfied, and with smiles, we are in the bags by 9:30PM. [paragraph break]

 



Day 2 of 6


It was another cold night but we were fine, socks and long undies were in place. It is always easier to awaken to sunny skies and birds singing. Stiff joints and muscles from the day before efforts are slowly stretched out with the start of the days chores, although cooking up a breakfast of coffee, eggs, bacon and bagels is a delightful chore. I did a bit of fishing from shore and nothing was interested in my varied offerings, so we decide to day trip up to Misquah Lake. We easily find the portage, the take out is fair, the portage makes you pay attention but is a gently up slope and a short 56 rods. The put in at Misquah Lake was rocky and boulder strewed, tough but very doable as all we had was 1 pack with lunch and a few travel essentials. Yes, this is a pretty, rounded lake, to the west was evidence of a past fire, I hook up a Tail-dancer with a 3-way swivel and 3/4 oz weight to see if I could tempt a Laker. Not sure how deep the lure set-up went as we slow trolled but I brought along my Polar Vision depth finder and it marked fish consistently when ever we were in 40 feet or more of water, nothing was tempted and they remain getting larger for the next pursuer.

We eventually work over to the lone campsite on the lake and decide it is time to lunch, the site has a decent canoe unloading/loading area but that's about it. The fire grate is a ways off the water and affords no real view, the ground had a lot of roots and rocks and it would have been a challenge to find a tent pad. The site had an unkempt feel about it and nothing of noteworthy mention. We question, are we getting a bit fussy or does the question of how sites are chosen continue to need to be questioned and examined? In our trip around this lake we found 3 other areas that seemed to offer greater potential for a lone site. While it is easy to see why the majority of sites are chosen and the Forest Service has done a good job with the majority, but why they don't review, renew or relocate more sites each year baffles me. It could be a more utilized tool to disperse the crowd and the pressure that many visits bring along with lessening overuse. Well enough of the analyzing. We leave the site and search for the portage to Little Trout Lake which we find easily, but we are not tempted to take this portage as it's reputation has earned our respect. We continue to troll, unsuccessfully, for a while longer and work back to the portage to Vista Lake. I was dealing with a rare but bothersome sinus headache that I occasionally get from flying and find that all I want to do is sit and deal with the discomfort. We do get back to Vista about 4:00PM and collect some firewood and read for awhile before dinner when we realized that we had seen no one else today. In fact, while we saw many foot prints on the portage while going in at Entry 47, we have seen none on the portage going into or returning from Misquah Lake. Solitude for us is enjoyable and has been achieved while traveling in the BWCAW. While traveling on popular routes certainly lessens that experience, another characteristic emerges that for us is also appealing. As long as trippers respect the space around us all, it is an acceptable reality. Enough speculation, did I mention that we did have a hummingbird nearly land on my Bow partner's shoulder and a large dragon fly landed on my hat which caused her to LOL as she said it appeared that I was wearing a hat with a whirly.

During the evening we overheard a lone howl, it was followed again a minute later, it was different than anything else I have heard. We wondered if it was a wolf trying to locate other members of the pack? The loons interrupt and take over, sleep comes quickly.

 



Day 3 of 6


Another nice day begins, and I am pleased to awaken with the sinus headache much subdued. The night temps were mild 45 - 48 degrees. I was down by the waters edge after breakfast and about 100 yards out I notice a figure swimming across the lake, it is unmistakably a bear, and not wanting my Bow Partner to miss this sighting, I call to her to come over. She does, sees the bear swimming and is as captivated as I am. The bear hearing my call, stops swimming and is looking over at us. It decides to turn and swim back from where it came. This surprises us as it was a much shorter swim to continue to the shore it was swimming towards. When it reaches the far shore the bear climbs out and turns and looks at us for 20 seconds and then vanishes into the woods. This is our third bear seen while canoe tripping over these years and all three bears have been swimming when we notice them. Hmmm!

My Bow Partner mentions shortly after this sighting how she would like to see a moose again this year, so I mention that Horseshoe Lake has a great reputation for moose sightings. She looks out at the lake and says "lets check it out", and our focus becomes breaking up camp and getting a site on Horseshoe. As we were finishing our packing chores, a soloist paddles into the arm, he spots us, and turns to the lesser site. I wave my arm to beckon him so he would be aware we were leaving in the next 10 minutes. He saw me, and returned the wave, but I don't think he realized in was an invite. We hope he sees us leave and realize the site would be his if desired.

We pull out and were back at the portage to Horseshoe some 30 minutes later. As soon as you paddle on Horseshoe Lake it has a moosey feel to it. First we check out the site to the east; it is a nice spot, its only draw back for most is that it has only one small tent pad. We wanted to check out another site which had some nice observation points to the north and east , the one with the noisy group of guys that I mentioned earlier, #675. As we paddle by we see it is still occupied, by the same group, one sees us and we say hello, he asks us where we might be headed, my Bow Partner says "looking to stay somewhere on Horseshoe" and we bid a goodbye to each other with a wave. We go down the west arm to two more sites, the first on a point facing west is very nice, but we want to check the site further down. As we paddle near to it we realize it is already occupied, they must be day tripping as no one appears present, it appears to be very nice as well. We turn and quietly make our way back to the previous site, when I ask if this one will be our choice, my Bow Partner wonders out loud if we will be far enough from the loud group; I am not sure. As luck would have it, up ahead at the beginning of this arm we see the two canoes from that site packed and paddling away. We continue on and yes the site is vacant. It has a nice put in, a great fire grate and three pads to choose from and a nice place to hang our food. It indeed has some excellent observation areas and one spot has a improvised bench just made for relaxing and viewing. Boy, do we feel lucky for the second time. It does make me think why didn't the tripper who spoke to us at this site earlier mention they were in the process of leaving? Oh well, shouldn't think negative thoughts, particularly since we ended up at it anyway.

As we were both involved in our separate set-up chores, we heard a close and distinctive crash in the woods and instinctively stopped to listen. We hear it again and look at each other with smiles as we realize it must be a moose coming thru quite close to our camp. The noise is not heard again, nothing is seen and we go back to our chores. About 45 minutes later while we are around the fire grate, 3 canoes with multi-generational ages go by. We wave and the young man in the stern of one tells us they just passed a moose feeding; we mention that we just heard one come close to camp. They continue on their way and we walk to a rock overhang and look to a cove where a large cow moose is feeding loudly and undisturbed. We watch for more than an hour and all of a sudden hear a call from a tree across from us. An eagle is sitting there and has started to call, at first I thought it might be the moose bothering it, but as I looked around I spotted another eagle flying our way. As this eagle flew or I should say swooped the other would call. Soon the eagle in flight quickly drifted away and the eagle perched above us quieted down and sat for another 30 minutes before flying off. Well between the moose and eagles we had a late dinner so we could accommodate such a special day; next the moon is rising and we are mesmerized by how much light a full moon can provide. It truly doesn't get any better than this.

 



Day 4 of 6


We slept until about 7:00AM, it was another quiet restful night. The sun was already warming things nicely, as we stretch out and walk back to our observation rock. You may have guessed it, our moose was back and feeding without a worry. My Bow Partner is quite amused with how she moves her ears in all directions - she feels the name Daisy suits her well.

I walk down the lakes edge a bit to try my hand at fishing and find only a couple of over eager small Northern's interested in my offerings, as I return to watch Daisy feed. She leaves about 9:00AM and we set off on another paddle to check things out. As we take off I need to compliment my Bow Partner on her ability to paddle quietly, which I think is more difficult from the bow. From her paddle angle and lift she is very quiet and affords us more wildlife sightings. We often hear trippers before we see them, many act surprised as they notice us. It is a skill worth working on if wildlife spotting/viewing is to be enjoyed. As we are going along, I look to my left and think I might be seeing a baby beaver swimming along. As it nears a log, it climbs up and looks suddenly like a squirrel, which of course it is. Next thing I know, the squirrel hops back into the water and swims straight for the canoe. As it comes by me in the stern I take a picture and talk to him. He checks us out and goes behind the canoe and continues to swim to the other side, gets out and runs into the woods. That was the first time I have seen a squirrel swim and boy he could swim well. We proceed to the North Brule River, the fishing is slow and we just take it all in and enjoy. We enjoy this style of paddling and casually checking things out. Soon we are on the arm that leads to the Gaskin Lake portage, and as there are two nice sites on this arm and the second one is unoccupied this time, we check it out. It is a good warm weather site due to the shade it provides. In fact, we would rate every site on Horseshoe Lake as good to great. The fishing continues to be slow but I am doing what I enjoy most, paddling. We paddle every inch of shore in Horseshoe and get back to camp about 4:00PM. We read a bit and then start supper. Daisy was back eating again; we laugh at her noisy and uncaring antics. What a fun and unplanned diversion she has provided. She left after 45 minutes and we settled into our early evening routine, watching the moon over a nice fire, drink in hand. All of a sudden Daisy is back and right in front of the site eating away and gives us a viewing treat in the moonlight. About 30 minutes later she walks out of the lake and right beside our campsite. We were in awe, but as time would tell we were not to see her again. What a memory, we felt very blessed with this repetitive encounter. We toast this event and the night. Calling it quits is difficult.

 



Day 5 of 6


We get up a bit late for us, about 7:15AM and have an oatmeal and applesauce breakfast. Once again we have a beautiful day. We could get very used to this (actually I believe we already have). My Bow Partner mentions that she would like to visit and possibly stay on Caribou Lake. It was a great looking lake and we decide to break camp and find a site over there. At the portage from Horseshoe to Caribou we wait on the water for a father and his two sons unloading. They look over at us repeatedly, and we told them to take their time. It became clear that the father wanted to talk as he thanked us for our patience. He indicated that it was their first trip to the BW, they were from Wisconsin and at an earlier portage a group came right in on them and basically pushed through and ended up taking one of their paddles. They were OK as they had brought a spare, but he thought that it would have been left at the end of the portage once they realized they had taken it, but it had not been left. We learned they had fished Gaskin, Vista, Horseshoe and Caribou with fishing being slow overall. They were on there way to Meed's Lake. They were a nice family and we bid them well. As we loaded up on the Caribou side of the portage and take off paddling, we go by the two easterly sites which are both empty, and are decent choices but we want an excuse to paddle. We head west and come to a very nice site that we both like, decent landing and a great view. We continue to the next westerly site on a point, it looks good from the water but it is taken. So we go to the northern sites, the furthest one is unremarkable, the next is taken by a large group (four canoes and the largest tarp I have ever seen). We continue to the last northerly site and it is OK just too close to the large group for our comfort level. That leaves the site across from the portage. It is empty so we look it over and it will be perfect for us, site #645 it is. We smile as we set up camp as so many of our task can be done w/o a word of direction being spoken, our self designated tasks have become very ingrained.

It isn't long before I try my luck at fishing and with only a couple of cast I hook up with a 32" northern, he makes a good battle and as I get him close to shore I see he is false hooked by the side of the head, I unhook and return him. Two casts later a 27" Northern is enticed, boy things are looking up and this one is also caught from the shore of the site. AHH, my reputation is saved as being the "provider". We take to the canoe to secure firewood and water for the night. My partner finds some easy pickings among some down cedar and I continue to be impressed with how well the Corona razor tooth 21" pruning saw makes short work of his find. I believe thanks goes to Suko from this site for sharing this equipment find. I protect the teeth of the blade with a guard I made from a piece of vinyl tubing 1/2 " OD, and slit it. It is held on with 4 or 5 bungee loop ties I made. My daughter-in-law is in the process of making me a sheath with a buckle and tie in loop so I can secure it to my pack when portaging. Many thanks to Dan Cooke of CCS for the cloth.

Firewood and drinking water secured we take to the sunning rock for a much needed swim. Refreshed, I find myself going to the fishing rod again. This time I switch over to a bare hook and leech with a slip bobber set at about 8 feet of depth. The smallies cannot resist and I land a number of them between 13" and 17" over the next 45 minutes. Finally the fishing justifies the portaging of all the fishing gear. I do not catch any walleye this trip, just can't seem to locate them.

I do have one embarrassing equipment admission, I brought a newly purchased 2nd hand camera along for the first time, a Pentax Optio and when I pressed the button to take a picture, it made a noise that I assumed meant the picture was taken, but not so, wrong assumption. I believe the noise was confirming that all the settings were fine and if I kept the button down a smidgen longer the picture would be snapped. So about 1/3 of my pictures, of otter, moose, eagles never happened, so the memories of those pictures will be frozen in our minds digital memory. I did get a great shot of the swimming squirrel and another harsh lesson to try out equipment beforehand.

On another equipment note I tried out Marc Bates' suggestion of placing a piece of nylon hose over the coffee filter which I already place on a gravity feed filter. After a minor knot adjustment this is the way to go to maximize the life of the filter. Thanks Marc, certainly better than using elastics.

The moon on our final evening was out in full glory, we had a wonderful fire going and enjoying our final libations so we would not have to carry out as much. Oh the sacrifices we make. We end up talking and conversing much later than usual, unwilling to end our last night in the BW for this year.

 



Day 6 of 6


Yes, we awoke to another sunny day. This is the best week of weather we have ever experienced in the BW, it adds a lot to a trip as your time is really open to choose what you "want" to do rather than what you can do. We quickly realize that we are not motivated to pack and leave, so start with a leisurely breakfast. I then choose to fish with leeches from shore and quickly catch some smallies in the 14" to 16" size. As we slowly break camp, we save some snacks for a break when we get back to Poplar Lake. The packing is begrudgingly accomplished and we paddle away. Would you believe we are making plans for 2010? What a wonderful hold this special place has on us. As we get to the portage to Liz, another group is right behind us, it is the father and his two sons from Wisconsin, that we met yesterday. As we say Hi, I ask how was the fishing was on Meed. They smile and reported that they finally found the elusive Walleye and have had a good trip. Well as we were slowly moving our stuff onto the portage along comes two groups coming in. Yes, our procrastination seems to mean that everyone is coming and going at virtually the same time. This thought becomes a reality as we meet two more groups coming in at Liz to Caribou as well as a day tripper and a Guide with 3 clients all converging at the same time. Everyone was cordial and polite and we were on our way without too much fanfare. As we hit the end of Liz and the portage to Poplar, we come upon another group of 7 coming in with more fishing rods than I can believe. I jokingly note to one of them that is holding over 10 poles that the fish should be warned. He replies that they may have over done it. As we hit the end of the portage we put the canoe and packs way off to the side so that they are out of the way while we grab our snacks and a nice spot for a break. We see no one else coming in and actually realize we saw 5 groups and 1 day tripper going in, on a 4 permit a day Entry, Hm-mm. Two more groups come by us as we are sitting, even though they are leaving, everyone is in good spirits with some fine back and forth banter and much good natured laughter shared. Our time to take our final paddle back to Rockwood is here and we shove off and get the final leg going. I note to my Bow Partner that all the traffic came thru during a 45 minute span, thus showing how important timing is. Eventually we are alone with the snacks gone and start our paddle on Poplar Lake back to the shore at Rockwood Outfitters. Poplar Lake which is entirely outside of the BWCAW is very quiet, we see very few people here, and this is on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend; this is a far cry from what we would experienced back home. While paddling at least 50 yards off an island we strike a submerged rock. This surprises us as it was a harder hit than anything we had while in the BW. You just have to be constantly on the lookout, even if only minutes from the outfitters. We beach and unpack the canoe and start putting our gear aside. Lin sees us at the equipment building porch and comes over where we share some of the great trip memories quickly with her. Mike shows up from some chores he was doing and is equally pleased to hear of our great trip.

We have the equipment separated and ours boxed and ready to return by UPS to our home. We take our showers, put on fresh clothes, boy does that feel good. We settle our bill and say our good bye's with a "hope to see you next year" and we really do, in fact I have a couple of plans in the works...But for the moment, it is off to Grand Marais!

POST NOTES and THOUGHTS: Again, a concern we had going into this entry was, would the exposure to more canoe trippers diminish our BWCAW experience? It has not, although I will admit that the people we encountered were for the most part "like minded" in what they were there for. I guess we could compare it to the fire bans that we have gone in under the last two years. Did we miss not having a fire, absolutely, but is it a "deal breaker", no way, it affords a slightly different experience and for us that is always worth it. It is the quiet sounds of nature, not solitude that we enjoy most. There were always campsites available and options to consider, for these reasons, this time, this entry was a winner and will be considered again. After more years than I am comfortable to admit, there are a few absolutes: 1) Portages vary a lot. Length alone is not the the most important criteria. Steepness, rock/boulder strewed, put ins, take outs, loose gravel or firm surface along with wet or dry conditions are often more important than length. 2) The single most consistently difficult attribute to find at most camp sites is more than one level tent pad with little or no ground obstructions. We count ourselves quite lucky in that we only require 1 pad. 3) We have in the BWCAW, The Adirondacks and Allagash, to mention a few, gifts from past generations and often the foresight of a few special individuals. We need to continue to support, protect and cherish with sacrifices, if necessary, to ensure there longevity. 4) Equipment continues to improve, often while getting lighter. Food's taste and variety continues to make advances. 5) This site and its members, more than any other source, has contributed to our overall tripping knowledge. Doing so while often providing laughter and enjoyment, we are beholden and grateful to you all, but especially Adam for creating this special site. Thanks,

Boppa and Bow Partner

 


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