BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

August 17 2017

Entry Point 55 - Saganaga Lake

Saganaga Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP max). 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 55 miles. No motors (use or possession) west of American Point. Access to Canada (the Crown land and Quetico Park). Large lake with many campsites and easy access. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 17
Elevation: 1184 feet
Latitude: 48.1716
Longitude: -90.8868
Saganaga Lake - 55

An introductory trip for Dad

by Mad_Angler
Trip Report

Entry Date: May 21, 2009
Entry Point: Saganaga Lake
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
I had talked with dad about my trips to the BW. He had done similar trips as a boy and always wanted to go to the BW. In January, I asked him to go to the BW over Memorial Day. He was very excited. This is the story of that trip…

Day 1 of 5

Thursday, May 21, 2009: Wednesday and Thursday getting to Seagull Outfitters. [paragraph break]

Wednesday was my last chance turkey hunting. I got up at 3am and gave it one last try. I saw some birds but couldn't get one close enough. I worked from 8am til noon. At noon, I had lunch with my wife and finished packing. I left home around 4pm. [paragraph break] I drove to my dad’s house in northern Wisconsin. The drive was uneventful. I arrived and we went out for dinner. We talked about all the details of the trip. [paragraph break] Thursday, we got up early and hit the road. We had lunch in Two Rivers and got to Grand Marias around 2pm. We bought licenses and minnows at the hardware store in Grand Marais. (more on the minnows later in the report). [paragraph break] We stopped at Windigo lodge on the Gunflint Trail. We bought a 6 pack of beer in plastic bottles and some vodka in plastic bottles. [paragraph break] We arrived at Seagull Outfitters around 4pm. We quickly got our last minute details settled, organized our stuff, and checked out our room in the bunkhouse. [paragraph break] We went to dinner at the Gunflint Lodge. The Lodge was very nice and appeared to be a perfect place to return with my wife. Unfortunately, the steaks were okay at best… [paragraph break] We got back to Seagull, tried some fishing from their dock, and went to bed early.


Day 2 of 5

Friday, May 22, 2009 (Tow to Red Rock Bay and set up of camp in Red Rock Lake) [paragraph break]

We got up around 7am and had a nice “quick start breakfast” and coffee. We loaded our stuff in the Seagull trailer and started the drive to the tow boat. [paragraph break] Our gear was quickly transferred to the tow boat and we were underway. The ride out was exhilarating. It was my first tow and my dad’s first real view of the BW. With the cold wind, it was also quite refreshing. We quickly made it to the entrance to Red Rock Lake. The tow driver, Jake, helped unload our gear. I paddled through the small creek into Red Rock Lake. My dad got in the canoe and we were officially in the BW… [paragraph break] Deb from Seagull had marked some good campsites. The entire lake was empty even though it was the Friday before Memorial Day. We looked at nearly all the campsites. They looked good but just didn’t seem “perfect”. When we got to the southernmost site, it seemed to be the best. It had a nice fire area. More importantly, it had some trees for hanging a rain tarp. It was still just mid May so I wanted to be able to install some protection from the weather. [paragraph break] I checked on the minnows. They were all DEAD. It was my fault. The girl at the bait shop put the minnows in a bag and blew in quite a bit of oxygen. I asked the girl to put the minnows in my bait king. The bag fit in the bait king but all the oxygen got squeezed out. It had only been about 16 hours but that was too long without oxygen... [paragraph break] We decided to just drop our packs and go fishing. So, we unloaded the packs, gathered our fishing gear and head out. Then, it happened… [paragraph break] I was sitting in the back of the canoe. My dad was getting in the front. I don’t really know what happened. One minute, I was sitting there. The next minute, we were both in the water swimming... [paragraph break] We got back on shore and surveyed the situation. The canoe was upright with just a little water in it. We emptied the canoe. Our clothes were wet. We took off all the cotton stuff and hung it up. We found dry clothes and quickly recovered. It was a warm, sunny, windy day. All our stuff would dry quickly. [paragraph break] The only casualty of our dip in the lake was my digital camera. Just before heading out, I took my fone (spare camera) and left it on shore. I was thinking “I really should put the camera in a ziplock bag”. But I didn’t. The camera eventually dried out and worked again but we lost the ability to take pictures for about 2 days. Always carry you camera in a ziplock bag! [paragraph break] As a side note, this was my first trip with a Bell Northwind Canoe. I'm sure our dip wasn't the sole fault of the canoe. But the Northwind did not seem to be nearly as stable as the Souris River canoes that I've used on previous trips. [paragraph break] We decided to fully set up camp. Once that was done, we had lunch (Backpackers Pantry Fettuccini Alfredo, it was okay). [paragraph break] We finally got our nerves back up and went back out fishing. We explored a few areas. My dad had a nice pike on his spoon but it broke the line near the boat. [paragraph break] We headed back to camp, had a nice steak dinner. The steak was from Seagull Outfitters. It was cooked over an open fire and much better than the Gunflint Lodge steak. Maybe it was the atmosphere… [paragraph break] We relaxed around the campfire. It was a good day…


Day 3 of 5

Saturday, May 23, 2009 ((Day trip to Jasper Lake) [paragraph break] We woke up around 7am and had pancakes and thick bacon for breakfast. It was very good. I think this is one of my favorite BW breakfasts. [paragraph break] We packed some basic gear and headed towards Alpine Lake. The portage from Red Rock to Alpine was my dad’s first portage. It was good introduction: not too long, not too short; not too hard, not too easy. [paragraph break] Our goal was to paddle straight through to Jasper. One of my goals for the trip was to catch a lake trout. I was told that Jasper had good lake trout. We were just passing through Alpine on our way to the lake trout. I tossed out a blue Rapala Taildancer (size 9) and we started to paddle across Alpine. [paragraph break] As we passed the first campsite (Kip’s site), I caught a small northern. It was my first fish of the trip and I was pretty happy. Izzy told me that the site had good fishing… [paragraph break] As we passed the next point south, my taildancer started hitting bottom occasionally and I caught a nice smallmouth. [paragraph break] Then as we passed the next point south, my rod bent back again. The fish fought hard but also fought differently than the pike and smallie. It was sorta sluggish but heavy. Once it got near the boat, it started spinning and trying to dive to the bottom. I landed the fish. It was a very nice 25” lake trout; my very first lake trout ever. But, I expected to catch more lake trout later so I didn’t really look him over very closely. Also since my camera was still wet, I wasn’t able to get a picture of it. I let it go. [paragraph break] We started paddling again, as we passed the next point south, my dad gets a fish on. He fights it for a while and eventually brings a nice pike to the boat. We look him over for a bit and then let him go. We were still itching to get to Jasper where the “good fishing” was supposed to start… [paragraph break] We reached the portage to Jasper and had lunch of cheese and sausage at the falls. It was nice. [paragraph break] We finally reached Jasper. But now, the sun was shining brightly. Up until now, it was cloudy and breezy. Jasper is a pretty lake but was burned very hard by the fire. I’m not sure I would want to camp on Jasper for more than a night or two. [paragraph break] We paddled nearly the entire perimeter of Jasper. I had my depth finder with us. I tried 5-10 foot, 10-15 foot, and 15-20 foot trolls. We did not get a single strike. We decided to head back to Alpine. [paragraph break] At Alpine, we fished below the rapids. I expected great action. We did not catch anything. [paragraph break] We trolled back across Alpine. I caught a perfect 21” northern for dinner near Jasper. My dad caught a smallie. [paragraph break] We portaged to Red Rock and got back to camp and had a cold beer. The 6 pack of beer was easily worth its weight. [paragraph break] We cooked up the fish. It was great. Fresh fried fish in the BW are really one of the best parts of the trip. Next time though, I’ll try to fillet out the y-bones. [paragraph break] I had a nice cigar and we relaxed around the camp fire. It was another good day…


Day 4 of 5

Sunday, May 24, 2009 (Fishing Red Rock) [paragraph break] We woke pretty early and had Cache Lake biscuits and gravy for breakfast. It was great. Again, it is one of my favorite BW breakfasts. [paragraph break] We fished around Red Rock. We went to my dad’s spot near the islands in the middle. I caught a smallie and a northern on a Berkley hollow belly swimbait. I came to really like these baits. I lost the swimbait a while later on another northern. [paragraph break] We headed back to camp around 10am. We just explored and relaxed until about 4pm. We figured the fishing would be better towards evening. We didn’t catch anything around camp. I looked at my map and noticed a small, shallow bay on the southeast side of the lake. I figured the water would be warmer and we’d have better luck. [paragraph break] Going in to the bay, I fished the swimbait most of the way. I eventually lost it to a pike. [paragraph break] At the back of the bay, we decided to check out the campsite. It was a VERY pretty campsite. It was heavily forested and very shady. It was very different from the typical rocky BW campsite. But it might be bad for bugs since there is no wind at the site. But for spring and fall groups looking for seclusion, it is an ideal site. [paragraph break] As we left the campsite, I saw a fish smack an insect on the surface. I decided to try topwater lures. That turned out to be a great decision. I caught about 6 to 10 fish on the way out. If I would have went slower, I probably could have caught twice that number. It was the best fishing of the trip. I love topwater fishing… [paragraph break] We arrived back at camp around 8pm. It was still warm and we were exhilarated by our fishing success. We had a few fish on the stringer for dinner. We had a vodka and orange juice to celebrate. We must have been dehydrated because the vodka hit us very hard even though we didn’t have much. We just relaxed and laughed in the sun. [paragraph break] Eventually, we started to think about dinner. We decided to let the fish go and just have dehydrated food for dinner. I had beef stew and Dad had beef stroganoff. It was good enough… [paragraph break] We relaxed around the campfire and I had another cigar. I was yet another good day…


Day 5 of 5

Monday, May 25, 2009 (heading home) [paragraph break] Based on the strong encouragement of cowdoc and izzy, we were not paddling out today. We were getting a tow at 1pm. That turned out to be a great decision… [paragraph break] We had breakfast (Cache lake’s bacon hash brown scramble, very good) and went out fishing. We tried a few spots and didn’t catch much. I was still hoping for a walleye to complete my BW slam but it was not to be… [paragraph break] We started to pack up camp around 10am. At 11am, we pushed off towards Red Rock Bay. We trolled and had a leisurely paddle. The wind was blowing pretty hard but it was behind us. We mostly just steered the canoe. [paragraph break] When we got to the creek between Red Rock Lake and Red Rock Bay, we saw 2 guys fishing the creek. We paddled through and talked for a second. While we were talking, they caught a nice ~35” northern almost right below our canoe. They were using a dead cisco/smelt on a bobber. [paragraph break] We beached the canoe on the far shore and relaxed while we waited for the tow boat. The boat arrived around 1:00. We loaded the boat and headed towards Seagull. On the big water of Saganaga, the strong SE wind was really blowing. The whitecaps were pretty impressive. (My original plan was to paddle out Seagull today. With the strong wind, that would not have been possible. Thanks again to cowdoc and izzy.) [paragraph break] We got back to Seagull, showered, bought some t-shirts and headed home. [paragraph break] I got a short nap on the way to my dad’s house. I dropped him off around 9:30. I got home around 2:30am. Just enough time to grab a nap before heading to work on Tuesday morning…


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