BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
March 27 2017
Magnetic Lake 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 47 miles. Access Magnetic Lake and Granite River from Gunflint Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1554 feet
Magnetic Lake - 57
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1554 feet
Magnetic Lake - 57
Granite River Route - Summer Revisited
August 03, 2011
Number of Days:
Day 1 of 5
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 [paragraph break] When "S" graduated from high school in June, he suggested we make one more BWCA trip before he headed to college. How could I refuse? His mom, "B", was game too, so we set aside four days in August and started dreaming and planning. B and I coordinated on packing, each purchasing a new Granite Gear "Solo" pack from NW Canoe to add to our supplies. [paragraph break] The Gunflint Trail was calling us - I hadn't been there since my first BWCA trip in 1996. We would paddle a route that was adjacaent to Canada, and use two cars to shuttle between start and end. I consulted with Bruce Kerfoot of The Gunflint Lodge and purchased a permit for a Magnetic Lake entry. It was a real thrill to talk to the son of Justine Kerfoot, Woman of the Boundary Waters, whose book I had read while paddling up there for my 40th birthday. My bwca.com friend Sheryl (aka "mocha") worked there, and I was looking forward to meeting her in real life too! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] dd2 (dear daughter 2) was the only one of my three kids that was up for this adventure - ds would have his own trip three weeks later, and dd1 had her own trip the following month. dd2 drove a hard bargain and insisted that she be permitted to bring her very own tent. I agreed, provided that it went in HER pack :) The "Solo" pack would prove to be just perfect for her. [paragraph break] We were fortunate that the water levels did not dry up this year as is typical, so we proceeded with high hopes for low bugs, high water and a great time. All three came true! [paragraph break] B & S went ahead and scouted parking areas, got advance "intel" on blueberries,and watched moose and a lakeside sunset. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] I worked a full day, packed the car, and drove after dark. I wonder who got the better deal on that one? Not me! [paragraph break] dd2 & I made it to the Gunflint Lodge in about 5+ hours... and then had an adventure finding the instructions to our bunkhouse. Although there were few clouds, it was dark as pitch! When we made it to our front door, B let us in and we discovered a bunk room with bunks stacked three high. dd2 and S took the middle bunks (which were already higher than a regular bunk) and B and I were on "ground floor". We grownups chatted away, excited to connect on the eve of this trip. dd2 and I had just missed the howling of a wolf pack (or perhaps we scared them away with our car and people noises). We were excited to get in on the northwoods action & couldn't wait for the next day to begin!
Day 2 of 5
Thursday, August 04, 2011 [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We had a delicious breakfast at the Lodge. Then, everyone else shuttled a car to Trail's End for the return, while I loaded boats. We pushed off just before 11am. dd2 & I started in the "new to me" Penobscot 16, making its maiden voyage with me. We had 2 GG Solo packs, 1 GG Superior One pack, and 1 "Seattle Sports" PVC pack, plus I think B & S had a small day pack. We carried one extra paddle in each boat and had two fishing rods. I took a dip at the beach with my cell phone in my pocket (a first!) and had to leave it behind to dry out in B's car. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Alas, the Penob didn't handle so well with a child in the bow, and the wind on Gunflint picked up midway across the lake... Using every paddle muscle I had left, we crossed the wind and pulled ashore on a point on the far side. B & S were in the Heron, having no trouble at all. I walked a ways along the shore until we had to paddle hard again for the narrows ("Cow o Bob e Cock") to Magnetic Lake. The channel was marked with milk cartons, and we floated through to find a place to swap boats with B & S. dd2 wouldn't have anything to do with that green boat the rest of the trip! Crisis averted, we paddled Magnetic Lake and enjoyed imagining life on an island cabin (yellow) just outside the BW. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We passed out of Magnetic Lake and pulled into the first portage just ahead of a pontoon boat - seriously. This wasn't the BWCA - yet. This portage would be in Canada! dd2 was the first of my kids to technically leave the country! [paragraph break] At the portage were two day trippers, lounging right where we took out, not understanding the portage concept. They soon got the picture as we landed and began unloading our gear. We carried it a short ways before putting in again and paddling to the top of Little Rock Falls - the beautiful site of an old Hamm's Beer commercial. There, we carried the gear again over more rocky terrain to the end of the portage. The nasty, rocky, ankle-twisting portages were blessedly short. Plenty more than 9 people (BWCA limit) were gathered at Little Rock Falls. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] A perfect "jump rock" can be found at the bottom of the falls, with a nice pool below it. We took turns jumping off (I did hit the bottom) and enjoyed the cool water. Then a snake reclaimed its spot on the ledge and the jumpers took a break :) [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] When we paddled on (at about 2pm), our next destination was a secret blueberry patch. B & S had directions from Bruce Kerfoot, and just before Wood Horse Portage, we pulled over and scaled the granite walls to find a plateau of blueberries as far as you could see. We filled four plastic containers (GLAD I brought them) in short order even when we were eating 1/2 of what we picked! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We crossed Wood Horse portage and said we'd take the first site we found since after Clove Lake, it's a ways to the next site. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The campsite up on a cliff after the portage was taken, so we continued. We took the Pine Portage over to Clove Lake, and found the campsite at the end of the trail available. The other two sites were taken. Lucky!! [paragraph break] Clove Lake was just beautiful - the water was shallow and we floated the canoes over to the site. There was room for our tents (including dd2's) and a nice view of the sunset. We arrived just after 5:30pm. The only issue with that location (besides being near the portage) was that the latrine trail was straight up! You kind of had to pull yourself up the hill, holding on to plants... Site gets 4 stars, latrine 1 star. [paragraph break] After setting up the three tents, we made a fire and boboli pepperoni pizza. MMmmmmmmm. Perfect meal at the end of a great day. During dinner, dd2 whispered to me that she was a little scared of sleeping in her own tent, so we raced back to her tent and took it down lickety split. The new Taj 3 was more than big enough for both of us. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We had one couple come through looking for a camp site - we offered to share if they couldn't find one, but they headed to Larch Lake and never returned. The night was clear and we didn't even bother setting up a tarp! I hoped we wouldn't regret it, and we didn't. About time I got some good weather up here (see May trip to Little Indian Sioux River). [paragraph break]
Day 3 of 5
Friday, August 05, 2011 [paragraph break] We woke early, and enjoyed the glassy water - it was still clear and calm. We had toasted egg sandwiches with ham, onions, and cheese. [paragraph break] We packed up camp after breakfast and had a swim to cool off. It was gonna be another hot one! I could swim in Clove Lake all day long. The lake was shallow near the campsite, the water clear and warm. We left before 11am. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Our first portage we had been told we could "line left", and sure enough we waded the left side of the river until we could see a clear shot through the rapids, then climbed in for the ride. Wheeeeee! dd2 was hooked, she then wanted to run every portage from there on... :) This rapids makes a sharp right turn, hence the nickname "Elbow Rapids". I wonder if I couldn't actually make the turn while paddling, but didn't dare try to find out :) We passed a group from Luther College off and on that day - it was fun to see young adults spending their time paddling. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We were all happy to find that "Swamp Portage" was NOT knee deep in muck, in fact it was a breeze. We found the portage just after 12:30pm and the Luther team caught up to us there, so we chose to eat lunch and let them "play through". Peanut butter and blueberries on tortillas was the menu. Good thing we accidentally forgot the jelly! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] dd2 rescued a PFD someone left at the beginning of Swamp portage, and wore it the rest of the trip as we searched for its owner. We never did find the right "Kennedy", and thus it is now hers. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Up next was a short (rocky) "Granite River Portage". After every portage (sometimes before too), I would swim - at least to my neck. The air was so hot and the water so warm, I couldn't stay out of the river. After this portage I got some cool pictures of a large tree growing out of rock. I also got a hitchhiker on my foot. A small leech attached itself to me and I didn't spot it until we were on the water. After I pulled it off, my foot bled and bled and bled. I still have a mark from that leech today! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] After that portage, there were two small chutes of rapids not marked on the map. Thanks to Tuscarora Borealis at bwca.com I knew they were coming and were runnable. They were FUN! Both canoes ran them smoothly, but it still baffles me why they are not marked on the map - they would be hazardous in lower water, we were lucky to shoot right through. [paragraph break] The Gneiss Lake portage was also a breeze to paddle, in fact we barely noticed that there was a portage. Probably you'd need to take the trail in low water. [paragraph break] The landscape was eerie with some green islands and charred mainland areas. The Ham Lake fire scars were evident in the exposed granite, tall black tree "sticks", and new green ground cover. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We found many campsites taken and some that didn't look appealing at all. At one point, we split up to try to find a more favorable site, but ended up making do with a site on the Maraboeuf Lake side of Devil's Elbow. Skies were threatening to rain, and we got three tents set up on an open point (before 5pm) with no place for a tarp - we chanced it and made dinner. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] After filling our bellies, we sat around a nice fire for a bit, until turning in for the night. dd2 slept in her own tent, nestled between the other tents and became the first of my kids to do so. Wahoo for dd2!! [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
Day 4 of 5
Saturday, August 06, 2011 [paragraph break] Waking about 7am, we had a lovely blueberry pancake breakfast, with no need to scrimp on the blueberries! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The blueberries we picked on the first day of paddling were holding up well - thanks to the hard sided plastic containers we kept them in. I'd hate to see what they looked like in just a plastic bag. Blueberry juice? [paragraph break] dd2 was pretty proud of sleeping all night long in her own tent - she posed for some rockin' pictures with the perfect "I pitch my own tent" T-shirt on! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] After we packed up, I needed to do one last thing for dd2. She really wanted to see if the campsite had a "jump rock". We thought we found one, but I insisted on scoping out below it before she could jump. A resident snapping turtle had discouraged my exploration the previous night. S stood on the only rock obstacle and dd2 caught some serious air! Summer in the BWCA is fun! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We were on our way before 11am. Today we had only two portages, but I expected Horsetail Rapids to be a doozy based on Spartan2's description. We landed there at about 12:30pm. I was pleasantly surprised, but it was still a challenge with downed trees making an obstacle course for us all. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The 2nd portage would be around Saganaga Falls (at about 1:30pm) - a short up and over some rocks with a tricky put-in below the falls. Some young'uns with no PFDs simply lowered their metal boat stright down the falls and made it look easy! Not gonna do that with my boats! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Below the waterfall was another popular place accessible by motor. We caught the current and shot out away from the falls to a calm bay where we had lunch and S cast his fishing line. This time, S had some luck and caught a bass for us to admire! On the stringer it went after being captured on camera several times. Hope that snapper isn't around for his lunch :) [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Now we entered the infamous "Big Sag". I was nervous about wind and waves, but it was blessedly calm. dd2 was nervous about finding a spot to camp, and tired of traveling all day every day I think. As I paid her some attention inside the boat (parent-speak for trying to re-regulate kiddo), I failed to pay attention outside the boat, even as I kept paddling. [paragraph break] Next thing you know, I was sure that S & B were headed the wrong way; and they were sure I was headed the wrong way. We were too far apart to hear even a whistle from each other - although we could see paddles waving and arms beckoning. dd2 & I let the wind blow us to S & B. We compared maps and sure enough I was headed the long way around Conner's Island. Thanks guys! [paragraph break] As we approached the south end of Camper's Island, the 1st site was available, though there was no decent landing. S and I went to check out the southernmost site for comparison. In the end, S selected the southern site for the tent pad with a view - the "Penthouse Suite". [paragraph break] [paragraph break] This site also had no reasonable landing, but we made do. Skies were darkening and we hustled to set up camp about 5:30pm. S & dd2 paddled to "Filet Island" to carve up the bass, and we ate it as an appetizer. Mmmmm, good. When it started to sprinkle, we decided once again to take down dd2's tent and bunk together for the last night - I was glad, even though it had taken me a while to get her tent up using logs and roots as tie-downs! We had dinner and sat by a nice fire enjoying each other's company and not wanting the trip to end. [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
Day 5 of 5
Sunday, August 07, 2011 [paragraph break] I've never been so happy to wake up to calm water! Big Sag could easily be more than we could handle, though the route was sheltered. [paragraph break] We made one more round of blueberry pancakes, rationing syrup. We packed up camp, making sure to get pictures of the MOST wide open latrine I have ever seen. The "Amphitheater Latrine" made you feel as if you were on stage, sitting in the bottom of a pine forest "bowl" with a steep trail down into the bowl and back out. We also snapped pictures of our respective homes, and the lot where dd2's home was until it sprinkled :) We were on the water by 9am. This big lake was definitely cooler water than the river system we had come through. That was a welcome change when swimming! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We headed south down the motor corridor. A few motorboats passed us heading north, but in general it was a peaceful paddle. We probably had another canoe "race" just to keep a certain bow paddler motivated. This tactic had worked before and it worked again for a short time. [paragraph break] After the fork at the Seagull River, we stopped at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters (VCO). I was using a paddle bearing a logo the VCO owner, Sue, had designed and sold to help fight breast cancer. So we stopped at VCO and I said THANKS to Sue and then we paddled on. In this area, we were no longer in the BWCA, so we paddled past camps and homes and outfitters. Strange. dd2 was determined to attend a sleepover camp up there next summer. We shall see! [paragraph break] We paddled past an adult loon feeding two chicks - that was a first for me and a thrill. At last we arrived at Trail's End and the paddle was over, sniff sniff. We had the car loaded and were taking our last swim by about 11:30am. That's another spot I could swim in all day long. I didn't want to leave that glorious water! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] But we had more to do... I wanted to stop at the new Native American museum nearby, so we did a quick pass through "Chik-Wauk" museum, learning about Native Americans, legendary white folks, and Voyageurs. The aerial map of this route was on the wall there and I took a photo of it and used it in a photo book. A film about Voyageurs was fascinating, and an interactive exhibit about portaging had us all trying to lift 90 pounds, as a Voyageur would have done. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Next we returned to Gunflint Lodge to get S & B's car and meet Sheryl (a treat). [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Finally a big lunch at Trail Center where everyone got their own malt and no one finished it. A paddling group of women and girls was ending their trip at the table near us and it was fun to see them bubbling over with the same kind of excitement we had. Made you wanna wear a sign that said "I just came out of the BWCA!" As if they couldn't tell by our appearance... Time for goodbyes to B and S. dd2 and I would explore Honeymoon Bluff and Palisades on the way home, while B and S would head home directly. What a good team we made - I'll be forever grateful that S suggested this trip. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] dd2 and I went off to climb the steps at Honeymoon Bluff and look out over some enormous and gorgeous lakes. dd2 made friends with some people walking a dog (no surprise there) and we had a good hike before getting in the car for a long drive. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] One more stop at Palisades to watch the rock climbers and take a picture of Shovel Point, and then we headed home. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Thanks to B for the warning about I-35 traffic, we cut over through Superior, Wisconsin and came home on blissfully empty back roads. What a trip! [paragraph break] THE END: This turned out to be one of the best BWCA paddles of all time. I loved actually "traveling" somewhere again, though I easily could have spent 2-3 days at each place we camped. I loved paddling with dd2 - she was such a good sport. It was hard to pack up every day and paddle without knowing where we were going to stay... but she did it, and portaged her share without complaint. I loved spending quality time with friends B and S away from the hustle of city life. I loved paddling when the water was "friendly" and warm - what a paradigm shift after years of only paddling during hypothermia seasons. [paragraph break] It was amazing to see the re-generation of the area after the 2007 Ham Lake fire. Some places seemed untouched (islands, some campsites, the Canadian side of the waterway, etc.) and others were scarred visibly, leaving precarious charred trees and exposed granite. I never saw it before the fire, so I cannot compare, but if it was more beautiful than it is now, that would be a sight to behold. It was fun to follow the international boundary. A treaty from the 1800s gives U.S. and Canadian citizens the right to be on either side of the border while traveling (no overnights). We had an international vacation! [paragraph break] To S: Thank you for suggesting the trip and making time for it. Special thanks for your patience with dd2 as a shadow and for the extra gear you hauled just because you could. You've got a special place in my heart and I look forward to hearing about more of your wilderness adventures. [paragraph break] To B: Thank you for your thorough planning help, the encouragement to buy a new pack, ha! and for being game for anything and everything... and for listening and caring. You made sure nothing dropped off the list and added valuable info collected before we paddled. Thanks for sharing your photos, without which this report couldn't be complete. I look forward to many more paddles with you and any others willing to come! [paragraph break] To dd2: YOU made this trip fantastic for me. It was a joy to watch you jumping and swimming and fishing and paddling and sleeping in your own tent.. I LOVED having you as my partner and sharing the wilderness with you. THANK YOU for coming with me - I hope we have lots and lots more trips together. I love you - you ROCK!!!!
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