BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 16 2018
South 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 is from Gunflint Lake with a 10-mile paddle and two short portages to South Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1561 feet
South Lake - 58
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1561 feet
South Lake - 58
40 days in the B Dub
August 20, 2012
Little Indian Sioux River (north) (14)
Number of Days:
I felt I was supposed to go out for 40 days paddling in prayer for our church and my family. Not to weird anyone out but I felt sort of called to do it. It was a small window in my life to do such a thing and I'm amazed at how it all worked out.
I don’t usually talk about my time before the trip as it usually is a quick drive up and away I go. This time was different… I got a ride from Chuck at Spring Creek all the way to Gunflint Lodge where I stayed in the Bunk House the night before. My neighbors there were Brandon and Toni from Iowa and we got to be great friends. Sunday nights the lodge does an awesome BBQ on the deck and you can have your dog with you. Boy was that good. One of my biggest treats was meeting Mocha in person. She lived up to all I’ve heard and more. She and Bonnie are quite the team and I’m sure they aren’t paid enough for what they do. I had a lot of last minute concerns that were easily taken care of. Just can’t thank Sheryl and Bonnie enough! Brandon and Toni went in through Clove and up that way and I was starting my trek with a loop to see Johnson Falls. We’d meet up again the following Sunday night as I came in for my first resupply. Eastern Loop – August 20th I got up early and after a nice omelet in the Lodge I was off by 8:15AM or so. I wanted to beat the wind on Gunflint, but it ended up being a little hairy on the east end. But I was soon on smaller water and making good time. I got to height of the land portage before noon and proceeded to Rose Lake my first night. Then came day two… My challenge for the day was the two mile portage. And when you double portage you end up walking a total of 6 miles. I did the leapfrog thing that worked very well. Despite the liner socks and all I still managed to get blisters on my feet. This would bother me for a week or so. I ended up on Mountain Lake then the next day portaging down through Clearwater to Caribou. Those two portages got to me too and I took a day to rest my feet and take in Johnson Falls. There I met a young couple that admitted they were lurkers on bwca.com. I see why it’s the attraction it is and I’m sort of embarrassed I’ve brought people through Pine thirty years ago and didn’t know it was there.[paragraph break] Then, not wanting to do the portages back to Mountain and not thinking going all the way to South Fowl was such a great idea I came up with another plan… I paddled to Deer, Moon, Flour, Hungry Jack, to Bearskin, and to Duncan. The route from Flour through Hungry Jack to Bearskin wasn’t used to much. So it was tough going. I was bushwhacking from Flour to Hungry Jack and only realized the last 50yrds or so that there was a nice road I could have followed. Got the last campsite, or so I thought… on Duncan which rates a -4 on a 1 – 5 scale. :) Next day doing the Stairway Portage and paddling to North Lake, then back to Gunflint Lodge Sunday afternoon. Monday I took a tow across to the first portage to the Granite River. The first night was a nice sandy beach on the North end of Clove. The Granite is sort of a cool trip in itself… I enjoyed watching a flock of geese swim ahead of me and watched them float through some light rapids. It was funny. The water levels were down so that made things interesting. Then on to Big Sag where I rested a couple days. I was going to go up through Monument Portage but changed my mind and headed down through Red Rock and Alpine and ended up on Ogish for the night. The next morning I was off by 9AM but was checked by the forest service for permit. We had a good talk and I was surprised to learn Little Sag gets very little use. And later while paddling through it I was amazed at how pretty and nice of a lake it is. I portaged like I said to Little Sag where I did get a little turned around… Or should I say the wind blew me down the lake past where I needed to go. I paddled by several unused campsites along the way. I did the two 20 rod portages to Elton… And even though Makwa was my goal it was to late to paddle on so I got a good campsite. In the night I heard something walk up the shore but didn’t get up. But when we heard it coming back Bernice insisted we go out so we got up and watched a nice moose walk by us and up the shore in the blue moon light. Not sure if it was the exact night of the blue moon, but it was full and bright. The next day we got going and my goal was Boulder Lake and I wasn’t going to fall short this time. We Paddled and portaged through Makwa and across to Ledge Lake. By the time we got there I was tiring but pushed on. The last portage (160 rods or so) kicked my butt and on I went to the portage that tee’s off to Boulder Lake. That portage I figured was close to a mile long going that way. I had to pray for extra strength as I was out of my own. And I eventually made it finishing off the last of the filtered water on the shore of Boulder. I paddled out and got a five star site on the island. Both Bernice and I would enjoy this site for a couple days. The night before I left this site a couple with a teenage son came by. I named them the Bickersons cause the guy never shut up. Maybe it was his accent, but it sounded like he was constantly complaining about something and even though they were a ways away I could hear him long after I’d hit the hay. The paddle to Adams might have been a little tougher due to the low water but not as bad as the Bickersons made it sound. ? Between Trapline and the Kawishawa River I met Brian from Ohio who said he lurks on bwca.com. He said he’d post and say he’d seen me and all is well. He turned me on to a campsite on Amber Lake that was nice. I did paddle in and have lunch on the site, but I had my sights on Fishdance Lake. We made it there by early afternoon and listening to the weather radio I knew a storm was heading our way. The ground didn’t look like it shed the water away to well, so I set up my rainfly to help with that and it worked rather well. Listening again they are naming off all the lakes around me on the weather radio where the storm is heading. We got into the tent just as it hit and one lightning strike was as close as I’ve ever had one hit. The tent even puffed on that one. Bernice was a little afraid and storms don’t usually bother her. But we weathered it fine and got up and had supper and enjoyed the evening. I’d find out later this storm had started several fires to the west of me. I pressed on to Alice where I spent a night and then paddling up Alice in pretty good waves I meet another solo with a bwca.com hat on and I think he is Needleguy. We talked briefly and paddled on. I went up the arm on the NE side of Alice and ate lunch at a site I almost had to stay at. I liked it a lot but wanted to push on to Thomas Lake. On Thomas I paddled around the corner to the left and down to a cool island site. I stayed a couple nights there. We had more rain there and a lot of wind. Then I needed to get to Prairie Portage to meet Zulu… and a friend was bringing in a resupply. I was concerned about how it all was going to work out. On Cattyman Lake I paddled to the portage to Gordon and it was closed off due to fires. Now what! I ended up paddling toward Disappointment and camped on Ahsub Lake. Getting mixed stories from people on portages I didn’t know what to do. I was going to try going out to Snowbank and try going in Boot, but on the portage to Snowbank Lake a couple confirmed it was closed. So in the wind I was going to try for the portages to Flash and then to the Moose Lake Landing. Crossing Snowbank ended up being one of the hairiest paddles I’ve ever experienced… at least for one stretch. I came to a point where I’d have to turn sideways to the waves to get past a certain point. I was unwilling to do that and ended up at the canoe landing. I got a ride to Smittys and called Patrick who happened to be home. He came and got me and my stuff and I got to regroup, resupply and get right back in the next day. Meanwhile I got to see my good friends JB, Diva and Canoebender and I think his name was Jim. My friend Andy brought my resupply early the next morning and by early afternoon I was on Fall Lake heading for Basswood Lake. Andy came in the next day paddling a Prizm. We ended up going to Basswood Falls and camping a couple days on the portage campsite. We had a ten or twelve point buck in camp and Bernice startled him into the river where he was thinking he was hiding or something. I got pictures. Then Andy paddled back and I paddled on to Friday Bay on Crooked Lake where I’d be wind bound a couple days. I don’t like basecamping and being wind bound to me is worse. Then I got an early start to Iron and although the wind was present I pressed on. The Pictographs on Sunday Bay were pretty lame and just before that a couple Forest Service planes landed near there and took off before I got there. Met some fishermen on the Curtain Falls portage and got the campsite just past the falls I stayed at in May. Man it looked different with the low water levels. Someone left a good sized chair there which I had no room to take and come morning I found the potty to be full of pine boughs and a couple bags of toilet paper and wipes sitting there… again… too much for me to handle. It was plan B on using the bathroom… :) Then it was on to Lac La Croix on a relatively calm day. Bottle Portage landing was very muddy and I still have mud on things from that. Got to see the Pictographs and then took the first campsite on Fish Steak Narrows on an island. The winds came up and I was protected til the wind switched. Then I had to reset my tarp in a different spot. I spent a day wind bound and then tried to move the next day and only made it a mile or two, but to a better campsite. A couple more days wind bound and finally decided I’d get up early and go before the wind came up one morning. It was in the low twenties that morning and a lot of finger blowing was done to warm them fingers. I was heading to Finger Lake. I recognized the beaver dam from 2010 we portaged around and was surprised in such low water conditions I could paddle through the second 20 rod portage into Pocket Lake. What a nice paddle getting off the big lakes. Then it was up Finger Creek and the portage into Finger Lake. As I was approaching the island I saw some movement and I saw a little one so I called out if I might find the captain of the Black Peril there and sure enough Paul, Vickie and Aurora was there. We visited for some time and finally they had to go. I stayed as Finger Lake was my goal for the day. I finally got to eat my breakfast in the afternoon that day. Then I headed for Beartrack and Little Beartrack Lakes. I settled for a site on Little Beartrack Lake making it another short day. I tried for a Laker as it seemed clear and deep but I got nothing. Then I decided to do the Fat Lake portage as it’s been over 30 years since I’d done it. Locating it was the first challenge and maneuvering it was like what I’d seen in Woodland Caribou with downed trees and such. I think it’s about a mile long and boy does it drop on the Slim Lake end. I’d hate to go in the opposite direction. Then the 173 rod portage… A person might be a little cocky on day 37 after all he’s been through… But then a gal around my age comes waltzing down the portage with a Magic solo and her 12 yr old golden. Then went back and got her pack I wasn’t deflated so much, but was a reality check. She was well dressed and that night would be very cold. I spent a night in East Loon Bay then paddled toward the Little Indian Sioux River. I met a couple of gals on the Devils Cascade Portage who had come off Shell and was checking it out. I ended up on Upper Pauness on the far northern site for my last two nights. I saw a small moose swim across near me and my second set of three Otters playing near our campsite. The first set was on Iron Lake. On day 40 I cleaned up the best I could and put on the cleanest clothes I had. I purposely didn’t get on the water til 11:30AM and leisurely paddled to the landing. On the way I met Clorin8ed and family at the 60 rod portage and my friend Andy was sitting on the rock at the landing to welcome me home. We were carrying things up and Chuck hadn’t showed up yet so I went for my canoe and there was Chuck carrying it up the portage. He’d parked on the road where we used to park and walked in the old 120 rod portage. Chuck, Krista and I stopped at the Sportsman Bar on the corner of the Echo Trail and Crane Lake road near Buyck and I had a ½ lb hamburger that I devoured. The next day was wingnight in the cities so I loaded some canoes on my way home and enjoyed a night in a real bed. And boy was I tired!
Falls at Stairway Portage
I'll post more pics later....
discuss this trip report (26 comments) - last post on March 17, 2013