BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
June 05 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1381 feet
Trout Lake - 1
Bower Trout - in and out
August 20, 2019
Bower Trout Lake
Number of Days:
After stops in Tofte at Sawtooth Outfitters (to rent a canoe) and Grand Marais (to pick up our permit) we motor up the Gunflint Trail and turn off at the South Brule Road and then down the Bower Trout road past the sand pit to the entry point parking lot. There's only a couple of other cars parked here so we don't expect to run across too many people today. It's partly cloudy but, otherwise a really nice day and we're all anxious to get started.
Our first portage is across a level trail that sports a few boardwalks where the tall weeds of summer are leaning over the trail. This landing is surprisingly solid on this low lying lake and we quickly load up and push off. The high rising Misquah Hills beautifully accentuate the backdrop as we paddle across this scenic entry point lake. There is a boardwalk protruding slightly out into the lake at the other end of the lake signaling the location of our next portage. The footing here is extremely precarious as Uncle Clay instantaneously sinks waist deep in muck and Aurora nearly follows suit as only one leg also disappears below the knee. After the scare, extreme caution is used as we gingerly move our packs a short ways up the trail before committing to the portage proper.
There are 5 portages between Bower Trout and Swan Lake (our destination). None of them are long or gain/lose much in elevation along the way. And, they are all about the same distance (30-40 rods) in length. With the exception of the trail out of Marshall Lake they all sport muddy sections along the trail and or landings. The mud is fairly extreme in a few spots but, I find the frequency (short paddles in between the last few) to be more of an annoyance. There is also a shallow section at the narrows of Dugout lake that necessitates us to get out and walk our canoes through and around this boulder strewn stretch of water.
The middle site on Swan is occupied so we paddle past to the last site on the lake. There appears to be a good sized landing and, more importantly, it is vacant. We are all in agreement that it will suffice as our home for the next few days. As we scout out the best tent pads we immediately run across a bunch of old artifacts. This camp was once the home of an old Alger Smith logging camp and, this site still sports several indicators of that history. Besides the artifacts, there is a nice opening just behind camp which the forest is slow to reclaim. Also, there is a small creek gurgling just outside of camp that provides some easy and interesting exploration. It reminds me of the site on Moosecamp Lake. Although, I do prefer the Moosecamp site to this one.
Many hands make light (and quick) work. Camp goes up quickly and it's layout is to the kids liking as they busy themselves catching frogs and playing hide and seek. Meanwhile, Megan nestles into the hammock. While there is certainly room for us here, the main camping area near the fire grate is fairly constricted (especially with a large group like ours) so I decide to forego setting up the CCS tarp. This affords us more room and accessibility around the fire grate. And, besides being a little on the cool side, the forecast doesn't sound too disagreeable for the length of our stay. The cooler temps also aid our enjoyment of evening camp fire time as the bugs are mostly a non issue.
~Bower Trout Lake, Dugout Lake, Skidway Lake, Swan Lake
It's a pretty cool morning for an August trip and, the morning campfire is certainly of greater importance and popularity. Vernon Lake is our day trip destination today and there's no better way to shake off the morning chills than by getting the wood in the water, so we load up a day pack and pile into 2 canoes.
Misty Swan lake is really a scenic beauty as we round the horn and head for the South Brule River. Aurora notices a bleached moose skull at the portage landing and wants to take it with but, thankfully I am able to convince her otherwise. While long, this trail is almost a welcome change of pace from the frequent mud and boulder strewn portages of yesterday. There is a little elevation change but, nothing too serious. Even under my canoe helmet I appreciate the different ecology and footing on most of this trail. Although just when I start getting used to firm footing, the landing on Vernon ends up being tight and quite mushy/muddy.
We paddle through a fair amount of rice beds before finally reaching unobstructed waters. Tracing the north shoreline of Vernon lake we eventually arrive at the campsite nearest the portage into Brule Bay. Thankfully it is unoccupied so we pull right in. This is a really nice site for a lot of reasons. While the landing isn't the best I've ever seen, it does sport a small staircase up to the camp site proper. It is a spacious level area with several decent spots for tents and, the fire grate does provide a marginal view of the lake. Those attributes alone make this an above average site. But, there are a couple of things that set it apart from most others. First, there is a small creek that tumbles into Vernon lake at the edge of camp. And part of those rapids contain a decent sized 'bath tub' of fairly deep water that make for an ideal spot to soak. If one so desires?
Second, there is a twisting trail running out the back side of camp that leads to a beautiful waterful. (This waterfall can also be accessed from a spur trail off of the portage between Vernon and Brule lakes.) Of course Aurora has been here on a few different occasions, including her first ever trip, and takes great pride in running ahead and showing her cousins just how to get to this wilderness wonder. Eventually the energetically deficient members of our crew make their way back to the waterfall as well and we all spend time enjoying and exploring the variety of scenery in this area.
Our curiosity satisfied, we return back to the campsite on Vernon. Once there; Aurora, Carson & Logan return to the bath tub and keep themselves entertained catching frogs, finding cool rocks and riding the rapids down into the lake. This is certainly a highlight of the trip and we soak up this magical wilderness atmosphere for quite awhile.
It's a cooler partly overcast day. And, while the weather radio said rain was unlikely today, it is one of those days where a person is just never really sure which way things are gonna go. There are periods of sunshine quickly followed by a dark cloud moving in. Never the less we let the kids exhaust themselves playing in and around the water before heading back. The kids had such a good time that Ross suggests we come back next summer; only we access the area via Brule Lake which would be much less labor intensive.
On the paddle back, Clay and Ross venture deep into the southern lobe of Vernon before realizing the error of their ways. Other than that it is an uneventful, though enjoyable return to Swan Lake. Once there, supper is prepared and eaten, and then the kids occupy themselves playing hide and seek. Eventually, Ross and Logan decide to head out on the lake and try some fishing. It's a beautiful cool, quiet night and the quiet (kids not withstanding) ambiance of the campfire is an indulgent luxury, savored by the rest of us.
~Swan Lake, South Brule River, Vernon Lake
It's another unseasonably cool morning and a heavy mist lingers in camp as we crawl out of our tents. Carson & Megan refuse to leave their sleeping bags behind as they pull up for breakfast. Their is no set agenda for the day and the cool air perpetuates a camp wide lethargic attitude.
Restlessness eventually wins out and various small groups of us take time to explore the backside of our campsite and lake shore. In searching for firewood we come across a gurgling little brook just outside of camp. Someone has even taken the time to construct a rock 'bridge' across, where better potential for firewood can be found.
Later, after the air temperature had warmed up, a few of our party decide to go swimming. The landing does provide a nice opening to the lake and there are no weeds or mud. On the downside, there lake bottom is littered with some rocks that are hard on the feet. Water shoes/sandals or something of the like are required. There is also a nice sized mature cedar tree that hangs out over the water, and the kids take turns crawling up it and reclining in the shade. Of course the hammock is a great spot to rest as well but, since we only brought one it is in high demand and is more notable as a cause for consternation.
Ross and I simultaneously lay down for a mid day nap. And while we are able to enjoy a decent amount of shut eye; we both 'nearly stand up straight in bed' are awoken to wild screaming and yelling from familiar voices. After stumbling out of our respective tents and shaking off the cobwebs, we are finally able to decipher the excited, out of breath language. A young bull moose is swimming across the lake a couple hundred yards out in front of camp! We all watch with rapt attention until it finally disappears into the heavily forested shores near the eastern peninsula of Swan lake. A moose sighting is always a special treat but, for Megan, Logan and Carson this is the first time they have seen a moose in the wild so it's an extra special event that I'm sure will be a treasured memory.
This evening it's my turn to take Logan out fishing. Weather wise it's more like a fall day than mid summer but, I certainly prefer that and thoroughly enjoy the cooler temps as we paddle around this very scenic lake. The middle site of the lake is now occupied so, after returning to camp, I need to remind the younger members of our party to keep their voices down. It is another enjoyable cool, bug free evening. Aurora, Carson and Logan play flashlight tag and they also all create a mini village with sticks, rocks and pine cones. Aurora's creativity never ceases to amaze me. I pack away a few items tonight before bed to minimize the time spent tomorrow morning doing so.
Breakfast is a quick affair of Clif bars and pop-tarts. Camp is disassembled, packed away and we are on the water reasonably early. As we follow the South Brule river and connecting lakes back eastward towards the EP parking lot, I cant help but be awestruck by the magnificent beauty of the high rolling Misquah hills. Even though we are paddling through low lying waters, the distant undulating landscape juxtapose dramatically with the mostly swampy shorelines. In my experience of traveling through the BWCA, it is a rare combination of attributes and really makes passing by a memorable experience and is perhaps the primary recommendation for use of this entry.
Since we are following a river system that we just recently paddled, for the most part navigation is exceeding simple;no need to refer to the map or compass. However, as we are finishing up on Bower Trout lake we get a little turned around. Our Voyageur maps show the last portage at the extreme eastern end of the lake where the river exits. This is wrong! The portage is actually back west a bit along the northern shoreline.
Once back in the parking lot we discover that Clay has a flat tire and he also managed to pick up a bunch of tiny leeches, from the Bower Trout landing, on his now bloody foot. We are able to get both situations taken care of and, head for town. After meeting up at Sawtooth Outfitters to drop of the rented canoes we continue on down Highway 61 to Schroeder, where we stop at the Schroeder Baking company to grab a few pizzas and some ice cream for dessert which we eat at their outdoor picnic tables. From there we all head to our respective homes.