BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 20 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
Crane L., Lac La Croix L., Loon L., Loon River, Little Vermilion L. Loop
August 04, 2009
Little Vermilion Lake (Crane Lake)
Number of Days:
3 Aug.: Secured our BWCA permit and fishing licenses at Cook, MN (great service), and coordinated with US Custom as we were going to travel along the US/Canada border (Passports are required to re-enter US territory). Also, coordinated with Scott’s Marina, Crane Lake for start from their location and leave our vehicle (semi-secured) in their lot.
4 Aug.: Took off from Scott’s Marina on Crane Lake at 9:15 a.m.; to sand Point Lake; to Canadian Custom Station in Portage Bay to meet Zup’s Resort (807-485-2492) rep. for the Dawson Portage (sole provider) at 2:30 p.m. The sky was partly cloudy, wind from the N-NW at 20-25 mph and the water choppy with scattered white caps. It was slow going, but the loads in the kayaks gave good ballast. We did not use spray skirts. We could not make a straight line direction due to the wind direction. We arrived at the portage at 1:20 p.m. and had lunch before the driver showed up on time. The four mile transport well worth the $200.00 (for both of us, 2-kayaks and all of our equipment, which most stayed loaded in the kayak) on a grave, muddy and at places flooded trail. More about the history of that trail. This section is heavily traveled by motor boats, of which we were informed. The motorboats did not slow down, not even in the narrow King William’s Narrows (this was one of many danger locations for kayaks/canoes). We took the last camp site on an island in Wilkins Bay, just before entering Lac La Croix Lake. It was a very good/nice camp site as we could see the sunset and moon rise uninterruptedly. The openness kept the bugs at bay. Supper was hamburger on whole grain buns; western beans and fruit cup (the usual coffee and night cap).
5 Aug.: We had breakfast (scrambled eggs w/pork sausage, biscuits w. blackberry jam, coffee and fruit cup) at 6:30 a.m. We took advantage of the calm morning (the wind tended to start at 10:30/11 a.m.) as we had an early start to Loon Lake. The going was good till 1:00 p.m., when the wind picked up like the day before. We did not get to a wind-shadow till Beatty Portage, a 50 rd. mechanized portage. For us, kayakers, it was an easy and fast way (no hassle) to get across for $15.00 for the two of us (there is constant traffic at this location as all the motor boats also get the same ride as we did – just one at a time). We did not see the pictographs, and at 2:00 p.m. we took the second camp site at the south tip of Loon Lake. This was a great site, high upon a bluff with superb view (only the climbing was a pit). At 5:30 p.m. started a short/light shower, but by 8:15 p.m. cleared up and we had meatloaf and mashed potato dinner, w/garlic-cheese biscuits, and the usual fruit cup, spiked coffee. We also had one of the most beautiful sunsets. We attempted to “stargaze”, but the full moon ruined it. We did see three satellites and went to sleep at 11:00 p.m. Decided that this site will be one of our two day site.
6 Aug.: Breakfast of pancakes w/bacon, coffee and good campfire set the scene to tidy up our camp, perched on a bluff high above Loon Lake. For hours I watched the fluffy clouds sail across the blue sky. The serene and peaceful time, which I yearned for so much was the present. Only the call of the loon and my dear friend Don’s snoring in his nap made me realize that I was not among those giant, white sailboats. Then for a moment or two, my world got penetrated by screaming sounds of motorboats, whose motivation is greed for money (or pressure of that) as they trespass my world. It is too bad that we can not co-exist. But how can we, as we are polar opposite of each other? At 7:30 p.m. we had pulled rib brisket w/Mexican rice, biscuit and you know…. We were privileged to observe another wonderful sunset as our camp faced west. Heavy overcast prevented stargazing so we went for an early sleep for an early start in the morning.
7 Aug.: At 6:30 a.m. got started with scrambled eggs w/pork sausage, coffee and fruit. We took advantage of the morning calmness of the Loon Lake as we got into our kayaks at 9:30 a.m. Before we got across the lake, it started to churn as if it was giving a goodbye “bucking ride” to us. Entering Loon River, the trees gave us protection from the wind, but a new challenge faced us on this leg of the trip and for the rest of the day – motorboats. I will share with you about this in separate lines. In an hour we were at Loon Lake Portage (similar to Beatty Portage) of 80 rd. which was packed with boats. The marine railroad (optional for $15.00 a load) was a convenience for us and we took it. The weather was great going north as we got a gentle tail breeze. 56 Rapids none existed as the water was at normal level. For the rest of the way, we had to be alert to fast motorboats (25 to 30) coming from either directions with complete disregard to us, paddlers (with a few exceptions). The only enjoyable event on this segment was when we stopped for about 5 minutes and watched a doe bringing 2 of her fawns to the river. At places the river was not wider then 20 feet. On Little Vermillion Lake we took the first camp site w/sandy beach at 2:00 p.m. This camp site faced north, so it had the related problems. We received a storm warning at 3:00 p.m., so we ate an early supper: chicken w/Romin noodles, biscuits and you know what…. For night cap, I had spiked hot apple cider. We decided that this camp will be a two day site. At 8:00 p.m. it started to drizzle and lasted most of the night.
8 Aug.: We got up at 7:00 a.m. and reviewed out plans for the exit (had about 9 miles left of this trip). At 10:30 a.m., for breakfast, Don fixed (Don was the chef for the entire trip) hash brown, scrambled eggs, on tortilla wrap w/salsa, biscuit, coffee and you know…. Still heavy overcast, poor fishing; exploring, taking pictures and napping. At 3:00 p.m. I heard five, long, baritone sounds (like distant fog horn), followed by several tenor sounds from several sources; then they were joined by a number of high pitched yaps, lasting about fifteen minutes. Don recognized them as wolf pack calls (serenade). The same entertainment we received at 6:30 p.m. but from a much greater distance. For supper, I had roast beef, w/mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, oh yes…. Don had breaded chicken breast w/pasta & tomato sauce, biscuits and …. A chipmunk joined us; three beavers entertained us expressing their displeasure of our presence. At 8:30 p.m. it started to rain as we retired for the night.
9 Aug.: Rained all night. Heavy overcast in the morning, no wind, no rain. At 6:30 a.m. we had spam slices on whole wheat buns, oh yes….packed up and got on the way at 9:45 a.m. We had to look out for motorboat cowboys, planed to camp on Crane Lake (2 miles from Scott’s Marina). Had lunch (all of our lunches consisted of Lance crackers, trail mix, pepperoni sticks w/cheese and granolas bar) at 12:30 p.m. at the entrance to Sand Point Lake, wind started to pick up, driving the waves diagonally to the direction of our rout. When we got to Crane Lake, the waves were 12 “and the swells were 18”, the wind from the N-NW (repeat of the first day). Because of the weather change, we decided not to camp, but go directly to Scott’s Marina. We landed at 2:15 p.m. The last ¾ mile was simple as we were on the leeward side of Crane Lake. We learned that night that the storm hit our exit point and lasted all night and good part of the next day. This was a great trip, good decisions, God is great. We are thinking about our next year adventure.
Some thoughts: Kayaks/canoes vs. motorboats. Up to 7 August 2009, 2:10 p.m. I was neutral on the issues of motorboats in the BWCA. At 2:11 p.m. I heard a motorboat engine from the north. Soon after that I saw a boat approaching at “high speed” (full power, as every boat travel like this in this segment). I raised my paddle for recognition. The boat made an “S” turn before getting to me. At this time I signaled for "slow down”. As the boat flew by me at 50 feet, I could see a young man and woman in it waiving to me, and with out any concern of my safety, they continued on. This was not an isolated incident and we were always on the American side of this narrow passage to and from Loon Lake, which at one place narrows to 20 feet. I cannot think what drives these “motorboat cowboys” to endangering my life, people like me, and their own. Only one answer kept coming to me on this craziness – money. Every boat trip represented money to the operator. The more frequent trips they could make, the more opportunity is recognized by the operator to divest their customers of funds for their own pockets. Nothing else mattered to them, not even their own safety. Unfortunately, in this process, they not only destroyed my search for peace and solitude, but they also prevented their customers from experiencing the same, as they madly dashed (at full speed) from one location to another. I am convinced that there is no peaceful coexistence, as the desire for more money requires other areas to expand into because the older ones are permanently damaged. Bad weather, low visibility does not make an impact on their madness. The customer is coming in and departing on a schedule and that schedule must be met, or there is no money! Crane Lake, Little Vermilion Lake, Lac La Croix, Loon Lake, Sand Point Lake, Wilkins Bay