BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 26 2022
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
Little Indian Sioux Getaway Trip
May 31, 2013
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
With an early start we are on the way up the Echo trail to EP 14. Clouds darken and lighten and rain starts and stops as we wind our way along. The parking lot was fairly full but we unload quickly and found plenty of room for the van and trailer on the far side of the parking area. The 40 rd portage to the river was wet and the sheer rock faces we have to travel were slippery but overall I thought it was a neat EP to start a trip from.
I have always liked traveling rivers and even though the clouds were thick and there was threat of rain we were underway. Thoughts of the rest of the world were disappearing with every stroke of the paddle.
Before too long we were hearing the roar of rushing water and we were soon portaging alongside a beautiful stretch of rapids. We double portage and on this particular one I was glad we do. I was able to enjoy the scenery three times and had time during the empty-handed trip to get lots of pictures.
As we left the portage we were treated to a pretty little waterfall off to the left.
We continued to follow the river reaching Upper Pauness. We had an oops moment as we were letting ourselves drift along not really watching the map carefully. When we heard the roar of the rapids to Lower Pauness and headed to the left thinking we were at the portage we started to unpack for the carry when Cody came back laughing saying we were at a campsite! Oops. We moved across the water and found the 17 rod portage tougher than one usually finds in a shorter portage. Near the beginning it was underwater and the end was pretty steep and rocky but it wasn’t long and we were on to Lower Pauness.
Our goal was Shell Lake so we needed the 216 rod portage on our right side. There was a break in the brush near the first of two beaver lodges located side by side. This one was a long 216. Much was mud and underwater yet there were some higher parts that were like a walk on a park trail. It was broken up about two thirds of the way across with about a 70 yard section that we had to reload the canoes and paddle across since the foot bridge was all broken apart. It looked like not all the parts of the old walkway were missing and we did find some alongside a beaver dam a short distance from the actual portage path.
Shell Lake. The wind was starting to pick up as we passed the first campsite on the right. Our lead canoe chose to move further into the lake where we found most other sites taken. As we approached the south end of Con Island I could see activity on the first site. As we passed by I noticed the Flying Moose on a canoe pulled up on the grass and gave a yell to the guy sawing firewood. It was Butthead! He told us the next site on the island had a decent landing but wasn’t much of a site and he was right. We paddled to the northernmost site and found it was also taken. With the wind picking up and our group feeling we had gone far enough today we went back to the middle site on the east side of the island. We squeezed our three tents in and made it home for a couple of nights. It was tight but we jury rigged a tarp and canoe contraption to block the fire grate from the north wind and we found a space for an overhead tarp to eat out of the rain under. That evening the other three went for a paddle around parts of Shell and came back after talking to someone (Butthead I think) and learning that below the rapids into Heritage Lake would be a good place to fish with jigs and yellow twister tails. Cody came back all fired up over that one and I knew where we’d be headed the next day. The evening brought a misty cold rain as we settled into our tents.
Cold wind and rain coming from the north. Over breakfast we decided to paddle to the Heritage Lake portage where Cody and I would fish and Terry and John would find the Sioux Hustler Trail and hike that for a couple of hours while we fished. With steady wind and rain coming at us we wedged the canoe into the grass on the far side of the water down from the rapids and threw black jigs with yellow and lime green twister tails, silver and blue little cleos and rapalas. We did very well for the fact we couldn’t feel our fingers much of the time. We caught 10 and all but one were northerns that weren’t huge but were darned fun. We also included a walleye in our fun. We had planned to continue on a clockwise loop from Heritage to Lynx, through Little Shell and then back to Shell when the hikers returned but we all decided the cold and rain had dampened that thought so we headed back to camp to warm up around the fire and dry out.
That evening we dined on hash brown and sausages. We got lots of time to sit around and talk and listen to the weather radio. North winds and rain continued and we learned of frost warnings. Later on in my tent as I was getting ready for bed I was taking stock of my “stuff” and was thinking I was short some clothing before I realized I had most of it on!
Sunshine, but still some north wind with cool air. We are up early looking to find a roomier site on one of the Pauness lakes. Shell was a nice paddle and it was great to see the sun for the first time in a couple of days. At least, this time, we knew what we were getting into on the 216 rod portage. We handled it just great….until we got to the end and I couldn’t find my paddle. It was a case of breaking our regular routine. When the first canoe got to the busted footbridge they just threw what they had into that canoe and paddled over and the last two gathering up what they thought was everything canoed across and we continued on our way. I walked back and could not find the paddle. It was on the other side of the watery gap and me with no canoe??? I was ready to go back and get one when lo and behold another group was coming along from Shell Lake! I asked if they had seen a paddle and they described it to me and exactly where they saw it. Fortunately the helpful spirit of canoe travelers was present and they helped me retrieve it.
As we searched for a site the one to the left (as you leave the portage) facing east in a narrow section of the lake was open and deemed suitable. We didn’t go far but found a more comfortable site. Since a trip to Devil’s Cascade was part of our plan it was well located. Because we set up our new camp early we planned a day trip to the Cascade where Cody and I would fish the lower pools and John and Terry would hike and climb. The north wind made us work to position the boat but we were rewarded with a northern and small mouth before our hikers returned. Part of their hiking took them on the Sioux Hustler Trail again back to the portage from Shell Lake. We had lunch at a beautiful overlook of the rapids in the hiking trail campsite just off the portage. This was truly an awe inspiring and beautiful spot. We didn’t want to leave but eventually left for camp and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and doing small jobs around the camp - maybe some naps also. The still cold and sometimes strong north winds prompted us to set up a lean-to contraption by the fire grate . I’m always intrigued how the ideas flow when the old adage necessity is the mother of invention comes into play. Previous campers had left a large number of very long poles laying around and we put them to use.
The weather radio forecasted low temps of 25-30 as we decided to crawl into tents and read and settle in to stay warm for the evening.
A cool but strikingly beautiful sunny morning. Mist rose in thick clouds from the water as we enjoyed coffee and a substantial breakfast. As we hung by the fire John noticed movement not 150 yards north of camp along the waterline. A mother moose with a youngster in tow emerged from the brush and hung out along the shoreline for a long time. We watched and snapped pictures for a while before going back to finish breakfast. After eating, Cody and I went out to fish the calm water and the two visitors were still along the water’s edge after moving northward almost even with the portage to Shell. Pretty cool morning in more ways than one! After a short but uneventful fishing session we came back to camp and were entertained by a couple of beavers that would come within ten feet of the shore line by camp.
The other three decided the bluff across the lake to the south was calling out to them and they wanted to go explore it. I was feeling tired and decided to stay and find a sunny spot to read. Within the hour I started hearing loud calling from that direction and discovered they had found a way up to the top of the rock face and could see quite a ways over to Upper Pauness as well as me sitting in camp. I am really glad they had the energy to do that and hope to see their pics of the view soon. They continued on a loop into Upper Pauness and then back to Lower P before returning to camp. They were gone long enough for me to figure that was what they were up to so wasn’t surprised to see them coming back from the north.
That afternoon Cody and I went to fish the rapids between the two Pauness Lakes. We didn’t catch anything but were treated to some deer watching. Jon and Terry had gone back to Devil’s Cascade to take pics but when they came back they were laughing over the fact they ran into so many neat people to talk with they had spent their time chatting with a number of people they had run into and really didn’t take any more photos. While they were gone Cody and I had a front row seat to a couple of beavers that were constantly swimming past our camp, tail slapping and diving, and putting on quite a show for us. We also had a chipmunk visitor that would eat right at our feet but we could not get to eat a peanut out of his hand - we came close.
Our plan today was to leave through EP 14, go back to Fenske and camp before returning home. What’s the advantage to that? Well, we spent the afternoon on a day trip into Hegman Lakes but I get ahead of myself.
We took time for a fire for breakfast even though we don’t do that on a travel day. We were still off by 7:30 and the winds were light and the current of the LIS wasn’t bad. Everything went well until we got to the 65 rod portage just as a youth group with two leaders had plugged up the whole thing with their four canoes strewn across the end of the portage while they were on the way with their second trip. We had been waiting for some time when it was discovered one of the boys hadn’t made the second trip back and a pack was missing. It was maddening to me that no effort was made to clear the portage while they waited his return. I was about to say something when one of the leaders realized what they were doing and moved the canoe closest to us so we could proceed. It got a little more maddening when all them were back and I counted 10 people in four canoes on top of it all. I’m not the USFS but I do believe the leaders realized their mistake with plugging the portage entrance. When I had time later to think on it, that was their first stop/get out/move gear/ load up/ and move on portage so they were just getting organized and we were pretty nice about it all. Maybe too nice?
We got to the EP in about 3 hours and found that when we got to Fenske Lake campground we had the place to ourselves. We had lunch among a horde of bugs and headed out for Hegman Lakes. We learned we had the lakes to ourselves also and found them to be a treat to the eyes. Of course we had to find the pictographs and get some pictures but I was glad we stayed one more day and didn’t just head right home.
We got cleaned up and headed into Ely for another chance to stretch our legs, shop a little, and, yes, more pizza! We actually took time to drive around town and explore the town beyond Sheridan St. Among other things we found the old mine that sits on the north shore of Miner’s Lake just across the road from the Grand Ely Lodge. I feel like I really got a taste of what Ely is like other than just ramble up and down the main drag.
Out of Fenske Campground early and a safe drive home. Overall we didn’t cover a lot of ground and see a ton of lakes with many different campsites but I was pleased with the chance to go this year. I now sit at home typing this and am back to reality but very blessed to have had a great trip with friends. Praise the Lord.