BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 10 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
Lazy, Fishless Awesome guys trip up the LIS
July 15, 2015
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
I'm coming from Chicago area and 3 of my trip buddies come from the Milwaukee area. The logical place to meet up is the park 'n ride in Madison, so we do exactly that.
I was nervous about fitting 4 grown men, 4 grown men's camping gear, PLUS 4 sets of golf clubs in my van. It turned out to be no problem. I swear there is no car that offers more space and utility than a minivan. The amount of cargo room with the seats folded down is unmatched.
So we're on the road...never a group to take things slowly or miss an opportunity for fun, we have a 3:00pm tee time at The Wilderness on the shores of Vermillion. Nothing like spending the afternoon/evening before your trip on the golf course.
We make it at about 2:59 (perfect timing) - meet up with the 3 other guys in our group that came from the Twin Cities, jump into the carts and hit the first tee. What an awesome golf course. It was a gorgeous evening and we had a blast out there.
Finished at about sunset and headed to Ely for supplies and dinner. Can't honestly remember the restaurant, but they had a good burger. Bait shops were all closed, but one of the gas stations had some leeches for us.
Headed to Echo Trail outfitters on Fenske Lake and found the bunkhouse. It was probably well after midnight before we got settled.
Up early, packed our rented food pack and otherwise sorted through everything and got set. It's a long-ish drive from Fenske to EP 14, I think we got there around 7:30/8am or so.
EP 14 features a portage from the lot to the river. Nothing terribly difficult, but maybe this is where I should mention we had the heaviest food pack known to man. Food for 3 nights, 7 guys...but more than that - DRINK for 3 nights, 7 guys. As mentioned above, we don't like to miss an opportunity for fun...and the intent with our trips is pretty much basecamping, and we have no illusions of single portaging...so we bring booze. Boxes of wine, handles of vodka - it really adds to the weight. That food pack had to be every bit of 150 pounds. It was brutal to carry.
We get on the river - it's an overcast morning, but peaceful and the paddling is nice. 60-rod portage around some rapids on the river goes fine (except for the guy on food pack duty...nothing went fine when you were hauling that...we took turns.)
Paddle up to Pauness and opt for the northern (longer) portage into Lower Pauness - the outfitter told us to avoid the short southern one. This portage was fine as well, although put in's and take out's all through this area are no picnic...lots of rocks and little space.
We get through Lower Pauness and hit the portage for Shell. This is essentially 2 portages with a 4- rod paddle in the middle. It's a beaver damn that you have to load back up for and paddle through. Not such a big deal, but for us, half the battle is loading and unloading the canoes with all our gear, and having to do it an extra time is fairly annoying.
We shared this portage with another group who told us they just left the northern site on Con Island on Shell. I knew that one was supposed to be a beaut, but I had my heart set on Lynx. So we get on Shell and b-line straight across to the short portage into Little Shell. Stopped and considered the lone campsite on Little Shell, but again - Lynx was right around the corner and reviews on this website had me longing for the beauty and luxurious campsites on Lynx.
We paddled through the "portage" from Little Shell into Lynx and could almost immediately see our A1 option campsite was taken. Continued paddling north on Lynx and saw our second choice on this lake (second site on east side of lake) was also taken. At this point I think we were all thinking maybe we should have taken the Con Island site or the Little Shell site.
But we kept heading north and eventually got to the site on the west side of Lynx by the bay. Scoped it out and while it seemed a bit small for our 7-man group, we loved the view from atop the rocks there, loved the firegrate/kitchen setup, and were pretty damn ready to be done travelling for the day, so we claimed it and set up camp.
Almost immediately after we arrived and got settled, the sun came out for a bit - felt great and reminded me to be glad it wasn't out when we were portaging...it was hot. We went for a swim and threw some lines in the waters near camp - from shore and on the canoes. Caught nothing. During the swim a mother and baby moose emerged from the far west part of our bay. Got to watch them for almost an hour.
We had dinner (and of course got into the wine and vodka), and shortly thereafter, not long before sunset the skies opened up and we sat through a couple of hours of rain. I was happy we took the time when we got there to get a tarp setup...we sat under it and traded stories and waited out the rain.
Rain stopped at some point before bedtime and the site was drying out nicely - it was looking to be a damn fine day. We did some fishing - once again nothing was caught. We did some swimming, some more fishing....talked about various excursions that were available to us (head east to check out Heritage, south to check out Agawato, back over to Little Shell where a group had told us fish were biting the day before, etc)...but alas laziness won out and we were loving our little corner of Lynx Lake. The fish were still not biting, but we were soaking up the sun and just enjoying a lazy day. We did snag 2 bass and fried them up - 2 fish for 7 guys barely got us a taste, but it was something.
At some point the previous day we had decided to pack up today and head for a site on Shell. We needed to meet our outfitter back at EP 14 at 10:30am (or maybe 11) the following morning (one of the guys in the group had a flight to catch out of MSP on Sunday afternoon). We kept track of how long it took us to get to our site on Lynx and knew that this put us in a position where we'd have to pack up very early on Sunday and even then it would have been no easy task to make it out by that pre-arranged time had we stayed on Lynx. And we didn't want to make the outfitter wait.
So we packed up and decided to take the route through Heritage rather than go back down around through Little Shell. Portaged to Heritage, then portaged to Shell, no problems. Immediately see that the northern con island site was now predictably claimed. The other 2 sites on the island were also plugged. We paddled south around the other island and the site down there was also taken. We turned west and discovered the two sites on the southwest corner of Shell were open - we took the one closest to the portage because we liked it better. It was a fine site.
We got set up and I went out with 2 others in our 3-man, determined to catch some fish. We hit the bay in the southernmost part of Shell...paddled to the back of it and let the wind drift us north and east...we did this three times and caught a fish every time - a pike, a walleye and a smallie. THIS was the spot! Finally.
One problem...that wind that was helping us troll right over the fish kept getting stronger and stronger. By the 4th time we tried our paddle and drift plan, it pushed us out of the bay and half way down the lake before our lines were in the water for more than a few seconds. I had no interest in getting pushed straight across the lake, so the fishing wasn't meant to be. We headed back to camp and spent the afternoon being lazy and swapping stories while listening to the wind howl through camp...nobody was about go back on the lake.
Got packed up and headed out - we were camped right around the corner from our first portage so that put us on track for an easy exit. Food/drink pack significantly lighter on the way out!
Only issue getting out was the amount of folks we were sharing portages with...there were two groups we seemed to be going out with, and group after group after group heading in. A July Sunday morning on Shell/Pauness/Little Indian Sioux and the connecting portages has to be about the busiest section of the boundary waters I've ever seen.
We got out on time which pleased the outfitter. They took our canoes and we headed back to Fenske Lake cabins and showered up. Got back on the road and alllllllllll the way back to Chicago by about midnight.
It was a great trip. Weather cooperated for the most part, save for some evening rain one night, and the wind one afternoon...it's never going to be perfect.