Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 23 2024

Entry Point 12 - Little Vermilion Lake

Little Vermilion Lake (Crane Lake) entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (Unlimited max). This entry point is supported by La Croix Ranger Station near the city of Cook, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 45 miles. Enter from Crane Lake. Note: Not the entry point to use for Trout Lake (#1)

Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Latitude: 48.2995
Longitude: -92.4268
Little Vermilion Lake - 12

July 2019 Trip - 5 days

by jcschultz
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 22, 2019
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
The trip participants varied from 1 year experience to 10's of years. We decided to try #14 this year since Ely is an easier drive than the Gunflint and I had really like this entry point in 2006 and 2013. Trip prep is pretty standard though this year we had steak and green beans the first night out. Freezing the steak worked well - it was still frozen when we reached camp. Also this is the first time I have done Wenonah canoes. They are WONDERFUL! Last year I portaged 70-80lb Alumacraft and Grumman canoes which was painful.

Day 1 of 5

Monday, July 22, 2019 Two people stayed in Ely Sunday night. Two of us drove up Monday morning with the canoes. Leave the Cities about 3:30AM. In Ely about 7:30AM for breakfast. Breakfast place was busy!! Get our permit at the Kawishiwi ranger station and drove up to #14 Little Indian Sioux River N. About 60+ minutes. The road is very twisty the first 15 miles or so then straightens out.  #14 used to be lightly used. Not so anymore. A lot of cars in the parking lot. Not a problem parking but a lot more cars than I expected.

On the water about 10 AM paddling into a stiff north breeze. We were going to try to make it to Lac La Croix and Sandbar Island but didn't feel like paddling into the whitecaps on Loon.

We made it to Upper Pauness and found all the campsites full - a bit of a surprise. Easy portage to Lower Pauness and found an open campsite in the narrow area between the two bays of Lower Pauness. Kind of buggy but OK campsite - 5 out of 10. 

We had steak and green beans that night which were great. See the pic. The steak was still frozen when we reached camp.

Weather was not so great. The forecast before we left was for nice weather but there were two rounds of thunderstorms AND our tent leaked. Things were damp Tue morning. 


Day 2 of 5

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

We decided to make the trip shorter in light of the headwinds and just paddled up to Loon Lake.  We got one of the best campsites in the BWCA IMHO 10/10 - SE corner of Loon lake where it joins up with East Loon Bay. You are maybe 50' above the lake facing NW so the wind keeps the bugs back in the woods. 

We paddled over to Canada to say we had done it - even found a little maple tree :-) Otherwise looked a lot like MN.

Nice sunset and NO RAIN. Things dried out nicely. 

Loon lake IS a bit disconcerting because motors are permitted in Loon Lake/East Loon Bay. While the area is supposed to be 25hp limit, this boat moved like it had a 250hp motor.


Day 3 of 5

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Portage to Heritage Lake. The portage is hard to find on East Loon Bay - look for a sand beach and a "V" shaped pine. The portage is a narrow trail in the grass behind the trees. 

The map reads 220 rods but I count my steps as I walk and I estimate that the portage is more like 300 rods. Almost a mile. It certainly felt like it! I was double packing so we could get across in one trip and the top pack was tilting to one side pretty bad by the time I got across.

The portage comes out on Heritage Creek which is a very pretty with flowering water plants that I forgot the name of.

Paddle down to Heritage Lake which seemed VERY lightly used. Two campsites I think but there was just a guy in a one man kayak fishing on the lake. If you want isolated, try this lake.

We paddled through Heritage to the portage to Lynx which was reasonable. 

We got to Lynx early enough that though our preferred site on the east shore opposite the portage was full, the NE campsite was open. VERY nice - 8/10. I marked this one on my map.

We also found blueberries at the campsite and collected some for pancakes. We did not see any bears but with the blueberries you probably want to be careful.  


Day 4 of 5

Thursday, July 25, 2019 We decided to cut the trip short, coming out Fri instead of Sat (which turned out to be a good decision).

So we packed up after breakfast with blueberry pancakes and headed back to Lower Pauness.

While there is a portage from Lynx to Little Shell, the water was high enough that you could paddle through. Yeah!! Paddling across Shell was no problem though the wind was starting to come up even at 9 AM.

The portage from Shell to Lower Pauness is easy to find, however, depending on water level it is what I call a "mud" portage. This year the water was high enough that you could pretty much paddle up to some logs the Forest Service had placed. In previous trips howevr, the water was lower and you had to wade though knee deep mud.  I have a vivid memory of coming up to this portage when it was mud. Two older, apparently experienced men, were sitting in a canoe watching some teenage boys trying to get into their canoe coming out of the portage. The boys were wearing bluejeans and sneakers. And were mud past their knees. Their comment we could hear well out in the lake was "This s####*" .  Be prepared for the BWCA!

And speaking of surprises, we got about 80 rods into the portage and some busy beavers had decided to build a dam someplace nearby and 3-4 rods of the portage were under water. WELL underwater. One of our group waded it - waist deep. The rest of us wimped out and loaded the packs into a canoe and I paddled/poled across the deep area. You could see the boards the Forest Service had installed over the normally muddy section of the trail now about 3-4 feet below the surface of the water.

The rest of the portage was easy and we made it to Lower Pauness without a problem. The nice rock ledge campsite on the peninsula was open but we decided to look on Upper Pauness again. We checked out the campsite just to the north of the 40rod portage and it was very nice - another 8/10. There are also A LOT of sites to pitch a tent on this campsite. At least three areas to pitch tents which would be nice for groups of 9.

Thunderstorms again tonight at dinner time so we didn't cook supper - just a quicky supper and made for the tent. Pitched our tent on a slight downhill slope which turned out to be wise because the other tent was on a lower, flatter region and they had water in their tent during the storms.   


Day 5 of 5

Friday, July 26, 2019 Just paddled down the Little Indian Sioux River N, one portage and back to the car. Very quiet on the river but we did run into several groups coming in for the weekend. Most were planning on staying on Upper or Lower Pauness so these lakes are very busy and you should plan on getting there early. 

Very glad we came out a day early since there were severe thunderstorms all across the BWCA on Fri night.

We were going to eat in Ely but there was Blueberry Festival going on and it was a zoo! 

Still a great time in the BWCA and I have the mosquito bites to prove it!!