BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
100 Mile Solo on the Border
June 12, 2022
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Fall Lake and Beyond (D)
Number of Days:
Packsack Outfitters was incredibly accommodating on a 6 AM ride to EP 14 – Little Indian Sioux North. The drive did not take as long as I had anticipated and it was fun passing so many familiar EP’s I have visited in the past: South Hegman, Mudro, and the Moose River. This was my first entry at Little Indian Sioux North and the lakes beyond. I wont see familiar water until I reach the fish stake narrows portion of Lac Lacroix. The water was high but not dangerous on the small river and it was clear that it was down from its high a few weeks earlier. The cascades along some of these portages are quite scenic through the Pauness Lake’s and past Devils cascade and into Loon lake. I spent a lot of time taking pictures in these areas. I also ran into a fellow BWCA.com member, Martian and his son whom we shared some portages and conversation. So far a perfect day with the current and light breeze at my back. I finally broke out the fishing Rod on Loon lake and picked up a nice pike and bass while trolling. The train track portage was looking pretty beat up after the high water. The flow was still really strong as I pulled my canoe up on the lawn. I have yet to catch the elusive lake trout on any of my trips to the BWCA and was hopeful that this could be the year with the slightly cooler than normal water on Lac Lacroix. I pulled out a husky jerk deep and started dragging. The water was still really high on Lac Lacriox with trees still very much in the water. It reminded me more of a cypress swamp than a Canadian shield lake. I finally got a tug on the line after passing a half sunk island and low and behold it was a trout! I enjoyed the moment and realized that my opportunity for a grand slam just went to about 99%! I mean Bass and Pike are a sure thing, Walleye can occasionally be a challenge but I am familiar with the water I was headed to and felt sure I could find some gold over the next week! Having a great day on Lac Lacroix was sealed after the trout catch but I was in need of a campsite. I planned to camp in the Snow Bay area but it was filled up. In fact everything was full. The only open site I found was under water…. I ended up finding a 3 star site across from the portage to Takucmich Lake. It was not the prettiest site but did the job. Hit the sack early to be woken up by the craziest sounding bird, I am assuming a grouse but I had never heard it before. It wasn’t the wing beating you normally hear, I heard that all week as I travelled, it was a high pitched squeak that I really cant explain. Maybe the female grouse. Never heard it again after that campsite but I did get some video of it I will share sometime.
The wind blew through the night and unfortunately I had a slight headwind when I got on the water around 6. It was overcast and I was still able to make good time and troll. I had on the same husky jerk I caught the trout on the previous day and was feeling like another one could be coming anytime. My rod bowed in the middle of a large bay and I was thinking trout for sure but when I got it to the boat it was a nice walleye. Grand slam complete at 7 AM on day 2. I love this lake! This walleye was absolutely gorgeous. Almost completely black, much different than the gold I am accustomed to up here. With the grand slam complete I continued along the flooded Lac Lacroix. Winds were blowing from the south and once I turned the corner out of fish stake narrows the paddling got tough. I was hoping to catch the site across from the pictographs but it was taken, I grabbed the next one to the south and the landing was gone due to the high water, the fire grate was just barely off the shore but it was a really pretty site with birch trees surrounding it and some huge pines mixed in. No flat spots on this site but I made it work. I was at camp way early and eventually the wind backed off for a trip to warrior hill and the incredible picto panel Lac Lacroix is famous for. My son and I have been lucky enough to view this panel before a couple years ago and I am glad because most of its most famous drawings were right at or below the water line. The famous moose were just showing their antlers! Warrior hill was a spot I did not have time to visit on my last trip and I am glad I made the climb. A very inspiring view! Got back to camp and had a fire, the wind blew all night again but I slept well.
The plan for today was to stay on Iron Lake and enjoy the fantastic fishing! Last time through I caught a 24” walleye in the first 10 minutes. Unfortunately I didn’t get to fish as much as I wanted that trip but vowed to come back and spend some time. Problem was I was way ahead of schedule, turns out I don’t notice the miles much when I am paddling and trolling. There was a lot of current on the river section coming into Iron, it was almost a rock garden last time I passed through. Still plenty passable. I am paddling up current from now on for this trip but it never was too noticeable except on some of the pinch points. I stopped at the 5 star site at the mouth of the Beartrap River at 9 AM. I always said I would stay here if it was ever open. I took a little tour of the site and it was sprawling and open under a canopy of huge red pines. An impressive kitchen as well! But it was only 9 AM and I knew I could easily travel into Sundial PMA and revisit the walleye of Sunday Lake. I had a permit for 3 days in the PMA and thought that I may just want to spend some extra time there if the fishing was as good the previous visit. I also was unsure what the water conditions would be like going up the Beartrap river so I decided to push on a day early into the PMA. Signs were clear along the shore that the water had fallen considerably from its max height and I was glad about that. I spent some time photographing the mouth of the river and then took on the steep landing into the Primitive Management Area. I have traveled this route before and new what to expect. The first and last portages into the Beartrap River are the toughest with the one entering Beartrap lake being right at a mile. The portages in between are short jumps around rock gardens and rapids. The last time I was here the water was very low. This year I only had 3 portages to make it to Sunday Lake. Sunday lake has a really nice site and the fishing is good. I love this lake because there are no bass stocked in it so it has the feel of what a natural BWCA ecosystem should be. I set up camp and made short work of a walleye to cook up for dinner. Walleye, rice in a tortilla with hot sauce is as good as food gets for me on these trips! Spent some time by the fire and hit the sack. A very good day.
I was way ahead of schedule and considered slowly making my way back to Iron to grab that 5 star site and enjoy a full day of Iron Lake fishing but instead opted to stay on Sunday Lake. I like to travel but layover days are nice, especially when you have a whole lake and the surrounding wilderness to yourself! I swam, I caught fish after fish, did a little exploring and even considered trying to find the trail that used to exist between Sunday lake and Sunday bay of Crooked Lake. I always thought it would be fun to reestablish that route if I ever had the time. But the bugs were pretty thick this year and being deep in the woods bushwhacking sounded a little silly when I really thought about it. Fish tacos again for dinner and a nice fire to end the night. Perfect weather for my time in the Sundial PMA.
The plan for this day was not a 25 mile day. I retraced my path along the Beartrap River and back into Iron Lake headed south to Curtain Falls. I had the wind at my back and things were looking good. I caught a few fish on the way and was excited to see the falls with such high water volume. I considered stopping at Rebecca Falls (seen it before) as well but was a little concerned at how dangerous that area may be with the water pulling on both sides of the island. I figure I could be sucked into the Quetico and never seen again so I settled for Curtain falls which is more impressive in my opinion and on my route. Curtain Falls did not disappoint. This was my second time to see it and I was impressed even in low water but today this fall was thundering! I spent a lot of time taking pictures here and had to take the extended portage to safely exit without getting sucked back down the fall! It was at this time that the wind really started pushing and I was glad it was at my back but it was causing some issues with by kicking the rear of my Northwind Solo sideways and putting me in a vulnerable position. I hugged the shore and put my rod away. After one snag I decided it wasn’t worth it with this much wind. I skirted over and got to see the small Picto Panel in Sunday bay. Even though you cannot make out the pictures anymore it is still clearly there and very cool. I was hoping to see the plane wreck as well but couldn’t see any clear indication of where to go to find it. I walked around the campsite there but didn’t see any promising trails either. This was the last open campsite I saw on crooked lake until I got to the Basswood River. I planned to stay on Crooked that night and spend a lot of time fishing one of my favorite lakes but everyone appeared to be hunkered down for the wind. It was getting to the point that I was feeling unsafe and have the Day bays to make it across still. Sunday bay is very wide open with few islands to hide behind. I timed it out and made a break for it. Someone must have been looking out for me because the consistent gusts subside for the short time it took me to get into safer water. I was literally surfing down crooked lake! Sunday, Saturday, Friday, Thursday all flew by and every sight was taken! I made it into the river as the wind turned full north. Perfect timing because I was headed south from here but I had over 20 miles under my belt that day and was ready to find a spot. I finally found one past Table Rock. Pretty average site but I was getting a little desperate and figured the sites closer to lower basswood falls would be full. I also didn’t want to rush the river portion of the trip with its awesome picto panel and falls. Had a quick meal and fire and debating what I should do. I was scheduled to be out til Saturday late but I was only 23 miles away from my Fall lake exit. I don’t like staying on Basswood lake due to the motors so I figured if the weather permitted I may make the run all the way in and hopefully grab a hotel and a good meal.
I got up at 4 and was on the water by 5. I found it always took me an hour from wake up to on the water this trip. Wind was up a little but was supposed to drop through the day. Basswood is huge water and I didn’t want to be windbound there. I have to admit I have some negative thoughts when it comes to Basswood lake. Just too many overused sites with chopped down trees and trash. It is a real shame because the lake is truly magnificent and great fishing. I would prefer that motors were outlawed there to bring it back to a more BWCA like feel but I also respect everyones right to enjoy our public lands with in the laws. I guess it really goes back to my first BWCA solo in 2019. I ended up camping my last night in Pipestone Bay directly across from the Newton Lake Portage. Radios blaring and people floating right in front of the portage all afternoon. Just left a bad mark on an otherwise amazing trip… Anyway, off at 5 and headed south toward lower Basswood Falls. I was able to enjoy the incredible pictograph panel on the river at day break with the moon still rising behind the incredible rock wall. Like the Lac Lacroix panel I find myself just as impressed with the pallet as I am with the actual drawings. The current on the Basswood river was starting to become noticeable where the wind met the current and I was noticing more and more drag on my boat as I neared Lower Basswood Falls. The falls were pushing hard and there was almost no vertical between the top and the bottom. I was able to use the normal take out just barely and spent some time taking pictures of the falls. The put in above the falls was more swift than usual but I didn’t have to bushwack further away from the falls and put in at the normal spot. You definitely don’t want to mess around here, have your canoe pointed up current and your paddle ready! I enjoyed the rest of the paddle through the river and tackled the 360 rod portage into basswood lake. Its amazing how even a 30 lb canoe can feel heavy if you carry it long enough. I double carried the portage and that took about an hour. I was trying to hustle as I still had Basswood Lake, Newton Lake and part of fall lake to cover. Not a lot to mention for the rest of the trip, lots of base campers on Basswood Lake. I made it back to the the Fall Lake EP pretty warn out. I was able to get really good cell service at the Newton Portage which was handy for lining up a pickup from my outfitter. I have hopes to complete the Hunters Island Loop through Quetico as soon as next year so this trip served as a good test to see how many miles is realistic for me to cover in a day. Great trip and looking forward to the next one. - Tyson