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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 24 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

Snow Bay + Fat Lake- August 2023

by naturboy12
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 19, 2023
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
My youngest son and I decided that after last year's trip, we could plan a bit more aggressive route, cover some water and see some places I had always wanted to go. The night before the trip was spent at Echo Lake Campground after a dinner at Echo Lake Tavern. Wildfire smoke made the sky a bit hazy, but temps in the high 70's were certainly in line with what we were hoping for an August trip. The weather the rest of the trip was anything but "normal".

Day 1 of 7

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Saturday mornings in August are generally meant for sleeping in and hopefully fishing or exploring from our land in northern WI, but this was no ordinary Saturday morning. We woke at 5:00 AM just a couple miles off the Echo Trail, eagerly anticipating this year's foray into the BWCAW. We wanted to get on the water and to our first destination as early as possible as the forecast was calling for temps close to 90 and increasing winds throughout the day. Thankfully the winds were light in the morning and out of the south which provided the always welcome tailwind as we paddled north along the Little Indian Sioux River, through Upper and Lower Pauness and into Loon Lake. Water levels were on the low side but this section of the river is easily navigable. Our first challenge was pushing through the thick wild rice on the south end of Upper Pauness. Once we broke free we headed to the 40 rod portage between Upper and Lower Pauness. The trail was full of poison ivy, so we picked our way carefully along it to avoid starting a trip on a negative note (I'm highly allergic and get terrible rashes that need steroid creams to clear). Next up was Devil's Cascade, a portage I have done a couple times in the past, but with the warmer than normal temps it took a bit out of us. We were happy to have that last portage of the day behind us. From Devil's Cascade all the way to the main body of Loon Lake the river was very low with lots of wild rice, which along with a fairly decent sized beaver dam added some unplanned pullovers and slowed us down. We reached our campsite of choice (#25), an elevated site just east of the big island as you enter the main body of Loon Lake, a little over 4 hours after arriving at the EP parking lot. Throughout the afternoon the winds switched from S to NW and increased in strength, becoming fairly strong by late afternoon. While looking over the map and noting where Canadian waters were in relation to our site and discussing the NW wind, Jaden made one of his infamous comments, which have only grown deeper with age (he is now 15). "Maybe the campsite will smell like maple syrup and Tim Horton's". I got a good laugh out of that one for quite a while that evening. We fished during the mid-afternoon and did well, boating 9 fish and losing several others in a couple hours, taking advantage of a reef and weedy area near a drop-off that I had fished in previous visits to Loon. None of the fish were large, but a good combination of bass, pike and walleye only an hour or so after setting up camp is always welcome! We had a small fire that night and like magic the wind settled down around 8:30 PM, only to be followed by the normal August BW mosquito invasion. We put out the fire and made it an early bedtime after a well fought first day.


Day 2 of 7

Sunday, August 20, 2023

The winds of change continued to blow, picking up again after midnight and staying a steady 10mph or so the rest of the night and throughout the day while temperatures dropped. Rain was forecast for the afternoon and with temps supposed to be only in the middle 60's, we wanted to have a productive morning, so we fished early and again mid morning until late lunch. With the steady wind, trolling was the best way to catch fish and we caught a good combination of pike, bass and walleye once again, but today's fish were bigger and a few ended up as dinner. When we pulled the canoe up for lunch, I found a lamprey in the bottom of the boat that must have been attached to one of the pike we caught. Crazy looking thing! We tried our best to block the wind with a tarp behind the fire pit, but when you're elevated and facing directly into the wind, it's a bit challenging. Instead of fighting that, we moved deeper into camp and decided to spend the afternoon on land. I bushwacked to a small lake/pond SSE of the campsite and took a few photos of the amazing beaver engineering. Always fun to check out places few people ever take the time to find. Thankfully the rain in the forecast did not happen that afternoon other than a few stray drops, so we went back out fishing before dinner, caught a few more pike and lost one very nice walleye. After dinner we had another fire, cooked up the fish and added it to our first ever Mountain House Meal packet (chicken fried rice- solid choice!) and watched the lake once again lay down flat by dark. Tomorrow we would be on the move, but our two days on Loon were everything we hoped they would be!


Day 3 of 7

Monday, August 21, 2023

Monday morning we woke up to light rain around 6:00 AM and little did we know that the rain was going to be on and off for the next several days and that not once would temperatures reach forecasted highs again until Thursday. We slowly packed up camp in the rain and began our paddle north towards Beatty Portage. When we got to the mechanical portage, temps were in the mid 50's and the rain was steady. I asked the guy there if he had an updated forecast and he just smiled, laughed and said "yep, its supposed to stop raining around 9". It's almost we both just laugh and move on in our rain gear. We headed north through Lac La Croix, checked out the pictographs, noting Zups and some other structures on the Canadian side as we continued our journey towards Snow Bay. A few powerboats came by while we were in Loon Lake but were still docked at Beatty Portage when we left, no doubt hoping to wait out the rain. They passed by us at some point again along with several others throughout the rest of the day. As we started to look for campsites in the Snow Bay area, we noticed what Jaden dubbed the "highlighter brigade", a group of several people at a campsite all wearing various extremely bright rain gear and walking around in their campsite. I guess they made it easy for us to see that site was occupied! With site 12 and 13 both taken, we settled on site 10, a nice secluded site tucked into an island bay but still close to the areas we hoped to fish over the next couple of days. A quick exploration of the island found poison ivy all around the edges of the site and a big area next to the canoe landing, but the tent pads and main area were all clear so it wasn't an issue. Just don't plan to go exploring off open trails at this site if you want to avoid it. We got an updated forecast (temp at lunch of 58) with light easterly winds incoming for the next 3 days. We were hoping the old adage of "winds from the East, fishing is the least" won't hold true (it didn't). With the cold temps and having been damp all morning, we decided to head into our sleeping areas, warm up and get some well earned rest. After dinner, we explored the areas south and west of the site and quickly found the reef I had read about that would become a major fishing target of ours the next day. The fish trio of SMB, Pike and Walleye are all caught again before dark, along with a nice fat LMB. The sprinkles started to increase in intensity again as evening moved towards twilight, so we skipped the fire and headed to bed.


Day 4 of 7

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The gray skies that hung over our heads all day Monday were back for Tuesday. A chilly and dreary morning with highs that eventually topped out in the mid 50's was not going to stop us. We fished all morning, boating 10 and losing just as many. Jaden hit the quality fish- pike of 35, 29, and 26 all within a 45 minute stretch of trolling and casting through the areas north of our site. While fishing around various bays, islands and dropoffs, we stopped by three different sites, including the two that were occupied the day before. Other than us, Snow Bay was now empty. Past visitors to both sites have made elaborate use of the flat rocks all around this part of LLC to create seating areas and table tops. Despite those improvements, we still thought ours was the overall best site in the area. We also couldn't but help notice just how far down water levels were, with the white pollen lines on the rocks being a full 3 feet above the current water levels. That's a lot of change over the course of a summer! At lunch we had another "first-time" meal. We brought along tuna packets and some squeeze mustard and mayo. It was a great change from our normal PB+J lunches and will definitely be used to break up the lunch monotony on future trips. We gathered up what firewood we could find, but most was either too wet or too rotten to be useful and we only ended up with enough for cooking dinner. Misty rains and sprinkles came and went over and over again throughout the morning and afternoon but got more persistent in the mid afternoon and once again drove us back to camp for shelter. We did get back out for another successful bout of fishing during a break in the weather but the light misty rain returned again in the evening and lasted past dark. Guess we didn't need that extra firewood anyway!


Day 5 of 7

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

For the third consecutive morning, we wake up to overcast skies, humidity, mid 50's temperatures and on and off rain along with the day's bonus element- fog! We made our way through the lily pad riddled river-like section to North Lake and into South Lake. By then most of the fog was gone and the temperatures are slowly improving for the first time since Monday morning. Most of the misty rain was gone too, at least for a while. The portage from South Lake to Steep Lake is exactly as advertised- tough and uphill almost the whole way and felt longer than the 110 rods listed on the map. We head through Steep, portage into Eugene and notice the mid-lake site on the narrows is open, which will be our back-up plan if the site on Fat Lake is already occupied. We paddle to the Fat Lake portage and I decided to go across with just my day pack and the canoe to go check the site as I didn't realize it would be visible from the other end of the portage. When I got there, my hopes quickly faded as I saw a canoe out fishing and several people walking around the site. I took the chance anyway, paddled across the lake to talk to the guy out fishing and he mentions they'll be leaving in a couple hours. My spirits buoyed by that news, I paddled to the site to talk to the rest of their group. It's a mixed group of 9 adults and youth and while they invite me to stay for breakfast and show me the trout they have been successful in catching, I tell them my son is waiting on the portage back on Eugene and is probably wondering why I'm not back yet. I let them know we'll keep our distance so they can enjoy their breakfast, then paddle back, get Jaden and portage the rest of the gear to Fat. We decided to wait across the lake on a rocky flat area, had a quick snack and filtered some water and then decided to try trollling for some of Fat Lakes famous little lake trout. No luck, but when we saw the group get into their canoes to leave, we grabbed our gear and headed over to the site.

With the rains at least temporarily gone, we took some much needed time to spread out wet gear to let it dry. Rain was still in the forecast for later that day and into the overnight, but getting things dried out while we relaxed around camp was a nice mental diversion. We made a couple more trolling loops around the deeper parts of the lake in the afternoon with no luck and also located the unofficial portage from Flat to Slim in preparation for taking that the next morning. For the first time since Sunday I decided to swim- the lake was cold but it felt good to rinse off some layers of sweat and grime. With temps only in the mid-60's the swimming didn’t last long. In between light rain I made a couple more solo trips out in the canoe in front of the site. Three different times I got bites on my little cleo as it fluttered towards the depths, but all three times I come up empty. Alas, there would be no trout as about 7:00 PM the rains came back and drove me back to camp and into my hammock for the night. The 8 or so consecutive hours of dry weather was the longest we had in days, but we'll still be packing up wet gear for our trek back towards the EP in the morning.


Day 6 of 7

Thursday, August 24, 2023

If you've read this far, you can guess exactly what we woke up to, but there is hope as the forecast says its supposed to be clear skies by late morning and low 70's in the afternoon. The portage from Fat to Slim is long, but not hard in any way. There are a few downed trees to step over and one area with some steep rocks, but it's in better shape than many maintained portages I've used in the past. Jaden did get stung by some angry wasps that had a nest right above the portage trail, but we avoided them for the most part thanks to heads up from other members about them being there. We also did the 1 1/2 portage technique on this portage and for the rest of the trip. It was a huge time saver but will only work for us on days once the food pack is getting empty. After the long portage, we paddled down a glassy Slim Lake to another longish portage into Little Loon. There are some rough footing areas on that portage but its really not too bad either. Once on Loon Lake we started noticing a lot of flying insets dead on the lake surface, but not like mayfly or similar hatches I had seen before. We didn't pay much attention to it though. Little Loon, East Loon Bay and the rest of Loon Lake passed by quickly and we stopped back at the same campsite from our first two nights for an early lunch. Once we were there we noticed the same insects covering every rocky area we could see. They appeared to be some sort of winged ant and whatever they were doing, they were very busy doing it. They would be all over at our site on Lower Pauness when we arrived as well, but for the most part they didn't bother us in any way like flies or mosquitoes would. Shortly after leaving our lunch stop, we experienced one of the strangest moments I have ever had in nature. We could see something small floating on the surface just ahead of the canoe. As we moved closer, it began to move slowly and steadily towards shore. It was a red squirrel swimming from the direction of the island towards the mainland. It eventually made it to shore, shook off and ran off into the woods. Those 2 pieces of land are 100-150 yards apart and we still have no idea why a squirrel would make a swim like that, but it did and we got to see it and that island will now forever be referred to as Swimming Squirrel Island. Devil's Cascade once again loomed before us and after two long portage already that day, it seemed distinctly harder to complete this portage going from north to south. We entered Lower Pauness and starting encountering people, some fishing, some headed north towards Loon Lake. The site on the point near the portage was occupied and the site to the west of the portage is one of the worst I've ever seen in the BW, so we passed those by and headed to the southernmost site on the lake (site #42). It's also not an ideal site as it's in a mucky area without much fishing opportunity or exploration possibilities and promised to be a mosquito haven later in the day, but it was either that or head over to Upper Pauness to take our chances. Tired and ready for rest, we decided to make it work. Again we laid out everything to dry, only this time we were rewarded with sunny skies a few hours later and things actually fully dried. I made note of it in my journal- 3:30 PM on Thursday was the first time we had seen the sun since it set on Sunday evening. Absolutely mind boggling. Once it got sunny and things dried, we decided to go exploring. We checked out the short portage around the rapids between Upper and Lower Pauness, which would require an extra canoe unloading to make it work with a fully loaded canoe. The rapids were basically a trickle and although we caught one small pike below them, fishing was pretty much a bust. On the way back to our site we landed the canoe on the southeast shore and made our way up the slopes to the top of the overlook. It's a tricky climb and care is definitely needed while doing so, but the views are worth it. With nothing left to accomplish we decided that after dinner we would just relax. We watching eagles flying over, saw trumpeter swans swim by and watched as two busy beavers went back and forth all evening. The worst mosquitoes of the trip (as expected) finally drove us inside at 8:30. I listened to our exit day forecast just before heading off to sleep. Thunderstorms. Lovely.


Day 7 of 7

Friday, August 25, 2023

Friday was our last morning in the B-dub. We left our site on Lower Pauness by 6:30 AM, headed towards the short portage into Upper Pauness. The extra load/unload over the rocky area before the rapids goes as planned and we quickly but carefully complete the hardest sub 10 rod portage in the BW to get into Upper Pauness. Honestly, that portage is all slippery rocks, no landing on either side (at least at these water levels), steep and narrow. Good thing it’s so short. We picked our path through the wild rice and got back into the river headed south. We passed a few people coming in and got to the portage landing just as another group was taking their last load back to the parking lot. Jaden carried the canoe for the first time this trip and I was happy to let him do that uphill portage instead of me. It was slippery but he did a good job and I'm hoping he'll be doing that more on future trips. We made it out before the storms hit as well, so for once this trip we were able to avoid the wrath of the weather gods. On the ride home we both agreed that this had been our best trip so far and despite the relatively poor weather we thoroughly enjoyed our time away from civilization for a week. We'll be back again in 2024!


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