BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1364 feet
May 26, 2010
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
The Last couple of days have been very hot. It was a record-breaking 93 degrees yesterday in La Crosse (WI).
I’m taking my Wenonah Argosy this time because I’ve wanted to try it in the BWCA, but also because it is registered and I haven’t renewed the registration on the Sawyer Autumn Mist yet. The Argosy is a 14’6” solo canoe intended mainly for moving water. I’ll see how it does in the BWCA.
I had a meeting back home at 3:30, so that dictated my departure time, but I went with the car fully packed and the canoe on the roof. I left La Crescent at 4:30pm and had supper at Hardees at 6:30 somewhere south of Rice Lake, WI. At 9:15pm I was getting gas in Hermantown (Duluth).
I traveled from La Crosse to Virginia straight up HWY 53 including the stretch between Osseo and Eau Claire. I’m sure that it is longer than picking up I90 at Osseo but it certainly was a pretty drive. Then I drove on to on to Virginia and up to Ely, arriving at 11:15pm. Six hours and forty-five minutes, including breaks, excellent time!
I stopped at the BP in Ely for a couple items – fishing lure, sunscreen, a soda pop, and a bag of pretzels. Now, I am in the back of my Toyota Corolla station wagon parked at the Kawishiwi Ranger’s Station. This is where I plan to sleep tonight. Another vehicle is parked here as well. Looks like they have the same idea as me.
Morning came early. I slept about 5 hours. I woke to lots of birds singing.
One of the main reasons I decided to leave out of Ely was so I could have breakfast at Britons. I hadn’t been there for awhile. I arrived just after 5:00am and was the fourth person in the restaurant. I ordered my favorite Britons breakfast – eggs, sausage, homemade toast, American fries, and coffee. I’d love to have added a pancake to that as well …. But I just couldn’t, because I know that I would have eaten it all. A few drops of rain were falling as I left at 5:45am.
I stopped at Voyageur North Outfitters (VNO) to say hi to John and visit with Lynn. I thought I had to get a “day-of” permit from the ranger station, but Lynn told me I could get a permit from her. We looked at the availability and decided on Little Indian Sioux (LIS) River North (EP 14). Thanks Lynn! VNO treats their customers so well!
Because I didn’t have to wait for the ranger’s station to open to get my permit, I was able to leave Ely at 6:40am. From Ely to the entry point was about 33 miles and took me just over an hour to drive it.
I changed clothes, unpacked the car, and double portaged down to the river. On my second trip down the skies cleared, the sun came out, and it was hot. But once on the water there was a breeze and it was very pleasant. I was paddling by 9:00am and at Elm Portage at 9:45am.
Elm Portage is truly beautiful. I’ve been through there several times and always find it enjoyable – the cedars, the water, the nice trail, and the falls. I took a short break, a couple of pictures, and was back on the water by 10:30.
It occurred to me that even though I was traveling solo and quietly, so far I had seen only one duck. Even on the Echo Trail I had seen only one deer and one hare. Furthermore, the last person I saw was the cashier at the Holiday Gas Station next to VNO. I hadn’t seen any other cars on the Trail, or any other BWCA travelers. I thought there may be more people who were extending their Memorial Day weekend on the front side.
At 11:30am I finished the 40 rod portage to Lower Pauness and took a snack break. There was no one (that I could see) on Upper Pauness. However, I can add two eagles to my wildlife listing, and although I don’t see any people, I can see that the campsite on the point on Lower Pauness is occupied.
At 8:45pm everything is dead calm except for a few birds singing and a solitary yodel from a loon. No wind. I have water set to boil for cider or tea, but I don’t think I’ll bother. I’m sitting in my chair writing this. When it gets too dark to continue I’ll go to the tent. I didn’t set up a tarp or bug net. Hope things don’t get too wet from the dew.
At noon today, after my break on Upper Pauness, I was back on the water and finished a leap-frog portage into Shell Lake at 1:40pm. During the portage I heard a grouse drumming (later I saw one) and saw a large garter snake.
Crossing Shell Lake, the wind kicked up pretty hard from the NW. I wound up being blown to the SE campsite. I checked out the campsite and it looked pretty nice, so I unloaded the canoe. Since the wind was blowing and it was 2:30, I figured I was home for the evening. Then I saw the sign.
The sign was from the Forest Service so I thought maybe there was a bear problem. Nope. It said the campsite was closed because of a prescribe burn in the area. So I had to move. I reloaded the canoe, re-trimmed it for wind, and white-knuckled it to the portage to Little Shell. The lone site on Little Shell was taken, so I paddle through to Lynx and portaged to Agawato Lake (4:15pm).
Agawato is a neat lake! It is a dead end. You don’t pass through or go through accidently. You have to want to go there. It starts off with lots of dead trees in the water – some above and many below the surface. You need to move slowly and pick your way through. It would be a challenge for a tandem canoe to maneuver through this woody minefield.
Once through the obstacle course, it opens up into a very nice lake. There is only one site on the lake and it is a near perfect solo site with just one tent pad. It is not suitable for a group and there is not room for more than one small tent. I landed my canoe at 4:45pm.
I got camp set up and the chores done. I had packed in a Diet Coke with Lime. I added a little rum to it and toasted Jim. Here’s to ya, Jim!
Supper was beef Stroganoff made with dehydrated hamburger. It was OK, but not as good as what Jim would have made. I add a little more rum to the DCL and toast Jim again.
The weather is really nice. The breeze is a bitch paddling on open water, but here in camp it is heavenly. The camp faces west so I should get a sunset tonight. There should be a full moon, too.
Starting at 6:00pm a Forest Service plane buzzed me often. It made me nervous. I didn’t know if he was trying to tell me something, if I had done something wrong, or if he was spotting a fire in the area. I stayed alert.
I decided not to have a fire tonight. The FS plane had me a bit freaked out. I checked my permit again to make sure there were no restrictions. There were no signs at the site saying that the site was closed or anything.
I’ll go to bed early. I’m beat.
I’m going to try to get up early, pack, and leave. I think I’ll head to Ruby Lake. It, too, has a single campsite on the lake. One of my objectives when paddling solo is to also camp on solo sites, that is, choosing campsites that are the only site on a lake.
I was up at 5:00am after a very quiet night. Even though the night was quiet, I felt as if I was camped under a streetlight. The moon was so bright you could read by it.
I just finished my breakfast of brown sugar & maple instant oatmeal and am now sitting in my chair sipping coffee (Folgers Single). There is fog over the lake.
I better finish up the chores and pack up.
…………………………………………………………………………………………….. About Noon
I was back on the water by 6:30am paddling through the fog and dodging submerged logs. I portaged to and paddled Lynx Lake. Next was the long portage to Ruby Lake which I started at 7:45am and finished at 9:30am. That included a brief conversation I had with two guys starting the portage at the other end. It occurred to me that these were the first people I had spoken to or seen since the Clark Station.
I also saw what I believe to be two trumpeter swans halfway across the portage. They flew overhead twice (circling) just above the treetops, and they were HUGE!
It took only 15 minutes to paddle to the vacant site on Ruby. Shortly after I landed, the wind picked up and by 10:30pm it was already blowing pretty good. If this wind keeps up I’ll have to plan on being across Shell Lake by 10:00am. I’ll leave early tomorrow. What I’d like to do is to get to Little Shell Lake and camp there (another solo site). Then on Saturday cross Shell early and camp on Upper Pauness so I can be set for a quick exit on Sunday. However, the lone campsite on Little Shell was occupied yesterday, so maybe I’ll go to Heritage Lake and try for the southern campsite there. Then when I leave I’ll be portaging into the western side of Shell Lake where I can hug the shore to the next portage to avoid the wind.
Since it is Memorial Day Weekend, I’m concerned about getting a site on the Paunesses on Saturday.
The Ruby Lake campsite is nice though on a slope. Even the tent pad is sloped, but it will be OK. The lake itself looks like a smallmouth bass lake. I can see that the bottom is made up of basketball size rocks.
I lazed around camp this afternoon reading and collecting some firewood. I built up a nice supply for the next guests.
I had a great supper tonight – hamburger gravy with mashed potatoes, and probably the best bannock I ever made. The gravy was made with a Country-Style Gravy Mix packet and dehydrated hamburger. The bannock mix was about ¾ pizza crust mix and was baked in front of the fire in a fry pan in the traditional manner.
Everything is calm. The wind died about an hour ago. Maybe we’ll have a change in the weather. So far the temperatures have been perfect!
This campsite is right by the portage to Hustler Lake. No one has come through today. I saw the two guys on the portage, but I have seen no canoes on the water so far.
There goes the FS float plane again. He’s been flying around all day.
I’m sitting on the southern site on Heritage Lake. The site is nice enough, although the latrine is pretty far back in the woods and seems buggy. There’s a nice breeze though here by the water. I need to get an early start in the morning so I really don’t want to set up the bug net.
There is some old bear scat in camp and a tree that has been clawed. I hope I don’t get a visit. In all my trips to the BWCA I have never seen a bear in the BWCA. I have seen them outside the BWCA in campgrounds, near cabins, and along the road, but never once after I have entered.
The canoe landing at this site was tough. The camp is one of those steep, sloping granite slabs into the water. There is no place to step out and the sloped rock is slimy and very, very slippery. I decided to land about 50 yards from the front of the camp, tie off the canoe, and portage the gear to camp. Safety first, especially on a solo.
This site has a couple of nice places for tents and tarps. There are a lot of nice sitting places. Fishing looks good on this lake. If I was so inclined, I bet I could catch a fish right from camp.
There is another campsite on this lake so it does qualify as a lone site lake. Still, the other site is a mile away at the northern end and nearly on Heritage Creek. It is about as close to being a solo site without being one as you can get.
Last night I went to bed about 9:00pm and went to sleep pretty quickly. I did wake up at 4:30am but just couldn’t force myself to get up – same thing at 5:00am. Finally I got up at 5:30am.
The most time consuming thing in the morning is breakfast. I only had instant oatmeal and a Folgers Single, but it still took more than a half-hour – cooking, eating, clean-up, and packing.
The portage to Heritage Lake was easy but seemed longer than 100 rods. Maybe I was just tired.
Saw my first people on the water. They paddled past my campsite going south with an empty canoe towards the Shell portage. I’m guessing they are camped at the northern site on Heritage heading to Shell Lake on a day trip.
It’s overcast. The last forecast I heard it wasn’t suppose to rain, but who knows. Weather changes from lake to lake up here. So I set up the tarp even though I didn’t want to. It’ll add time in the morning taking it down and packing it, but I thought I’d better. I rather do it now than do it in the rain.
I also stripped off my clothes to air them out. I’m wearing … well, never mind. I know that both me and my clothes really stink.
It started to rain. I’m glad I decided to put up the tarp. Mosquitoes started to gather under the tarp, too, so I bug doped up.
I’ve made myself a cocktail (rum and lemonade) and am going to read my book under the tarp. I hope the rain doesn’t last long.
The rain has stopped but a big wind kicked up about 3:00pm and it’s still blowing. I was smart/lucky and got the tarp oriented perfectly against the wind. I am snug as a bug ….
The couple paddled past again at 3:30pm going the other direction with the wind. Even though the wind was blowing hard, they seemed to be doing fine. I hope the wind settles down by 6:00pm so I can make supper by the fire grate, but if not I’ll make do under the tarp.
I think this campsite is the location of a former cabin or lodge. I haven’t found any artifacts but there is tons of grass, dandelions, wild roses, and violets growing here. There are also wild strawberries and a few wildflowers, too. I have never seen so many robins in one place in the BWCA. It seems to me that twenty years there were hardly any robins in the BWCA. …………………………………………………………………………………………… 6:00pm
Everything is dead calm. Weather sure changes quickly.
Great supper tonight – Tyson chicken with Stove Top Stuffing. Good!
I had my first camp visitor, a red squirrel. Saw a Pileated woodpecker, too.
I think I’ll have a granola bar and water for breakfast tomorrow so I can get an earlier start. I want to get across Shell before the wind. Also that will give me extra time in case all the sites on the Paunesses are taken and I have to make my way all the way out. I’m estimating 4 hours to get from here to Lower Pauness.
I’m sitting in the shade on the campsite closest to the 40 rod portage on Upper Pauness Lake. It took me 3 hours to reach Upper Pauness, not the 4 hours I thought it would take to get to Lower Pauness. I guess I was very conservative with my estimate. I’m still glad I left early because the wind is already picking up, though it looks like it is going to be a hot, sunny day.
Just saw my first gull up here. And now I see an eagle, herring gull, and turkey vulture all sharing the same air space at the same time. Weird. I don’t think I have ever seen that before. I did see a turkey vulture earlier perched in a tree I was paddling under. He just stared down at me, which made me a little nervous (“Ummm, do you know something I don’t?”).
It started raining again last night about 6:30pm and stopped sometime before midnight. I went to bed about 8:15pm to read and listen to the rain. I did wake up at 4:30am but just couldn’t drag myself out of bed until 5:00am. I had a granola bar for breakfast but it still took me until 6:00am to get onto the water.
Everything went smoothly paddling and portaging, though I was tired – weary tired. I wasn’t sleepy or exerting myself too much. It was no energy or my energy was easily zapped. On my last doctor visit he said I should have my thyroid tested. I think I will.
The weather keeps changing quickly. I hope it doesn’t rain because I am not setting up the tarp. The wind will pick up, and then, die, and then change directions. It’s been doing that since I got to this site. It was hot and sunny. Now it’s breezy and overcast.
I had oatmeal for lunch.
The FS plane has been flying over. I’ve seen a little canoe traffic but not too much. I thought it would be busier on Memorial Day Weekend.
I’ve named the trail to the latrine The Rose Path. It is lined with wild roses that are just beginning to bloom. Nice.
This site is the poorest of the sites I’ve stayed on in this trip. It is very overused and the tent pads are dusty, hard-packed dirt. The fire grate is very exposed and half-way down a granite slope to the water (I’m using my stove/kitchen on top of the hill). There are lots of ants – maybe because of the roses?
All the sites I have stayed at on this trip have been pretty clean. All I have found is a purple twist tie (who knew they made purple ones?), a small piece of foil, and a steel fishing leader.
I have not been lonely at all on this trip, nor bored, nor freaked out in anyway. However, I haven’t been doing much either. Sure I have traveled every day, and packed and set up camp, but once in camp mostly I have been reading, thinking, and nodding off in my chair. Not a very adventurous trip.
My chair is nice. I found one with arms and a cup holder as light as one without arms. It has lightweight construction so I don’t expect it to last many trips, but it will last this one. The cup holder is very handy for my Diet Coke (with Lime) bottle, which now contains orange drink and rum.
I’m planning on another cold breakfast tomorrow so I can leave early and get back home before dark. I want to go back to Ely so that I can buy a shower at VNO rather than go through Buyck, which I believe is the faster way home. ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 7:15pm
I’m watching a guy fishing. I said hi to him as he went by paddling a P16 solo. He looks like he knows what he’s doing both paddling and fishing. Oh! He just caught something. I can’t tell what, but it’s pretty big with a white belly so it’s probably a northern.
I just finished a rum lemonade. I’m thinking about having another. I have just enough rum left and one lemonade.
Supper tonight was a chicken noodle side dish with a Spam Single cut up into it. Surprisingly, it was OK.
I’m sitting in the Pizza Hut in Virginia, MN waiting for my order to come.
I didn’t have the third rum last night. A turtle walked up to me and said it wasn’t a good idea. Well, … it really didn’t SAY anything, but a turtle did walk up to me in camp. So did a second one a little later. They walked around me test digging for a place to lay their eggs. The two of them were still doing it when I went to bed at 9:00pm.
I got up at 4:45am to a beautiful morning. I chewed some jerky as I packed up and was on the water at 5:30am.
The paddle out was uneventful. I saw a couple beavers and a few ducks. I met up with a group entering on my final portage to the parking lot. I finished that portage at 8:15am. I did not see many people at all on this trip. Unusual since I have always considered LIS North a popular entry point.
I drove to Ely for a shower at VNO and to chat with the folks there for a few minutes. I learned there was a lightning strike caused fire east of Shell Lake. That is why the FS plane was buzzing around the area.
I arrived home at 5:45pm. The drive was uneventful, although when I stopped in Osseo at 4:00pm the temperature was 96 degrees! Hot day.
As I drove home I noticed some bug bites, even though I hardly saw a mosquito. The next day my arms and ankles were covered with itchy welts. Black flies! I remember the swarm I went through but thought I was spared. I wasn’t but it took 24 hours for them to really show up.
Driving the round trip was 824 miles and I got 30.2 MPG in my ’93 Toyota Corolla.
I need to restock and update my first aid kit before the next trip. Mostly the items are just old.
I could use some new Crocks for camp shoes. The pair I have are wearing pretty thin.
I need to wax (or something) the zipper on my PFD. I had a heck of a time getting it to zip the last time I put it on. Maybe it is just dirty.
I need to fix my yoke. One pad is loose. I may just need to crank it tight with a wrench or I may need a bit longer bolt. I duct taped the pad in place mostly so I wouldn’t lose the nut.
I never fished at all. Never assembled my two-piece rod. I don’t mind fishing but I view it as a means of supplementing the food supply. The couple of times I considered it, I decided I didn’t want to clean a fish. I generally don’t fish for sport.