BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 07 2022
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1364 feet
Solo LIS River North
September 07, 2010
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
For my 23rd trip to the BWCA (all in the last 9 years-like to think I am making up for lost time) I decided I NEEDED to see the Little Indian Sioux River north of the Echo Trail. I had heard wonderful things about this area and when paddling solo target these kind of riverine and small lake areas (lest wind become a major issue).
Trying something different this time around. Actually slept the night before shoving off:). Saw my girlfriend off to work and walked the dog one last time before leaving early Tuesday. Made it to the Lac La Croix Ranger Station in Cook, MN around 1pm. Picked up one of the remaining permits for EP14 and made my way to the western end of the Echo Trail (near the town Buyck pronounced “Bike”). BTW the Echo Trail is very nicely maintained and less traveled at its western terminus.
Arriving at the EP parking lot I was surprised to see its size-but I imagine it fills up mid summer with 6 permits/day. Procured rock star parking and unloaded the boat and made final preparations for the trip. In the interim a group of old timers from Ely arrived (I only write that because I hope they read this and respond and that I am taking trips up to Lac La Croix at their age (at least twice mine), also I feel like I have met one or two of them before but I can’t place the memory) and made their way across the portage to the river. I singled the portage while they doubled so I actually beat them to the water (perhaps 230 or 300pm) and never saw them again-hope they had a great trip. Followed another group with a couple newbies on their first trip down (toward Upper Pauness) the river. They politely allowed me to skip past them at the portage so I tried to demonstrate my best quick efficient single portaging technique. I expected these tandem boats to catch me on the water but I apparently was moving decently well in my maiden voyage in the beautiful red dressed Bell Widlfire (Mark (mwd1976) I got many compliments, even inquiries about who refinished the boat!).
I made my way to Upper, then Lower Pauness (by way of the southern portage) and decided to head east to Shell Lake. I made camp (~615pm) at the first site I came to on Shell (on the point east southeast from the portage from Lower Pauness). Nice campsite with one maybe two good (albeit close to the fire ring) tent pads. A nice stand of tarp-hanging trees on the point. No firewood to be found anywhere though so I paddled across the lake to find the fuel for my warm crackling late-night friend. Off and on drizzle interrupted by rain. But with the help of my trusty Irwin Marathon carpenter’s saw and Granfors Small Forest Axe for splitting I had a spectacular fire and still left enough karma firewood for the next visitors to the site.
Upper Pauness Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, Shell Lake
Woke up Wednesday with aspirations to cover some ground. But I HAD to be in Duluth by Vikings game time Thursday. So I wanted to make camp near the EP Wednesday night to make Thursday a stress-free day. Instead of crossing the 210 rod portage back to Lower Pauness I elected to head east and north to explore some different water.
Wednesday was beautiful and dry. I first portaged into Little Shell then was pleasantly surprised to be able to paddle directly into Lynx-the high water allowing me to forego a short portage. I checked out a campsite on Lynx mwd19676 had recommended-unfortunately found it a little less than tidy with everything from twist ties to live 22 caliber (I think) ammunition. The wind was nothing if not steady out of the NW. I made my way up to Heritage Lake and made my way up Heritage Creek. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the portage to Loon Lake as the distance wasn’t marked on my Voyageur Map. I double portaged this one and am glad I did. It’s a long one. Even though it looks to be similar length to the 210 rod Lower Pauness-Shell Portage it felt much longer and definitely crosses more rugged terrain. Arriving at the Loon Lake shore you are rewarded with a beautiful sand beach. If only it had been warm enough to comfortably swim (like last year)!
I followed the eastern shore of Loon down into the LIS river towards the Devils Cascade. It was my first time visiting the Devils Cascade and it was everything I imagined with some magnificent views! The western half of Lower Pauness was occupied so I took the more northern portage back to Upper Pauness. The first two campsites I came to on Upper Pauness were occupied (one as it turns out by fellow forum member BigPaddle, his brother and dad) but the one at the northern end of the lake was meant for me.
The campsite didn’t look very heavily used in spite of its proximity to the EP. It lacked ideal tent pads but had more than enough flat ground for my MSR Hubba tent. The skies were clear so I decided not to setup a tarp. I shared this campsite with two of the least intrusive red squirrels I’ve ever met. They seemed far more interested in pine cones than my unattended pack or food barrel (Bear Vault). Scummy algae slicked water had forced me to retrieve my drinking and cooking water from the middle of the lake and enroute I scored a bounty of firewood. This night it wasn’t just me, the Captain, Chai late and a Mountain House Propack around the fire. ~930pm a friendly moose joined us. S/he splashed around the bay for a half hour chewing vegetation and urinating in the lake. Even though IT was no more than 30-40 yards away my headlamp beam couldn’t pierce the darkness so I never saw him or her. Still it was nice to share the campfire with he or she.
Shell Lake, Little Shell Lake, Lynx Lake, Heritage Lake, Loon Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, Upper Pauness Lake
Got a little chilly last night but that’s the risk you take with a super light 30 degree sleeping bag in the fall. Once bladder emptied and resituated I was good. Had cold granola with freeze dried berries and reconstituted milk for breakfast and took my time breaking camp. By the time I hit the water the wind had shifted from the NW and was now out of the S making for a little more taxing paddle back to the EP.
By the middle of Upper Pauness I could make out another boat on the horizon heading south into the river. I was curious about my pace given that this was my first trip in the Wildfire. I didn’t make up much ground on the other boat until the portage where I singled and caught him. As it turns out I was following BigPaddle who was soloing out from a hunting trip with his brother and dad. Ryan was the first person I had talked to in 48 hours and got an earful from me:). We paddled the last couple miles of river back to the entry point shooting the breeze. Further evidence of our small world-Ryan (BigPaddle) grew up playing basketball with one of my best friends and colleagues. Too cool!
Overall a great-albeit too brief-trip! I had plenty of time to kill before the Vikes game so I took the scenic and touristy route back to Duluth stopping in Ely for some gear perusing and lunch. Checked into my beautiful room at Fitgers and made my way down to the brewhouse for a tasty beverage just in time for the game!
New gear Bell Wildfire canoe-smaller and more rocker than a traditional tripping boat but a lot of fun to paddle. Keeps you on your toes-always making small correction strokes. I had a single portage pack along for this trip-repositioned fore or aft depending on the wind. In spite of being smaller I am confident that I could find enough room for my dog and all the gear we need for any type of trip in this boat.
Katadyn Mybottle water filter-used for on the water hydration. Super convenient! Way better tasting than chemicaly treated water and gets all the usual BWCA suspects. If you need viral protection get the purifier not the filter.
Irwin Marathon saw-my buddy portage keeper turned me onto this saw and it is awesome. You want coarse cut. I fashioned a sheath out of 1/32” high density polyethylene much like the plastic used to make the old Orikaso foldup camping dinnerware. Works splendidly.
GB Small Forest Axe-never buy another axe. This thing fits nicely alongside a standard portage pack. Long enough handle to swing with two hands. Will get the nod for winter camping wood splitting duty as well. Another example of enlightenment from PK.
CCS 8x10’ tarp-1.1 oz fabric-white and yellow-sick. What took me so long? First thing out of the pack and setup-last thing put away. Erect your tent beneath in rain (as I did the first night). Cook and relax around camp while staying dry. Bring lots of rope. Ridgeline, prussiks and truckers hitches.
MSR Hubba tent-perfect 1 man tent. Side entry. Relatively large vestibule. Sit up inside without hitting your head. Long enough to accomodate 6'3" me. Dry. Plenty of room for full length pad, extra clothes, rain gear, stuff sacks and restless sleeper.