BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 31 2023
Entry Point 16 - Moose/Portage River (North of Echo Trail)
Number of Permits per Day: 5
Elevation: 1348 feet
A favorite route offering many trip options and memorable things to see including;
World Class fishing for all four BWCA Species
Soaring granite hills and cliffs
Tumbling rapids and waterfalls
Wildlife, including Moose
Vistas from high points across the region if you're willing to climb. Rating Easy to Moderate. Day One. Get to EP16 off of the Echo Trail early. The initial portage is long, but well worn and smooth, sloping gently downgrade to the launch area. Load your canoe and head North. You'll be paddling with the slight current on this narrow winding river. The water is clear and make sure to tell the bowperson to watch for looming rocks!
A Group of Newbies
May 30, 2009
Moose/Portage River (north)
Number of Days:
My dad, father-in-law and two high school/college buddies came up Friday night to stay at my place in Menomonie, WI. My wife was nice enough to make everyone breakfast Saturday morning. We left town at 9:10 am just after posing for this group photo(plus my son Preston). We took Highway 53 up to Duluth where we stopped at Gander Mountain for fishing licenses and final gear purchases. We ate a quick lunch and headed to Ely, arriving at the outfitters around 3:45. We immediately went through the gear, canoe basics and watched the Leave No Trace video. After that, we headed to Ely for supper, eating at the Ely Steakhouse. We stopped to pose for the web cam first, and my wife snapped our picture for me. After a great meal, we headed back to the bunkhouse to sort through our stuff and widdle it down to make if fit into our 3 personal packs. We didn’t get much sleep between the uncomfortable bunkhouse beds and all the snoring.
We woke up around 5:30 am and got our stuff packed up, showered and ate breakfast. We paid our bill and piled in the van at 8:00 am. It took an hour to reach the entry point, but the 3 guys from the outfitter that rode along were nice enough to carry our canoes through the ½ mile portage and get us on our way. The portage was nice and wide and gradually downhill the whole way. We had 7 packs total and stuck Carl and Lynn with the 3(including our sleeping bags and tents) which I would regret later. We made quick work of our first 25 rod portage. The second portage however, I forgot about and we went through the small rapids. This was fine for me, as I hopped out of the canoe and walked ours through. TJ and Yeller did the same. But the ones leading the way were Carl and Lynn, who got sideways on a rock and filled the canoe half full of water, which meant wet sleeping bags for later. We flipped it over and set all their gear back in. I heard about that portage that I missed for the rest of the week. The canoe felt pretty shaky for most of the first day, particularly as we crossed Nina Moose Lake. We stopped on the north end of Nina Moose around 11:30 am for a bathroom break and to dry out our stuff.
There had been a couple periods of light rain, but it was more of an annoyance than anything. I was already wet up to my man-parts anyway, so it didn’t bother me. Continuing up the Nina Moose River we made it through the 70 rod and 95 rod portages by double portaging. The rest of the paddle was easy and we spotted the only wildlife of the morning, a whitetail deer, on the east shore just before entering Lake Agnes. We made our way of the west shore fighting some moderate waves and wind, finally settling on camp 1795. We hung the tarp up to block some of the wind out of the east, started a fire and set up the tents. We hung all the wet sleeping bags and thermarest pads around camp to get them dried out. We ate Brats, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots and peanut butter pie for supper. I'm not normally a Brat fan, but these tasted pretty damn good. We didn’t do any fishing that evening as everyone was fairly worn out from the paddle up and we did our best to search for fire wood and straighten up the campsite. We paddled a lot of extra strokes this day as we couldn’t manage to keep the damn canoe straight, which was a problem that we rectified the following day. We went to bed around 9:30 and heard several wolf packs howling around 10:00 pm and later around 2:00 am.
My tent woke up around 5:30 am, probably a result of the rock in my back and me not being able to lay there anymore. It was cold enough that our breath had condensed on the inside of the tent. I built up a fire right away and unpacked our breakfast for the morning, fresh eggs, bacon and toast. It tasted excellent as did the hot cocoa. We took a lot of time getting our fishing gear rounded up and ready. Finally around 9:00 am we were all out on the water, fishing for Walleye on Lake Agnes. We didn’t get anything in front of camp and eventually all separated. Carl and Lynn went to the east side of Agnes by the islands and the other 4 headed north to the Boulder River. Fishing was slow, yielding only a smallmouth by TJ and a crappie by Lynn. Lynn caught a couple small walleye later that morning with no other fish to be had. TJ, Yeller, dad and I went below the rapids past the 23 rod portage to fish for smallmouth, but there were 4 other canoes and it was too congested for my liking. We tried the north shore of the Boulder river and worked it east to the no-name creek near the 65 rod portage into Boulder Bay. We caught about 10 little northern along the way, but nothing of any significant size. We headed back to camp after being bored with the fishing. Yeller was sick because he took about 4 too many Excedrin. After a few hours he snapped out of it and was back to normal.
When we got back to camp Lynn and Carl were nowhere to be found, and weren’t responding on the radio. TJ and I took a hike south along the shoreline for .3 miles until we reached them on the radio. They came back with their 2 walleye and 1 crappie, which was enough to give us all a nice compliment to the steaks for dinner. We didn’t fish that night after supper, instead opting to sit around the campfire and have some typical campfire discussions.
Again today we didn’t hit the water early for fishing. We fished more on Agnes for walleye, only catching a few. There were a couple times where we got rained on and the wind out of the west made the fishing a challenge. Had the wind died down a bit we probably would have caught a few more walleye off the point on the northeast end of Agnes. But, instead we all gathered on the small island to wait for it to settle down a bit. After the wind died down, we headed back to the Boulder River above the rapids, where I managed to get our lone walleye on the stringer caught in some rocks. I eventually freed the stringer but lost the fish. We fished below the rapids again on the Boulder River, but didn’t have much luck. We returned to camp to eat supper. Lynn once again supplied fish for the evening to go along with our chicken and rice. After supper we headed out for some more walleye fishing but didn’t have any luck. We decided we would head to Lac La Croix in the morning to fish in the Tiger Bay and Never Fail Bay areas.
Wednesday the whole group was up and ready to go by 6:45. We set out to Lac La Croix. Exiting the 23 rod portage into the Boulder River, we spotted the first(and only) moose of the trip to the northeast at the mouth of the no-name creek by the 65 rod portage. I managed to get a couple distant photos before it slowly walked out of sight. We were in Boulder Bay by 9:00 am and paddled up the west shoreline before fishing for walleye. We didn’t have any luck on the walleye so we split up and started fishing for northern again. We caught a couple up toward Never Fail Bay and then headed to Tiger Bay to take in the sights and fish for northern. We didn’t manage to catch any but did have a couple small followers up to the canoe. Lynn caught one smallmouth, which we released.
We ate lunch in Tiger Bay and discussed what to do with the rest of the day and with the rest of the week. It was decided that TJ and Yeller would head up to Warrior Hill and to the Pictographs while the rest of us broke down camp to head to Ramshead Lake, where we felt we could have some fun fishing. We had camp completely packed up by 5:00 pm and waited for TJ and Yeller to return. Carl and Lynn set off at 5:10 to get a head start. My dad and I waited until 5:30 when TJ and Yeller got back. We then set off with those guys about 10 minutes behind us. We easily found Ramshead Creek and started the 160 rod portage. The portage was long and moderately difficult with the rocks and mud. The mosquitos also showed up for the first time and were fairly horrible along the entire portage, but particularly at each end. We double portaged and had ourselves back in Ramshead creek by 7:00. We were surprised to find that there was another portage in Ramshead Creek, which slowed us up significantly. After we managed to get out of that, we were hastily paddling across Ramshead around 8:00 pm trying to find a campsite. By this time my arms were pretty much dead. We went with the far NW campsite next to the island which was wide open, but did have a nice canoe landing in front. We set up camp as darkness fell, cooking up some Beef Stroganoff and watching a mouse make off with one of our granola bars out of our food pack. We let him have it, as it actually made for some good entertainment watching him drag it under his rock. I went to bed hoping that Ramshead would live up to its reputation on Thursday, since the previous few days of fishing were a bit of a disappointment.
Thursday we would be trying to catch some northerns. We all hit the lake at 7:30 and went to bay on SW end of lake where Meander Creek flows in. We fished for a few minutes before Jack snagged his first northern around 3 lbs and lost it at the canoe. We had a few other hits but couldn’t manage to hook any of them… After 45 minutes, Jack caught two nice 3-4 pounders which were very fat on his gold Dr. Spoon. Jack then hooked a nice one, probably over 10 lbs by the brief glimpse I caught of it before it dove and busted his 40 lb test titanium leader. He re-set his drag better after that. Sadly, he lost the gold Dr. Spoon which was pretty hot at the time. TJ landed a 30” on a spoon and then a bit later a 32” on a large swimbait while it dangled under the canoe. I caught a nice 4-5 pounder on my yellow 5 of diamonds Troll Devle. After realizing that we probably wouldn’t get any huge ones out of the weedy bay, we decided to start working the rocky points since there were some nice big boulders adjacent to slightly deeper water than in the weedy bay.
I had a really nice 30+ inch fish follow up to the canoe twice, checking out the gold Blue Fox Pixee spoon that I had switched to. He was right next to a downed tree at the first rocky point going north out of the bay… Jack and I cast near that tree about a dozen times and then Jack hit a 36” northern on his red/white 1 oz. Dardevle. I barely managed to get up to measure him without tipping the canoe. 36” tip to tail without squeezing the tail together… Nicest fish for my dad ever and we were both pretty stoked about it. We continued up the shoreline and didn’t get much so decided to go back to camp for lunch as the other guys were already there.
After lunch we all headed out for the last evening of fishing. TJ, Yeller and me/dad headed back south toward the bay and hit Meander creek just below the rapids. We had several hits in the creek but didn’t manage to catch any of them. Yeller and TJ had enough and went back into the bay, where Yeller snagged his first and only fish of the week, a nice 3 lb northern which apparently got hooked in the gills. Jack and I continued south of the bay at the first rocky point and I switched from a spoon to a Rainbow Trout colored #12 X-rap. On my second cast I really let it sit for awhile after the 2nd twitch and hit a 30.5” northern. It pulled right behind the canoe to the opposite side and I nearly lost my pole. This was my personal best northern, as we don’t have many of these in our home state. Lynn and Carl made their way south to us and let us know that Lynn had landed a 42” northern, which made me pretty jealous so we kept on fishing up the west shore, landing a few smaller ones. We worked the islands by our campsite without much luck, keeping eye on the thunderstorm looming to the west. Carl landed a nice 31 inch northern by the narrows between the island as we worked our way back toward the campsite.
Just in the knick of time we got everything covered up and hunkered down in the tents for about 10-15 minutes until the storm had passed. We cooked beef stew and French toast in the rain for our last dinner. Pancakes were on the schedule for morning, which was a quick and easy breakfast. It was getting pretty stinky in the tent by the end of the week as I reviewed the map for the next morning, wondering just how bad the two portages from Ramshead to Lamb to Nina Moose Lake were and hoping that we’d make it back to the entry point by our pickup time. It was a great day for us, catching northern of 30.5, 30, 31, 31, 32, 36 and 42 inches. Whoever says Ramshead is fished out must have pretty high standards, as we were all pretty satisfied with the day. We caught nothing but snakes on Agnes, the Boulder River and Lac La Croix, so this was a nice change. All of the fish were fat, even the few small ones that we caught. We caught a lot of them in the 26-29" range as well. The key to catching them was a SLOW presentation. Carl's pictures were all deleted off his camera when he accidentally formatted his memory card, so the pictures of the 42" and 31" northern were lost along with some other good action shots, so that's too bad...
We woke up and got packed up while Carl fried up some pancakes for the group. Everything went smoothly and we were an hour ahead of schedule as we headed south toward the portage into Lamb Lake. It wasn’t obvious where the portage was, but we found it after a couple minutes. I was confused as to why the Fisher map that the outfitter had given us listed this portage as 165 rods and my Voyageur map listed it as 65 rods. After examining the path a bit we took a left turn, which gave us the long 165 rod portage, which was long and muddy, but not too bad. I’d like to go back and look around again to see where the shorter option actually was, because I didn’t see it. After a quick paddle across Lamb Lake we made our way up the steep ascent onto the 225 rod portage. This portage to Nina Moose was as bad as advertised, with a lot of elevation changes, rock, mud and even a big downed tree at chest level over top of a big water hole which made for extra fun. It seemed like this portage took us forever, as we double portaged with 3 of us while the other three rested at the end.
Nina Moose was a welcome sight, as was the Moose River which was an easy paddle back to the entry point portage. The beaver dams seemed to have grown slightly over the past 6 days, but were still passable without having to get out of the canoe. We only met 2 groups on our way out, which was a welcome change from the busy first day we had. The final ½ mile portage was tough due to the fact it was uphill the whole way, but at least it wasn’t muddy. After we finished carrying, we broke out the cigars as the outfitter driver drove up. He brought us a cooler with Budweiser and Coke to drink, which was a nice surprise. We stood around and shared our week with him for about 20 minutes and then piled into the van back to the outfitter. The shower felt fantastic and we had an uneventful drive back to my place after getting some grub. Overall, it was a great week. We didn’t catch quite as many fish as I had hoped for, but it was certainly an adventure and I am definitely looking forward to doing it again next year and hopefully someday with my two boys. My only regret was that we didn’t take the time to see Curtain Falls, but maybe next year we’ll check that off the list…