BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 27 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 7
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 New Adventure
September 17, 2009
Moose/Portage River (north)
Number of Days:
The big day is finally here. We checked in with VNO last night, picked up most of our gear and finalized last minute details with Lynn. This morning after a huge breakfast at Britton’s, we watched the movie, went over our proposed route with John, loaded up the truck (boy that food pack is heavy – are we eating steaks every night?) and we’re off.
It looks like the weather will cooperate today with nice bright skies and calm wind. We make our way to the entry point, the truck is unpacked and we start first portage. This will be our longest portage of the trip. This doesn’t seem so bad, but of course, we are starting out fresh. Since we have three packs, we realize one of us will be double portaging the entire trip. As the day wears on, we have come to the realization that we are no longer 16. The paddling is getting a bit harder as we go through Nina Moose and Agnes and the portages seem to be getting harder and longer. After the 97 rod portage, Lari realizes just how bad his shoulders are and can no longer carry both the canoe and a pack at the same time; we will now both be double portaging. What we thought would be a 5-6 hour trip turns into an 8-9 hour trip. But, we keep our eyes on the prize – Tiger Bay. As we come around the corner from Boulder Bay and saw the site we wanted was vacant, we know this first day of pushing hard was worth it. The site (#179) is beautiful with a wonderful view of the bay across from us and the potential for awesome sunsets. The “kitchen” area sits just above the lake with the tent area farther back. As we sat in front of the fire enjoying our steaks, we came to appreciate the hard work and determination it took to get here. After we reached our destination for the day, we accept the mistakes we made throughout the day and learn from them. We forgot to fill our water bottles before the day and thus became dehydrated, rather than stop and rest for a decent lunch, we snacked on one granola bar each and we tried to be 16-year olds in pushing ahead as far as we did. We have been awakened to our limitations and will adapt.
Neither one of us slept well last night – if we do this again, thicker pads are in order. We hurt and ache in places we didn’t know existed – but it is a good feeling after a day of hard work and effort. The day is starting out overcast and cloudy, but it doesn’t stop us from heading out for a day of fishing and seeing some of the area. I get the first fish of the day – not huge, but it will eat well for dinner. Shortly afterwards, Lari gets a northern and it’s been decided that this one will eat well too. The clouds have broken up and we are greeted with blue skies. During dinner, it’s decided that instead of breaking camp in a couple of days and continuing onto Gebe, we’ll just stay here and do day trips.
Today we are heading out to Curtain and Rebecca Falls. We head up through Bottle and make our way to Curtain Falls. Are those rapids ahead? Of course, but not real big and as we contemplate how we’re going to get across, two men that put in the same time we did show up. A plan has been decided upon between the four of us and we carefully navigate going through the rapids and we beach our canoe next to the portage. The two gentlemen behind us will be continuing on past us – I envy their energy and determination. I’m just too lazy to break camp every day and move from site to site.
We climb the portage and make it to the falls. What a wonderful view. As a wannabe photographer, I know that noon is not the best time for waterfall pictures, but I do the best I can. In some ways, we wish we could have been here earlier in the day to see the sun come up over the falls, but it is what it is. We stay a bit, have lunch and take pictures. We work our way back down and head for Rebecca Falls. We remember that John said to head for the middle of the island and secure the canoe. Overall, I think Rebecca is prettier than Curtain. It was a bit of a challenge to take pictures on the flat side of Rebecca because of the steep slope, but the other side has more character and structure. In either case, I’m glad we made it. As we leave Rebecca, the wind has picked up and continues all the way back to camp.
We started a bit later today. The plan is Warrior Hill, the Pictographs then fishing through Never Fail Bay. As we make our way to Warrior Hill, we came across three motorboats. A little scary as they cross behind us and the wake catches up to us, but we make it to the small island and stop there for pictures. As we look at Warrior Hill, I admire the tenacity and determination of the young Indians who ran up this hill. We continue on to the pictographs and wonder about the messages sent through these paintings. As we look further on, we notice the outline of the boulder looks like the Indian chief, watching over and protecting those that come this way. After leaving the pictographs, we see a beaver swim right in front of us – I have never been this close to a beaver. What an amazing creature.
We continue on and cross the border back to the US. As we come across the back side of the island, we see the largest group of redheaded mergansers we have ever seen. Apparently, these are not solitary birds. Before we start serious fishing for another fish dinner, we find a sandy beach for lunch, what a treat. As we walk the beach, we notice wolf and deer tracks. I don’t think they were there at the same time.
We collect some firewood for later and hit the water. Before we get to Never Fail Bay, we each catch a walleye. Looks like fish chowder for dinner tonight. As we navigate through the channel to Never Fail Bay, the wind really picks up. This will be another test of strength and determination for us and we make it back safely. During dinner, we discuss coming out one day early and based on how long it took us to get here, it would be prudent to come out one day early, spend the night in Ely and head for home the next day.
The day starts even later – we’re going to paddle around the island and check out the ranger station. The fishing plan is “catch and release” so we leave the stringer and net back at camp. As we went east, this plan didn’t last long. I look back and my rod is bent almost to the side of the canoe. I reel in and it’s a small northern who thought he was big and bad. He was put back to hopefully live a long and prosperous life. About 5 minutes later, my rod bends back again. I reel in and to me, it’s a HUGE walleye. Turns out, only 19”, but since we have more fish fry batter, this guy will be a “catch and release”, right into the fry pan. We jerry-rig a rope and bungee cords together to create a stringer to hold our fish. We continue on and Lari mentions that I really should try to lift and portage the canoe. Okay – I can do this. The next portage is about 65 rods. What a mistake that was!!! Since I have no shoulder strength, I could hardly lift the canoe over my head, much less try and balance it to walk. I never took a step – but it was fun to try.
Lari takes the canoe back from me and I get a head start to the other side so I can get my walleye back in the water. What a site that greeted me. It was the boathouse and ranger station. It appears to still be an actively used station as there is evidence of freshly cut wood and fairly new windows in the “home”, but no one was around while we were there. On our way back to camp, we followed three playful otters that were determined to stay as far in front of us as possible.
Today is our last day here. We wake up to rain sprinkles, so no hot breakfast this morning. We pack up, load the canoe and start on our way out. The wind is calm and by the time we make it to the first portage out, the rain has stopped, but the skies remain overcast. We hope it stays this calm when we hit Agnes and as it turns out – we end up paddling against a light wind across Agnes. The trip is uneventful until we hit the 97 rod portage to Nina Moose. As we make the first trip across the portage, there is a gentleman who appears to not be feeling up to par. Turns out – he is spending two weeks in the area and is just taking his time. We help carry his gear to the side we just came from as we had to go back anyway. Just before we get to the end of the portage, we hear the sounds of “creatures” in the woods. Just ahead of us is a female grouse scratching for pebbles and just inside the woods is the male – all puffed and fanned out. Dang – the camera was taken across with the canoe and is at the other end of the portage. I hate when that happens. We stood and watched for about 5 minutes and the male hardly moved. I don’t think he appreciated us being there. We continued on, dropped off gear, load up and start to make our way back. We turn around and see a gentleman about 80 years old reaching the portage and wonder where he came from. He had no canoe, just carrying paddles and small pack. A little further up the portage, we came across a man about our age (45-55) JOGGING the portage carrying a canoe over his head. Yes, I said jogging. It appears he is with the elderly man we just met – he had to change his socks, got behind and was trying to catch up. We carried on, loaded the canoe back up and headed towards “home.” By the time we got to the last portage, we seemed to have picked up speed just a bit – we were so close, yet so far. As we hit that last portage and carry the first load to the parking lot, we reflected on these past few days. It was decided that we enjoyed this experience so much, we will do it again and talked over the things we would do different and the type of gear we would need to acquire. And as we made our way back with the second load, just before we reached the end of the portage, Lari reached for my hand and said “we started this adventure together, we finished it together and I want to hold your hand coming out.” I about melted – I guess I’ll keep him around for the next trip.
As we look back and reflect on this trip, we realized that we still work well together as a team. We are also more aware of our limitations in what we can and can’t do and will learn from this as well. For us, this was a trip of a lifetime and look forward to our next BWCA adventure. As my dear hubby said on the way back to Ely, “I’d be more than happy to go paddling with you again.” We are now starting to plan for the next trip.