BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

September 29 2020

Entry Point 16 - Moose/Portage River (North of Echo Trail)

Moose/Portage River (north) entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by La Croix Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 27 miles. Access is a 160-rod portage heading North from the Echo Trail.

Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1348 feet
Latitude: 48.1230
Longitude: -92.0991
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
Small lakes
Small rivers
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!

Moose River North to Lac La Croix

by billsta
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 12, 2011
Entry Point: Moose/Portage River (north)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 3

Trip Introduction:
We were supposed to be a foursome, but 6 days before our trip our fourth person canceled. My daughter, her husband and their Jack Russell Terrier traveled in one canoe, while I paddled solo...turning a 16 foot tandem around and paddling from the front seat.

Day 1 of 7

Sunday, June 12, 2011 Our fourth person canceled 6 days before, so we are traveling as a threesome (tandem and solo – actually our solo is a 16 ft tandem turned around and paddled from the front seat): My daughter Jamie, her husband Caleb, myself, and their Jack Russell Terrier. After spending the night at VNO’s bunk house, we are up early, complete the first 160 rod portage from the parking lot, and are paddling the Moose River by 7AM. We cross 5 beaver dams, 3 which require pull-overs, but none are a problem. We are meeting quite a few groups that are headed out, as well as a few headed in just behind us. Almost everyone headed in is targeting Agnes Lake. Our intent is to make Boulder Bay via the 115 rod portage from Agnes. Our last trip to this area we took the 24 and 65 rod portages and this time we decide to do something different. We find that we’re traveling a bit slower…I’m thinking it’s the solo canoe, coupled with a bit of wind. Penny, is doing great until our final portage…when she just stops walking and won’t go any further. I carry her across the 115 rod portage. By the time we get to Boulder Bay, it’s after 3PM. We are hoping to get the first site out of the Boulder River…the site furthest east in Boulder Bay. Reviews I’ve seen all say this is a 5 star site (we are in luck, because it’s open) and after looking around the site, we are in agreement. We set up camp and shortly after we’re settled, we break out the steaks and make dinner. After dinner, we fished a bit from shore and caught a few small walleyes and pike. An enormous turtle (probably 24” diameter shell) swims near shore and entertains us for a while. We sat around the campfire and watched the sun go down, then crawled into our tents at about 11 PM. Highlights: Great campsite, nice dinner, campfire under the stars. Lowlights: None


Day 2 of 7

Monday, June 13, 2011 We’re up fairly early and while water is boiling for coffee, I catch a nice smallmouth from shore, probably in the 2.5 lb. range. We cook bacon & eggs for breakfast and are cleaned up before 9AM. Our intent is to make a day trip to Curtain Falls, because the forecast was calling for storms from Tuesday to Friday. It’s pretty windy in Boulder Bay and I’m concerned about crossing the main portion of Lac La Croix, where the wind is sure to be worse. We decide to fish the Boulder River instead. Caleb wants to paddle solo, so Jamie and I paddle together. After we reach the Boulder River, Caleb is feeling comfortable paddling alone and wants to head to Curtain Falls. Somewhat reluctantly, I agree. It is almost noon when we head out. We take the 75 rod portage to the ranger cabin and then head toward Bottle portage. Caleb wants to take the 65 rod and 240 rod portage into Iron Lake, but we had been warned against that during our last trip to this area and I am unwilling to go that route. We paddle towards Bottle portage, but the wind is blowing west and although Caleb is making progress, he is at least 200 yards west when we near the portage. We wait for at least 20 minutes for him to head back east and reach the portage. We make it across the portage, but I need to stop and catch my breath after the first uphill portion. At the end of the portage, we re-assess. It’s 3PM and, based on the time it took us to get this far, we may not reach the falls for another 2 hours. Caleb lobbies to head back to camp, Jamie is tired but doesn’t want to give up after traveling this far. I point out that the further we travel, the longer the trip back will be. We decide to ditch the falls idea and head back to camp. As we enter the main body of LLC, Caleb cannot even get his canoe turned. The wind from the east is so strong he can’t get the front of the canoe pointed south. After 3 or 4 attempts we head back to help. We tie both canoes together and paddle back toward the ranger station with our tails tucked between our legs. We’re all pretty whipped when we get back to camp. We cook dinner and break out the box of red wine, which tastes amazingly good. Almost no fishing was done this day, which is probably my primary reason for taking these trips. Tomorrow is another day. Highlights: Breakfast, “Box O Wine” Lowlights: Missing Curtain Falls  


Day 3 of 7

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 Oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and we are on the Boulder River and fishing by 7:30AM. I have a slip bobber and leech rigged up, and catch a nice crappie the first place we stop. I fish for another 10 minutes or so without a bite and decide to put on a jig and twister tail. I troll through a rock strewn portion of the river and very quickly hook a really nice walleye. She gets off right at the boat while I’m trying to open the collapsible net with my other hand. I know better, the *#*@ net should have been opened before I started fishing. I open the net so it will be ready for the next fish…which I hook as soon as I troll back through the same area. This one finds the net ad is destined for the frying pan. We have a very enjoyable morning of fishing and catch at least a dozen walleye, a bunch of small northern, and a couple of smallmouth bass in addition to the crappie. We keep 3 walleye for lunch and head back to camp and have fillets frying by noon. We fry the fish in cajun breading and make mac & cheese to go alongside. 6 large fillets disappear pretty quickly. We hang in camp and all take afternoon naps. Since we cooked for lunch, we have a “no cook” dinner of tuna wraps…which are very good. Jamie and I head out to fish, while Caleb stays in camp and reads. We fish for about 2 hours and catch nothing. Highlights: Morning fishing, walleye fillets Lowlights: Evening fishing



Day 4 of 7

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 We’re up at 6:15AM, coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, then on the water by 8:30AM. We head up the Boulder River and are into fish the first place we stop. Caleb catches a nice walleye in the 3 to 4 pound range and we catch a few a bit smaller. When it slows down, we head further upriver. I'm trolling a jig and twister tail and in a half hour catch two nice walleye, a half dozen northern (the largest about 30") and a really nice smallmouth. We head back to camp for lunch. The skies become overcast and it gets very windy. It drizzles intermittently. We hang in camp in the afternoon, mostly because of the wind. Jamie heads to the tent and Caleb and I find a path to the north side of the point and fish the bay from shore. It's very weedy, but within 10 minutes or so we catch four small pike, then we head back to our site Jamie gets up and fishes from shore in camp, catching an eater size walleye right away, then decides to start dinner. Our evening meal is Chili-Mac (Mountain House), which is very good. Since we need to be on the road back to Chicago early on Saturday, we are spending our final night on Nina Moose Lake. We’re a bit concerned about finding an open campsite there on Friday, so we decide to head there on Thursday instead. We get everything ready to go, except tents and sleeping stuff, so we can head out fairly quickly in the morning. Although we’re not in a big hurry, we are shooting to be on the water by 8 to 9AM. Highlights: Morning fishing Lowlights: Wind keeps us off the water in the afternoon, knowing we’re headed toward our exit point on Thursday    


Day 5 of 7

Thursday, June 16, 2011 I’m up very early…it’s about 5:30AM. I brush my teeth and take in the surroundings, knowing we’re leaving in a few hours. I decide to go drop our food pack so I can start coffee. The tree Caleb found for the food pack is probably 50 yards from our site. The main path I take to our food pack has multiple paths crossing it…most head to different spots on either shore and one heads to the latrine. I hear a sound and look up to see the hindquarters of a moose, traveling pretty fast, head down a trail toward the north bay. I assume I startled him (her?). One of Caleb’s biggest desires was to see a moose on this trip, so I head back to the tents and wake him and Jamie up. They are out of their tent in a flash. I am pretty sure we’re going to see the moose in the north bay, since that’s where the trail leads. We head down to the water, but see nothing. We backtrack and look all through the vicinity. There is another campsite to the west, which was occupied just within the last day or two, but we are reluctant to head any further west…we’re already getting pretty close to their site. The moose is gone. We’re on the water by 9AM and take the 24 and 65 rod portages into Agnes. At the end of the last portage I tie on a Shad Rap so I can troll across Agnes Lake. As I’m finishing up, another group drops their first load of gear and we hurry to get on the water and out of their way. It isn’t until later in the day that I realize I left my forceps on a rock at the portage. I’ve had these for over 20 years and they’ve become like an extension of my hand…they can be replaced, but it won’t be the same. We reach Nina Moose Lake at about 11AM. Our concerns about finding a site on Nina Moose are unfounded, of the 7 or 8 sites, only two are occupied. We find a nice site at the southern tip of the point that is directly across from the Portage River and set up camp. The site has a great open area at the tip of the point, an adjacent sheltered kitchen, and individual trails to separated tent pads. Although not as nice as our site on Boulder Bay, I’d rate this as a 3.5 to 4 star site (poor landing area probably the biggest detraction). We have a no cook lunch, then hang in camp, fishing from shore a bit. It’s very shallow around our site, so the shore fishing is not great. We manage to catch a few small walleyes. We have chicken ala king for dinner, then we head out for some evening fishing. We catch a few small walleyes and Caleb catches a small perch. We head back to camp and are in our tents before 10 PM. Highlights: Moose, Finding a great site on Nina Moose Lake Lowlights: Leaving my forceps at our last portage    


Day 6 of 7

Friday, June 17, 2011 It’s a beautiful, sunny day. By the time we finish coffee and breakfast, the wind has kicked up. It is easily the windiest day we’ve had and it keeps us in camp all day long. If we didn’t have the one solo canoeist, we probably would have ventured out to fish. Instead, we have a lazy day of reading, napping, eating, and fishing from shore. It looks like we made the right choice heading here a day early, since campsites are now filling up, both with people heading in and out. In the evening, the wind dies down and we head to the eastern shore to fish, a bit further north of where we fished the night before. We catch northern and walleye and in a couple hours probably catch 20 plus fish. At one spot I make five casts and catch 4 northern, then a bit later catch two walleye from the same spot. We return to camp and find a turtle on the shore of our camp, digging a hole to lay its eggs. We watch her lay 5 eggs, cover them, then head back into the water. We break down all of our fishing gear and pack everything we can to minimize pack time in the morning. Highlights: Relaxing day, evening fishing Lowlights: Wind keeps us off the water during the day.     


Day 7 of 7

Saturday, June 18, 2011 We’re up at 5 AM so we can be out early, and also in hope of seeing some wildlife on the river. We’re packed and ready to go by 6:15 AM. As we load our canoes, a group from a site on the eastern shore paddles out from their site. They head toward the Moose River before us. We assume our chances for seeing a moose just went down considerably. We’re about 5 to 10 minutes behind this group and take our time. It is not long before we’re running into other groups on their way in. The portages become a bit slower and at least one group on its way out catches up with us. We catch up with the group in front of us and they ask is we’ve been this way before. They are curious how far they are from the entry point. It’s one more short paddle and then the 160 rod portage to the parking lot. They are from Arizona and this is their first trip into the BW/Quetico. They were flown in, paddled out, and were being picked up at the entry point. We reach the 160 rod portage to the parking lot a bit before 9 AM and it is chaos. There are people everywhere, headed in both directions. As we drop our first load at the parking lot, there are at least 4 cars cued up waiting to drop their gear and enter. Ugh! I bet we see at least 25 to 30 different people on this portage. While carrying my canoe, I am forced to the side of the trail by a father and son carrying packs, who evidently felt that they were entitled to the path. Neither of them make any attempt to move over a bit. They both bump into me with their packs…even though I am as far to the side as I can get. While picking up our last load, we chat with a mother and son that is headed in and find out they live about 15 minutes from us…small world. We are able to load our car and leave the chaos behind. We’re at VNO by about 10 AM. We shower and then stop for burgers to go before we get on the road.          We have the best kind of drive home: Uneventful. Highlights: On a day we’re leaving the BW, there are none Lowlights: Chaos on our final portage


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