BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 02 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1237 feet
Stuart River - 19
Oyster, Finger, LLC September/Oct 2013
September 29, 2013
Moose/Portage River (north)
Moose/Portage River (north) (16)
Number of Days:
It took us about 50 minutes to drive the Echo Trail to the entry point from White Iron and we were unloading the car just after 7am. A group from Indiana pulled in right behind us. They were headed to Iron Lake for 4 nights. After getting the gear unloaded, car parked, and canoe rigged up, the group behind us was impressed when M hauled on down the trail with the huge green Granite Gear pack. I followed with the canoe with our paddles strapped in, and the food pack. About 30 rods down the trail one of the yoke pads just fell off my shoulder. After putting the canoe down, we realized M had screwed on the yoke pads...above the yoke. After screwing it back on, we finished M's first portage into the BWCA.
A quick paddle had us at the the 20-rod portage, followed by a makeshift portage around sand and debris from a presumed beaver dam blowout. After another 25-rod portage, we were headed north on the Nina Moose in search of the cliff south of Nina Moose Lake. We found what turned out to be the first of two landings up to the cliff. Unfortunately, we took the long way up the cliff, eventually making it to the top. What a view. A BWCA tradition on my trips is to take a timed group picture every day, and we took our timed photo for the day from the top of the cliff.
Then it was off toward the twists and turns before Nina Moose Lake. We passed one group on their way out before hitting Nina Moose Lake. Once through Nina Moose Lake and back on the river, we pulled over a beaver dam before arriving at the 80-rod portage.
A short paddle later, we were on the 105-rod portage along the Nina Moose River which is beautiful. It follows the rapids and was framed by pockets of brilliant falls colors. My favorite portage of the trip. M was owning the portages through this point but I was getting tired and welcomed some extended paddling before our next portage.
Just before reaching Agnes Lake, we turned north to head up the Oyster Creek instead of taking the portage from Agnes Lake. This was our first and perhaps only route mistake. We actually found the way into the creek fairly easily despite no clear path, but it took a series of about 12 pull-overs and a few dead ends before we were confident we were on the right path. It took about an hour to get to the 20-rod portage. The rest of the creek was a nice paddle all the way over to the portage into Oyster Lake. Unless water levels were extremely high, I would take the Agnes portage in the future without question.
The portage into Oyster was pretty and the site of blue water after 8 portages was very welcome, but the rocky landing and a stiff west wind and whitecaps were less inviting. I couldn't tell with the binoculars if the 5-star site on the narrow portion of the peninsula was open, but we set off toward it anyway. After a wavy and windy paddle, we were happy to find it open.
It's a great site. Landings on both sides of the peninsula, nice grate area, plenty of tent pads, and lovely views into the northern bay of Oyster. After setting up camp, we took a very quick and cold dip into Oyster, and had a pick- me-up cup of coffee. Dinner was steak for me, chicken for M, and mashed potatoes. After journaling about our first day, we enjoyed some s'mores using Reese's instead of Hershey's, then laid down on the north rock slope and watched the stars before hitting the tent.
A beautiful morning. We would enjoy clear, sunny and warm conditions all day. Breakfast was oatmeal with dried cherries and some coffee on the french press. Both of our muscles were sore from the first day, but we packed up and pressed on for Finger Lake about 10am. We stopped over to check out the pictographs on Rocky Lake on the way to the portage into Green. The landing on the Rocky side is lives up to the lake's name, but the portage is beautiful, and Green was sporting some especially nice falls colors when we got to the end of the trail. A quick paddle across Green and another pleasant portage into Ge-Be and it was time for lunch. Destination: rock chairs.
Following lunch at the rock chairs, we paddled to the north end of Ge-Be, briefly got out of the canoe at what looked like the portage landing into Ge-Be Creek before realizing there was no trail, then paddled a few dozen yards north to the actual portage, which is straight downhill to Ge-Be Creek. Glad we were headed this way.
Ge-Be Creek was a nice paddle and it was very quiet all around us. I was hoping we'd see a moose walking around the bog surrounding the creek, but no luck. There was a beaver dam that required a pull-over just before Ge-Be Creek meets up with Pocket Creek, and we were able to pass by the portage into Pocket Lake and just paddle into the lake. All the sites on Pocket were vacant and it dawned on us that we hadn't seen anyone since leaving the Nina Moose River more than 24 hours ago. I was hoping this trend would continue so we could camp on the nice island site on Finger. The Finger portage was another beautiful portage winding it's way along Finger Creek to Finger Lake. We were planning a layover on Finger, so it was nice to put down the canoe at the end of the last portage for a couple days.
We paddled our way south of the southern island before M spotted a tent on the site. A solo tripper was doing chores at the 4-star site as we paddled by. I was pretty bummed but we headed to the island site on the northwest portion of the lake. This site is elevated from the lake and offers great views to the south and east. It only has one good tent spot far back from camp and a second tent spot in camp that is only marginal but OK for a one or two person tent. The grate area is nice featuring a couple large boulders and nice clean rock surface between the log seating. The latrine is back along an awkward trail. This site looks like it gets little use and a couple dead trees right in camp were full of great firewood. We took another dip to wash off, then set up camp.
Dinner was wraps with teriyaki chicken, cucumber, rice, snap peas, peanut sauce and carrots. Delicious. We followed it up by baking some brownies on the reflector oven. We noticed after dark that in addition to someone being on the southern campsite on the big island, there was also someone at the site on the northeast side of that island. After not seeing anyone for 24 hours and passing about 12 open campsites that day on Rocky, Green, Ge-Be and Pocket, 3 of 4 sites were full on Finger. The stars were awesome and we journaled by the fire before heading to bed.
Another sunny and beautiful morning. We had a leisurely breakfast of oatmeal, dried fruit and coffee. After lazing around camp in the morning, we washed some clothes and filled up the solar shower to sit out in the sun. In the afternoon, we paddled over to the one-rod portage between Finger and Thumb Lakes. It was a very pretty spot and we spent a half hour or so taking some pictures and exploring.
We ended the evening with some hot apple cider and a Sigurd Olson reading by the campfire. Just before bed, I noticed it seemed lighter to the north, and it seemed as though the northern lights were out but being on the south side of an island with no view to the north, we weren't sure.
M and I were up early to photograph the sunrise before packing up and tripping to our destination of Tiger Bay on LLC, and it indeed was quite brisk before quickly warming up.
The paddles across Finger and Pocket were nice and it started to turn cloudy as we made our way down Pocket Creek to LLC. The 20-rod portage had more color than much of the surrounding area and emptied out into a pretty little bay. There is a beaver dam to pull over as you leave this bay from Pocket Creek. We made great time paddling east on LLC over to Fish Stake Narrows and stopped for lunch where were turned south toward Tiger Bay. We ate next to the first US border marker spotted on our trip.
We paddled over to the pictographs on the Canadian side after lunch and the wind kicked up as we were checking them out, so we decided to hit it to Tiger Bay. Our target was the site looking directly at Warrior Hill on the north side of an island but as we got close to the site, we noticed it was taken, so we paddled to the site on the southwestern side of the same island. Thankfully, it was open and awesome.
The site faces west and sits up on a small point featuring sand beaches on either side of the site. The wide-open pine forest behind camp houses a beautiful trail to the latrine and a few nice tent pads.
The forecast was for off and on rain for the next 4 days so we rigged the large CCS tarp and a smaller tarp to keep us dry.
We made pizza with the reflector oven for dinner, followed by some cookies. It drizzled for about 20 minutes off and on as we were cooking, but otherwise stayed dry. We enjoyed wine, another Sigurd Olson reading, journaling and a campfire before bed.
We woke up to a cloudy but calm morning and enjoyed our normal breakfast before heading over to Warrior Hill.
It was a quick paddle over to Warrior Hill and the two guys occupying the other site on the island with us paddled by on their way out. It took a while to find our way up to the top of Warrior Hill, but we enjoyed the view and took lots of pictures from a few different vantage points before sitting and chatting on a man-made rock circle for a while before heading back down.
We stopped at one of the tiny islands adjacent to Warrior Hill on our way back, but decided to head back to camp when the sun broke to try and get in short swim at the nice sand beach at our site. After a quick swim, we washed some more clothes, and enjoyed a lazy afternoon at our site. We saw a couple groups paddle through Tiger Bay in the afternoon, but they would be the last people we'd see until midday Saturday.
Our supply of real food was exhausted, so dinner tonight was Cache Lake Chicken Stew and Mashed Potatoes, followed by banana muffins in the reflector oven. M raided our trail mix for dark chocolate chips to add to the muffins. A great idea. More Sigurd Olson, whiskey and cider, and a campfire to finish another great day.
Big day trip today, and unfortunately, it was also breezy. We scarfed down coffee and leftover banana muffins for breakfast and headed out on our day trip. The paddle to Bottle Portage was breezy and the waves were already whipped up pretty good. Fortunately, our route over to Curtain Falls was fairly protected from the wind. I find it a little unsettling to travel far from camp in the wilderness, especially in the wind, in the event I get wind-bound somewhere separated from the bulk of the gear. I had put together some tiny survival kits that fit into each of our life jackets that included an emergency blanket, shelter, matches, lighter, tinder, knife, duct tape, a whistle, LED, and string which gave me some piece and mind with the chilly water and wind.
Bottle Portage was pretty dry til we got to the landing at the end, which was all mud. The paddle through Bottle Lake to Iron Lake was very pretty, as was the rest of the paddle over to Curtain Falls. I had a little trouble navigating into the proper bay to get to the portage over to Crooked Lake and Curtain Falls but we eventually found it. The colors were really popping on the portage and it was a beautiful walk over to the falls.
The falls were magnificent and we had them all to ourselves. M and I took a boatload of pictures, scarfed down some lunch, and then hiked the portage back to the canoe to head over to Rebecca Falls. I hadn't done any research into Rebecca Falls, so we landed the canoe and took the portage over to McAree only to figure out we couldn't see the falls. I was assuming (wrongly) we'd have to bring the canoe over to see them, so we decided to move on.
Because we were headed to the ranger cabin on the south end of LLC, and because of the nasty landing at Bottle Portage, I decided we should take the 225 and 60- rod portages back to LCC since we had minimal gear. In addition to being a more direct route, we'd avoid paddling the large bay down to the cabin. The 225-rod portage was a long slog, but pretty flat and it's definitely the quicker route. At the end of the 65-rod portage, we were greeted to the instant view of the boathouse of the ranger cabin right on the water. M and I were both surprised at the well-maintained nature of the cabin. It clearly still get used and is a beautiful spot, with a boat house of the east end of the peninsula and a dock on the west side.
After a windy but short paddle back to camp, we rushed to make dinner after it started raining briefly, and had camp packed up pretty early. It stopped raining, so we got to enjoy another wonderful campfire with a reading, journaling, and more whiskey and cider.
The forecast was brutal for tomorrow (40s and rain all day and overnight) so I was a little sad at the prospect it could be a last night in the BWCA.
It rained steadily for a good part of the night and we ate breakfast under the tarp before packing up camp. The plan was to travel back to Nina Moose Lake for our last night, but we agreed to take what the weather gave us and stop if it stopped raining or travel out if it remained cruddy.
We packed up our wet camp and were greeted to a pause in the rain as we got on the water. The 70 and 20-rod portages to Agnes along the Boulder River were pretty easy and despite some wind, the weather wasn't too bad. Once we got on Agnes, the wind kicked up from the east so we tried to take the southern shore to the west side of Agnes to get back into the Nina Moose River. We saw no one camped on Agnes-definitely weird. By the time we reached the west end of Agnes, the waves were rolling and I was getting nervous about eventually having to turn sideways to the waves to get into the river. I waited as long as possible, preferring to be close to shore if we tipped. A few hairy moments and we were finally into the river safely. I breathed some sighs of relief...and then it started raining harder. Nice. Shortly after, we passed where we had turned off 6 days earlier to head north to Oyster Creek. Despite it being miserable out, I got a little sad thinking back upon our trip which was almost over. We passed a father and son fishing in the river-our first people sighting since Thursday.
We fueled up with some lunch on the 105-rod portage which was beautiful again on the way out. Then we crossed the 80-rod portage. M spotted a bald eagle from a pretty good distance as we paddled toward Nina Moose Lake. The fatigue was palpable as we lifted over the beaver dam north of Nina Moose Lake. I think we were both set on exiting by then given the weather and that the forecast wasn't any better overnight and into the morning, but I had a few second thoughts as we admired the advanced fall colors on Nina Moose Lake. There were a couple groups camped on the lake, but the idea of setting up a wet camp only to pack it up again tomorrow morning didn't seem appetizing so we pressed on. After getting back onto the Nina Moose, we took the quicker route up to the cliff south of Nina Moose to take our last timed picture of the trip. We covered the next three portages easily as it started to rain again before we reached our final portage. As we loaded up for the walk back to the parking lot, I think both of us were sad our trip was ending. I thought back over the trip as I walked up the portage. I thought about our campfires, how funny M's legs looked while carrying the huge green pack (it was the only part of her you could see), and about all our portages, campsites, meals, and day-trips. I smiled as we got close to the parking lot and walked by where the yoke pad had fallen off on the way in.
What a great trip. I felt like M had really loved her first BWCA trip, and she was an awesome trip partner. I was already thinking about where we could go next.
We packed up the car, threw the canoe on top, and changed into dry clothes before driving back to Ely. We were able to stay at my friend's cabin that night, so we stopped by for a shower before heading into Ely for a Bucky Burger and beer at the Ely Steakhouse, followed by Dairy Queen. Then it was back to the cabin for a comfy night of sleep before driving back to the cities Sunday morning.