BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
July 13 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
Late Season Lake Trout Trip
September 27, 2004
Snowbank Lake (27)
Number of Days:
Late Season Lake Trout Trip – September 27 to October 1, 2004
Trip Participants: Dan Stalmer, Dave Sempert, and myself, John O’Kane.
I was planning the annual fall trip with my buddy Jeff Hway when he called and I found out that he couldn’t make the trip until October 3rd. Dave, Dan and I were chomping at the bit to go on a trip and wanted to do a late season lake trout fishing trip. Lake trout fishing closes as of October 1st, so we decided to do our own trip.
The route we planned on started at Moose Lake, then through Knife, Kekekabic, Fraser, Disappointment and out at Snowbank.
That morning we met at the outfitters and had J.B. drive us down to Moose Lake. We had a tow set up with the Vosburgh Custom Cabins Company to take us up along the border, dropping us at Birch Lake. It was a great morning to start our trip, beautiful blue skies, warm and not too windy.
We followed the right shore of Birch Lake to a 40 rod portage into Carp Lake. Skirting the south end of Carp, we came upon three short portages and one 75 rod trail into Knife Lake. We stopped by the island known as the Isle of Pine. This was formerly the home of Dorothy Molter, also known as the Root Beer Lady, one of the last permanent residents living in the BWCA. We had planned on having our lunch there but the north wind was picking up so we decided to keep paddling and have lunch later.
As we continued our paddle, we started trolling for lake trout. We caught now nice ones before we got to our campsite across from Thunder Point. Thunder Point stands 150 feet above the lake with a quarter mile trail that leads to a panoramic view overlooking the Canadian border. It was still windy after we set up camp so we decided to just hang out. Temperatures were close to 70 degrees and the sky was still a brilliant blue.
We planned our next day’s travel that evening. We had nine portages to Frazier which would bring us through the worst part of the blowdown area from the infamous 1999 “BWCA Storm of the Century”. The Forest Service had plans to start a controlled burn of this area and we figured we’d get a chance to see some of it.
After a quick breakfast, we just had to go around the corner to a 33 rod portage into Bonnie Lake. Next is a 25 rod portage which took us into Spoon. Spoon brought back memories of a trip years ago that I took with my two daughters, then just three and six years old. Then we took the 25 rod portage into Pickle Lake and an 80 rod portage into Kekekabic Lake.
Kekekabic is beautiful, 180 feet deep and known for the lake trout and smallmouth found there. On the east end of the lake is a majestic set of rock cliffs that have a pictograph of four people in a canoe. There’s an old USFS ranger cabin and a 190 rod uphill trail which leads to the site of the former Kek Lookout Tower, which stood 425 feet above the lake. Throughout this area you can see the wind damage from the 1999 storm but the new growth over the last five years is starting to cover it up.
There is an uphill, 85 rod portage out of Kekekabic Lake that leads to Strup Lake. It was here that we decided to stop for our lunch. After eating we took the 10 rod portage into Wisini Lake. The cliffs and rock formations here are spectacular and the only campsite on the lake is up on a stone bluff overlooking the lake. Largemouth bass are found here.
The next 90 rod portage runs along a ravine and took us into Ahmakose Lake. We had heard that there are lake trout in this lake. The next portage was 30 rods and led to Gerund Lake, then a 10 rod portage and we entered Fraser Lake.
Fraser is three miles long and has about twelve islands on it. It also boasts lake trout, walleye, northern pike, clear water and lots of reefs. We planned on spending our layover day here. We chose a campsite on the northwest side of the lake. This site was pretty exposed but Dave liked it because of all the dead wood lying around it. Dave built a nice fire and we sat around it, talking about the day’s events and enjoying the full moon that night.
The next morning we slept in. Our plan was to troll for lakers and work a walleye spot on the northeast end of the lake and also fish around the islands. As we paddled up the lake, Dave noticed some movement on the northern shoreline. We went over to investigate and weren’t sure if what we saw was a large log or an animal. We guessed a moose or a bear but as we got closer it turned out to be a cow moose and her calf. We paddled in slowly, keeping our distance. It was great watching them work the shore line for food and I was happy that I had brought my good camera with my new 28 – 300 lens!
The calf was a good sized one and in good shape. After a while it appeared that they were heading back to the swampy area. Dave had to take a “bathroom break” so we paddled up to a nearby campsite. While Dave was standing there he noticed a cow moose looking right at him. He made a mad dash back to the canoe and we continued to follow it down the shore line for about a half mile. We fished the rest of the afternoon. We caught a few small fish and had some bites but we had to work for it.
While we were headed back to our site for a late lunch we noticed a plume of smoke in the northwest, about a mile away. This was the Forest Service doing the controlled burn over by Snowbank Lake and we spotted the aircraft circling around it. After lunch we went to check out Trinity Lake. Trinity is a very shallow lake, only 10 feet deep.
We enjoyed another great dinner that night under a brilliant full moon which made the lake shimmer in the moonlight. Dan said it looked “twinkly”.
That morning I got up early and got them going. We had about nine miles and 10 portages to do to get over the Disappointment Lake. At the south end of Fraser Lake there is a narrow channel and you can paddle into Thomas Lake. From there we headed west. Dan told us about his winter camping trips he had taken in this area. There are almost a half dozen small portages to get into Ima Lake. Ima Lake has lots of campsites on it. Once across Ima there is a 6 rod portage into Jordan Lake. The trail goes in to a beautiful gorge with interesting rock formations and under cutting rocks. This is a great spot.
Jordan has three campsites and is a good lake for walleye fishing. Once across Jordan there was a 55 rod portage into Cattyman Lake. Neither Dan nor Dave had seen Cattyman Falls before so we decided to take our lunch break there. After checking out the falls and taking some photos, we had a quick bite to eat. It started raining a little and of course it stopped once we got our rain gear on!
If the water is high enough you can walk your canoe through to Adventure Lake but we had to do the 10 rod portage. At Adventure Lake we had Disappointment Mountain in the background. There was a 40 rod portage into Jitterbug Lake, which is full of lily pads. To get to Ahsub Lake we took the 15 rod portage. There is a nice campsite on the west end and brown and brook trout inhabit the lake.
We took the short 25 rod portage into Disappointment Lake. Disappointment is known for having some of the best fishing in the area. This lake has northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, perch and silver pike. I knew of a great campsite on the south end of the lake with huge white pines and flat soft ground. The site was open so we set up camp there. Dan began to fish of the site and caught a few nice bass & one perch.
During dinner we had the radio on and heard that it was going to be real windy the next day. The guys wanted to explore Parent Lake anyway, so we decided rather than crossing so much of Snowbank in the wind, we’d go through Parent and then across a smaller section of Snowbank to the landing.
As we left our campsite the next morning we noticed that the wind was indeed picking up. The decision to go through Parent Lake was a good one. It gave more shelter from the wind which was coming from the northwest causing some good sized whitecaps on Snowbank. We paddled into the wind and it gave the best angle to get to the boat landing. We were wet and cold by the time we spotted the landing. The sight of our van waiting for us was a welcome one!
This was a great autumn trip. The Wenonah Kevlar Minnesota 3 canoe we took worked out great for three guys. We were able to do the portages all in one shot, especially since Dan was the “pack mule”. The MN 3 worked great as we paddled into the wind. Even with the person in the stern working to keep it straight into the waves, we still had two guys power paddling. The route was great, lots of clear water lakes, high cliffs and you can see some of the remnants of the big storm and blowdown area. (Note: if it had been quite dry, this area would be under a Forest Service fire ban).