BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 18 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
Moose to Agnes (Quetico) Trip 2013
July 08, 2013
Number of Days:
We woke up the girls at 7 am, packed our gear, enjoyed breakfast and made our way to Moose Lake where we would paddle to the Moose Lake EP. The weather was beautiful with temperatures forecast to be quite warm into the day. We paddled Moose, Newfound and Sucker Lakes before crossing our first portage at Prairie Portage. This portage was the girls' first experience on a portage trail so there was some time spent talking about procedures to make sure our gear stayed together and that we used proper portage etiquette on the trail. Once across the portage, my co-guide and I gathered up all our paperwork to take to the ranger station to get our official ok for entry into the Quetico. The staff at the station was awesome and we were cleared to continue our journey in no time.
Back on the water, we paddled Inlet Bay and Bailey Bay in fairly calm waters before stopping for the day on the northern most campsite on Sunday Island. There are three sites on this island (my map showed only two). The site on the East side of the island is very small and not favorable. The site on the south west side looked like a great site but was already taken. Our site was very roomy and although there are lots of rocks and roots, there are plenty of options to put up tents. We found places for our three tents without too much searching. The girls were able to do some swimming while I worked on the bear hang (one of the few that we actually had success with on this trip). [paragraph break]
This morning we had the choice to take the North Portage into Sunday Lake or Ranger Portage into Burke and then into Sunday Lake. We decided that since this was really our first portage (since Prairie is a pretty well traveled trail) that we would opt for the Ranger Portage route. This 84 rod portage has a really nice, sandy landing on Bayley Bay and the trail is really a nice portage trail, being mostly flat terrain.
Once on Burke Lake, we paddled the scenic Burke Lake to Single Brook Portage. The approach to this 5 rod portage is very pretty and before even landing at the portage, Sunday Lake's water can already be seen on the other side. There was a crew staying at the campsite on the portage so we made sure to stay clear of that area. [paragraph break]
We paddled Sunday Lake, taking a break for lunch before tackling the Meadows portages. These two long, but not difficult portages would but our crew to their first test on team work. We had to double trip the portages with it being the beginning of our trip. Other than being long and back to back portages, these portages really are not bad. [paragraph break]
Finally, the long awaited destination - Agnes Lake! It is getting late in the date and the rain is beginning so we choose to look for a campsite before heading to Louisa Falls for some much earned swimming fun. We ended up at the site just north of the falls, which was a pretty nice site. It has a sandy landing (although the previous campers had unfortunately left their fish remains along the shoreline). There were two nice trees at the edge of the site for a great bear hang and sheltered areas for tent pads. We ended up with a downpour so our rainfly had a work out. It rained hard enough that with washed a fair amount of sand down the side of the campsite and into the water.
We were able to take advantage of a break in the weather and enjoy a couple hours at Louisa Falls for some great swimming. It was definitely a stop enjoyed by everyone! By the time we were ready to go back to camp, the temperature had cooled and rain was definitely moving in.
We decided that our original route up Agnes and down the S-chain was not doable for our crew of youth so we opted to change to our alternate route through Jeff. Our morning was greeted with some wind and waves, which so far the girls have not had to experience. We worked our way along the shoreline to the 39 rod portage leading to East Lake. A definite down side to Quetico maps...no topo information showing that this is a 1400' rock ledge! While the girls took a break for lunch, my co-guide and I scouted the shoreline and did some rock climbing looking for the portage trail (not an easy task). After lunch was over, we decided there was no way we were going to portage over that rock so we had to continue further up Agnes and portage into the west side of East Lake.
We were at least treated to a little wildlife sighting lol. [paragraph break] We continued our paddle up Agnes until we could turn south at the point and head back toward the 32 rod portage into East Lake. We were very happy to see a portage trail that was easy to find and easy to walk! We continued our paddle down East Lake to the 41 rod portage into Jeff Lake. This portage trail was also an easy portage but a kind of boggy river entrance to Jeff Lake. We did end up pulling the canoes through a short stretch in the beginning of Jeff because of the shallow sandy waters but it was a nice walk that left our boots in tact!
Having no notes about Jeff Lake, we were not sure if there were other sites on Jeff or not so we started scouting, with the hope of getting as far west as possible before camping. This day was to be our layover day, but our campsite would determine whether we would stay two nights or one.
We ended up at the only site marked at the west end of Jeff Lake. Definitely not a layover site. The canoe landing is very narrow, requiring storing of 3 canoes in two different locations. The fire area was sheltered well and had a nice rock to use as a bench and another to use as a food prep area. The only places for tents were in the open and the three tents for our crew were accompanied by a fair number of rocks. There is a very nice rock along the shore for sitting and relaxing or enjoying dinner. Bear hang options are non- existent, with only one large tree and no other trees in range, so we ended up sandwiching our food between two canoes and tying them together. Fortunately, it worked.
After talking to the girls and them agreeing that our site on Jeff did not cut it for layover, we packed up and made our way to what we planned would be a great lay over site. A couple of the girls were really enjoying learning how to read the maps so they navigated us to the 8 rod portage, which was not too difficult to find. It was a nice short, easy portage. We loaded up and continued our short paddle to the much anticipated portage that would lead us to some river paddling. The beginning of the portage trail wasn't too hard to find, but was obviously not a well-traveled trail. [paragraph break] Arriving at the other end of the portage and seeing the river entrance, my excitement exploded! I love these kind of challenges! We can see the water....but getting to it will require some teamwork and a sense of adventure. Fortunately, we have a crew who is excited for the adventure! [paragraph break]
We continued to work together to make our way down this narrow, very winding river. We only had one other place where we had to do a lift over due to a beaver dam in progress. Once we reached West Lake we had a nice paddle to the 12 rod portage to South Lake. We stopped at this campsite to enjoy lunch and wash some mud off our boots. The portage was very flat and easily traveled. The short paddle across South Lake brought us to another easy 14 rod portage and into North Bay.
We were happy to see the water not too bad so we set our goal for the large island at the south end for our campsite. The site on the north-east side was available and the girls loved the rock shoreline so it became home for the next two nights.
This site did not have good bear hang trees again as most of the pines were very unstable. We were finally able to get one tree that we made work for the two nights. It's a good thing we had eaten a lot of food by this point of our trip!
Layover day!! Everyone was quite happy not to have to move today. We enjoyed another 90+ degree day by swimming and relaxing the day away.
After a much needed day of relaxation, today we have a long day of travel as we leave the Quetico and return to the BWCA. The girls are excited to portage the canoes (wait....where was this 5 days ago lol). They have grown a lot this past week!
We make the short paddle around the island to our first 30 rod portage toward Burke Lake. This portage is quite rocky but the girls handle it like pros! Back on the water, we paddle the narrow channel to the next 16 rod portage, where again the girls conquer the portage without a problem.
We paddle our way across Burke Lake without difficulty and prepare for Ranger Portage (which the girls did at the very beginning of this trip). This time they are ready for it and everyone claims equipment to carry so we can make a single portage trip.
Once on Bayley Bay, we paddle past our first night's campsite on Sunday Island and before long, Prairie Portage is in sight. The girls are ready for a break and are looking forward to lunch at a picnic table and being able to use a bathroom without mosquitoes biting their bottoms!
We pulled up to Prairie Portage, unloaded our gear into an out-of-the way spot, enjoyed lunch at the picnic table, the "modern facilities" and then portaged our way across to the United States. Once we had all our gear neatly stacked out of the way, we headed to the Welcome to Canada sign for pictures and then down the rapids trail for some sightseeing before continuing on our journey.
[paragraph break] Once back on the water our goal was to paddle for a couple more hours to get as far toward Moose Lake as we could so that our last day could be a little more relaxed. We paddled Sucker Lake and in to Newfound Lake before deciding to take the site just south of the Skull Lake portage.
The site offered a shaded fire grate area, which was great since we wanted to do a lot of baking and the heat the past week had been keeping us from doing a lot of it. The girls set up their tents close to the water, even though there are more tent pads up the hill a little ways back on the site. We decided those sites were more in the open and with rain moving in, we liked the shelter we had closer to the shoreline.
We had planned to swim but once the weather began to change, we had to call that off for the night and spent time relaxing around the campfire and enjoying our last evening in the wilderness together.
The campsite had a perfect trail where we were able to take pictures of each of the girls portaging the canoe so they would be able to show their friends and family at home of their great accomplishment. Carrying an alumicraft canoe is definitely something to be proud of as a young teen!
Our last day.... We get up a little earlier today to make eggs and hashbrowns to go with our lemon poppyseed muffins that we made last night. Nothing like some campfire breakfast to end a trip! [paragraph break] Once on the water we paddled our way to the BWCA entry where we stopped for a snack and pictures with the BWCA sign. During our break, Mother Nature thought she would share some thunder with us so we hung out for some extra time playing games while the weather cleared. [paragraph break] Once back on the water, we focused our time on the set arrival time we had been given for our crew and took our time for the remainder of our paddle. We were about ten minutes from base when the weather began to look like a storm moving in so we decided to pick up speed and head for base early. Less than three minutes from landing at base a huge bolt of lightning came down right in front of us, sending us all scrambling for the neighboring outfitters to get off the water. Thankfully everyone made it off the water safely and back to our base. What a way to end a trip with a bang! Moose Lake, Newfound Lake, Sucker Lake, Basswood Lake, Sunday Lake, Agnes, Lake, East Lake, South Lake