Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

July 14 2024

Entry Point 27 - Snowbank Lake

Snowbank Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP max). This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 24 miles. Access is a boat landing or canoe launch at Snowbank Lake. Many trip options for paddlers. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Latitude: 47.9716
Longitude: -91.4326
Snowbank Lake - 27

Number Lakes Loop- First time out West

by Makwa90
Trip Report

Entry Date: September 06, 2012
Entry Point: Lake One
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 3

Trip Introduction:
My family usually travels into the Boundary Waters from the Sawbill Lake Entry Point, so this will be the first time in the western half of the area. We like to travel every day so we have a large loop planned starting through the number lakes. Some wind and wildlife drama, but it was another fantastic trip!

Day 1 of 7

Thursday, September 06, 2012 We lugged the giant 3 person rental boat off of our vehicle (it think it hung over the back by 6 feet) and carried it down to the shore of Lake One. We loaded up quickly and shoved off… to the sound of wolves in the distance! What a way to start! Lake One was beautiful with lots of inlets and a shoreline of large rocky cliffs with “bonsai” jack pines hanging precariously off the sides. We scooted along with good speed in our giant rig and have not come across many people so far. By the time we got to Lake Two, we could see the affect of the Pegami Creek Fire.

I was on constant rock duty through the Kawishiwi River. The dead and fire scarred trees were interesting at first but as the day drew on, they started to get a little depressing. Lots of wildflowers though. Super healthy and vibrant. Lake Insula’s south half was scorched as well, but we finally put our backs to the brown and black stubs and found a lovely cozy site along the western shore about halfway up the lake. The water was perfectly calm and the sky perfectly clear. We could not have asked for better weather to start our trip. We spent the evening relaxing around camp and watching the stars come out. The Milky Way swooped overhead and the stars reflected in the water like tiny floating candles.


Day 2 of 7

Friday, September 07, 2012 It was a comfortable night and we woke up to a cool slightly windy morning. Our point is perfectly situated for us to sip our morning coffee and watch the sun rise over the pines across the far shore. We quickly packed up camp and shoved off for the next leg of our journey. The rest of Insula was beautiful, but the wind was really starting to pick up and the sun was beating down on us... someone forgot the sunscreen... whoops.

We followed the Kawishiwi River once more and it was a joy to paddle with small rapids, glittery gabbro outcrops, and chattering kingfishers. By lunchtime, we made it to the Fishdance Lake Pictographs and feasted at a perched campsite across from the giant cliff. Before we left we floated along side the face of the cliff and gazed in awe at the ancient paintings. One couldn’t help but feel the presence of history here. Early afternoon came and we started looking for home. We juggled between two sites on either side of an island in the Kawishiwi River and opted for the northern site for it’s superior swimming hole. Not long after unpacking I utilized said swimming hole with great relief. It was a hot sunny day of paddling. This site features a nice rocky ledge high off the water with great views to the western shore. From here we watched a family of eagles hunting fish, and plentiful beaver activity. More stargazing and a lovely evening fire.


Day 3 of 7

Saturday, September 08, 2012 Hard to sleep with mice running headlong into your tent all night long! Eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns were a treat for breakfast this morning. It looks like there will be plenty of sunshine today again. We got a super late start due to the extravagant breakfast. Today we will get out of the river system and head North into the heart of the BWCA. The birches were burnished bronze and gold, the rock cliffs got taller and more frequent. The portage from Beaver Lake into Adams Lake was beautiful. We almost didn’t believe the portage was where the map insisted. It’s a cliff! Well, turns out the trail skirts the bottom of the cliff and wraps around the backside of the rocky face. The air was pleasantly cool and the ground was made up of spikes of club moss, bunchberry, and bluebead lily.

Adams Lake was my favorite of the trip and featured a continuous shoreline of craggy basalt. Small trees clung desperately to the surface. Lots of rocky islands! We have definitely climbed in elevation from the river and the water is crystal clear. Rocks the size of vans litter the bottom of the lake. Getting out of Adams and into Boulder was not quite so fun. Lots of slogging through shallow channels, hefting the boat over two beaver dams, and the wind has picked up again. The struggle to get to Boulder Lake is worth it though and we ended up having the lake to ourselves. My Dad had camped on this lake as a boy and we headed over to an island which he said boasted a fantastic site. Many huge erratic boulders line the site and the view from the throne is great especially if you like geology.

Finally, some cloud cover and sparse drops of rain to give us relief from the glaring sun. Like my favorite outdoor humorist Pat McManus writes: “Camping is a fine and pleasant misery.” After all, what would a canoe trip be without blazing sun, wind, and mucky beaver dams? It just wouldn’t be right without them. ~River Lake, Beaver Lake, Adams Lake, Boulder Lake


Day 4 of 7

Sunday, September 09, 2012 Today has been an… interesting… day. We did not end up making it very far today. Our first portage was supposed to be 2 140’s but the creek that connected the portages was dried up into a mucky pond with no way around so we basically ended up loading the boat and used it as a bridge to get across then unloaded and continued with the portage. Another long portage after that too. We hit the zenith of our trip on a rare splitting portage. The east for takes you towards Little Saganaga or down to the Lady Chain, the west takes you towards Fraser and Thomas (where we were headed). We paused enough to hoist our bags up more securely on the hips and carried on.

By now, the wind had gotten noticeably stronger which made the crossing of Roe and Cap Lake harrowing to say the least. I was too busy churning up a froth to notice any pain in my arms. My eyes stayed fixed to the farther shore willing it to get closer. We found out later that the gusts were up to 27 mph! The next lake was a little better wave wise but the gusty winds made me wish for a decent camp and pronto. Finally we made the quick portage into Shepo Lake and, after taking a look at the numerous whitecaps on Fraser Lake, we decided to stay here. The only site on Shepo is open and rocky only offering a little protection from the swirls of wind. Naps were taken, a few games of Yahtzee played and hot beverages consumed. We had a lot of time to kill and not a whole lot to explore.

Turns out my Dad left his Nalgene at the portage into the lake so we had to paddle back out to retrieve it. While returning, we spotted a few distant plumes of smoke to the north signaling a wildfire. Of course that unsettled us and even though we knew it was VERY far away, all sorts of scenarios start running through your head. Every wispy cloud turned into potential smoke plumes and our site faced away from it so we couldn’t keep tabs on the situation. Dusk started to fall and the excitement continued. Strange noises were occurring across our bay: Grunting and rather large trees falling. We assumed this to be a beaver since we had heard and seen much beaver activity earlier in the day. At least that’s what we were hoping. On top of that, we haven’t seen a soul in two days. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but if crazy things are happening its kind of reassuring to know there someone else nearby. Night fell and the crashing continued to get closer and closer to our site and then it all fell eerily quiet. We vowed to leave at first light tomorrow to beat the wind and leave the strange creatures behind. ~Cap Lake, Roe Lake, Sagus Lake, Shepo Lake


Day 5 of 7

Monday, September 10, 2012 Today was a much better day. The goal was to make it back to Insula, snag an island site, and lounge the rest of the day. We woke up right at dawn and immediately broke down camp and loaded the canoe. The food bag was out for a quick breakfast of granola bars and dried fruit. I was about halfway through my bar and my Mom was just finishing packing her bag when Dad told her to be quiet. He thought he heard something in the bay. Just then, the most horrible sound reached my ears: a low moaning bellow. It was much too close for comfort and our immediate thought was “That’s not a beaver!” I threw my food back in the bag and punted it into the canoe while my dad dragged it to the lake. I ran over to my Mom and grabbed her bag out of her hands and shoo-ed her to the canoe too. We shoved off and I immediately began booking it to the portage while my dad tried to see what it was. We never saw it, but we are 99% sure it was a moose that was struggling through the large amounts of blow down surrounding the site.

Fraser Lake was fairly calm this morning, which was great because it took a while to reach the other side. We met some other early morning paddlers with the same idea as us. Finally back into a smaller lake: Kiana. The fall colors are really popping now. The blueberry and diervilla turned plum purple and the maples yellow and scarlet. When we finally reached Insula again, there was only a short diagonal trek between us and “home.” We set up camp on Williamson Island, a small rocky island only inhabited by mice and a red squirrel. A welcome change from Shepo. We relaxed on the rocky front porch with oatmeal and coffee in hand because we had missed breakfast that morning. The wind picked up again but our site was well protected. After a very short tour of the island, we took our appointed baths and had a nice afternoon tea on the rocks. The only thing to watch out for on this site was the abundance of mice rummaging all around. Heard wolves again in the distance. Not too many loons on this trip, though. Watched shooting stars under the chilly clear sky until the fire dwindled. A much more relaxing evening. I think I’ll sleep well tonight. ~Shepo Lake, Fraser Lake, Thomas Lake, Kiana Lake, Insula, Lake


Day 6 of 7

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 I denied Mom her pancake breakfast again. I decided we should leave early again in case of wind. We are in the burn zone again, but it seemed faster this time. The asters are still blooming and there was an abundance of wild geranium and dicentra. More and more people appeared on the portages. The sites began filling up on Lake Three, and even on Lake Two so we decided to make a last ditch effort to find a site on Lake One. Success! We were able to snag another island site with rocky outcrops all around. We tucked our tents in a cozy spot away from the fire nestled amongst boulders and towering red pines with a view of the north sky and some rocky islets.

Definitely a little bite in the air today and we saw many flocks of geese heading south. The fire pit area boasted an incredible view of the sky and we watched a fireball leave a bright streak across the sky! ~Insula, Lake, Hudson Lake


Day 7 of 7

Wednesday, September 12, Finally had pancakes this morning! It was very cold last night, but I burrowed deep down into by bag and stayed toasty warm. What’s worse is the morning visit to the cold dewy throne. Still fairly windy but we only have a short hour or so paddle ahead of us back to the landing and the route ended up being mostly protected. So the trip back was calm and peaceful. It’s always fun to watch the groups just starting their adventure. I hope they brought enough warm clothes. I think we got lucky with the abnormally warm temperatures. Strapped the rig back onto the car and returned to Ely for some juicy burgers yum!