BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 24 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1497 feet
Summary: A 5-day loop from Baker up the Temperance lakes to Cherokee, and back through Sawbill and Smoke lakes back to Baker. A fairly difficult trip.
Day 0: We drove up from Stillwater in the morning and camped at one of the 5 walk-in campsites at Baker Lake, and it was nice.
Day 1 (Baker to S. Temperance) - A beautiful day, we decided to paddle all the way to South Temperance the first day which was a great paddle with easy portages except for the last one. We picked the campsite on top of a huge rock that was close to the middle of the lake. Tried fishing some but no luck
Day 2 (Rest) - In the night, we encountered the worst storm of the entire season. While we were there 19 people had to be rescued from the BWCA. We had about 50mph straightline winds, and I'm still surprised that the huge tent we had stood up to it. We slept in and took a rest day because of the intense winds. Amazingly beautiful sunset.
Day 3 (S. Temperance to Cherokee) - We left as early as we could to beat the heat, but it was no good. The lengthy, hilly portages were challenging and by the last portage we were pretty beat. We overpacked and single portaged which led us to speedier exhaustion. Still amazing weather. North Temperance was a beaut- I wish we had stayed there instead of South. We took the southeasterly facing campsite on Cherokee on the southeastern skinny island. Neat little site.
Day 4 (Cherokee to Sawbill) - Left a little later in the day but it was ok. We took our time going down the river letting out of the southwest part of Cherokee and it was a great area. BEWARE: The area between Ada and Skoop Lakes appears to be floatable, but a dam built recently has made the portion impossible to float. Be prepared for a long portage through muck and water. A guy that we saw there said he had been going to the BWCA for 40 years at least once per year and it was the worst portage he had ever seen. By the time we got to Sawbill it was pretty hot. We paddled all the way down to the site next to the portage onto Smoke.
Day 5 (Sawbill to Baker) - Cooler, cloudier weather for the first time on the trip. We were pretty hungry (I underpacked food a little and I felt really bad) and we were taunting each other with vivid descriptions of the burgers we were going to eat ASAP after getting out. We paddled back to Baker and returned our gear to Sawtooth outfitters.
Overall great route.
North from Baker Lake
August 19, 2014
Number of Days:
As is our custom, we stayed the night before and the night after our BWCA trip at a northwoods campground. Going in we stayed right at Baker Lake campground in a very nice site and found the 30 second drive to our entry point the next morning very much to our liking!
The plan for the trip was to spend 6 days and 5 nights somewhere between Baker Lake and the Temperance Lakes. As it turned out we spent one night on Jack, 3 nights on South Temperance and the last night on Peterson(all 4 campsites on Kelly were taken).
My buddy owns a Wenonah Escape and we rented a Northstar 17' Northwind from Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte - a good experience with both the outfitter and the canoe.
We put in at 10 am Saturday morning with the plan to stay on Kelly or Jack that night. We ended up on the first campsite on Jack and it was a very nice site with a view of a couple islands. Caught some walleye and smallies from the back side of the site but threw them back for all of you to catch.
We stopped to explore the abandoned mine at the north end of the portage to Jack and it was kind of neat - saw lots of remnants of the work he did.
Jim and his boys at the entrance to the mine
We really enjoyed the paddle up Kelly and Jack, especially the long narrow parts of both lakes that seem more like river paddling(it is the Temperance River flowage). We were treated to the most amazing display of water lilies that I have ever seen on both of those lakes, literally thousands of them! There were spots where we had to paddle through a dense cover of lilypads and lilies because there was no open water. It was simply amazing and a delight to see. Hoped to see some moose on the trip but alas we had no luck. This is about the moosiest looking country I have been to though - I can see why they are somewhat common here.
Thousands of water lilies
Sunday morning we packed up and headed for the Temperance Lakes. We had hoped for the southern site on a point just north of the portage but it was taken, as was the northern site at mid lake. We headed west to the site in the NW corner of the lake - I had read that it was the most secluded site on the lake and for 3 days we found that to be true- nobody came near us the entire time.
A couple portage notes: on the site from Jack Lake to Weird Lake there is a large deadfall on the portage trail at the perfect height that presents a problem to go either over or under it. We did make the rangers aware of it.
Also, maps list the portage from the unnamed lake south of Temperance to Weird as 80 rods and the portage from Kelly into Jack as 65 rods. After taking them we were sure that the latter was longer than the former so on our way back we checked a different map and sure enough, the portage from the unnamed lake to Weird is listed as 57 rods and the portage from Kelly to Jack is listed as 75 rods. That seems right.
South Temperance is a wonderful lake, chock full of islands, points and bays. We fully enjoyed our 3 days here. We found blueberries to be almost non-existent - not even close to ripe yet which was a big disappointment. However...this particular site had perhaps the largest patch of raspberries I have ever seen in the wild and they were pretty close to their prime. We feasted on them and had 2 consecutive breakfasts of fresh raspberry pancakes with real maple syrup - an incredible treat! Blueberries are good- rapsberries are even better IMO.
Another interesting feature of this campsite was a pair of Spruce Grouse that were living right behind the campsite. We would run into them frequently in our 3 days there on trips to the raspberry patch, looking for firewood, going to the latrine, or just out exploring. They were not particularly afraid of us, as is the nature of Spruce Grouse, so we got pretty close on several occasions and got many good shots of them.
We had one all night rain, with a brief break followed by 4-5 hours of rain during the day. The campsite did not drain well at all and most of it was under standing water. But it did drain eventually and a tribute to good equipment - all of our tents/bags were dry. This was the first time we had used our CCS tarp and it was good timing indeed; it saved us from a drenching during the day. The rest of the trip was great weather with highs in the low to upper 70's although it did get quite cool at night. Our last night's low was a crisp 39 degrees.
None of our campsites was particularly well suited for sunsets or sunrises, but we managed to salvage some decent shots of the dramatic lighting coupled with the clouds that were drifting through. The mornings were beautifully foggy and usually crystal clear, but it tended to cloud up as the day wore on. We were able to get glimpses of the brilliant full moon early in the trip but it rose too late for us to see as the trip wore on.
Foggy mornings and brilliant colors in the morning...
Dramatic lighting as the day wore on and at sunset...
Our last morning on Peterson Lake was the foggiest...
We also chase birds, mushrooms and anything else that catches our fancy...
Some people pics...
Jim and his boys, Scott and Eric...my tripping partners
After leaving the BWCA our final night was spent at Eckbeck State Forest Campground alongside the Baptism River, site no. 11, just south of Finland, as is our tradition...
On the drive home we stopped at Palisade Head so Jim and the boys could scatter the ashes of their beloved dog, recently passed...
A bonus pic, on the windshield at Palisade Head...
All in all, an excellent trip. Nothing monumental in terms of fishing, wildlife or weather but plenty of what we go there for...physical challenge, spiritual renewal and the incredible beauty and tranquility of our BWCA.