BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 19 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.
Base camping w/ broken ankle
September 01, 2018
Number of Days:
After work on Friday, we drove from the Twin Cities to Pfeiffer Lake campground. After a hearty breakfast in Cook, we picked up the permit and drove to Moccasin Point on Lake Vermillion. We put on the water at 9:30am Saturday. The weather was beautiful with light winds and sunny skies.
At the 60 rod portage into Portage Bay on Trout Lake, my husband carried the canoe and a pack basket. I carried the lightest pack plus paddles and life jackets, while our son hoofed across with the heaviest pack before coming back and relieving me of my pack. The portage was quite flat and well worn. I just watched my footing extra carefully, but made good time. We still managed to keep our typical pace of 10 rods per minute.
We paddled directly over to the 240 rod portage into Pine Lake. This is also a well traveled portage, though due to its length it certainly travels up and down some hills, through some mud, and has moderate numbers of rocks. Other than the one group doubling back on the portage for the rest of their gear while one of them talked obnoxiously on his cell phone, it was an uneventful crossing.
The island campsites on Pine Lake were already taken so we turned south and headed for the site on the odd boot shaped peninsula. We kept thinking we had missed it, but finally found it. The landing area is small and the site is very hidden by trees and shrubs. What a pleasant surprise to find this site! It was barely used...nothing fresh in the latrine, ground completely covered in a thick layer of pine needles. It was very private, with a decent spot for a 4 person tent up on a bluff overlooking the lake. The fire grate was tucked down lower and was very protected from any wind. We arrived at this site about 1:30pm and quickly set up camp.
Swimming was tough from this site, but once past the large, slippery boulders it was enjoyable. My son and husband set out in the canoe for a late afternoon fishing expedition and came back with the biggest Crappie any of us had ever seen. It pan fried up beautifully and was a welcome addition to our meal of mac/cheese w/ salami.
Due to my ankle feeling pretty tender from the first day of travel, we decided to stay put at our lovely campsite on Sunday. Instead of packing up, we took a day trip to the northern end of Pine Lake and explored Pine Creek as far as the portage to Chad Lake. It was a lovely, winding travel and we kept expecting to see a moose around each corner. There were a couple beaver dams to pull over, and a few rocky areas, but otherwise was an easily passable creek. The portage to Chad Lake has a high bluff off to the left, so we scrambled up there to eat lunch and watch the eagles soaring. Afterwards, we strolled the portage path and found that the industrious beavers had flooded the Chad Lake end requiring extra work for anyone trying to pass through.
We had a quiet evening back at the campsite with wild rice soup and cheesy biscuits. Monday morning, we lazed around before breaking camp and putting on the water at 11:30am. My ankle felt stronger for the return passages across the 2 portages and I concluded that a BWCA trip was worth more than any physical therapy I might have done back in the Cities. We drove out of the parking lot by 4:00 pm and zipped back home by 8:30 that night.
I would love to go back to this area and explore the Little Sioux River or the Chad Lake/Buck Lake area and beyond. I had never been to this end of the BWCAW before. Other than the heavy motor boat traffic on Vermillion, it was a lovely place to visit.