BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

November 12 2019

Entry Point 39 - Baker Lake

Baker Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 26 miles. Access is a boat landing at Baker Lake with a 10-rod portage into Peterson Lake to reach first campsite. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1497 feet
Latitude: 47.8452
Longitude: -90.8169
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.

First Solo - Baker Lake Entry

by Blugold82
Trip Report

Entry Date: September 22, 2019
Entry Point: Baker Lake
Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (38)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:
This would be my first solo trip after about 10 previous small group or tandem trips into the BWCA. I was putting in at Baker Lake – Entry Point 39, base camping on Burnt Lake, and leaving via Sawbill Lake. I had been excitedly planning for this trip since the middle of July. Besides Sawbill, I had never been on any of the other lakes I would be passing through.

Day 1 of 4


Sunday, September 22, 2019 I headed out from home at 6:30am to pick up my solo canoe and catch a ride to the entry point from Sawbill Outfitters. I was well ahead of schedule, so I stopped for a quick bite at the Coho Café at 10:30 before continuing on to Sawbill. I was finally on Baker Lake by 12:45. It was warm for the middle of September, in the low 70’s, but there was an off-and-on drizzle, which I didn’t mind. The portage from Kelly to Burnt is one of the toughest that I have experienced. Just like I had read in previous posts, it was very rocky and wet. I met two hunters on the portage who were looking for grouse. Since I was double portaging, it took me 45 minutes to complete. I had worked up a good sweat, but I was paddling on Burnt before 3:00. I checked three sites that I had considered, and only the south-facing peninsula site (site 925) was available.

The drizzle had stopped for the time being, so I took advantage by putting up the tent and getting the rain fly on. Always a bonus to have a dry tent. I finished setting up camp (tarp, collecting water, and rigging the food pack system). I tried the lacrosse ball on the end of the thinner rope technique that I had read about in a previous post for getting the ropes over the branches, but it was not the magic fix that I was hoping for. Every year I consider a bear barrel. There were two huge trees that had blown over, roots and all, near where I hung my pack. The roots were still holding soil and rocks, and they created a large wall. Glad I wasn’t here for that. 

I was sipping coffee by a fire by 5:15 (thanks to the previous tenants who left some collected wood in camp), and ate a dinner of parmesan noodles and chicken at 7:30. To my delight, the clouds had started breaking and it was clear by 8:00. I am always amazed at the night sky in the BWCA, and it is one of the things that draws me back. I crawled into my tent at 9:30. I had purchased a new 20 degree bag and 2 ½ inch sleeping pad for this trip. I quickly fell asleep with my hatchet by my side for insurance. That red squirrel had been giving me the stink eye! It rained off-and-on through the night.

     

 



Day 2 of 4


Monday, September 23, 2019 I was up before the sun, had breakfast, set up my poles, and was on the lake by 9:00. I was trying some new lures and setups that I had read about in previous posts. I did not get a single strike. I returned to my site for lunch, and after lunch I went to a few nearby islands to scavenge for firewood. I went back out to fish at 5:30 for a few hours. Again, no strikes. I have to admit, I was frustrated with the lack of fishing success. I had dinner, red beans and rice with ham, and settled in at the campfire. It was a completely still and clear night with no moonlight to diminish the stars. It was one of the best evenings of stargazing I’ve had. This definitely helped to relieve my fishing frustrations. The Space Station went overhead around 8:00. The loons were also very active. I hit my tent around 10:00 with the intention of heading out on the lake before sunrise the following morning.

   

 



Day 3 of 4


Tuesday, September 24, 2019 Day 3: I was up again before the sun and immediately out on the lake. My inability to get a strike continued, even though fish were jumping all around me. They were obviously hungry and so was I. I returned to my site, had breakfast, and was back out on the lake by 10:00. I resorted back to what I normally use when fishing the Boundary Waters, floating Rapalas. The wind was strong out of the south and I was trolling around the islands in the center of the lake. Within 15 minutes, I’d landed my first smallmouth. I thought it was a snag at first and it put up a great battle. I love the whiz sound the drag makes when the fish dive! I kept it and the next fish (a walleye on a floating Rap?) for dinner. I returned to my site for lunch. The wind and gusts had really picked up, so I remained in camp the rest of the afternoon. Clouds were building, and in mid-afternoon, I could hear the rumble of fighter jets maneuvering nearby for about an hour. I was disappointed I could not see them. I also had been hearing a chainsaw and machinery running all day to the south. I know I was not deep into the BWCA, but this took away slightly from my solitude. I took advantage of the warm weather to clean myself up. I fished from shore in a few spots and caught two more smallmouth. I started making dinner (fish, potatoes and baked beans) around 5:30 as it looked like rain was imminent. The rain started around 6:30 and continued off-and-on. I discovered how lonely a solo trip can be in the evening in the rain underneath a tarp. I had not properly prepared myself for this possibility. I was in my tent by 8:00, read for awhile and fell asleep early.

   

 



Day 4 of 4


Wednesday, September 25, 2019 Day 4: In the morning, there was clear sky in the few breaks of low-lying clouds. I was hopeful for a dry day. After breakfast, I hit the lake. Again, I trolled, as the wind was building from the west. I caught two more smallmouth, two northerns, and another walleye. I stopped at the north-facing peninsula site across from mine to stretch my legs. Right at the landing stood a lone birch that some clown had chopped all the way around its trunk like a beaver would do. This would be dangerous to someone and/or their canoe when it eventually blew over. Made me think they should give IQ tests before handing out entry permits. I had trolled the islands again and the perimeter of the northern arm of the lake. As I was nearing my campsite around noon, I heard the rumble of thunder. I got around the point to where I could see to the west and there was a thunderstorm blowing in. I got back to camp and climbed a nearby hill to look further west, and there were thunderheads popping. I had originally planned to leave on Day 4, but then extended a day at the last minute in case the weather was great and I hadn’t wanted to leave. I had a decision to make. Pack up and leave soon or ride out the evening, possibly under the tarp again in the rain, just to pack up in the morning. I’d had a good morning of fishing, which left me content. I would pack up and leave today. I rode out the thundershower under the tarp having lunch. The rain had stopped by the time I was done, and I began breaking down camp. In less than 2 hours, I was paddling west. There were off-and-on periods of rain followed by sun, but the whole time it was blowing hard out of the west. After rounding the southern point on Smoke, I got blown sideways twice by gusts of wind, and I struggled in the steady wind to get righted. By the time I reached the landing, I was exhausted. To top it off, I had to basically do the splits to get out of the canoe and onto the boardwalk at the landing, as I was unable to get alongside it. IMO, it was definitely not laid out with a solo canoe in mind. I passed the time on the portage to Sawbill counting my steps. 653 steps to traverse the portage for anybody who’s wondering. The paddle on Sawbill was nice, once I turned south out of the bay. I was headed south on the Sawbill Trail by 4:15. I was surprised to see that it was only 51 degrees. I had only been wearing a t-shirt for my paddle. Shows how hard I was working in the wind. Right over the round hut as you leave the outfitter was a rainbow. It was the cap on a very rewarding trip.

   

 


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