BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

July 05 2020

Entry Point 41 - Brule Lake

Brule 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 35 miles. Access is a boat landing at Brule Lake. Large lake with several campsites. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1847 feet
Latitude: 47.9261
Longitude: -90.6448
Brule Lake - 41

Brule and Winchell Lakes

by DrBobDerrig
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 21, 2012
Entry Point: Brule Lake
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 6

Trip Introduction:
Doing one New Year's resolution I apologize for 'da poor speling, grammer, pictures. More pictures can be seen here (larger) Also: Report- Brule and Winchell Lakes- Intro and Days 1-2 for better links between report and pictures....

Part 1 of 10

Boundary Waters trip 2012….

The original plan for this year’s trip was to put in at the Moose River North EP. For some reason there was still one permit available even late in the spring so I snatched it up. From reading trip reports from BWJ and the websites this area looked to have a lot of options and I was pretty stoked to check out this new area. But then the son of one of the boys was having his driver’s test and he and his father decided to cancel. Being a little bummed out I cancelled the permit and decided my wife and I would do something else on our own. However one of the other adults (also known as Dr Z) was not to be deterred and got his maps out, powwowed, and made a reservation at Brule Lake EP. Brule Lake!! That is serious big water!! I had read about major waves and folk being wind bound on this 8 mile wide lake. I had endured my wife’s protests on Jackfish Bay the previous year as we paddled into serious wind. The time frame was moved to go in on Saturday July 21 not earlier in the week as originally planned. That also got me concerned….there could be a lot of traffic on a day like that…Saturday even!! But hey….if the winds were brutal and crowds everywhere…it wasn’t my idea and therefore not my fault…. So the plans progressed from there. We had 6 of us this year….4 adults (big kids) and 2 scouts (including one newbie). Jeff and his son would bug out a couple days early so we travelled with 2 vehicles and 3 canoes….no canoe trailer which helped out gas wise on the Suburban. We left from my house near Kewaunee Wi by 6:15 AM on Friday and headed west on Hy 29 and then North on Hy 53. Road and travel conditions were great and we made good time to Amnicon Falls SP for lunch break. The river was really moving so there was no wading in the water this trip. After lunch and time to stretch our legs we continued north to Superior / Duluth and continued on to Tofte arriving by 3:15 PM. We got things squared up with our permit and continued on to Crescent Lake CG where we had a reservation. Hey….this looked like a neat lake to paddle on even though outside the BW. We didn’t have the time this trip but I could go back there again. Golden age passport….for those of us who have reach 62. It had been mentioned to me early in the spring to check into getting one but I didn’t. Well, if we did we would have saved half the cost of the camping fees but oh well…. There is also an additional charge for a 2nd Vehicle. Dinner that night was sloppy joes which we had made up and froze before the trip, brown beans, and apple sauce….easy and fast. We did the usual packing and repacking for the next morning. There was some cloud action, thunder, and the looks of rain but none ever arrived during the night. Sleeping conditions were pleasant. Crescent Lake CG…nice outhouses and water from solar powered well…a nice place to stay.


Part 2 of 10

Day 1: Saturday July 21st. Up early with a quick breakfast of blueberry coffee cake and banana bread. Years ago my daughter gave me a small Starbucks thermos that works really well for canoe trips…a fellow doesn’t have to remove the lid just push this button in the lid…works slick… so I filled that up to make it through the morning. We got packed up and on the dusty road and were at Brule Lake EP by 7:30. My wife Lark and I had only been in that area once several years earlier and the roads were really bad... dusty, washboards, and two nasty logging trucks that kept finding us around every bend. This year road conditions were half decent. At the EP there was no one in the put-in, the place was quiet, and most important of all a gentle wind out of the north….none of my concerns about this day of the week and going in at BIG Brule were realized  We headed north and west through the Cone lakes with Winchell Lake being our destination. Water levels were good so we didn’t have to use the portages….just put a few scratches in my newly varnished SR canoe. We have seen only one other canoe party….where is everybody?  The first portage of the day was the 160r into Cliff Lake. Portages on this part of the park are a little more rugged than in the Ely area. In addition my wife had two stents put into her heart late in April so she would not be a mule on this trip. Jeff (a big kid) and his son Austin are very seasoned paddlers so we got them across ahead of us so they could get a site for us in case Winchell was crowded. This was the first ever portage for newbie boy scout Alex so he had his work cut out for him. Hey…he did better than this 62 year old carcass.  No other parties on the portage. We got all our luggage across the portage and continued east on Cliff Lake…pretty lake but no camp sites. Then we moved the baggage across the 14r rod portage to Wanihigan, and paddled north to the last portage of the day… a 14r into Winchell. Now to find Jeff and son Austin who had to have arrived hours before and should have scouted the place out. I had read from trip reports and BWJ at there was a 5 star site on a point….and I was hoping against hope that it might be open. It is the 5th site going east from the west end of the lake. Another answer to hope and prayers…it was open and Jeff and Tyler were on it!! It has a nice water front, flat rocks, and several nice tent pads. This would be base camp for a few days. Lunch was jerky, cream cheese, and bagels.   Fishing poles were put to work and the fishaholics caught a decent bass and northern from our site and were invited to dinner. Dinner that night was fish and garlic scalloped potatoes .   Winchell seemed empty…saw a couple canoes but a lot of empty camp sites. I figured it would be a zoo on Brule and this lake….being a Saturday with people coming and going but I was totally wrong. Sleep was good that night….back in the Boundary Waters once again….thank you Lord.


Part 3 of 10

Day 2 Sunday July 22  We took our time getting up today. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and bacon bits in soft tacos. We scrambled and froze them in double Ziplock bags before the trip. The GI tract of one of the guys doesn’t like the powdered egg from the Egg Store so we went this route this year. A day trip in the direction of Omega Lake was the plan for the day. My wife Lark and I paddled and explored while the rest tried their luck fishing. We had lunch on the west end of Omega and did the 35 rod (a steep up and down portage) into Kiskadinna. Kindof a blah lake….the two campsites weren’t very noteworthy according to our notes. We weren’t crazy or ambitious enough to do the 185R into Muskeg and eventually Long Island (where Lark and I had stayed with another couple several years earlier…before the Ham Lake fire). We worked our way back to Winchell. The lake water was really warm on all the lakes this trip. With a nice rock …swimming was next on the agenda.  The dinner menu that night was cheeseburgers, terryaki rice, and Oreo cheesecakes. No-Bake cheese cakes seem to be a requirement for every BW canoe trip. A few more canoe parties showed up today. One group went climbing the rock face on the south side of Winchell. Hoped they knew what they were doing. That night some pretty good rain showers came through…one thing we have noticed is that the usual mosquito swarms around 9:30PM haven’t appeared…in fact the bugs weren’t bad at all…even them nasty deer flies. Boundary waters isn’t boundary waters without a visit from the loons and hearing them party during the night.


Part 4 of 10

Day 3 Monday July 23 Another nice day on the boundary waters….Nice and sunny according to Lark’s notes. Breakfast was pancakes and precooked bacon warmed up….with strawberry jam and syrup of course  Jeff purchased one of these coffee gizmos….he scorned my thought of instant coffee for this trip. I wasn’t too proud the sample the results though !!!. Pricey but heats water darn fast. The plan for the day was another day trip…going east to Gaskin Lake this time. We loaded up with vittles for the day (string cheese, sausage, chex mix, fig newton bars ) and paddled off. Still some empty sites….amazing for a Monday. Burnt out areas from past fires…somewhere I read about what year it was but can’t recall right now…at least 10 years. Gaskin is a very nice lake I would like to visit again someday. The fishaholics tried fruitlessly to fool a fish or two while Lark and I explored. We had lunch on a site on the eastern side of Gaskin with major improvements like steps. Another 5 star site and it was empty. It would be tempting to move here tomorrow The fishaholics beat the water fruitlessly with their rods while Lark and I explored along the shore….  We eventually migrated back to Winchell and headed back to our site. As Lark and I paddled the north shore we could hear water running in the woods. Between the 3rd and 4th campsites going west from the east end of Winchell is the outlet of a small stream that comes out of Gaskin. We were in no real hurry to get back so we got out and explored. It was a very pretty little area… There was a pretty little pond farther back in the woods above the little waterfall. We took a few pictures, gathered some wood up for the evening campfire and continued toward camp. On the south side of Winchell is another that I had visited early by myself the morning before. Heather Monthei in BWJ had mentioned visiting there in one of her articles. It drains comes off of Tremble Lake and is quite a bit higher than the one draining from Gaskin. I walked to the top of the falls and thought about bushwalking to Tremble Lake but gave that idea up in a hurry….a lot of down logs and debris.  Dinner that night was marinated steaks from the local butcher back home and a noodle side dish. My wife Lark and Dr Z went out with fishing poles and caught and release two smallies. Skies that night were clear with the moon out. There was no wind and our the sounds of a late night party carried across the lake


Part 5 of 10

Day 4, Tuesday July 24. Breakfast was warmed up ham slices, hard boiled eggs, and cinnamon raison bagels. We packed up another lunch and headed back to Omega Lake and on to Henson Lake for another day trip. Henson is a pretty lake. Lark and I saw a mink or weasel along the shore as we paddled and explored. There didn’t seem to be as many turtles sunning on logs and rocks that we usually see. Lunch was sausage, cheese curds, chex mix, gorp, and cream cheese on bagels. This would be a nice lake to stay at if one wanted to avoid crowds and wind. No one was game to check out Pillsbery Lake to the north we headed back to Winchell. While the rest of our group headed back to camp Lark and I paddle to the south end of the lake where we had seen guys climbing the cliff face previously.  The pictures don’t do justice as to how steep this rock face is. There were more canoes around on Winchell today. We paddled back to camp where the rest of the group was taking advantage of the day to get another swim in.  Dinner was Darn Good Chili with dehydrated hamburger, dehydrated sweet corn, shredded cheese on top, large elbow macaroni, carrots, and strawberry cheesecake. NOAA radio says rain is coming.


Part 6 of 10

Day 5, Wednesday July 25. The weather forecast was correct….we had monsoons with some lightning during the night. There were a lot of puddles around the site. Temp was in the 70’s with a little fog on the lake. Today is moving day…heading back to Big Brule Lake for a couple nights. The portages should be interesting. Breakfast was oatmeal, breakfast bars, and granola. Jeff and son Austin went ahead of us again to find a site on Brule. He brought some flagging tape along so we would see the chosen site from a distance. The rest of us could take our time and be careful on the portages. The portages were as nice as a figured they would be…a guy had to take his time or a slip could be painful. We slipped, slid, and slogged our way through that 160r portage into North Cone Lake and met a pair of girls at the end of the portage. One was a teacher from Ruwanda Africa and they had put some big time miles in their trip so far. Unfortunately the front seat on their rented canoe had broken. With a beaver stick and some duct tape we were able to help them out. I wasn’t impressed with the construction of this canoe. The wood looked too light to hold up and that little bit of padding on the portage yoke didn’t look so great. I wasn’t familiar with a brand (Langford Canoe, Prospector 16.6) but could imagine the outfitter having trouble with them… if you plunk a heavy rear on those seats they weren’t going to hold up. Once our good deed was completed we paddled through the Cones and checked out some campsites as we traveled. As we left Cone Bay it wasn’t long until we could see flagging tape and Jeff’s Banana colored tent on the island almost straight south. It was still foggy and drizzly but with no wind and not cold. By 3:30 we paddled up to our new home for the next couple days. Wildlife sightings for the day include some eagle, vulture, loon and babies on Cliff Lake, and maybe some grebes on South Cone. After getting moved in, Dr Z and Alex went out with fishing poles….They met with success and came back with two walleye that they invited to dinner. We grilled them with fake butter (margarine) and lemon pepper. Chicken Alfredo with foil pack chicken and mushrooms was the side dish to go along with the fish. Rasberry Fig Newtons was the dessert. On wet days it is nice to have a nice tarp, a light weight table for the stove, and Roll-A-Chairs. Everything was damp and getting a fire going wasn’t easy. While looking for the ideal tent pad and firewood we came across many fish carcasses. Some slobs just pitched them everywhere and figured the wildlife would clean them all up?  During the night the skies cleared and the stars came out.


Part 7 of 10

Day 6 Thursday July 26 By morning the clouds were back and they had the look of rain. Breakfast was pancakes and sausage. Jeff and Austin decided to fish and hang around camp while the rest of us decided to day trip with fishing on the side. The destination was the Temperance Lakes. We paddled around the Cones for a bit trying to fool a fish and then headed west. There are some huge cliffs along the western shore of Brule towards Cam Lake. The rain gods began drizzling on us but with warm temps we weren’t too miserable. We paddled and portage into S Temperance which has a lot of small islands….along with a LOT of canoes. This is a busy intersection for canoe traffic…Lark’s notes said we counted around 20 on that small lake coming and going. Around 2PM we stopped on a rock (all 4 sites were taken) and put the feed bag on. The weather was getting more suspicious so we decided to skip North Temperance…These don’t appear to be lakes to visit if you want to get away from traffic. The wind and rain picked up on Brule and getting back to the island was a slug but we arrived by 4PM….damp and tired. Jeff and Austin had gotten in a nice load of firewood and had a decent fire going which was way nice. Dinner that night was a pot of Zatarrin’s Black Beans and Rice, Red Beans and Rice, sweet corn, hamburger, mushrooms and cheese. We made some cheese garlic biscuits and a cherry cheesecake to complete the menu. This is our last night here. Tomorrow we head back Sawbill Campground where Dr Z, Lark and I will stay for two more nights while Jeff and the boys head back to Kewaunee for Austin’s 16th birthday party on Saturday.


Part 8 of 10

Day 7 Friday July 27 It was a quiet night with no rain or wind. It looked to be a beautiful sunny day. Jeff and Dr Z went fishing while the rest of us did little as possible. I brought some 5 minute grits and prepared them along instant oatmeal for breakfast. Being a northerner I don’t know much about them but with pancake syrup, cinnamon sugar, and butter they aren’t half bad. Add hot water to them, stir, and cozy them up for a time to get stiffened up. I see they have flavored instant stuff that one can get in southern stores and plan to check them out. They may work along with oat meal and cream of wheat for a hot quick breakfast. Watching Undercover Boss we found the Cream of Wheat is made with Cinnabon flavor so we plan to try that out for next year. After Jeff and Dr Z returned we broke camp and loaded up the canoes. As we were leaving paddlers showed up and claimed the site. This Friday seems to be a lot busier than last weekend. These guys were paddling serious heavy weight canoes, multiple coolers filled with ice, and stuff one sees in car camping. It looked like this was a far as they planned to go. With those coolers, I wondered if their mission was to fill them with fillets adding to the piles of carcasses strewn in the back. By 11 AM we were back at the Brule Lake EP. There were a whole lot more people here today…. It reminded me of Lake One EP.  We got vehicles loaded up and drove to Sawbill Campground. Jeff, Austin, and Alex took showers, visited the store, and said goodbye as they headed back home. Dr Z, Lark, and I picked a nice site close to the lake with nice large pines and tent pads. We got the feed bag opened up and did lunch. After we got the tents set up we went out to paddle around Sawbill Lake. Dr Z fished while we looked for wildlife along the shore. By 5 PM we were back and took showers before they got turned off for the day. After visiting the store we went back to our site and made a dinner of rice brocolli and chicken. I had the batter ring baker in the car and used it to make cheese garlic bread. It turned out decent. Dr Z procured some beer at the store which tasted way good. There were quite a few people in the campground but quiet, clean, and well maintained. The sites are so that one doesn’t feel like he is in a KOA campground. This is a great place for families or just folk that may want to day trip. Tomorrow we want to try the Kelso River toward Kelso Lake. Lark and I had seen a moose there a few years ago and got some great pictures and were hoping for a repeat.


Part 9 of 10

Day 8 Saturday July 28: As Mr Rogers used to say it is a beautiful time in the neighborhood. Looked to be a nice day on the water. After breakfast we got our canoes and set out towards the Kelso river. There seems to be a resident loon at the put-in who is overseeing everything. We went all the way to the Kelso Lake portage but did not take it…no moose….sigh. Lark and I have a friend Kim P who is a veterinarian in Grand Marais that grew up in Kewaunee that planned on meeting us at Sawbill for a visit so we headed back in order not to miss her. She was at our campsite when we got back and we got to visit for a while at camp. She has developed which appears to be solar dermatitis which causes severe itching. Being an outdoor person she is not a happy camper with this….so she has to stay covered up with wide brim hat, long sleeve shirts etc…. She was game for a paddle and shared the canoe with Dr Z . We paddled over to the portage to Alton Lake and wandered around Alton lake for while. The wind was picking up big time from the southwest so we stopped to inspect a campsite and headed back…Saw an eagle nest but no eagle. By 5PM we were back and went to visit the outfitter store. There were some big potatoes and onions calling to us so we procured them. We said our goodbyes to Kim and went back to camp to prepare dinner. Dr Z was the master chef tonight. Seasoned potatoes, onions, bacon bits, and mushrooms in the big fry pan. With cold beer it was a feast…but necessitated nocturnal trips….worth the price. Tomorrow we head home.


Part 10 of 10

Day 9 Sunday July 29 Today we head home. It has been a fun trip. We pack up and head to the store to pick up some last minute souvenirs. I purchase a moose covered apron for my moose loving wife. I now call this the ‘magic apron’ because when she puts it on magic things happen in the kitchen. It was certainly worth the price. Jerry Vandiver’s CD ( was sitting on the counter so that was added to the pile of goodies. Check out him on youtube…especially his Camp Coffee song. After all purchases were made we headed down the road toward home. We made sure to stop at Tofte to pick up ‘dem Golden Age passports. We would have saved some bucks if we had had them. We also stopped at Two Harbors where another moose was added to my wife’s collection. The trip home was good and uneventful. Monday would be back at work….. Summary and lesson learned…. -My fears about BIG windy Brule Lake never materialized. -We usually go in on a Weds rather than a weekend when there seem to be less large groups…For some reason this place was real quiet until around Tuesday. -Crescent lake CG is a nice camp ground to visit…would like to paddle that lake someday. -I packed too much food again….but if we didn’t have those two fish dinners and got wind bound for an extra day we would have been screwed. - Dr Z brought some wonderful elixer (“Canadian Mist”). I haven’t partaken of hard stuff (was partial to blackberry brandy) since college days 40 plus years ago after getting violently ill from too much of the stuff. He shared his little plastic bottle with me as a night cap….it was way nice. -Gotta be careful on the portages on this side of the park…seems easier to trip over rocks and roots. Portages seem to be a bit more rugged -There are a lot of trip options from Winchell which in itself is a nice lake.

Thanks for reading this...dr bob


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