BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

January 16 2021

Entry Point 47 - Lizz & Swamp Lakes

Lizz and Swamp Lakes entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Gunflint Ranger Station near the city of Grand Marais, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 28 miles. Access from Poplar Lake by 51-rod portage to Lizz Lake and 100-rod portage into Swamp Lake only. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1864 feet
Latitude: 48.0420
Longitude: -90.4998
Lizz & Swamp Lakes - 47

Across the Gunflint- Poplar Lake to Cross River

by Davkumi
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 07, 2008
Entry Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes
Exit Point: Cross Bay Lake (50)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
The parents came all the way from Israel and the daughter and husband came from San Fransisco to have a two week wilderness vacation in the BWCA. The first week was spent day tripping from a cabin on Hungry Jack Lake, and the second week the across country canoe trip.

Day 1 of 5

We had an arrangement with our outfitter, Hungry Jack, that we could do a loop from Entry 47, Lizz Lake on Poplar Lake, or do a cross country trip and exit at 50 on the Cross River.  In either case we would call from phones near both exit points five days later.  The wind was blowing strong from the west that morning, clearing after the torrential rains of the past two days.  We were to be dropped off near the Trail Center restaurant, so we could find our way back after five days in case we did the loop.  I do not think the outfitter thought we could do the cross country trip! After all, our ages were  Ora 70, David, 61, Spencer 32 and Shon 29!  And all the rivers were at flood stage, plus the portages under water too. However, one look at the white caps on Poplar Lake and we told the driver to take us around to the public landing on the west end.  We certainly did not want to start the trip in a strong head wind, and besides, we were not planning on coming back this way!

So we started the trip in the sunshine with a pleasant tail wind down Poplar to the portage at the 47 Lizz Lake entry. This 51 rod portage was easy, not at all a taste of the things to come in days ahead. Lizz is a beautiful boreal forest lake, we are in the North Woods!

From there we continued on the easy and not too muddy portages to Caribou, 73 rods, and Horseshoe,20 rods. Its on Horseshoe that things get a bit tougher.  We make the horseshoe bend, and for the first time we are heading straight west and into the wind. Seeing as we have also done three portages, we are beginning to realize that this is not day tripping with an empty canoe!  So we make the 102 rod portage to Gaskin, which in length and mud was certainly the most difficult of the day.  Little did we know that we would look back upon this as one of the easier portages of the trip!

Gaskin lake is our destination for the night, and with a strong west wind and white caps, we strike out toward a camp site.  We make it about half way down the lake to an open site, a somewhat difficult landing, but at least we are off the water.  We set up camp, catch a walleye on the second cast from the site, and have a beautiful sundown with a clear night, the only one of the trip!'



Day 2 of 5

We awoke to a clear sky and calm winds. We began our more difficult stage of the trip, the height of land between Gaskin and Long Island lakes that is the Laurentian Divide. No more easy, flat portages!

Gaskin Lake is lovely, and we paddled slowly across it trolling and enjoying the sunlight and the bright blues and greens of water, trees and sky. At the western end, we came to a challenging 80 rod portage - mucky, rocky and slippery - not fun.  Henson is a long, narrow lake with boreal forest and swampy areas where we watched for moose. A light breeze sprang up from the east, pushing us gently along. It did not grow into a strong wind and rain, but it did become cloudy, and foretelling of things to come.

We stopped at a little grassy campsite for energy bars and apples. The wrappers we packed dutifully away, but threw our apple cores breezily into a swamp, where humans are unlikely to go, but the two blue jays who were following us might find them. About 1 p.m. we arrived at the west end of Henson, where another mucky, rocky portage led to Omega Lake.

But, before we began the portage came a moment of sudden intensity. While waiting for Shon and Spencer,, David cast toward a stream entering Henson, near the portage. A big pike grabbed the line on the first cast...and then fell off. A second cast caught a snag. The third cast caught the pike again, and as Shon and Spencer arrived we were intent on getting the pike into our landing net. he was big - perhaps 25 inches. We got him in....and he bounced right out...and we scooped him up again, in a tangle of line and net.

The two canoes met together. Spencer, who had gloves, took our net and the fish into his boat and bent to take out the hook. Immediately his own trolling line snagged, pulling the canoe back, and the pike thrashed wildly, knocking Shon's fishing rod over the side . It sank into the black water and disappeared. No ! We unsnagged the pike, and the trolling line, and then trolled back and forth for the fishing rod. Nothing came up but weeds,

"We're going to dive for it ! "cried Shon...but it was murky, reedy water, 6 feet deep, and cloudy with rising wind and cold...we gave it up for the time.....and decided to release the pike too after taking its picture.

We trekked across another muddy portage into Omega. The wind was with us as we paddled across and up the lake to this high, rocky camp. It has a great view, up and down the lake, and is the farthest lake from the entry points, and so had the feel of real wilderness. We saw only one other canoe the entire day.

That evening the east wind lived up to its reputation. The rain began in earnest around sundown, and we quickly retired to our tents.  David had earlier looked upon the tent pad we pitched on with some scepticism, seeing that it was somewhat depressed in the ground. However, being optimistic about the weather as he always is, he decided to put the tent there anyway, and besides, there were not too many choices for two tents at the site. Soon the rain came down heavily, and the floor of the tent began to rise like an inflating mattress! Only this was water underneath us, about two inches!  I know water beds have fallen out of favor, but we had ours on Omega Lake!  But thanks to the excellent Eureka tent supplied by Hungry Jack, we stayed dry inside all night, fitfully sleeping with the knowledge that the slightest hole in the tent floor would immediately flood all our gear with two inches of water!   


Day 3 of 5

We awoke to an overcast morning, but thankfully the rain had stopped.  We had previously thought that this would be a good place to spend two nights, and the feeling of remoteness at the Omega campsite confirmed our decision.  We had a delicious pancake breakfast, and encouraged by the dry weather, we headed out for a day trip to Winchell Lake.

Shon and Spencer trolled across Omega and soon caught a nice bass that entertained us with a jump clear out of the water.  We soon arrived at the 44 rod portage to Winchell lake, relatively flat and easy, especially since we were day tripping with little gear. As we headed out on to Winchell, Shon and Spencer hooked a nice pike right next to the portage, so we now had a fish dinner to look forward to. The other event as we entered Winchell was that the sun came out and before us was a beautiful scene of blue waters, dark cliffs, and green hills rising above the opposite shore.  It was turning out to be a beautiful day!  We stopped at a nice site on the north shore for a lunch break, and rode the now west wind back to the portage to Omega.  By the time we returned to our campsite on Omega, the weather had turned threatening with thunder clouds building, along with wind. We watched as most of the storm activity passed to the north of us, until finally our turn came just after our fish dinner. The photo shows the amazing change from partial sun to rain that swept across the lake before our very eyes!  Seeing as David had been too optimistic-stubborn to move the tent, he and Ora had another night on a water bed as the rain poured down  


Day 4 of 5

This morning we awoke early to another gray, cold dawn, with a light east wind.  Great, because we were heading west; but oh for some sun shine!  We knew we had another hard day ahead with four portages to Long Island Lake, including the famous Kiskadinna portage, plus the fact that all the portages were either mud holes in the low spots or flowing streams at the steep parts.  The 35 rods out of Omega was steep, wet, and slippery, but good practice for what was ahead.  Kiskadinna was a long , narrow lake, surrounded by boreal forest; another northwoods beauty.  However, the moose were hiding that day.  At the end of the lake we did the 185 rod portage to Muskeg.  It was everything you would want on a portage to remember: steep wet rocks, deep mud flats, and a rushing stream across the portage that was missing the log bridge that one of the BWCA guide books promised!  We of course also had to double portage this one too, so all total we did about 500 rods of hiking in water up to our knees at times!  After the Kiskadinna Muskeg portage, the two remaining short portages into Long Island were taken in stride; deep strides in black muck up to our knees as everything was under water.

Once again the east wind helped us to get half way across the lake to a campsite for the night.  This was a beautiful island site, and all the tent pads were well drained. No water bed tonight!  It was cold and misty for the rest of the afternoon, with light rain, and we alternated between sitting next to the fire to keep warm or under the rain tarp to keep dry.  We were too tired to fish, and a bit nervous about the weather, so after a foil pouch dinner we went to our tents for the night. But first we finally had a classic bear pack tree to hang our food pack from, something we have not found easy to find, and enjoyed the ceremony of raising the pack at sundown!



Day 5 of 5

We awoke at dawn, very cold, and had a total of 30 minutes of sunshine in the morning fog before it quickly clouded over again. And still the east wind, a help to us paddling northwest, but a warning of more rain to come.  This was to be our last day, another long day with six portages.  The portages were supposed to be relatively easy, as we were following the Cross River with no hills to climb.  However, the river was at spring flood stage because of all the rain, and we were coming downstream towards rapids and waterfalls that we had to know where the portage was in order not to be swept down in the strong current.  Something to think about!

We passed through Karl Lake and a beautiful narrows next to an island, and made the 28 rod portage to Lower George just before a waterfall.  From there we continued through Rib, 37 rods, and then the 56 rod to Cross Bay Lake. The river was amazing, torrents of water, and a tricky entry in the current at the put in on Cross Bay. Parts of the portages were under water, but by now we were used to this as normal conditions! We made a side trip up a small creek to look for moose, but instead of a moose we saw a turtle!  We made a lunch stop on an exposed rock, but the regular tenants of the rock (black flies and mosquitoes) decided to come out for such a welcome that we quickly moved on!

After passing the easy 24 rod portage to Ham Lake and enjoying the east wind down to the end, we came upon the scene of the start of last years infamous Ham Lake fire. From here it is just a small burn, following along the river outlet from the lake, hard to believe that it spread over 10's of thousands of acres! Just two more portages around rapids are we are out. As you might have guessed by now, we are looking forward to ending our trip!  The last 50 rod portage was also a challenge, as the put in was completely flooded and we had to load the canoe in the current.  One more bend in the river and the outhouse at the Cross River Landing comes into view! We made it! Here is a photo of the flooded dock to verify the water levels.

Overall, it was an awesome trip. Given the weather conditions, the length of trip, and our age spread, we were pleased we rose to the challenge!

That night it rained hard again, and we woke up at the Super 8 in Grand Marais high and dry!



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