BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 20 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1864 feet
Lizz & Swamp Lakes - 47
Base Camp on Caribou
August 03, 2013
Lizz and Swamp Lakes
Number of Days:
Up at 6:30am. I was worried about going this time of year in such a busy area. We had planned to just base camp for 3 nights and explore and fish. I didn't want to get stuck on a bad site for three days. We loaded and were on the water by about 7:30. I love the option of just paddling away from the outfitter and then returning right to their shore, all on my own schedule. We hit the water just before another group who appeared significantly less experienced than the average BWCAer (not judging, just an observation). They were headed in through Meeds (EP 48), 320 rods, and Mike seemed concerned about them, even stating to me, "I think they'll be okay....".
We paddled into a light cross wind with overcast skies. The weather for this trip was very cool for the time of year. High's of around 60-65, lows in upper 40's at night. Pretty cool for August. Water levels were very high. We found the portage to Lizz easily and had to wait for two groups coming out. Already seeing a lot of people, but at least they were headed out. Portage to Lizz was pretty wet and muddy, but otherwise easy. Lizz lake is very nice, with a small "island oasis" just as you begin paddling. Hard to get lost on this lake.... Finding the portage to Caribou was simple, again we floated, waiting on two more groups before starting the portage. A nice wide (wet and muddy) portage and we were onto Caribou. I had planned to stay on Horseshoe. But the first campsite (directly across from the portage into Caribou) was open. We checked it out, it was pretty good. Nice landing, Northern view, good tent pad, open rock ledge. The worst part of this site is the trail to the latrine and the traffic from the portage. The trail is swampy and wet, but it was my first experience with the 'new' square latrine with lid. Pretty nice. Sitting and deciding if we should stay or go, we watched two more groups paddling by and decided a bird in the hand..... I would have liked to gone in a little deeper, but didn't want to chance ending up on a bad site. Wind had kicked up, and it was only about 9:30. Setting up camp we saw a lot of people in and out that day. It would become a theme. More on that later. After about an hour at camp, the less experienced group came across the Lizz entry point (they had a Meeds lake permit) and camped directly across from us, they were loud, but only stayed one night. After a very brief internal debate about confronting them about the permit, I decided against it. I didn't come up here looking for conflict, quite the opposite in fact. Besides, I know my own limits, I didn't know their limits, so I let it go. We just hung around camp, fished with from shore and managed to catch several walleye and smallmouth. Always a bonus when you can do that from camp. Since this was a short base camp trip we brought a few luxury items with us. One being nice camp chairs, I loved this. The other being a small soft sided cooler with 8 lbs of dry ice. Dinner was fresh Chicken Fajita's, as the steaks were still solid as a rock. I would do the dry ice again, it worked very well. 3+ days of ice, and I even forgot to put my cooler in the outfitters freezer. Made a few Arnold Palmers and watched the stars as the clouds had cleared up. It cooled off fast and we slept in long underwear in our 30 degree bags. In August?
Up early. Had to wait an hour for the Egg Beaters to thaw in the sun before we could have our breakfast burritos. Used some of the pre cooked sausage crumbles, they worked well. Also diced up veggies and cheese. Settled in for breakfast and watched "the freeway" that is the Lizz- Caribou portage on an August day. Didn't really bother us, it died down by around noon. Decided to paddle down to Horseshoe and check out some campsites and maybe fish. Enjoyed both Caribou and Horseshoe. We saw lots of groups, checked out several campsites, and finally stopped for lunch on Horseshoe at the campsite in the far Southeastern arm of Horseshoe. Really a unique site, not sure I'd want to camp here, bugs were bad. There were several open sites on Horseshoe, which was nice to see this time of year. Several of them are very close to each other, which I wouldn't like. But it is a very nice lake. We made it back to camp that evening and had a nice walleye dinner. Mosquito's were present, but not horrible. The wind and cooler weather kept them down some. Skies cleared off again and another nice night watching the stars.
I slept in as it was raining. Our only rain of the trip, which was a bonus. My canoe partner informed me he had already seen 3 groups come in and 7 leaving that morning. Cooked up some biscuits and gravy for breakfast that was very good. Today we fished around Caribou and did very well catching walleye, all around 12-15 inches. Also caught several very nice Smallies. Had to thaw the steaks for an hour as they were still frozen. Fresh NY Strip on the 3rd night was a nice bonus. Mashed potato side. We had a huge snapping turtle hanging around camp all day. He almost got our stringer of walleye, but I yanked them out of the water when I saw him coming. Nice to have a cooler at that point, as I just filleted them and put on ice. Campsites across the lake were empty. Wind died down. Clouds rolled in. It was so dark, so quite, so still. We didn't even have a fire as everything was so wet. Just enjoyed the darkness and silence. Pretty nice end to the day.
On a side note. We watched at least 9 separate groups come in the Lizz to Caribou portage this day. I'm positive at least 8 of them were geared up for overnight paddles. One of them may have been day tripping, but still had a decent amount of gear. That means at least twice as many people entered via Lizz than should have. Lizz and Swamp combined have 4 permits per day. I am sure most of them were Meeds Lake (which I think is 3 permits?) entry points, or Morgan EP. Just trying to avoid a big portage. I had no idea people even did this, as it would never occur to me to have done this (ok, I'm naive' I guess). Frustrates me that so many people that love the solitude and beauty the BWCA provides would so blatantly break the rules. It leads to those sites on Caribou being full almost every night this time of year. Overuse. The Forest Service should set up shop here one day and just check permits ( I know they have a lot of other things to attend to). Ok, rant over, sorry.
This morning we got up by 7 and packed up. This was the only summer trip that I've never gotten into the water, too cold. Still had ice in the cooler so we even packed out a couple walleye fillets for the family (something else I've never done in the BWCA). We had a long trip back to the cities. Made it out by around 10:45am. There was Mike, standing on shore, to greet us as we paddled up. Made some small talk and he asked lots of questions about our trip. Was happy to hear we had had good fishing, as others had not. He said live bait was the difference. We took a nice hot shower and paid our bill. We had rented a Wenonah Boundary Waters Kevlar. Not that fastest boat I've ever paddled, but very stable and nice for fishing and bringing lots of gear. Speed isn't as important as I grow older, safety and stability are.
Made it down the Gunflint and ate at the Angry Trout for lunch. As always, so good. A nice end to a the trip. Lots of good fishing, lots of cold weather, lots of people, but lots of solitude and time to ponder the world's mysteries. Another great trip.
Personal Gear/Menu Notes: Camp chair of some sort a must anymore with my back. Need to upgrade my sleeping pad as well. New PFD was perfect. Boundary Waters canoe was a bit of a bathtub, but worked well, stable. Really worked hard this trip on bringing less food, still had too much. Hard to plan for just 2 people. Dry Ice worked really well for this basecamp trip. Precooked sausage crumble, egg beaters, shelf stable bacon, foil pouch chicken all worked well. Coffee French Press also a must. Live bait is worth the hassle.