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March 05 2024

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 34 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: 3
Elevation: 1864 feet
Latitude: 48.0420
Longitude: -90.4998
Lizz & Swamp Lakes - 47

Poplar to Ham, via Winchell, Long Island, and Frost

by Jazzywine
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 17, 2015
Entry Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes
Exit Point: Cross Bay Lake (50)
Number of Days: 9
Group Size: 6

Trip Introduction:
My girlfriend and I organized our second trip to the BWCA for four of our friends who had not been there before. We are all fit in our mid 20's with some camping/backpacking experience. I was the only one fishing on this trip. Our canoes: 3-person Souris River (rented from Seagull Outfitters), 2-person Northstar, 1-person kayak (first day only, then he had to leave) Gear MVPs: - Sawyer Squeeze water purification system - Weather Radio. More on my fishing here:

Day 1 of 9

Monday, August 17, 2015 [paragraph break] We drove up the North Shore and Gunflint trail to stay at the Superior National forest Trail’s End Campground. There were two very bold bears around the campground that evening. One came right up to our site nearly five time, getting as close as five or ten yards… While we were awake… We had a beautiful site.


Day 2 of 9

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 [paragraph break] Seagull Outfitters drove our tandem and their three-person canoes to Poplar Lake while the sixth person in our party drove his own kayak. It was a beautiful day, and we were on the water by about 10am. Poplar Lake isn’t in the BWCA and has lots of resorts and things along its northern shore. It is very pretty nonetheless, with some exciting looking cliffs. We paddled through and pushed on to Lizz, Caribou, Horseshoe, and finally Gaskin where we found a campsite around 2pm near the portage to Winchell. We saw lots of people leaving on that first day. [paragraph break] The rest of the afternoon was spent fishing (a leech under a slip bobber produced only one little small mouth bass) and exploring the lake. As clouds moved in and the wind picked up, we made dinner and prepped for some rain… it wouldn’t be the last time. [paragraph break] Poplar Lake, Lizz Lake, Caribou Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Gaskin Lake


Day 3 of 9

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 [paragraph break] We woke to a wet world and a wetter camp. We took our time packing up camp as the rain subsided. It was late morning before our kayak paddler headed back out the way we came and we were ready to push on to Winchell. Just then, a thunderhead moved in and we were stalled for about an hour. Finally the lightning stopped and we took to the water. After a muddy portage we found ourselves on Winchell Lake. [paragraph break] Winchell is a beautiful, long, and skinny lake with hills and cliffs on the south shore and campsites on the north. With the rain varying between misty drizzle and downpour, we were very glad to have the wind at our back (from the east) for this four-mile paddle. During one break in the rain, we had a fun encounter with a bald eagle who swooped directly over our canoe a few times, glaring at us. I trolled for lakers, but no real luck. At the end of Winchell, we portaged to Omega, and found a campsite near the next morning’s portage to Kiskadinna. [paragraph break] We set up camp as the rain settled into a soaking cloud and the temperature dropped. Everything was wet. We struggled and failed to light a fire. Made dinner on the Whisperlite and turned in early to find as much dry warmth as we could. [paragraph break] Gaskin Lake, Winchell Lake, Omega Lake


Day 4 of 9

Thursday, August 20, 2015 [paragraph break] When we woke the temperature had plummeted, the wind was not giving up, and we were still in a cloud. The awful trifecta - cold, wind, and wet. Again we got a late start, this time waiting for it to warm up. While we waited, we ate breakfast and turned on the weather radio which informed us that the temperature that morning was in the mid 40’s – not what we expected in August – and that there would be another day of rain before things would clear up that evening. [paragraph break] We set out and immediately had a very steep up and down portage from Omega to Kiskadinna (the contour lines had not prepared us), paddled, then our longest portage with almost as much topography from Kiskadinna to Musket. Finally we made it onto Long Island where we could see the cloud cover begin to break up in the distance. [paragraph break] This larger lake brought brief wind squalls with sheets of rain interspersed by calm periods and even beams of sunlight. It was a dramatic and beautiful paddle! We passed a number of occupied sites but eventually found a beautiful southeast-facing one on a peninsula near the Long Island River. As we finished setting up camp, it began to mist again. However, our initial horror melted away when the setting sun lit up an extraordinary double rainbow! From our campsite we could see nearly 180 degrees! Not only was this rainbow enormous, but it was so bright that we could actually see the colors in front of the trees on the far bank! I have never seen the end of a rainbow before – it was something right out of a Skittles or Lucky Charms commercial! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Omega Lake, Kiskadinna Lake, Muskeg Lake, Long Island Lake


Day 5 of 9

Friday, August 21, 2015 [paragraph break] Finally, a day of sunshine! We spent the whole day letting clothes, gear, tents, etc. dry out in the sun. [paragraph break] In the morning I went out around 6am for some lakers, but again no luck. Later I was casting from shore and hooked a nice eating-sized northern on a blue and silver Kastmaster. I had only ever cleaned one northern before, but I think I’m getting the hang of the Y-bones and this fish produced two very nice fillets. We cooked them in foil on the fire with a little bit of oil and a lot of taco seasoning. Enjoyed the fish with rice, beans, corn tortillas, and hot sauce. We had a wonderful night around the fire that evening. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Long Island Lake


Day 6 of 9

Saturday, August 22, 2015 [paragraph break] We woke early and struck camp. The weather radio told us to expect storms in the afternoon and we wanted to have a new camp set up long before then. [paragraph break] We headed down (or up?) the long Island River and almost immediately hit a beaver dam portage that wasn’t on our map (Voyageur series - there were a few more like this and it really seems like they need an update for this area). Eventually we made it to the long portage to Unload Lake, paddled across, then another unmarked portage to Frost Lake. The wind picked up as we paddled along the shore and found one of the beautiful sandy beach campsites on the northwestern shore of Frost around 11am. [paragraph break] The campsite had many downed and damaged trees, so after hearing (weather radio again) that the already strong wind would intensify that night with a possibility of hail, we chose the safest spots we could find for our tents and set up extra tarps. The wind didn’t let up that afternoon and we spent a lazy day in the sun under some very loud trees. Exploring the beach revealed fresh moose tracks near a reedy area where a swampy stream leaked into the lake. Frost was on our route exactly for its moosey reputation, so we set our alarms before turning in. Just before dusk that night the sky lit up with fantastic colors. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Long Island Lake, Frost Lake


Day 7 of 9

Sunday, August 23, 2015 [paragraph break] We woke an hour before sunrise and waited (impatiently) for visibility to improve. After a few hours of staring at an empty beach we decided that Mr. Moose was not coming by today, and we headed out on the lake for some fishing. Trolling a big blue and silver Little Cleo nice and slow hooked me a laker (my first ever!) that was the perfect size for lunch. [paragraph break] I grew up catching and eating small brookies from streams and we used to cook them whole in the frying pan. I tried the same thing with the laker in tinfoil on the fire, but it didn’t work out so well. I guess I didn’t have the fire hot enough, and the lake trout’s girth took a long long time to cook through. It was more steaming than baking. By the time it was done, more wind and rain had moved in so we abandoned our plans for a day trip and spent much of the afternoon in the tent with a deck of cards. [paragraph break] We did make it out to explore the giant boulder in the middle of Frost Lake, though. What fun! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Frost Lake


Day 8 of 9

Monday, August 24, 2015 [paragraph break] We woke early again with plans for moose viewing. However, it was our coldest morning yet and that coupled with the familiar misty drizzling soaking mess of rain, kept us in our tents. (Later, no fresh tracks helped us feel better about giving up on our moosey ambitions so easily.) [paragraph break] We left Frost around 9am and were settled in a nice island campsite on Long Island by midday. The morning’s paddle had been wet, cold, and windy again and everyone was exhausted from our constant battle with the elements over the past week. We napped most of the afternoon away, as much for warmth as for rest. [paragraph break] Dinner that night was large and delicious as we finished most of the rest of our food. As we ate we played peekaboo with the boldest vole we’d ever seen. Afterwards, we sat around a roaring fire to keep out the cold on our last night in the wild. [paragraph break] Frost Lake, Long Island Lake


Day 9 of 9

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 [paragraph break] After a trying week, you can imagine that we were anticipating the warmth and comfort of the indoors. We left our site early in the same soaking cloud of mist that plagued our whole trip. Deb (from Seagull Outfitters) told us our trip out would take about five hours from Long Island and we did not want to be late. We paddled eagerly into the wind all morning along a beautiful chain of lakes and connecting narrow streams with rock faces on either side. Near the end we started seeing people again, they were the first since about our third day. The whole trip took us under four hours and we arrived at the parking lot with two hours to spare. [paragraph break] We cooked one last lunch on the stove and changed into dry clothes while we waited for our ride who arrived half an hour early to take us to hot steamy showers and warm dry towels. On the way back our driver told us that many other groups had come in early. He said that we were “tough to stick it out in that weather”. We were proud, we were grateful to be back in real indoor dryness, and we were already talking about our next trip. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Long Island Lake, Karl Lake, Lower George Lake, Rib Lake, Cross Bay Lake, Ham Lake


Lakes Traveled:   Long Island Lake, Karl Lake, Lower George Lake, Rib Lake, Cross Bay Lake, Ham Lake,

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