BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1864 feet
Lizz & Swamp Lakes - 47
2020 Troop 409 BWCA trip
July 16, 2020
Lizz and Swamp Lakes
Number of Days:
The travel from Rockwell down through Lizz and across Caribou was uneventful. We let the boys navigate with some assistance and they for the most part did fairly well. Or first excitement was just as we were about to the Caribou to Horseshoe portage. Dark clouds quickly were moving in and we heard our first thunder. We picked up the pace and made it to the portage just as the rain started. It wasn’t anything too bad, and our timing was such that by the time we had made it to the Horseshoe side the rain and the lightning were moving away from us. Great opportunity to teach about the lightning/thunder counting trick. On horseshoe we were hoping to get one of the campsites in the southern part of the lake but they were all full. The one campsite on the way down the arm towards the Gaskin Lake portage was open so we pulled into that.
By now it was early afternoon and we discussed staying there or moving onto Gaskin. The decision was made to set up camp where we were. Thankfully we had everything all set just before an afternoon rain set it. I think just about everyone had a nice little nap waiting for it to pass. That evening we were able to catch a couple of Walleyes and a decent Northern, enough for everyone to have a little fish dinner! Complete with instant mashed potatoes. ~Poplar Lake, Lizz Lake, Caribou Lake, Horseshoe Lake
We were greeted the next day with a beautiful morning!
The plan for Friday was to move onto Gaskin and find a campsite where we would consider staying for two nights. After scouting a couple of recommended sites but finding them (and just about every other site) full, we settled into the site just to the NW of the Winchell portage (Note, this site is actually a fair bit further East than shown on the maps). Not a great site but good enough with just enough tent pads for everyone. It was a bit of a warm, lazy afternoon. Several of us went for a refreshing swim and others did some fishing. Caught a handful of smallies and overall just enjoyed the day and the scenery. That evening we turned it over to the boys for how to spend our remaining 2 days. They decided they wanted to do a day trip to Winchell to see the waterfall coming off of Tremble Lake,. Then Sunday we would travel up through Henson, Pillsbery, and Swallow to Meads where we would spend our last night. Everyone was looking forward to seeing the Neowise comet that night as we had a great view to the NW, but clouds moved in shortly before sunset, blocking our view and also bringing us some rain that lasted most of the night. The mosquitos also showed up in full force that evening as the sun set. ~Horseshoe Lake, Gaskin Lake
The morning started warm, foggy, and without a breath of wind. By now I realized that pretty much everyone except me were late sleepers, so I just enjoyed a couple of hours to myself watching the sun rise and burn off the steam that was rising over the lake.
Once everyone was up and fed we proceeded to go straight to the Gaskin/Winchell portage. It was a nice little day trip with a good amount of paddling. When we set out on Winchell it was glass. Can’t imagine that happens very often! The falls after a warm 3+ mile paddle were nice and refreshing after the long paddle to get there, the boys really enjoyed themselves. We found a great little spot with a nice view of the lake to make our lunchmeat and cheese tortilla sandwiches for lunch. There was even a nice flat rock just at the right height to act as a table.
It was another nice paddle On our way back across Winchell, we even got to see a pair of loons with their baby! It was the portage to Gaskin we had what everyone agreed was the highlight of the trip. My son and I were the first ones on the portage and just as we turned the last corner to the Gaskin Lake landing there was a cow Moose right there! She walked by the landing and proceeded out about 50 yards down the channel where she was munching on lily pads. We eventually all launched our canoes and were able to float about 50 ft from where she was eating and watch for a good 15-20 minutes before she waded out of the water and disappeared into the forest. We made it back to camp mid-afternoon buzzing about the encounter. Then it was more swimming/fishing/relaxing for the remainder of the day.
We awoke to a very strong west wind. Looking out to the main part of the lake large whitecaps were evident. After a short discussion we decided with the conditions the way they were, a change in plans was probably in order so we could stick to smaller waters. The new plan was for us to proceed with the wind to the Jump Lake portage and from there make our way through Allen into Horseshoe with the goal of getting to Caribou.
Here is where the decision to get the solo canoe backfired on us, as our one lone dad, not being the most experienced Canoeing, ending up tipping his Canoe as we crossed over to the protection of the island that was in front of our site. Thankfully he was close to shore and was able to grab the canoe and his pack and kick the few feet to shallow water. We helped him back up but from then on everyone was a little more on edge. Thankfully we were able to make it to the Jump portage without further incident. We found that the short portages into Jump and then into Allen were pretty technical, with some pretty steep sections and plenty of tricky spots. I was really intrigued by Allen Lake, made a mental note that I want to get back there sometime.
Eventually we made it to the Caribou to Horseshoe portage, with the last stretch on Caribou feeling like we were being shot out of a cannon with the wind being funneled down the narrow arm of the Lake. Arriving at Caribou, we quickly noted that 1. There was no way we were going to be able to navigate on the main lake to get to any of the Campsites on the west side of the lake and 2. The campsite directly opposite the portage was taken. At this point after some discussion we decided that we would send one empty Canoe with a couple of the stronger paddlers to scout the campsite to the East of the portage. Thankfully they made it back to report that it was open. It turned out to be another nice site and we all loaded up and proceeded cautiously but without incident to the campsite.
The wind kept up throughout the rest of the day along with blowing in some off and on showers and cooler temps. One nice thing about the wind is that it kept the bugs away that night, so we enjoyed spending some time around the campfire talking about what everyone liked/didn’t like about the trip.
Today arrived with clear skies and very light winds. The one oldest boy had woke up around 1 am and upon seeing how the skies had cleared moved his sleeping pad and bag out on top of the rock that was out over the water to stargaze. Reminded me of what I used to like to do. Everyone pitched in and we were packed up and in the canoes in no time. On the trip back we came across a gal doing a solo trip that had gotten wind-bound coming into Caribou from Lizz. She had found a nice little spot right off the portage to pitch her tent as was enjoying breakfast chatting to the various groups coming and going through that very busy portage.
We proceeded through Lizz and into Poplar with no problems and by about 11:00 we were all showered up and packing up the vehicles ready to head to Grand Marais for lunch at the Gunflint Tavern (yum) and then home!