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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 14 2024

Entry Point 49 - Skipper & Portage Lakes

Skipper and Portage 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 is a 320-rod portage from Poplar Lake or a 230-rod portage from Iron Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1865 feet
Latitude: 48.0517
Longitude: -90.5366
Skipper & Portage Lakes - 49

A Paddling Partner for Life, Part 4. Cross Bay to Poplar.

by Kiporby
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 23, 2010
Entry Point: Cross Bay Lake
Exit Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes (47)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
This would be the 3rd visit to the Gunflint Trail this year for Lauren and I. In early May, we participated in the Gunflint Greenup. In late June, our intended trip was modified due to an broken portage yoke on the "Tusky" portage. We were eager to cover some ground this time and planned a route starting at Ham Lake and ending at Poplar Lake. This time, we would encounter the "Muskeg" portage, cross the Laurentine Divide, paddle long Winchell Lake and pass through several small lakes. As usual, we booked a bunkhouse stay and shuttle ride with our friends at Seagull Outfitters. The night before we dined at Trail Center. So, with a brand new portage yoke in tow for the Bell Northwind, we were set for another adventure. Off we go....

Day 1 of 5

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ham Lake, Cross Bay Lake, Rib Lake, Lower George Lake, Karl Lake, Long Island Lake. 7.7 miles.

6 portages. 65 rods, 35 rods, 24 rods, 50 rods, 37 rods, 28 rods.

Lauren and I woke at 6:30am in the comfy confines of the bunkhouse at Seagull Outfitters. It had rained last night and the skies were still looking ominous. After a quick breakfast of muffins and cereal, we loaded up the truck and Dave shuttled us down to the entry point, Cross Bay.

We hit the water around 8:30am. Since we had been through this area a month ago, we made quick work through the first two portages into Ham Lake. A nice tail wind pushes us across Ham Lake to the portage into Cross Bay Lake. We met group with a kayak on this 24 rod portage who had just left Long Island Lake this morning. They informed that they pretty much had the lake to themselves, so I was optimistic that we wouldn't have any issues finding a camp by the time we arrived. Cross Bay Lake is very cool. It starts with neat twists and turns while passing high cliffs on either side before the topography flattens out and the lake becomes more marshy. We encountered many ducks, lily pads, mergansers, and flowers along the way. The nice camp site on Cross Bay Lake is taken, so we forgo a break and push on.

Rib Lake is neat with lots of grassy / shallow water on the south end. A short stream was paddled to reach the portage to Lower George Lake. This lake was crossed in a blink of an eye and soon we were at our last portage for the day.

Today's travels were pretty easy and Lauren did a great job. She carried her pack the entire way on each of the portages. We reached Long Island lake around noon. We explored several of the camps before picking an elevated site on a point. The camp is a nice, breezy site with good views of the west. There are many trails to explore, a nice fire pit area, and lots of tent pads.

After lunch and setting up camp, we lounged the afternoon away enjoying the sun. The first night's dinner would be our usual brats and hot dogs. We tried fishing a bit from shore, but didn't catch any. The great sunset and a nice fire made up for that. Finally, it was Uno and cards in the tent and then sweet slumber. What a great day.


Day 2 of 5

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Long Island Lake

Today would be a basecamp day on Long Island Lake. We woke to rain and hung out in the tent until around 8am when it stopped. Breakfast was pancakes and sausage. The remainder of the morning was spent relaxing around camp and fishing from shore.

In the afternoon, we explored the west end of the lake. The island camp near the portage to Karl Lake has huge pines and cedars. Lots of shade, wide open and a very nice kitchen area. On the way back to camp, we caught 3 x 30 plus inch pike while trolling. One was caught using a green and silver Lil' Cleo and the other on a white airplane jig with a 5" twister tail.

Back a camp, we had a late lunch and spent the afternoon fishing, relaxing and swimming. Our experience on this lake is that the fishing is very slow. Evening brought another beautiful sunset. There was zero wind today and when the sun went down the bugs came out. We were chased to our tent around 9:30pm and quickly fell asleep.


Day 3 of 5

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Long Island Lake, Muskeg Lake, Kiskadinna Lake, Omega Lake, Winchell Lake. 8.5 miles.

4 portages. 25 rods, 12 rods, 190 rods, 50 rods.

Today was moving day and we were up by 6am. We broke camp, had pop tarts and hit the water by 8am. The weather was perfect and we had a glassy calm paddle to the first portage of the day.

The 25 rod portage out of Long Island Lake has a rather tough take-out and the portage itself is very rocky and follows a stream through a little ravine. The portage ends at a beaver damn that we had to hop over several rocks to get to. I set Lauren and the canoe on top of the beaver damn and went back for the 2nd load.

Next, we paddled a winding stream through a boggy area until we reached a 4 rod lift over into Muskeg Lake. Muskeg Lake is pretty and the lone camp on the southern point looked to be decent. Here, we reached the longest portage of the trip, the 190rod "Muskeg Portage" to Kiskadinna Lake. The portage flat, STEEP and flat. The steep part is a long stone staircase. I would say it is better to be carrying the loads up this portage rather than down. It would be nasty going downhill on a wet day. Well, the portage was not as bad as I feared and it took us about 1 hour to complete. For the steep part I when carrying the canoe and food pack, I dropped the canoe, carried the food pack up and then returned for the canoe.

Kiskadinna was a long pleasant paddle with a good breeze to our backs. We passed a group of for canoes headed the other way and gave them a quick report of the portage we just did. There is not much topography on this lake as it sits near the Laurentine Divide on top of a ridge. The portage to Omega Lake is a bit of a beast. Extremely steep to start before descending gradually down to Omega Lake.

We hoped to camp tonight on Omega, but unfortunately, both of the nice camps were taken (the island site and the site on a southern point). We had lunch at a "yucky" camp (as Lauren put it) in the north bay and decided we would head to Winchell Lake.

The 50 rod portage to Winchell Lake was flat, easy, and a bit rocky. We shared the portage with a group of 4 young guys. Allow me to brag a bit here, but they started first and we ended first! :) Lauren thinks portages are fun. I imagine it is a good break from being cooped up in the canoe. She doesn't "portage", she hops and skips!

The calm, sunny day continued as we paddled into Winchell Lake. As we turned into the main part of the lake a gentle west breeze kindly aided our paddle. We passed the first open site at the mouth of the bay and the really nice site on the left was taken. The next site was open, so we grabbed it around 2pm.

This camp was very nice with huge pine and cedar trees. It has a great rocky beach / front porch and a cozy fire pit area with good trees for hanging the tarp. The camp even had a good tent pad right next to the kitchen. Great views of the Misquah Hills across the lake.

We spent the afternoon setting up camp, swimming, fishing and gathering fire wood. No fish--I've heard from some that they call Winchell Lake the "Dead Sea". Hmmm. Dinner was spaghetti and various snacks. Can't beat quality time around the fire with a good book and a cute blondie next to you.

By the way, Lauren did awesome today on the portages and didn't complain once. As I stated earlier, she is content to hop and skip along and enjoys being the "leader". She even carried her pack the entire way of the portages today except for the very steep part of the Muskeg Portage.


Day 4 of 5

Monday, July 26, 2010

Winchell Lake, Gaskin Lake. 3.7 miles.

1 portage. 58 rods.

We woke to a breezy sunny morning on Winchell Lake. After pancakes and sausage for breakfast we broke camp and headed out around 9am. We said our goodbyes to Lauren's friend "Buddy". Buddy was a frog who lived in the small pools on the rocks in front of camp.

With a good tail wind, we coasted down Winchell Lake in about a hour to the portage to Gaskin Lake. Most of the camp sites we passed on Winchell look to be rather nice and the lake is lined with huge tress of both sides and the massive cliffs of the Misquah Hills on the south end. Towards the east end of the lake, the Redeye fire of 2006 burned both sides of the lake.

The portage to Gaskin Lake is up and down and not too bad. Parts of it pass through the burn area and the portage landing on Gaskin Lake is very muddy. The portage lands on a shallow, weedy bay on the south end of the lake. Just past this bay, the first really nice camp on a west facing point was taken. The two camps across the way on the north shore were open but not very nice.

The island camp on the east end of the lake was open and we took it. It is an expansive, open site with huge trees and some good shade. The entire camp is rather sloped, so none of the tent pads are the greatest. In some ways the camp is overused, but we were happy to be here. We arrived around noon and after lunch we got camp situated.

We started off the afternoon with a quick swim and then we headed out for some fishing and exploring. We had a nice talk with a gentleman on a solo trip in a white Magic. Another group of 8 boy scouts in tandem canoes also passed by. The fishing was very slow, so we decided to hike the short portage to Jump Lake which follows a small stream between Jump and Gaskin.

As evening set in, the temperature dropped and a good breeze from the west started. We enjoyed another beautiful sunset and a warm fire. Fortunately, the breeze kept the bugs down and we were able to stay up late tonight.


Day 5 of 5

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gaskin Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Caribou Lake, Lizz Lake, Poplar Lake. 6.0 miles.

4 portages. 97 rods, 22 rods, 67 rods, 50 rods.

We awoke to a grey day with the look of rain. My intent was to move to Caribou Lake today to make for an easy out on the last day. Camp was broken down quickly and we made fast work on the portage to Horseshoe Lake. Most of the camps on Horseshoe were taken. I'm told the walleye fishing is pretty good here, but Lauren and I were content to just keep paddling. I find that as a trip wears on that I rather just keep moving on the later days. The fishing had been slow most of this trip and with the look of rain today, we didn't want to stop.

When we arrived on Caribou Lake, the winds started picking up. The lake was very busy and just about every campsite was taken. The camp just across from the portage to Jump Lake was open, but by then the skies looked even darker to the west. The weather had been great this trip and I didn't really want to deal with a wet camp in the morning, so we decided to keep moving and exit today.

Lizz Lake went by fast and very soon, we were on Poplar Lake. I figured we could either land near Trail Center or head to Rockwood Outfitters and call Debbie at Seagull Outfitters from either place. Ultimately, we decided to head to Rockwood, just because Mike there is an interesting character. The paddle across Poplar Lake was pleasant, even as the skies darkened.

Shortly after noon, we arrived at the rocky beach at Rockwood Outfitters and made the phone call up the trail for a shuttle ride. We had a nice talk about our trip with Mike and about 30 minutes later the van arrived.

After a hot shower, we made arrangements to stay in the bunkhouse at Seagull tonight. The rain that loomed never happened, but it was nice to enjoy a good meal at Trail Center.

Overall, this was a great trip with almost zero issues. The fishing was slow, but we didn't really care. The small lakes on this route were a really nice change of pace for us. Although it meant more portaging than we were used to, none of the portages on this route were really that hard. I guess the portages before and after Kiskadinna Lakes were more difficult than the rest, but even those were not terrible. Looking back, I wish we would have basecamped a little bit more and taken the time to explore the area. However, each travel day ended by early in the afternoon and we had plenty of time for relaxing and hanging out.

For Lauren, I would say her fourth canoe trip with me was probably her best in terms of her paddling, portaging and helping in camp. She has become a "seasoned" canoe tripper at the age of 6. :) Gotta love that.

This trip would be our 3rd trip to the Gunflint Trail in 2010. A surprise trip in the Fall would be a bonus trip. Blessed!

Our previous episodes....

A Paddling Partner for Life
A Paddling Partner for Life, Part 2
A Paddling Partner for Life, Part 3


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