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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 20 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

Northern in Canoe, Dog out of Canoe! Cross Creek to Long Island Lake

by paddelingruth
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 20, 2017
Entry Point: Cross Bay Lake
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
Entry Point # 50 to Long Island Lake Cross Creek, 2 portages around rapids, one is 66 rod and one is 38 rod To Ham Lake Ham Lake to Cross Bay Lake 17 Rod Cross Bay Lake to Rib Lake 58 Rod Rib Lake to Lower George 35 Rod Lower George to Karl Lake 28 rod Karl lake to the center of Long Island Lake no portage This trip would be by husband Dan, myself and our 8-year-old Springer Spaniel Lil, she is a rescue dog from North Dakota my husband drove to North Dakota one day, almost two years ago. She is a loving and is 100% devoted to Dan, they pheasant and Quail hunt in Nebraska, but she is a house dog. We had taken her out in our canoe a couple of times since we got her for an evening but never in the BWCA. She does get spooked easily so we werent sure how she would do. She had her own backpack to carry her food in. We would put it on her during portages. My husband worked with her for about two weeks before we went getting her use to it, at first, she would just stand there and no way she would move, when she finally did she would just freeze every time she hit something with the saddle bags. After getting use to the backpack she seemed to enjoy it almost proud of it and it was like she was waiting to put it on. We had 4 backpacks, as well as our fishing gear, life jackets and paddles. We have the canoe chairs with the backs that we leave attached while we portage. One back pack is our food bag, one has our chairs for camp and our sleeping bags, another has rain gear and fishing gear, the last has everything else we need, ropes, saw, camp stove, pot and pan, our bag of clothes, dry shoes. We left Lincoln Ne on Friday August 18th and headed for Moose Lake State Park in Minnesota, we drove through a lot of traffic most the way. We took our time there was a lot of road construction. We got to camp by 8:00 p.m. We were scheduled to stop in Tofte Mn to pick up our canoe later the next day from Sawtooth outfitters. We were up and headed to the BWCA by 9:00 a.m. We stopped and did a lot of sightseeing once we got on the scenic highway between Duluth and Grand Marias. We enjoyed Gooseberry falls, we did some sightseeing at Palisades, a group was rock climbing out over Lake Superior and evidently someone had fallen, that brought the Park rangers, ambulance and paramedic. We never saw them carry anybody out. We found the blueberries we always seem to find and headed out. This is the first trip we didnt go to Sawbill campgrounds or outfitters for our canoe, it seemed kind of strange, since we were going further East we had to locate a different outfitter. We ate supper at a DQ in Grand Marias and walked along the shore line, we sat at the Harbor for a while. Then headed to East Bearskin Lake.

Day 1 of 7

Sunday, August 20, 2017 We camped at East Bearskin Federal Campground, not impressed with the campsite, it was way up a hill from where we parked and our camping spot where the tent was supposed to goes was full of ants. We moved our tent to the picnic area. Quite & we slept ok. We didn’t set an alarm, and woke up at 8:30 am. Got a late start. We got to our entry point Cross Creek put in by 9:00 a.m. and ate our breakfast of zucchini bread and Cinnamon rolls and juice and water. We were kind of questioning if this was our entry point or not, the other areas had a nice sign with the entry point number up. We finally found the number 50 on a piece of wood nailed to the sign where people get day passes. We were more relieved then. By the time we got all our gear unloaded and loaded in canoe it was 11:00. It started out blue sky when we first got started, then the clouds moved in and it was over cast. It didn’t start sprinkling until we got to Ham lake which was several portages away. We did put our rain gear on by the time we got done on Ham Lake, we quickly shed it before we got to the next portage. When we were heading on the portage from Ham Lake to Cross Bay Lake we came across our first group who were portaging out. This group had been on Long Island from last Thursday thru Sunday. They indicated it had poured on them Thursday and it had taken until that day for their stuff to dry out. The group indicated they had left around 8:30 and it was 1:30 now. We decided to stop for lunch at Cross Bay Lake at the campsite closest to the next portage to Rib Lake. It was a great campsite, with a huge rock for sitting up on and lots of things to explore. I kind of wish we had stopped there for the night. The Portages from Cross Bay to Rib and Rib to Lower George and Lower George to Karl were very Muddy at spots. I still don’t how my husband manages the canoe on his head and walking the portages, especially when there is so much mud. We started having another group behind us on pretty much the rest of the portages, and older gentleman and his wife and I think he said 3 grand kids and their son. From Rib Lake portage to Karl Lake. They were headed to either Long island or Cherokee they said. A happy and jolly group. The last time we saw them that day they were taking the portage from Karl lake into Long Island. Dan did a great job of navigating us, we decided to take the route from Karl Lake right into Long Island Lake. We were thinking of taking the campsite on Karl Lake, we were beat. Dan had injured his neck on a job back in the spring and it is still bugging him. Speaking of bugs, they were none so far, we had no biting flies or mosquitos. I know that is one of the things people come to see in the BWCA(ha ha)! We paddled on to Long Island Lake we had done something different this time and decided not to pick out a campsite ahead of time, we have been disappointed when we get there and someone else has it. The map has the campsites marked. We floated around a big Island and Dan said there is supposed to be a campsite here. He then got his GPS out to take a reading as to where we are. While we were sitting there waiting for the GPS to work, I said that looks like a fire pit up there. We were just sitting to the left of campsite #2010. Thankfully it was empty it was 6:00 p.m. at this point we needed to be getting camp set up. It had a nice big rock for setting out on to get those cool breezes in the evening and the warm sun in the mornings. We were ready to be done. Just like everyone else you still have camp to set up. Dan said that it will be hard to find a good tree to hang the food bag in. On our first night in we take t-bone steaks from our brother in laws farm in Nebraska and instant mashed potatoes with sour cream and chives in them. It took a while for the fire to get going since a lot of the wood was wet. The meal was wonderful, we both sat there in disbelief that we were back in the BWCA, yet our bodies told us we had done those 6 wonderful portages. We finally sat down after cleaning up from our supper and then the mosquitos moved in, it was 8:30 so we headed to bed, it was warm that night in the tent, we stayed put until 9:00 the next morning.


Day 2 of 7

Monday, August 21, 2017 We woke to a beautiful sunny day. Dan went out to pump water in our water bottles, he took his fishing pole to do a little fishing by camp. He caught 2 Northern’s, that were fun to pull in the canoe. While we were sitting on our rock and eating breakfast of pancakes with blueberries that we picked on our way in around Lake Superior. We saw the family we had seen when we were on our way in , headed on an adventure. We headed out to fish at 1:00 no bites. We also wanted to gather some fire wood on the blow down area. It started raining around 3:00 p.m. so we headed in. We saw two guys from Indiana they had a 20 day trip planned and were on day 15. They asked us about the eclipse and we completely forgot about it. They said it was 1/8 covered here. We laid down at 3:30 and we woke up at 5:45 the rain had stopped. We got out of the tent and enjoyed the evening. We had our Mountain house supper of chicken & rice, we topped that off with our cherry flavored special drink. Dan got a fire going and we enjoyed it until it started to rain again at 8:15. We were in for the night. We started reading the book “Wild”. We were both heavy eyed by 9:30 and called it a night. It rained most of the night a light rain.


Day 3 of 7

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 We both got up at 7:30 we planned to head to Gordon today. We had fished there in 2013 when we were on Cherokee. Today we had biscuits and gravy. Beautiful blue skies today but it was very windy, reminded me of when we tried to go across Brule Lake. We headed to Gordon by 10:00 am., We were a little lost where the portage is from Long Island to Gordon. We had a fisher map, Dan had used other maps in the past but wanted to take one for navigating so he didn’t have to put 3 together to use the others he had. He is not crazy about Fisher maps for details. It was too windy of a day to have to canoe extra around the lake looking for the portage. We did check out the campsite just before the Long Island creek, it had a sandy beach landing, but it was far to enclosed for my liking. We then found the creek it had 3 places we had to get out of the canoe to get around where the beavers had been working. We met another canoe coming into Long Island Lake who went ahead and walked their canoe thru the tree limbs etc. We fished the creek for quite a while and we both caught a northern, the time had ticked away so we didn’t make it to Gordon on that trip. We decided we better get back to camp and get our fish cleaned and eaten. Our dog was interested in the fish floating behind us she wouldn’t stay in her spot in the canoe. While we were fishing we saw a canoe with a mom and her two sons probably 8 and 12 year old’s. I was in awe of her making this trip with her boys. She was doing a great job of having them figure out what to do where the Beavers had put trees in the way. They worked at it as a team and got it figured out. They were headed to Long Island and had been on Cherokee. We really enjoyed talking to them. What an adventure for those boys. It was still very windy, we canoed back to camp with fish in tow. A small rain shower came thru on our way back to camp and then again after we got to camp. It only lasted a short time, we got on with our early fish dinner. Lil was having a heck of time staying in the canoe when we were trying to get thru the creek with the beaver dams in the way, we would get her mud rinsed off and put her in the canoe and the Dan would have to get out for one reason or another and out she would go. The Loons put on quite a show for us on the way back to camp there was 4 to 7 of them dancing across the lake and calling to each other. It was quite a show. We had fresh fish and mashed potatoes for supper, yummy. The wind had calmed now. I did the dishes and then the sun came out and shone, glories’. We saw (2) sets of canoes pass our camp tonight. About 7:30 it started raining so headed into the tent. It softly rained all night. More of our book. The looms were singing to us.


Day 4 of 7

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 The sun is shining glories this am. We ate pancakes with the last of our blueberries, sat on our rock for a good while soaking up the sun, it was probably in the 60’s this am. We packed a lunch and headed out to enjoy and explore some more of Long Island. We also needed to pump some more water. We went around the NE corner of the lake. We fished all the way back there. Dan caught 3 Northern today that he let go. We also put different lures and hooks on for crappie and blue gill fishing no luck at all. We did gather some fire wood and found a different camp to check out for lunch, it had a good rock on one side with the warm sun shining we were warm in no time. We both decided to take a dip in the lake, the water was cold but refreshing. We saw 3 different canoes in the area, one of those canoes were also fishing. We also saw 2 other canoes loaded and headed out. NO RAIN TODAY! Yea! We did see bear scat that at camp and decided to move on. It was windy at times today but did great canoeing. Our dog Lil thought she should help Dan catch fish and assist him anytime he looked like he was getting a bite, which causes some concern when all the sudden the canoe shifts. She leans out of the canoe and it feels like the canoe is going to tip. When we were fishing the loons were around us. We had a family of 12 Merganser ducks right outside our camp, all week. They are so fun to watch. When we got back from fishing about 5:30 someone had moved in across the lake from us, unfortunately he likes to prance around his camp naked. Probably a 60 to 70-year-old guy. He just kept prancing! Just don’t want to see some guys naked butt even 250 yards away! We love to sit on the rock and that is the only place to look and be away from the mosquito's that time of evening. I figured we would probably have to move in the morning. While we were eating our Mountain House supper a family with two canoes came by our camp at about 6:00 p.m., looking for this camp-site, you could tell they were disappointed we were there, I am surprised Dan didn’t tell them they could have our site and we would move (naked butt). The family had entered thru 50 also. Tonight, we had Raspberry crumble w/ chocolate crunch on top. YUMMY! Dan decided to make a fire tonight, it felt so good. We Usually cook and eat on our big rock, to many mosquito's by the camp kitchen. The camp kitchen is a disaster, the logs are not for sitting on, or using they have rotted and roll away. I said many times how I wish I had a table. We used the big flat rocks on our big rock by the water to cook and do dishes on.


Day 5 of 7

Thursday, August 24, 2017 Thursday, August 24th: Foggy morning, but the sun came out right away. It was a calm beautiful day. We ate oatmeal & trail mix this am. So far, the neighbor guy had a least a shirt on. We contemplated our day, should we move or what? Dan really wanted to get over to Gordon and we both wanted to at least take the portage to Cherokee. We decided to make a day of it and head to Gordon. We packed a lunch and headed out by 10:00 a.m. We fished Long Island Creek again. Wow it was grand central station. There were 3 canoes day tripping headed to the Gordon portage. There is a cool water fall by the Gordon Portage. Also, there are 3 places you must get out of your canoe on between Long Island Lake and Long Island Creek due to the Beaver’s busy work. We know now but didn’t know at the time, when we were fishing on Long Island creek, there was a canoe that sat for a while at the Gordon portage, waiting for another group of canoers, every now and then they would yell to the group we couldn’t see is everything okay are you coming? We just kept fishing and waiting for them to all get off the portage but had no idea what was going on. When all 3 canoes finally got on Long Island creek headed to Long Island Lake there was one canoe pulling another canoe and the guy in the front of the last canoe had dark glasses on and wasn’t paddling. No one in the group said anything but hello to us. When we got home I read the story of a Medical emergency on Ham Lake and learned they were getting there friend out of the BWCA due to medical emergency and trying to get him to Ham for help. I did read that the guy is okay and his friends did a great job getting him help. We finally made it to Gordon Lake. It was so beautiful. We fished and fished. I did catch one northern on L I creek but let it go. We had lunch on the campsite closets to Cherokee portage. It was all uphill campsite but had a nice face with the water’s edge. We then went on the portage to Cherokee. We were there in 2013 so we just had to go back and visit. In 2013 we took shelter from a storm on the portage between Gordon and Cherokee. It was just like we remembered now it was time to get back to fishing. We saw several Beaver lodges on Gordon that we wanted to crappie fish on the way back out. We first had to go back to the area we fished on Gordon in 2013. We weren’t there long and at first I thought I was snagged and then I realized I had a fish. Dan saw the fish first and guided me thru getting it reeled in. It was a huge Northern. I got it close to the canoe and was about to swing it back toward Dan at the back of the canoe, Dan said don’t give it to me yet, it is going to realize he is hooked and take off. Our dog Lil was watching all of this in the section in front of Dan in the canoe, about that time the fish jumped up in the air and landed in the canoe in the section where Lil was sitting, she without even touching the sides of the canoe jumped out on the opposite side of the canoe that the fish jumped in. She was in the water so quick, I saw all this out of the corner of my eye, but Dan had a great view. Dan had all his fishing gear laying on the floor of the canoe. Dan is trying to get the dog back in the canoe and the fish is flopping all over the canoe in the section in front of him. Dan got her in the canoe and she was so afraid of the fish she was climbing on Dan’s lap. So now the dog is soaking wet, Dan is soaking wet and the fish is flopping everywhere. I want to bust out laughing but I wasn’t sure Dan would think it was very funny, but all at once he started laughing. We sat there and laughed and he got the fish under control and got his tackle all picked up. Lil wants to see the fish on the string but not anywhere close to her. We should have had a video of that whole thing. It was already 4:30 and Dan said we got supper we better get back to camp. It was 6:00 p.m. when we got back to camp. We would both just burst out laughing on the way back thinking about the flying fish and dog. Dan cleaned the 30.5 inch Northern and we had it for supper with mashed potatoes. YUMMY! It wasn’t windy and it had been 48 hours without rain! YES! We cleaned up camp tied up the canoe for the night upside down up at camp, and headed to bed it was 9:00 p.m. What a DAY! WE LOVED IT!


Day 6 of 7

Friday, August 25, 2017 Beautiful, sunny, calm winds woke up at 8:00. We read some from our book it was chilly out. We both wore wool socks last night, felt great. We ate Sausage and biscuits and gravy. Then began packing up and repacking, folding and wondering where did we have all this stuff? This went on and on. We took our time talking to another canoer’s as they came by. Several in each group at least 3 groups of other canoes. Some starting out for the day and others had spent 3 days out on Long Island Lake. We were loaded and ready to leave by noon, like I said we were not in a hurry. We had planned to go as far as Cross Bay and leave the rest of the way out on Saturday. We seemed to find our way easier, it also helped it wasn’t as hot as the day we came in. We each had a smile on our face & hearts happy knowing we had accomplished much. We had a little trouble finding portage for Rib Lake from Lower George. We got to Rib Lake portage before we ran into other canoers on the portages. We did run into 3 other groups at the same portage, 2 headed to Long Island and one group of 4 women headed to Frost Lake. Dan showed one group on the map how to get to Long Island without doing the portage into it. Dan told them about our campsite and showed them where it was on the map, we also told them about the nudist across from us, the guy asked if it was a man or a woman? Told him it was a man and he was bummed. We laughed! We planned to stay at Cross bay campsite, we did eat lunch there again, but the other groups on their way in had commented about the rain coming in on Saturday all day. We decided to eat lunch there and head out while it was nice and everything was dry. I love this campsite on Cross Bay it is up on a huge rock, the whole camp is just one adventure after another. I had a little cry session at this camp trying to get out of the canoe on a wet sloped rock. It scares me to step out of the canoe on a sloped rock, I cried but made it. Dan is good about bringing the canoe in to land on rocks to keep our feet as dry as possible. It was 2:30 or 3:00 we decided to move on. The portages from Cross Bay on to the landing at area 50 are tough. Lots of huge rocks at either end. Steep climbs. I was thankful we made it thru with no falls or broken ankles. There were a lot of campers on Ham Lake enjoying the day. There are beautiful water falls at many of the portages in & out. Dan fished a little at the portage between Lower George & Rib Lake. Something bit his line right off. Exciting! We enjoyed the rest of the day with Sunshine. We arrived at our take out at 6:00 p.m.. Sad and glad at the same time. Dan does an amazing job of one footing it carrying a canoe on his head. I fall and stumble all over with clear view and both hands free. He can balance and jump from rock to rock. Now mind you he is 63 and in good shape. I need to shed 50 lbs., it would make it much easier. We were both so proud of Lilly, she did an amazing job portaging an carry her own backpack with her food. She would step where Dan pointed and get in and out of the canoe very gentle, except for her exit when she was being attacked by a big Northern.

Dan and I both agree the first trip in 2013 was special because it was the first one, but this trip was better than the other two. We loaded all our stuff in the truck & put the canoe on & away we went. Something different is we got a cooler that is to keep ice for 5 days. We left pop, and a variety of things in the cooler in our truck with milk jugs frozen we left Nebraska on Friday August 18th and when we got to our truck on August 26th there was still ice in our jugs and the pop was very cold. We were able to enjoy cold pop all the way back to Nebraska. We stopped for supper at Trails Center on the Gunflint trail. Now remember we hadn’t showered since Friday a week ago. Dan says it doesn’t matter they are used to this. We had to wait 20 minutes but it was well worth it. We both had cheeseburger plates and Ice water it was wonderful! We both drank and drank the ice water. I really miss ice. A neat place to look around. We then headed to East Bear Skin Lake to see if we could camp for the night, we found a site much better than the week before. No bugs or ants. It was 9:00 p.m. We put up our tent and went to bed.


Day 7 of 7

Saturday, August 26, 2017 It was 47 degrees at 6am. We quickly packed up our tent and hit the road. We stopped in Grand Marias at the municipal camp ground & took a $3.00 shower it was heaven. Clean clothes too. We then stopped for breakfast along scenic highway 61 at Cascade Restaurant it was great & reasonable. Had my first cup of coffee since Thursday before we left. We also had a great view of Lake Superior. We then headed to Tofte to drop off the canoe. The sky was dark and gray looking like it could rain any minute. We stopped at Ranger Station to feed our dog & re organize the truck, boy does it stink. Just as we left Tofte it started pouring rain. We made all our necessary calls that we were safe & headed home to Nebraska looks like we will be home around 9:00 p.m. We will sleep in our own bed tonight. What a great trip!


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