BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 23 2022
Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1500 feet
Brant to Tuscarora via Little Sag Route:
Bat - Mud
Gillis - burn area is evident:
Peter - first lake trout:
Little Sag - green trees again!
Mora - gorgeous divide of burn and green
Tuscarora - second lake trout!
Missing Link - with lighter food pack, the portage is OK
Father Daughter bonding
August 02, 2020
Number of Days:
Unloaded at the Sea Gull outfitter dock at 6.30 and we’re on the water shortly after. The tow boat dropped us off near the end of 3 mile Island. Set up the canoes and we were off. Once past the Islands there was a decent breeze from the NE that created just enough waves for us to need to pay attention going parallel with the waves. Quick work of the 1st portage of the trip and on to Alpine. Beautiful lake, can see evidence of the recent burns.
On to the portage to Jasper, where we share the portage with a couple coming out with a couple of beautiful wood Kayaks. Quick paddles through Jasper and Kingfisher. We did meet other groups at each of the portage’s after the 1st one, but never felt crowded or in each other’s way. On to Ogish. Here I made the first navigation error of the trip. I knew I had folded the map through the middle of this lake, but as it is such a straight forward lake I didn’t bother to refold to see it all. I knew we just wanted to head to the end of the lake, stay left of the Islands and the portage should be right there. Came to the end of the lake Very quickly, and things did not line up quite right. A bit of exploring and I saw the channel heading north by a campsite and then remembered the narrow channel that separates Ogish into 2 parts. Back on track we make it to the end of Ogish and on to Annie. Should mention that the day is partly sunny, guessing Temp around 70 and with a light to moderate tail wind. Perfect day to travel! My original goal for today was Keck, but was not sure if that was feasible for us on this first day. As we were getting to the end of Ogish around noon decided not only was that doable but we should maybe head to the west end instead of looking for camps on the east end. Met one group heading on a day trip to SAK and a solo paddler with a dog on the next couple of portages. On thru the ponds with the annoyance of 5 short portages in less than a mile. Waited off one of the portages with a very steep rock landing for 15 minutes or so for a scout troop to clear. Finally got through the last portage and onto beautiful Kekekabic! I’m always in awe entering this lake from the east. Agreed with the nice tail wind to head to the west end of Kek to look for campsites. Checked out site 1421 on the south shore. This site would certainly work in terms of tent pads, hammock trees, etc, but the site did not have much character. Decided to check out a few more. The site on the Island and the site across from it were full so we checked out site 1681 which is close to our portage in the morning. Not a great site in terms of pads or space, but as we needed only one sleeping spot on the ground and Lauren found a good spot to hang, this will work for us. This site is in a nice setting but would not want to camp here with more than 2 if possible. By the time tents, tarps, hammock, etc are set up its time eat. Clean up camp, watch the sunset and various critters move by and call it a day.
After breakfast and breaking down camp we were on the water at 9.30. I made a conscious decision and communicated to Lauren that we were going to take it slow from here on out and take in the sites as we travelled. Typically our trips our destination based and with larger groups I worry about finding campsites and potentially wearing out people if we have to push on. With just the 2 of us, suitable sites are easier to find and I am more confident of our ability to just keep going until we find one. Quick paddle to the portage into Strup and on to the 85 rod portage. This is rated 8 out of 10 for difficulty on the Voyageur map for good reason. Up, up, and up you go to Strup. Quick paddle and portage to Wisini and we stoped to take some pictures of the site on the narrows. I stayed on this site a number of years ago with my son and love this location. It is not fun getting all the gear from the water up to the site, but well worth it in my opinion. Met a group at the 90 rod portage to Ahmakose that was heading to Kek. Quick paddle to the 30 rod to Gerund. Steep decline at the Gerund end where we met a group of teenagers with 2 adults. Watching one of the teenagers take that hill up with the largest pack I have seen, I was worried the pack would pull him over! Quick work of Fraser and Saugus, and I asked Lauren if she wanted to steer the canoe across Roe. Pretty straight forward paddle on the map. Well the east end of Roe is a marsh and I had been using my Fisher map rather than the Voyageur as it was easier to read for me without cheaters in the canoe. The Fisher map shows the portage at the end of the lake rather than a ways up the stream where it really is. The Voyageur map has this portage location correct. We continued up the narrow channel until the obvious portage appeared. On Cap we refilled our water bottles for the longer, more difficult trip to Boulder. When I was here 25 years ago we took the no longer marked portage south out of the lake and remember having difficulty at times following the trail. This time we decided we would take the portage to Ledge and head south at the T to Boulder. Not sure how obvious the T would be I decided to leave the canoe for the 2nd trip. Right off the bat you notice how wide this portage is. Not the trail itself, as most of the portages today are noticeably narrower than the better traveled ones of yesterday, but after the 2ft high brush the trail was 15 to 20 feet wide and very straight before the trees started. Almost felt like l was walking an ATV trail that brush had been allowed to grow up. Didn’t need to have worried about missing the T as it was very obvious. Nice trail south until right before the stream a very steep decent down to the water! This was the 1st time we had some bugs on the trip and I used bug spray for the 1st time on the trip for the 2nd carry. Not sure how long this portage actually is as neither map is clear on length. 2nd trip with the canoe was tough! I usually never set down the canoe on a portage but had to take a break when I got back to the T. Finished by gingerly getting the canoe down the hill at the end and loaded for the very short paddle to where the trail picked up again. With the low water was not sure we could get through to the further put in so we just went east 50 yards or so and started from there. As tired as I was from the first part of this portage I was apprehensive about the remaining 135 rods to Boulder. This turned out to be a nice walk and culminated in walking through a mature Cedar grove to an absolutely beautiful landing! This day has been mostly sunny, estimate temps in the mid 70’s and the wind had shifted out of the NW. As we were traveling SE we once again had a tail wind most of the day. Lauren was also captivated by the beauty of the end of this portage and the views of Boulder! After the 2nd trip we headed to see if the island site was open. It was and what a site it is. Nice landing, numerous good tent pads, nice kitchen area, and a beautiful view to the east. As we discovered there was some great swimming around the camp and easy access to the SW corner of the Island for views of the Sunset as well.
With this awesome site and lake we both agreed tomorrow would be a great time to use the 1 layover day we had in the schedule. Set up camp, swam, and explored the island the rest of the afternoon. Had 1 canoe come by with a two guys from Kentucky. Chatted awhile and they indicated fishing had not been great for them the last couple of days and they were staying on Boulder for a couple days. Stayed up to watch a beautiful full moon rise over the eastern shore.
Woke up to a fog over the lake and even some in the camp. The sun burned thru the fog and it was another perfect day. After breakfast we headed out fishing. Plan was to troll between our island the island to the NE and see if we could find any fish. Not 100 yards from camp Lauren had one on. As I reeled up to stay out of her way, I had one. As I got mine close to the boat I could see 4 or 5 more swimming around him. Couple of nice bass released. After catching a few more, Lauren informed me she had on something bigger. It wasn’t something bigger it was 2 nice bass each caught on a treble! After catching bass for a little over an hour, we decided the neighborly thing to do was let the guys we talked with yesterday know we were catching nice bass just off our campsite and invite them to fish that area if they wanted. Nice conversation and we headed back to fish. After catching and releasing a few more, had lunch and decided to swim. Paddled around and explored the north end of the lake, couple of sand beaches, watched and eagle fly over, and some loons out preening. Ate and decided to try some evening fishing in a spot our southern friends had described to us in the afternoon. Lauren definitely outfished me today. This was maybe the perfect BWCA day. Perfect wether, relaxing swim, great fishing, and awesome company. Boulder lake today may be the closet thing to heaven on earth I’m going to find!
The map said we did 6 portages totaling 272 rods today but reality was different. We arrived at the southern portage out of Boulder just after the group from Kentucky had started over. Due to the low water instead of the 39 and 11 rod portages separated by a short paddle we did multiple longer portages, muddy drags, and in and outs. Think we missed the 11 rod portage altogether and pushed over a couple of beaver dams to finally make our way into Adams lake. Another picture perfect BWCA day with sunshine and a breeze out the the west or northwest. Adams is a very pretty lake that I would love to come back to and explore some. Once we reach the large south part of the lake we could see our southern friends up ahead to make navigating to the next portage easy. They obviously thought Adams lake was worth spending more time at as well as they headed to explore some of the eastern channels. We headed to the 92 rod portage to Beaver lake. I had been looking forward to this portage because of what I had read about it and vaguely remembered from 25 yrs ago. Just as we were finishing unloading the guys from Kentucky pulled up deciding they had spent enough time exploring Adams. This portage, especially the end by Beaver lived up to its billing. Met one other group on the portage headed to Boulder lake. Shared a bit of knowledge on the campsites and fishing on Boulder and shared some contact info with the Southern guys to potentially share some pictures after the trip. On into Beaver lake and what the hell is this? We are paddling into a significant head wind. Fist time of the entire trip! Just over a mile of paddling mainly west and we take a hard left and head SE on Beaver with things back right with the world with the wind where it belongs, behind us! Quick portage into Trapline and across to the river. Low water here definitely impacted the entry into the Kawishiwi river and we ended up dragging the canoe a couple hundred yards to floatable water. This is also where we said goodby to the group from Kentucky, as they were headed to Alice and we were heading east. Once on the river we saw numerous canoes out fishing, a number in some beautiful cedar stripper canoes. Once across the short portage connecting the river we saw no one. Checked out camp #1039 and this deserves its 1 star rating, low, marshy, and not very appealing. We paddle on to campsite #1050 to call home for a night. As other reviewers stated this site does not have great tent pads, the landing is small, and a bit of a carry up to get packs into camp. But it has a lot of character and great views. Lauren was able to hang a little north of the fire grate close to to water, and I was able to find 1 good place for the tent. Set up camp, swam, and ate supper. Went out in the canoe that evening to gather water and paddle around. Filled up and used the steri pen to treat the water and then paddled around the small island and up the channel towards Malberg. Entertained by a couple of beavers and some birds. Probably out for around an hour when we were back by the small island I noticed a perfectly round ring about 2 inches wide in the water. Paddled over to teak a closer look and on removing it from the water realized it was the rubber ring from the pre-filter for our Steri Pen. Obviously it fell out when I was shaking the water out and I never noticed! Can’t believe we found it! Called it a night soon after and retired after yet another gorgeous day.
Another beautiful day, ate, packed up and headed north. Met one group on the portage to Kivaniva and one canoe on Elton but that was it until we got to Little Sag. Lauren decided to try carry the canoe today on some of the longer portages, she’s thinking about doing some trips without Dad and wanted to be sure she could do it. She got a lot more comfortable putting the canoe up and down but decided sandals were not ideal for her for portaging the canoe. Spent some time viewing the awesome cliffs on Makwa and slowly made our way to Little Sag through the 2 short portages on the north end of Elton. Made our way to campsite#813 as the first of many options on this expansive lake. Usually I am the one to scout the camps, but as this had a very small landing and someone needed to stay with the canoe, Lauren went to check things out. The landing at this site is not bad but there is only room for 1 canoe. Then it is straight up 15 ft to get to the camp. Lauren returned and said this would do but wanted to know our other options. I pointed out site #812 on the map as well as a few sites on the NE side of the lake. She decided to check out site 812 before we committed. Short paddle around the point and 812 was occupied. She didn’t feel like going all the way across and so we returned to #813, and I’m so glad we did. One of my favorite campsites on the trip. The fire grate area is just ok but this site stretches out from the far western point of the Island to quite always east with the firegrate in the center. After exploring there are multiple nice tent sites, tarp areas, and room for hammocks. Also an awesome view of the neighboring island and bays. As routine for this trip we set up camp and took a very refreshing swim. After eating we decided to go out fishing and exploring. It soon became obvious we were both more interested in just puttering around exploring our little corner of Little Sag than do any serious fishing. Went back to camp an watched a glorious sunset over Littel Sag until the mosquitos drove us into our shelter. One of the 1st times they have been much of a problem on this trip.
Up for the sunrise this morning and woke Lauren. Most days I have let her sleep in to whenever she gets up, usually around 6.30. Today however I’m a bit nervous about potential wind on Gabi, and so wanted to get an early start. Quick breakfast and pack up camp and on the water around 7. Another perfect day for traveling, sunny, light breeze from the south( we are traveling mainly north) and temps in the mid 70’s. Quick paddle across Little Sag and we stop in the narrow north part of the lake to refill water and observe a loon family and bald eagle. Couple of quick portages through the burned area and we are on Gabi. Lake is fairly calm as we head out but the breeze quickly picks up as we get on the big part of the lake. It is primarily behind us but does create big enough rollers that one person has to hold the canoe to unload at the portage to Agamok. Nice paddle across Agamok and to the Mueller portage. We plan to carry our stuff to where the Kekekabic trail crosses the portage and put it down off to the side and go down and check out the bridge and falls. We hear one other group coming down the trail the other way when we headed to the bridge but did not see them. Spent some time snacking, exploring, and tacking pictures of the bridge and the falls. After a nice rest we returned to the portage to finish the trek to Mueller. As we got to the landing a group of 3 women in a solo and a gorgeous Savage River tandem were just reaching the landing headed the other way. Across Mueller and on to the tough 103 rod portage to Ogish. I’m sure glad we were headed this way. Do not remember this portage being quite this tough when I took it with my son the other direction 10 yrs or so ago. Hills must have grown since then! Ogish is our destination for today and I was aware that campsites may be at a premium. Figured we would check out any open sites we saw starting with the island site right out from the portage and then the other 6 sites to the NE with the back up plan of jumping over to Skindance if we needed to. The island site was full along with the other 2 thru the narrows. Followed the south shore and around the islands and could see both of those campsites were full as well as the northern most site. However it appeared that the other site on the north shore(#791) was open. Paddled across with a pretty decent tailwind and hoped the site would work. Not a huge site but very nice for the 2 of us with 2 nice tent and or hammock sites, and good tarp area. The site is pretty exposed to the south and with a stiff south wind bugs were not going to be a problem! We had passed a few groups heading SW on Ogish and saw many more thought out the day. Hope all these groups found a place to camp. Got set up and a quick swim to cool off. Took a little longer to set up with all the wind! After eating we went out to troll around some with no luck. Looks like our weather luck may be changing a bit as it looks like it could storm tonight.
Rain, wind, thunder, and lightning over night. Didn’t bother me a bit in my tent, but Lauren had set her hammock up pretty exposed to the south wind. She stayed dry, but said the wind kept her worried through the night. Bittersweet as this was our last morning before heading out. Not in a hurry and wanted to let the tarps and tents dry out as much as possible before packing up. Saw a group of 20 or more ducklings with one adult slowly cruising the shoreline towards camp and then every couple minutes it was like someone pulled the fire alarm and they all freaked out. Then they would regroup and calmly proceed on. Decided to video this. A word to the wise, trying to video and watch what is happening while walking on wet sloping rocks is Not a good idea. Foot slipped, I went down, and the phone bounced off the rock into the water! Jumped up to grab the phone just off shore and fortunately it was still working. Got most of the water off the traps, packed up and headed out. Lauren wanted to carry the canoe though all the portages today and had moved back to her boots. Through Ogish and Kingfisher, saw one group just putting into Ogish and one group ahead of us heading the same way. It is warmer this morning and feels like it could get hot today. Once on Jasper we are faced with a pretty good headwind, only the 2nd time this whole trip. Not dangerous but made that paddle more work. I was concerned with what Seagull might be like. Portage into Alpine and we were just catching up with the group ahead of us. No wind to speak of on Alpine, either died away or maybe blocked by the trees as we were camping along the SE shore. Had to wait for a group of 7 or 8 women just putting in at the SeaGull portage and a large group behind them day tripping from SeaGull. Did receive a couple of odd looks from the dads in the day tripping group when Laure hoisted the canoe and I took one of the packs! Once on SeaGull the lake looked calm and the temp was rising. Pulled over at one of the many Islands just NE of the portage to fuel up for the long paddle back to the outfitters. Once we finished lunch we headed back out and decided to cross the big part of the lake and stay north of three mile island. Once out of the Islands the breeze picks up again, At Our Backs! See quite a few occupied sites, canoes out fishing, and travelers across Sea Gull but never really felt crowded. Made it to to Sea Gull outfitters, returned the canoe, quick shower and headed home.[paragraph break]
Unbelievable weather, rain one night but only while we were in our tents. Got a little warm on the day out, mid 80’s but mid 70’s with mainly sun the rest of the week. Bugs were noticeably absent the first part of the trip and not bad the rest. Did feel like more people than usual but once off the main routes solitude could be found. Really only spent 1 day fishing but it was phenomenal. Of close to 40 trips I have done in the BWCA this just might be the best one! I was reminded how easy it is to travel and camp with just 2 people. And the best part was spending the week with just Lauren! With summer jobs, classes and potentially starting a career over the next few years, not sure we will be able to fit trips in for both of us. Having a passion we can share and memories to cherish together is priceless!