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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

April 22 2024

Entry Point 54 - Seagull Lake

Seagull Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (10 HP (except where paddle only) max). 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 50 miles. No motors (use or possession) west of Three Mile Island. Large lake with several campsites. landing at Seagull Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1205 feet
Latitude: 48.1469
Longitude: -90.8693
Seagull Lake - 54

A Border Lakes Birthday

by Makwa90
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 14, 2020
Entry Point: Seagull Lake
Exit Point: Saganaga Lake (55)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 5

Trip Introduction:
This will be the first time I’ve ever been up the Gunflint Trail. A bucket list trip for sure! ! It was all rather spontaneous as my brother and his wife called me randomly to see if my parents and I wanted to go on a trip out of Sea Gull Lake and along the border route in August. You don’t have to ask me twice! He planned the route: a minimal-portage loop with one whole day of no portaging on some of the biggest lakes I’ve ever paddled on. After a beautiful drive up the North Shore, we turning onto the Gunflint Trail marveling at the spruce muskegs and the rugged terrain. The road ends at our destination for the night: Trails End campground.

Day 1 of 6

Friday, August 14, 2020 Hardly slept all night due to strobing lightning and buffeting wind although it didn’t rain until early morning. Got to watch a bit of the Perseid meteor shower on a midnight trek to the facilities. After a filling breakfast (which included leftovers of my sister-in-law’s birthday cake) we headed down to the landing. The goal: reach Ogishkemuncie Lake. The stiff morning breeze had tapered off and the waters were calm and quiet. Erik, Elizabeth, and their dog Sage took the tandem canoe while my parents and I loaded up our big three-man vessel. We passed by tiny islets studded with gnarled jack pine, crunchy reindeer lichen, and fire weed. The first part of this huge lake is a maze of islands so navigation was a bit tricky. We stuck to the north shore and took things slowly and only made one false turn into a bay we thought the portage was in. The water remained little more than a riffle for our entire 1 1/2 hour paddle down the lake.

We arrived at our first and longest portage of the day into Alpine Lake (we took the 101 rod portage per suggestions). We paddled through many fire scarred lakes (Alpine, Jasper, and Kingfisher). Some with nothing more than scrubby birch and balsam re-growth. We made excellent time but with the amount of people we’d seen at portages and sites we were worried about finding a spot on the popular Ogishkemuncie Lake. We pushed off from our last portage and a stiff breeze suddenly let loose and we were paddling into some good chop on the open lake. We found one site open in a narrow pinch point big enough for our three tents. This meant minimal privacy but we didn’t see many other parties passing through in the afternoon. Tents and hammocks were strung, naps were taken, and the fishing party went out with some smallies caught.

After dinner we enjoyed a lovely fire and camp cocktails. As we were hanging the food bags, lightning became visible in the western sky, so we called it a night and settled in our respected tents. We didn’t have to wait long before the storm rolled through with claps of thunder, gusty winds, and buckets of rain. It was a long night but I stayed dry even though rivulets were forming around my tent. ~Sea Gull Lake, Alpine Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Jasper Lake, Ogishkemuncie Lake


Day 2 of 6

Saturday, August 15, 2020 It was a sunny start of the day and the roar of the jet boil was a welcome sound to hear as I peeled the wet tent fly open. Coffee! We tried to dry out the tents a little as we went about our morning tasks. Everything we stashed under the canoes had created dams that collected all sorts of debris that washed down the bank. So the life jackets took a quick dunk in the lake. Sage kept jumping in and out of the boat as we packed camp as if wondering what the heck was taking us so long. With a gust of wind that blew us to the other side of the channel we were off. Our layers were quickly peeled off as we went underway. We paddled the north shore of Ogish surrounded by high hills and small islands. None of the portages are over 25 rods today!

We hop, skipped, and jumped through small beaver lakes and portaged along the swiftly flowing creek into Eddy Lake. A bit of limbo skills were required to get the canoe under a leaning tree. But despite the bench pressing, the portage was beautiful and rich with mountain maple, cedar, dogwood, and polypody fern. As we rounded a point in Eddy Lake, the wind picked up to a new strength. People coasted past us and cast piteous glances in our direction as we were the only ones paddling against the wind. We were just about to the South Arm of Knife Lake: one of the largest on our trip. The roaring stream along the portage lead us into the turbulent lake. The landing was less than ideal: slick sharp boulders in deep rough water. Loading the boats was a tricky and wet business. Finally we were off full steam ahead towards the nearest island to catch the calm waters on the lee side. I tried to distract myself with the magnificent rugged scenery until we all rafted together and took a breather. Sage was a little unsettled but he did well.

We scoped out a nearby campsite to break for lunch and we may have stayed here if not for the terrible tent pad options. A sand/gravel beach and a raised rocky opening with unmatched views down the length of the lake. We munched and lounged watching loons and chicks fishing nearby. Energized, we headed out again looking for home. The lake was calming down nicely and we zigged and zagged passing by occupied sites and those not to our liking. As we paddled further west the lake narrowed up and we began to tire. One more site was nearing and we were happy to call it home as we were fairly exhausted. It’s a small island site on the south shore surrounded by more fire scarred forest. A shrubby trail lead up to a park like opening complete with short lawn-like grass. Trees were sparse but we made due. We had to hobble into shallow rock waters to go for a quick dip, but it was worth it! Beavers, otters and loons oh my.

As evening came on, we were treated with the best stargazing I’ve ever experienced in the BWCA. We saw many shooting stars as we sat by the fire and ate my birthday cheesecake and sipped bourbon. Although more lighting strobed in the far distance…again. ~Ogishkemuncie Lake, Annie Lake, Jenny Lake, Eddy Lake, Knife Lake  

Day 3 of 6

Sunday, August 16, 2020 Well, guess what? We are drying out our tents again! Yup, late last night we caught the tail end of a storm and it briefly downpoured on us. The rest of the night passed without worry. Sunny and calm this morning as we packed up camp. We planned a fun side trip to Thunder Point to hike up to the overlook before turning back east and continuing down Knife Lake towards Ottertrack Lake. After a short paddle, we found the landing quite easily and headed up the well worn switchbacks up to the top. We were amongst the tops of mature white and jack pines and had an expansive view down the entire lake as far as you could see. We tracked the path of 4 tiny canoes below us, their paddles flashing in the sunlight. We tore ourselves away from the beautiful view and headed back to our waiting craft.

The wind was at our backs as we shifted east and coasting felt wonderful especially since we would have ZERO portages today. It’s a BWCA first! Navigation was easy if not monotonous. We watched fire scarred ridges appear once more as we passed by noisy eagles nests and equally noisy loons. The lake took a button hook through a canoe-width channel and widened out once more. This is where we started noticing the shiny steel border markers sunk into the rocky shoreline. It became a game to spot them. We took a brief lunch at a campsite then continued to let the wind steadily push us east to our destination: a group of 5 sites at the lakes eastern terminus.

We ended up taking the one on Knife Lake right next to the portage. We haven’t seen hardly anyone all day so we figured it would be quiet. Th site sits atop a cliff high above the lake with a fantastic view and a good swimming spot. A roaring stream is next door lined with blooming asters and jewel weed. White caps started to show up just as we settled in. Sage even joined us for a swim as we jumped off the rocks. It was a good escape from the flies. No luck fishing in the evening. After a delicious dinner of lentil stew with biscuits we gathered wood and listened to a cacophony of loons as we sat around the fire. ~Knife Lake


Day 4 of 6

Monday, August 17, 2020 A dry morning at last! Comfortable temperatures and a sunny sky to start the day. The still surface of the water reflected the puffy clouds like a mirror. Morning oatmeal and coffee with stellar views. After another failed fishing attempt, we shuttled everything over the portage to Ottertrack Lake straight from our camp. Today will be another long paddle day but at least we will have a few portages to stretch our legs. We were all getting a bit stiff in the canoes yesterday! Ottertrack got more and more rugged as we traversed down its narrow length. Cliffs crusted in bright orange lichen and dangling purple harebell flowers rose up on either side of us. Sage rode lazily in the middle of the canoe, his chin resting on the gunwale ears flopping in the breeze.

We followed a few more border markers before turning a corner into a mucky bay at Monument Portage. As we floated off shore waiting for a group of 3 canoes to come through, we tried to prevent Sage from leaping overboard at a flock of black ducks. When it was finally our turn, we started up the brush cut power line-esque trail winding up a steep slope past about 15 other people. Other parties had dropped gear at the giant monolith marking the international border and at every uphill. We’re a single portage family: two packs and food bags for those not carrying the canoes. Day packs for those that do. Anyways…we were the only people going “upstream” so it felt like we were constantly in the way. So many people! The other side of the portage featured a long plank boardwalk that was causing a bit of a backlog of canoes. After some tense moments, miscommunication, and one rude lady, we got it all sorted. Luckily I was able to step off into the bog and find some solid ground to stand on while others could get by. I think we all needed a belt of whiskey after that suddenly onslaught of civilization.

As soon as we left the portage, we didn’t see a single soul the rest of the day. Where did everyone come from?! We left our gear in the boats and opted to carry the canoes across a 2 rod portage into Saganaga Lake. This was the last portage of our whole trip!!

We pulled over for lunch at the first open campsite. Food bags are definitely getting lighter now. We planned on making it to American Point to snag one of the 4 sites there. As Sage vacuumed up any food crumbs, we loaded up and pushed onwards. The wind had picked up and was blowing crosswise but not whitecaps…yet. Beaver float planes flew low overhead maybe re-supplying the ranger in Cache Bay? In the distance, a long sand beach appeared marking the first of the campsites. The binoculars came out (a handy tool to bring to scope out sites from a distance) and alas, three canoes were pulled up there. But as we approached, the canoes left fully loaded with gear. The gods were smiling down on us! We found home for the night: sprawling 2 leveled site that could have fit three huge tents. Both a nice rocky porch and a 100’ pure sand beach frontage. Sage immediately took advantage of the swimming hole and spent some of his pent up energy playing fetch. Too cold for us though. It was a shame to pass up on swimming at such a nice beach. Wood was gathered for the evening and there was plenty of room for a rollicking game of hacky sack. The temperatures were a bit chilly so that warmed us up nicely. Very quiet as far as traffic goes: only 1 canoe passed us the whole evening.

We started the fire and watched the smoldering pink sun set over the Canadian shore. The stars peeked out and we watched the embers fade in our fire before calling it a night. ~Ottertrack Lake, Swamp Lake, Saganaga Lake


Day 5 of 6

Tuesday, August 18, 2020 Another calm and quiet night with a bit cooler temperatures. The big lake was glass calm and a light mist rolled into shore. Today’s goal is to reach a group of island sites near the entryway into the Sea Gull River and I think we got lucky with the weather. As we loaded up, the lake stirred with only ripples and the wind picked up only slightly as we rounded American Point. As we reached the most open part of the lake I thanked the weather gods! I could barely see the other side and is most definitely the largest lake I’ve ever paddled across. We’re in motorboat land though and the hum of their engines was quite jarring at first.

We picked our way through Munker and Long Island (easier said than done) and reached our destination area by late morning. Many sites were taken due to proximity to the boundary line. We paddled to every single site in the vicinity including a few on an island that shouldn’t have existed on our map. We passed up a good site because of the noisy 20-something year old neighbors who didn’t know how to converse at a reasonable level. We figured it would only get worse with the onset of evening (and alcohol). So we retreated to the very first site we looked at. Located on a small island with grassy front porch and “retaining wall” upper level on top of a rock slab.

Immediately after camp was set up, the fishing party set out with me staying behind to explore the island. I walked the rocky shore and probably scared the bejeebies out of a few fisherman as I crashed out of the thick shrubs. Whoops! Light passing rain showers came through and I watched a large group of loons splash and chase each other. I think the fishing party lost more lures than the number of fish they caught. After dinner we went out on a sunset cruise on the now calm and glassy waters. Windswept islands silhouetted the bright orange sky. It was the best sunset of the trip. Another evening campfire, star gazing, loons, and sipping the last of our cocktails. ~Saganaga Lake


Day 6 of 6

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 Low rumbles of Thunder woke me up again late at night! The stars still shine overhead as I peeked out the tent to assess the situation. I battened down the hatches and waited for the downpour…but it never arrived. With a final boom, the loons yodeled an answer and all was calm. Woke up to a slight breeze and puffy clouds. Today is our deluxe breakfast of pancakes. Who’s idea was it to leave the heaviest breakfast for last? We devoured the whole mess and got to packing camp. We left by mid morning and as we turned around our island we were met with a stiff breeze. This made for a bit of a workout to get into the mouth of the Sea Gull River where the wind howled through. I’m glad we made the crossing yesterday and we don’t have to paddle much today. Motorboat shuttles kept passing us by as we approached the boundary signs and the first sight of resorts and cabins. As we made the last few paddle strokes, a loon surfaced just ahead with a small fish in its beak. Suddenly we noticed a small chick nearby and watched the parent feed it right in front of us. It was a beautiful way to end the trip!


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