BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
March 21 2019
Saganaga Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP 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 55 miles. No motors (use or possession) west of American Point. Access to Canada (the Crown land and Quetico Park). Large lake with many campsites and easy access. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.
Number of Permits per Day: 17
Elevation: 1184 feet
Saganaga Lake - 55
Number of Permits per Day: 17
Elevation: 1184 feet
Saganaga Lake - 55
June 05, 2010
Number of Days:
The clear waters of Ester Lake are our focus.
Day 1 of 6
Saturday, June 05, 2010 I'm not going to bore you with the uneventful loooong ride from Southern Illinois to Grand Marais. It was long and we were glad to be in Grand Marais. We pick up needed supplies a Sven and Oles pizza lunch for tom., a map, some booze and fine ourselves bellied up at the Gunflint tavern for a few cold ones. We are soon off to the Trail Center for a tasty meal prior to hitting Seagull Outfitters. We check in chat with Debbie for a few and start digging through gear and trying to eliminate stuff. Like Matts big fluffy pillow. We are a party of four this year Justin and I the usual suspects and 2 newbies Justins cousins Matt "the stomach" and Nick "camp fixer upper".
Day 2 of 6
[paragraph break]Sunday, June 06, 2010 We arise prior to the alarms and do the proverbial morning shuffle. We are in our tow boat ready for our launch to American Point by 8 sharp. The young man whom drove us to Sag had turned 21 the day prior and had been at the Windigo doing a little libation celebration so kudos to him for being at work on time and coherent.[paragraph break] The last time I had been through this area was in 1995 when 2 seperate forest fires tore through this area. We were the very last group evacuated from this area and had fires a blazing on both sides of us as the forest service hustled us out of there. That is a story with in itself. It was nice to see the forest reclaiming what had been lost to the fire. It brought some closure to me to see this area at peace after the insanity of 95.[paragraph break]We are dropped off at American Point , saddle up and are off on our adventure. The morning is perfect crisp. clear with a gentle back breeze and barely a ripple on the water. A great way to be welcomed to the waters I have missed. Justin and I are in one canoe with Nick and Matt in the other. Justin and I are soon insynique and moving along at a steady easy pace. We rented the Souris River Quetico 17's roomy, comfy, and very stable but you ar not going to win a race with them. We see 2 parties in the vicinity of Spam Island seemingly going no where, we wonder out loud where they may be going, we are soon to find out. Nick and Matt are falling behind and we also wonder out loud what is there gig. We take a break enjoy the scenery and wait for them to catch up. They are both bewildered they state they are diggin hard and getting no where.. The curse of using the bent shaft paddles the wrong way has struck Newbie mistake #1 We spin the paddles around and things seem to be mucho better. We have the small bays of Sag insight and also have the two previously spotted groups in sight. The first group has broken off to the northern most shoreline they seem to be looking for the entry to the bays but are way off. The second group is having canoe controll issues or lack there of. They seem to huddle up then wander off in all direction rehuddle and repeat the process. The sandlot football approach to canoeing.[paragraph break]We all descend onto Swamp Portage as a group GREAT a bwca traffic jam after we have been preaching on the minimum chances of seeing folks to the newbies. The "sand lotters" a group of 6 fall back asap they are camped on Sag and just out for a cruise to see Monument Portage and then theres the dreaded other group. Can you hear the music do do doo dodot its Fred, Lemont, Grady and Ester Sanford and Son of the BWCA and there intent on going into the portage first. So we wait and watch as they unload 10 packs, a cooler, a tote and enough misc. gear and fishing rods to outfit a commercial fishing boat. This portage is about 30 ft and these guys are out of gas huffin and a puffin. Then they use the 4 man canoe carrying technique it goes over poorly and a few not so kind words are directed amongst the Sanfords. Its smoke time we see our opening we slip in we've done this many times prior we have 4 bags a fd bag and 2 canoes 7 trips for 4 folks. We talk to the Sanfords and to our amazement there only on a 4 day trip. We are trying to clear the poratge so the sandlotters behind us can move in. At Swap portage you have 2 places to launch as you face the lake the shallows to the right easily deep enough to water launch in sandals or the mini point to the left which has a gd drop off. The Sanfords finish their smokes quit quarreling and realize we are loading up and about to push off. They have been passed no red blooded nascar fan likes to be passed"all sporting nascar hats" so they are now in a rush to get there groove on. Diggity diggity lets get these canoes in some water and loaded asap. Well one should always look behind them first when carrying a canoe backwards in the BWCA beacause that drop off to the left is a gd one BLOOP!! down goes Grady the Sanfords are back to feudin and the pass is complete off to Monument Poratge and more adventure.[paragraph break]We pull into Monument Portage and have somehow caught up to a unknown 3rd party. Oh wel they seem to be on top of there game they unpack clear their gear from the dock and all is gd. They have been out for a few days and tell us if we like they would prefer to hold back and let us clear. This is a cake walk poratge and we are soon loading up for our second portage when we see a fella struggling with a canoe coming straight towards us down the dock. Matt steps off the dock in what appears to be solid ground in an attempt to give the fella clear passage. Newbie mistake #2 that dock is there for a reason. Matt is now up to his waist in beaver scwag we uncork him and are aff though Matt is a stinkin.[paragraph break] The weather is perfect the paddling symbiotic and we are soon pulling up to the poratge into Ester Lake. This poratge seems all gd until the calf burning hill at the end. We enjoy some spirits and are off to find a site to call home for a few days. Matt is rewarded for his efforts and catches the first and only Laker of the trip trolling towards the island on Ester. We check out the two island sites and find the far one occupied we paddle around the island and check out the two mainland sites. We choose the northern site, a gd landing, nice tent pads and gd trees for cover and tarps. We later took the time to look over all 4 sites the northern mainland site is hands down the best. This will be our base for the next 4 nights. We set up camp rig our polls and hit the water.It does not take long and we are on fish the smallies are hitting skitter pops and Justin and I look like the cats who ate the canary.After a great day on the water we head to camp to cook dinner and have a warmer upper or two or three and laugh about the beginning of our day. Steaks over an open fire TASTY! The stars are out in full force what more could one ask for.
Day 3 of 6
Monday, June 07, 2010 We follow up last nights fishing success with a repeat performance. The bass are sitting in 10-15 ft of water off of rabble rock drop offs. Anywhere from 5-20 ft off shore. They are not in the shallows or next to wood as expected. You need a rock field with a gd drop off and the smallies are sitting right on that ledge. Skitter pops are the surface lure of choice period. Not rattlin rogues, rapalas or zara spooks skitter pops are out fishing the others 10-1. Cast it out pop it a few times and wait if they do not hit it asap reel in and repeat the process. The bass are very agressive theres no need to play around its either an instant hit or nothing. If they miss hold still we caught fish on there 3rd or 4th attempt. Ester Lake is clear as glass and you can see the fish you are fishing for. We can see the bass rise up from the depths eye the skitter pop and like a shot you have a hit. Or the other scenario they rise up check out your offerings and descend to the depths from where the came.The afternoon is beautiful and were off to see Cherry Lake. What a looker Cherry Lake is. The camp site is empty so we pull in for a closer look. If this site is open take it who cares if the fishing sucks. Take the tent pad all the way in the back and awaken to views of the pallisades. We take the scenery in for a while and head back to camp for an early dinner. Thanksgiving in the Boundary Waters an idea borrowed from this site and a big thank you it will forever be in the dinner rotation. Organic chicken breasts, mashed, gravy, stufffing and fresh steamed veges MMMM!!!! We must be hungry because as we are preparing dinner we thought we had made a rediculous amount of food, and theres not a crumb left. I'm also noticing that Matt who weighs about a buck thirty wet can put some food away. This becomes an ongoing joke asking Matt if he is hungry. While we were sight seeing a group has moved into the island camp sight opposite of us and they are loud as hell. Its rather apparent they have no clue we are camped around the corner from them based upon the tone and subject matter of their conversations. Matt and Nick shove off for a night of fishing as Justin and I sit back have a warmer upper and map out our evenings strategy. When we hear a ladies voice clear as a bell say "HEY HONEY I HAVE TO TAKE A DUMP WHERES THE SHITTER" whoops not a very lady like thing to holler out. We burst into side splitting laughter the kind of laughter that does not allow you to breath. Then and only then do they realize they have neighbors. Stone cold silence from that site the rest of the night . There packed and gone by sun up. Every site we paddle by for the rest of this trip is followed by the mystery ladies famous shitter quote. A great day followed by a great evening it truly does not get any better than this.
Day 4 of 6
Tuesday, June 08, 2010 We awaken to a beautiful morning and are a bit slow hitting the water today. I take Matt out in hopes of getting him on some bigger fish. When loading up the canoe Matt asks me if we should bring the anchor and drift sock. I decline joking that we hadn't even seen as much of a ripple on still water. We paddle across Ester and it happens, a weather change. We blinked and all is now differant cloud cover is moving in and the winds are picking up. Justin and Nick catch a few gd fish before they are getting blown around. We all hook up in the bay leading to the portage. The wind is harsh and we abandon the fishing notion that has just crossed our minds. A little breakfast and a nap is in order. The rains come tumbling down around 1 but I don't mind. Nick one of the newbies is one of the better camp fiddlers I have been with. Retieing the tarp, cleaning the fire pit, reorganizing the log benches or refilling the new gravity water filter.. Go buy a gravity filter if you do not have one and put the old pumper aside your forearms will thank you and me later. Nick has this place on lockdown. His tarpsmanship is a thing of art cool knots and all. It rains hard all day and we are dry as can be thanx to Nicks efforts. We spend the afternoon drinking bourbon and playing about 5 hours of yahtzee could be worse we see a few rain soaked parties creepin by Some how Matt sleeps through all of this, a 4 plus hour nap WOW!! We cook up a fish fry for dinner under Fort Nick and call it a night. That will be the last Dead lyric pun of the report.
Day 5 of 6
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 Clear and windy is the weather of the day and we are off to explore Hanson a little more. The fishing is gd but the wind is crazy and we find ourselves retreating to the smaller Link Lake. Even the little lakes are kickin up some gd waves and making fishing difficult at best. We are fishing very little and getting blown around way to much for comfort. We decide to head to camp have some breakfast and enjoy our afternoon at camp and regroup. The water between the island and the shoreline on Ester is very shallow and sandy. We can see moose tracks crossing right across this area perfectly preserved they remind us off the ancient prints that have been found from early man. Evening has come and the wind is still a blowin so Justin and I decide to to go fishing at Ashdick screw the wind. Matt and Nick stay at camp I think this trip may have been more work than they expected. We are halfway to Ashdick when we discover we have forgot the net. A sure sign that fishing should be gd. Its been a running joke between Justin and I when one of us asks for the net to awnser with thats a little one, your not net worthy. I tell Justin a story about a muskie tourny in Eagle River Wi. a friend and I were in and we had left the net on the dock. We landed 3 legal fish that day and won the tournament netless. My no net theory proves right and we are on fish. Ashdick is also crazy windy but we fish on. Justin catches the BWCA large mouth he wanted and follows it up with another a dandy. I boat the biggest smallie of the trip a stud smallie in the 4 lb range and we call it an evening. We share our adventures with Matt and Nick and enjoy a fish dinner on a fine evening
Day 6 of 6
Thursday, June 10, 2010 We are up at first light packed and ready to paddle out by 7 am for our noon pickup. As always the weather on the last day is perfect clear blue skies and not a ripple on the watera replication of how we were greeted. We see no one and its a beautiful paddle out. We hit American Point at 11 not bad timing 4 hours from the camp at Ester to American Point. When the tow pulls up the young man informs us that the Blackhawks had won the Cup. Its been 49 years since the Hawks won the Cup the first in my lifetime and I was in the BWCA I'd have it no other way.
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