BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

May 10 2021

Entry Point 55 - Saganaga Lake

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
Latitude: 48.1716
Longitude: -90.8868
Saganaga Lake - 55

Saganaga to Moose, or how to stay wet.

by Zath
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 18, 2015
Entry Point: Saganaga Lake
Exit Point: Moose Lake (25)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
3rd year of a 3 season long annual tradition of a BWCA trip. The group amounts to a split, 2 seasoned paddlers since child hood, and 2 beginners. The second trip out for the beginners, which considering how well they adapted isn't right to call them that... We plotted out a trip that is basically a copy of a childhood boy-scout trip I did. Saganaga -> Swamp -> Ottertrack -> Knife -> Bonnie -> Spoon -> Pickle -> Kekekabic -> Pickle -> Spoon -> Bonnie -> Knife -> Knife River -> Carp -> Birch -> Sucker -> Newfound -> Moose We followed the same path, but skipped the Kekekabic detour. Saganaga -> Swamp -> Ottertrack -> Knife -> Knife River -> Carp -> Birch -> Sucker -> Newfound -> Moose

Day 1 of 5

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Many of my childhood trips were with my father and he stand by the 16 mile per day with portages 20 mile a day free paddle standard. I'm going for vacation, and not really into making the trip a race. 8.8 miles of paddling on Saganaga was just fine for a first day. Wind was negligible and the open water calm. Camp site 336 is in good shape, 2 decent tent sites. We had a dog along, 6 months old for her first trip in. At the entry point, as soon as the canoe was pushed from shore, the dog leaped out and into the water. fortunately no other dog and canoe related mishaps on the trip. Day 1 Dinner, F&D steaks, F&D is a butcher shop in Virginia, MN, perfect place to pick up some obnoxious steaks for that first nights meal...

Saganaga Lake


Day 2 of 5

Friday, June 19, 2015

Woke up to a snapping turtle hanging out near the fire.

Started on Saganaga with a short paddle. Portage #23 was very short, and able to carry fully loaded canoes across with little effort. Not much to say about Swamp Lake, it was there and we crossed it. Portage 24 was distinctly lacking in mud or rough terrain, which made for a quick and easy portage. Ottertrack was a nice paddle, nice weather and no wind to speak of.

From when we see other paddlers out and about our strategy of sleeping in, leaving camp late, and stopping after a moderate amount of time on the lake, has worked well so far. Campsite 2001 was good, but the site only had punky firewood, a few very nice looking trees near the site, but they wont tip over for a while yet.

Saganaga Lake, Swamp Lake, Ottertrack Lake


Day 3 of 5

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I was nervious about planning a westerdly rought considering the pervaling wind was from the west. Our entire trip could be a big disaster with heavy winds considering the direction Knife runs. We lucked out and had the wind at our back all day.

Portage 731 started our day, and I follow the philosophy of, if it has water and a canoe will float, skip the portage. 731 was short and quick, and the weather hadn't turned on us yet...

The weather turned on is, the Rain came, and wasn't to hard most of the time, it wouldn't stop. Chilled and miserable a fire and tacos under a tarp helped, setting up tents in the rain didn't...

Ottertrack Lake, Knife Lake


Day 4 of 5

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Soggy from the previous day, we packed up and left came. Again a snapping turtle was hanging out in the camp site. For some reason the dog has no interest in turtles, we lucked out there.

Paddling on a glass calm Knife Lake, was more than we could have hoped for, fluffy clouds, and no wind. What luck. We arrived at the Knife River and had to decide between portaging and running the rapids.

Flashback time: as a boy-scout we pulled up with 4 canoes to this portage, and my father and the other adult were debating whether to portage or not. My dad sad no way, the river will be more fun, the other guy was afraid of it being more dangerous further down. Then, a group of girl-scouts arrived with a couple of canoes (Carried up the portage), they proceeded to go down the rapids as we watched. The other adult turned to my dad and said, "Well now we "Have" to let the boys do it." I made it down with my dad no trouble, the next canoe made it no trouble, as did the 3rd one. We waited and waited, then a duluth pack come floating down, then another pack, then an empty canoe... The adult how wanted to portage was the only canoe that flipped...

We were split as a group, the experienced 2 wanted to go, the trainees wanted to portage. So that's exactly what happened. No rolled canoes, just some wet feet from getting snagged on a tree.

Next batch of rapids we came to looked easy, so there was no debate this time, down we went. and the next, and the next. Portage 912, didn't walk it, don't know what shape its in, Portage 911 same story. Then we got to Portage 80, and these rapids looked worse, we parked, looked, plotted, discussed, and ultimately chickened out. We determined that there is a critical turn point that you ether make and are good, or fail and go swimming. Due to the size of these rapids swimming was not a safe exit strategy.

Then we get to portage 381, we can see the rapids are a little longer but they don't look to bad, so without debating it, away we go. Started off easy, picked up speed, then the rapids take a sharp nearly 90 turn to the left and become significantly bigger... we bounced over a rock there at high speed, and landed in the smooth water at the bottom. No damage, minimal water from splashing, and then we looked up to see the most canoes in one place I have ever seen in the BWCA all at once and all staring at us. Someone yelled at us "That was faster than portaging!" There must have been 4 maxed out permits worth of canoes and people there all waiting to use the portage. Plus a small crowd on land with canoes being loaded onto shoulders.

We had seen about 4 or 5 other canoes total on the trip up to this point, talk about being rocked out of the mindset of isolation.

Carp Lake is little, and the river/rapids connecting it to birch were blocked by a fallen tree. So at portage 379 we carried our gear across for the second time that day... We camped on birch. Someone had lashed together a camp chair at campsite 1238. Probably the best campsite of the trip. Flat, a mix of rock and grass. Nice gravely beach to enter the water. Well we didn't roll any canoes over, we certinly took on some water from splashing about in the rapids, it might as well have rained all day for how much drying out our bags got.

Knife Lake, Knife River, Carp Lake, Birch Lake


Day 5 of 5

Monday, June 22, 2015

The last breakfast is always a little sad. Weather was decent when we set out on the lake but that didn't last. At least the wind was calm, rain can be dealt with. We got to the exit point and headed for home.

We had a great and successful trip, I leave you with a sleeping puppy.


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