BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 24 2022
Number of Permits per Day: 15
Elevation: 1184 feet
Saganaga Lake - 55
Granite River Trip
July 11, 2006
Seagull Lake Only (54A)
Number of Days:
On Monday, We got up early in the morning and drove from the suburbs in Cincinnati to Minnesota. Oh man did we lose a lot of time due to hitting the Chicago Loop at rush hour. We finally got to Grand Marais at 6:00 and made it out to our outfitter (Clearwater Canoe Outfitters) before sundown. We drove back to town and had dinner at Sven and Ole's. (If you ever enter on the Gunflint trail, you must stop at Sven and Ole's. It is the BEST!)
We made it back to our cabin and slept wonderfully for the last time before we hit the real wilderness.
We woke up on Tuesday and planned our Trip. Stephanie and Eric at our outfitter were awesome setting us up with everything we needed. We had a tasty, hearty breakfast, and set out for Gunflint Lake. At this point, My wife was very nervous about my knowledge and skills as an outdoorsman. I am and eagle scout, but that was 10 years ago.
When we got to Gunflint, it was very beautiful. I never realized how light kevlar canoes were until I carried it to the dock. This may not be so hard after all!
We loaded the canoe, said goodbye to Travis our driver, and set off.
We easily traveled through Gunflint and Magnetic to our first portage. Very short near some nice waterfalls. The wife was less nervous as she got a hold of paddling the canoe from the bow.
We made our way down the river and hit our first problem. The river splits in 3 different direction and there is a portage between them and there are rapids all around. We took a wrong turn and ended up down a shallow, tight, but fast moving stream. We got stuck and when we tried to back up, we capsized. I broke my sunglasses and my wife freaked. The canoe got stuck in a small fallen tree, swamped with my wife in it. I left her there and swam down stream to get the paddles. Luckily we tipped and a small water fall was in our future. We lined the canoe back and reset the canoe. With the help of another group of canoers, we found our portage. Very hard to find. We made our way down river through the 100 rod and into Clove We picked the site directly across from the portage. The wife was worn out and we picked the closest site. It was small but beautiful. I fished in the reeds by the campsite while the wife slept in the hammock. We had a nice dinner and went to sleep after she killed me in gin.
It was a great day. No rain, all sun, 4 portages, 5 miles traveled,never more than 70 degrees out.
I woke up this morning refreshed and ready to go at sunrise. The Nicole, my wife, is not used to sleeping on a thermarest and she was very sore and crampy. I cooked breakfast while Nicole packed everything up. It was a cool morning but it would turn out to be a very warm day. We headed northeast out of Clove and into the river system. No problem through the first portage and into Granite Lake. Since it was July and the water was low we decided to take Swamp portage rather than run the rapids, which could be done fairly easy in higher water. The portage was upgraded with 2x12 planking to keep you out of the very deep mud, hence the "swamp" in Swamp Portage.
We continued up the river system through 2 short potages and into Gneiss. It was a very pretty lake with tons of bald eagle. We saw some perched, flying and saw one do better at fishing than I had the whole trip thus far.
We decided that rather than stay in Gneiss where the fishing is good, we decided to take the portage into Marabouf. We quickly found out that this portage does not exist and we had to take the long way around which did not help my wife's demeanor nor her sore shoulders and arms. We made it into Marabouf which turned out to be some what of a mistake. It was already the afternoon and we had a long run infront of us. By the time we were 1/4 mile into Marabouf, the wind turned against us. It came hard out of the northwest and it took us 4 hours to go the 2 1/2 miles to the next portage. We stopped at a couple of out croppings on the Canadian side for Nicole to rest and loaded up on carbs to keep moving. I knew I would pay hell for this when we got home. We finally made it to the difficult portage. It is only hard because you have to walk against a granite rock and the walkway is maybe 1 foot wide. We then made it to Saganaga Falls and the next portage. Some people were fishing below the falls and said the fishing was great.
We headed to the first campsite we could find so we could eat a late dinner around 7pm. Most of the campsites were full and I thought the wife was going to have a nervous breakdown. We finally found a site on Horseshoe Island and I ended up cooking and setting up camp by myself, if you can believe it.
We swam, fished and rested. No fire tonight. In bed by 9pm.
A much warmer day, 85 degrees, sunny, windy and hot. 9 miles, 4 portages, and a horrible head wind.
We woke up and wanted to take a layover day, but Nicole decided we should travel a little closer to the exit point. I packed up while she cooked a quick breakfast and we headed to Camper's Island. We got to the Island by Lunch and by this time the temperature was into the 80's. After a quick lunch of gorp and sandwiches, we decided that now was as good a time as any to jump in to Sag for a little skinny dippin'. The water felt awesome and very relaxing.
We explored the island and found that our site on the southern most point of the island was giant. There were 2 firepits about 30 feet apart and room for atleast 6 tents. We helped a group of 8 very tired ladies (around 8pm) find a campsite on the island. They were in there 40's with 3 in their 60's and paddling very heavy aluminum canoes. Nicole and I played cards and headed to bed. Hot day but restful. 1.5 miles and no portages. Saganaga Lake.
We got up late after sleeping in and had a quick breakfast. We packed up and headed out to overcast skies. We headed south out the Sag Corridor and made our way past all of the motor boats headed out to fish for the weekend. We made our way into Seagull and saw all of the beautiful houses on the hill sides. Me finally found our exit and got out at trails end cafe. We got a quick bite to eat and our outfitter picked us up. My wife has never been so happy to see an old van. Saganaga Lake, Seagull Lake. No portage, 4 miles.
We made our,way back to Clearwater and showered. Nicole's favorite part of the trip! We left the outfitters after buying the kids some souvenirs and headed south. We stopped and stayed over night in Madison Wisconsin. Wow. What a beautiful city. We eat tons and the wife enjoyed the sauna, the hot tub and the hotel bar. We slept soundly in our king size bed and headed back to Cincy in the morning. We were happy to see the kids but sad to leave such a beautiful, pristine wilderness.
This vacation stirred something in me that will drive me back to it atleast once every year for the rest of my life. My wife however, checked it off as one thing she wanted to do in her life and will never do it again. My next trip will be in the fall through Ram Lake. Solo. Everyone thinks I'm crazy. I think doing this makes me decidedly sane!!! Saganaga Lake, Sea Gull Lake