BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 09 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1673 feet
Clearwater Lake - 62
Fur Trades and Waterfalls
August 24, 2020
South Lake (58)
Number of Days:
On the way up the Shore on August 23rd we drove the 7 Bridges route in Duluth and ate smoked fish at Lou's. We then buckled down all the way to CR Magney State Park to enjoy Devil's Kettle lower falls in the heat of the day. Our final destination for the night was Gunflint Lodge's bunkhouse, where we arrived in time for our evening dinner reservation. Consciously noting that the Hazy IPA I was sipping on would be my last one for a week made it taste even that much better. It was the perfect compliment to my walleye cakes from the menu. Even if a group has all of their own gear, I recommend staying at Gunflint before a trip. The inexpensive bunkhouse lodging is adequate, the food before the trip is great and the shuttle price for a drop is more than reasonable.
The next morning we took said shuttle to Clearwater Lake, getting on the water by about 10AM. For the next 7 days there would be no clocks or electronics in my life, besides my handheld GPS, and that's just the way I like it.
Knowing that Clearwater is an easier lake to access we wasted little time choosing one of the first 4 campsites instead of gambling with the 3 on the eastern end of the lake which would have been more convenient for the next day of our trip. The site we choose was the second site from the west, and had a great rock landing and views of the palisades. Unfortunately, we also had a view of existing homes and traffic, which I was eager to put behind me soon.
We set up camp, ate lunch and took off on an ambitious day trip from our site to Pine Lake and Johnson Falls. From the campsite we chose, we had a few miles of paddling just to get to the first portage into Caribou. We had a great time hanging out at the falls, but watched the sunset on the paddle back on Clearwater. While eating and doing dishes in the dark on the first night, I had no idea that would be a theme for the rest of our trip.[paragraph break]
This morning was warming up quickly and we knew it would be the second hot day in a row. Not bad for late August. - And I will add right here as well, that bugs were nonexistent on our entire trip, which was an added blessing!- We spent time swimming at our beautiful campsite, before breaking down and heading out towards Mountain Lake.
We had discovered on our paddle to Pine yesterday that we made the right choice in picking a spot on the west end of Clearwater, as the sites on the east end were all spoken for. Hugging the north shore on the way to Mountain, we further confirmed the spot to the west of the portage was occupied, and it certainly looks like a nice campsite too!
We portaged from Clearwater to Mountain and made our way east on Mountain in search of a site. The very first site was open, and it was a great campsite. We got set up there and settled in for the rest of the day. My boy and I caught a small lake trout to supplement supper and paddled around the east end of the lake. It had been 22 years since I was on this lake, and never to the east end. What a beautiful lake!
After our corn chowder and lake trout supper, my wife made Hungarian funnel cakes over the campfire. The clean-up was a bit of work, but it was worth it!
We took a layover day on this day. We hiked on the border route trail that intersects the portage between Mountain and Clearwater and ate lunch at the Mountain Lake overlook. Back at camp we fished some more and spent time reading and relaxing.
I brought a great book to read on this trip, THE EPIC WANDERER, a book about Canadian fur trader, land surveyor and explorer David Thompson. What a great book! He had many great experiences and I had a great time reading about them. Relationships between natives, Canadians and English were so interesting to hear about from this time. And there is a section where he works out of the big trading post at Grand Portage and moves through the BWCA and Lake of the Woods.
Today was the most trying day of the trip. We had single portaged a couple times, but did not on the Long Portage. Doubling back on this portage made for a six mile walk! We thoroughly enjoyed paddling from Mountain to Watap to Rove lakes, and the Long Portage was long- but then it was done- and it was an accomplishment for our group.
The thing that took the wind out of our sails was passing campsite after campsite on Rose Lake that was occupied. Such a beaituful lake, maybe my favorite in terms of scenery, and again, it had been over twenty years since I was last in this part of the BWCA and was looking forward to staying here.
With the main lake full, and the sun starting to get low, we had the choice to do the stairway portage into Duncan or keep moving towards South. We decided to continue towards South and were lucky enough to get the campsite at the Rat Lake portage. I had stayed here years ago and remembered it being mosquito infested and busy with through paddlers portaging through. Lucky for us there were no groups (they must have already all arrived!) and no bugs. We made camp and looked forward to another day off tomorrow. ~Mountain Lake, Watap Lake, Rove Lake, Rose Lake
A fun day today going to check out Rose Falls and the border route trail heading east from the stairway portage. The hike is a bit challenging, but well worth the overlooks of Rose, Rat, South and North lakes. We had originally planned to get back to camp earlier in the afternoon and move sites to South Lake so we would be able to fish for smallies and trout there in the evening and next morning. However, we got back to camp a little bit later in the afternoon and decided to stay put. I am glad we did, as it clouded up and downpoured a few times into the evening and into the night. What a relief to have stayed in camp and stayed dry, even though it was not our favorite site for swimming, fishing, etc...
Fishing on South Lake was not in the cards for us. We woke up after all of the rain to heavy winds howling through the trees. As we were deciding whether to move or not, after breakfast, the winds seemed to have calmed a little bit. We decided to make a run for it and get all the way to Gunflint so we would be positioned for an easier out tomorrow.
South Lake was headwinds and whitecaps the entire length of the lake. We all dug in and did a great job! It felt good to get through the lake, and there was not much need for quartering or zig-zagging.
As we exited the BWCA in North Lake my wife found some fresh and delicious lobster mushrooms to have with our dinner. We had a nice lunch on at a campsite on a point on North before heading into Little North, Little Gunflint and finally Gunflint where the first island campsite was open and waiting for us! This campsite is great!
We were able to paddle out after a quick breakfast, back to Gunflint Lodge for an early lunch. After getting back we had some hot showers, cold beer and lunch! What a great trip, and I am already looking forward to the next one!