Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

April 20 2024

Entry Point 84 - Snake River

Snake River entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Isabella, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 30 miles. Access is a 160-rod portage to Snake River & several short portages before reaching Bald Eagle Lake.

Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1274 feet
Latitude: 47.7734
Longitude: -91.5261
Snake River - 84

Isolation on Clearwater Lake

by nojobro
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 18, 2009
Entry Point: Snake River
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
Our first trip in 11 years, my husband and I head off toward the little-traveled Clearwater Lake and end up with unexpected results.

Day 1 of 6


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yesterday, we’d left the kids with Grandma and Grandpa, posed for them in front of the Ely webcam, and went to bed early after supper at the Ely Steakhouse. Today, we got up at 4:30, and were happy to be up so early: it’s put-in day! We left the outfitter by 5:05 and went to Britton’s Café for a hearty breakfast of vegetable stuffed hash browns. Delicious, and very filling; a good start to a busy day. Our plan was to get to Bald Eagle and then see how we felt. If we felt energetic, we’d head off for Clearwater Lake, for a lovely campsite we’d heard about and for some solitude; it’s in a less-visited area, off the beaten path from Gabbro and Bald Eagle. I’ve never been anywhere where I knew there weren’t other people at least nearby, so I was excited for this experience. Just us, alone, in the wilderness. Oh yeah.

We drove to the entry point, #84, Snake River. Not far from Ely, speeding along Hwy 1, we smacked into a bird. Thump! it went on the windshield. Uh oh….poor birdie. We hope this is not an omen for the trip, but we’re still so excited that we soon forgot about the poor bird’s plight.

We had some trouble getting to the EP by following the route on our Fisher map; the forest road is not marked with the proper number. We had to turn around at one point but made it there eventually (note for the future: ask the outfitter for directions instead). The morning was overcast with solid gray clouds, and barely 60 degrees, but it didn’t put a damper on our excitement to get going. Even the threat of rain anytime was brushed off. We shrugged into our packs and headed off on the portage to the put-in with our first load. The portage is wide and easy, with a gravelly path, and slopes gently downhill from the parking lot. This goes on for quite a while, crossing over one footbridge and then later another, bigger one. The trail degrades near the end, and becomes a typical BWCA portage trail: roots, rocks, and mud. But for the most part, the trail is very easy, though long (an estimated 270 rods, longer than it’s listed on all the maps).

We made our second haul over the portage, and finally…finally…we were dipping our paddles into the water. We surprised a big painted turtle, who quickly swam off away from us underwater. The Snake River here is very narrow, and sometimes it seems like there’s hardly any room to go straight, much less make the turns. And turn it does, many times. It’s aptly named. We made friends with the brush on either side of the river; even with John’s deft steering, there were times where getting up close and personal with the foliage could not be avoided.

It wasn’t long before we were at the first real portage of the day. It’s on the east bank of the river, not the west, as indicated on the McKenzie, Fisher, and Voyageur maps. Also, there are three portages, not two. The maps here are completely wrong. Trust your BWCA.com friends, not the maps. ;-)

The portage was short and rocky and we were soon on our way again. A few more bends in the river, another portage. This one was longer than the first, and would be longer than the third. Rocky. But still an easy haul. The third portage came up not much later, and was easily tackled. Directly after putting back in from the third portage, we saw a grassy and muddy bank on the west side of the river. A portage? We weren’t sure. Seems like we thought there were only supposed to be three of them. We back paddled to stay in place and pondered our options. I was just about to get out of the canoe and scout it out, when two men suddenly appeared from the depths of the forest. Low and behold, it was GrampaMike and his paddling partner. He said they were leaving a day early, as the winds on Bald Eagle had foiled their fishing plans. We asked about the portage, and the partner told us it was only a path to a “stinky pond.” We declined to get out, and thanked GrampaMike and his friend for saving us from a portage to nowhere. Oh, excuse me…from a portage to a stinky pond.

Around the next bend, the Snake River opens up and the sides become lined with weeds and grasses with a narrow channel down the center. It winds and twists its way toward the Isabella River. Bend after bend we followed the river, enjoying the sunshine when it decided to peek from behind a cloud; the clouds were starting to break up, pushed along by constant winds of 10-15 mph. At times, the river is choked with weeds and one must push the paddle on through. It wasn’t too long before we reached the Isabella, and paddled there for a short while…we’d reached Bald Eagle Lake. BE is a large lake, and the winds were having a field day. There were some white caps on the waves, and there were some rollers going. We decided we wouldn’t be heading all across the lake to the portage into Turtle Lake today; we’d just paddle as far as we had to for a campsite. We disagreed on which shore to canoe along; in the end, I deferred to John’s superior paddling experience. It ended up being the wrong choice; he claims the wind shifted after we got out onto BE proper. I think he was just mistaken. ;-) No matter; we didn’t swamp the canoe or get pushed against boulders, though it was some work on our part to avoid these things. We had to paddle our little hearts out. Thank goodness I can paddle fast when needed, if it doesn’t last too long, and John is a consistently strong paddler. He is really a pleasure to canoe with, at least when the winds aren’t blowing so strongly. That is never very fun, no matter the partner. I didn’t like this stretch of paddling one bit, and was getting pretty tired, but the third campsite up on the east shore was open and we claimed it as ours for the night.

First, we ate lunch. We were pretty darn hungry after the morning’s work, though I must say those hashbrowns lasted a good long time. I wish I had some more right now. Anyway, for lunch we had a no-cook freezer bag cooking meal, “Southwestern Chicken and Corn Wraps.” These are delicious! And so easy to make after it’s prepared at home: just add some cold water and let it sit for 10 minutes or so. Drain off extra water, add ranch dressing, spoon onto tortilla, add salsa, and chow down. We really liked this one.

The campsite was obviously well-used, slightly abused, but adequate with a nice fire grate area. The cooking/tarp area had a really nice rock for a table, and there were decent tent pads. After setting up camp, I gave into being tired and took a nap. For two and a half hours. John kept himself busy around camp, perfecting his tarp, the bear-bag hanging system, and pumping water.

I was very refreshed when I woke up, and set about cooking dinner. We discovered our steak still mostly frozen, so we put it in a pan of lake water to speed its thawing. I gathered the rest of the meal, which was two freezer bag cooking dishes: “Buttery Trail Carrots” and “Veggie & Bacon Salad.” We cooked our steak, re-hydrated our sides, and had a fabulous feast. The Veggie & Bacon Salad is particularly good; I would eat it again right now. Yum. For dessert, we had “Piggy Pudding.” This one isn’t so good. At least, we didn’t think so; neither of us cared for the taste of the powdered milk in it. We sat around our fire for a while and enjoyed the lovely evening. The winds had abated, and Bald Eagle was calm again. Peaceful. Serene. We knew there were other people on the lake, but couldn’t hear or see anyone. I would have stayed up later, but John, who hadn’t napped, wanted to go to bed. I didn’t want to sit up by myself. I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but once settled in, I nodded right off, listening to the slight breeze drifting through the cedars.

In the night I had a bit of a nightmare. A bear was getting into our things, digging around right in the vestibule of our tent. Then he ransacked our hanging bag. I kept trying to wake John up to tell him, but couldn’t seem to. Then the darkness of the dream lifted, and the bear started talking to us. He was like kanoes, only in bear form. This board is even invading my dreams![paragraph break] Photos: Ely webcam, at EP84 before departure, landing at camp, fire grate area, tarp/cooking area, steak dinner, view from camp[paragraph break]

 



Day 2 of 6


My son Remy and I, and my friend Keith and his son Charlie put our canoes into Lake one at 9:30 Monday morning after dropping off a car at the Snowbank Lake landing. Lake One can be tricky to navigate. On our way to Lake Two we turned East too early and ended up paddling about a mile out of our way into a dead-end bay before we realized our mistake. We blamed the fact that Lake One was split between Fisher Maps #10 and #4 for our error. If the entire lake had been visible at once on a single map, we would not have made the wrong turn. Once we got back on course we portaged the 30 rods into a pond and then portaged the 40 rods into Lake Two. The weather was nice, and there was a bit of a tail wind out of the West. We stopped for lunch on the shore of Lake Two. After lunch we canoed through the North end of Lake Three and into Lake Four. We stopped for the night at a campsite on the West shore of Lake Four, just North of the channel heading toward Hudson Lake. We had to battle swarms of mosquitoes as we set up the tents. We then had a nice refreshing swim. Because we had brought steaks along for the first night, we didn't go fishing.

On Tuesday morning we had a bacon and eggs breakfast then packed up camp and headed out in our canoes. As we canoed past our campsite, we realized that Remy & I had left our hammocks pitched between trees. We landed again and quickly packed them up. Once again we had beautiful weather. We paddled East and completed 3 short portages before entering Hudson Lake. The 105 rod portage into Lake Insula was exhausting! Lake Insula is a large gorgeous lake broken up by multiple islands and penninsulas. We had lunch at a campsite on a large island just East of Hudson Lake. It felt like we had a tail wind as we were heading East, and then as we turned North it seemed like the wind shifted and was at our backs once again. We navigated Lake Insula flawlessly and camped for the night on the island just West of Williamson Island. After setting up the tents and a refreshing swim, Remy & I got back into the canoe and tried to catch some fish. We had no luck! At 9PM that night, just as we were going to bed, a thunderstorm rolled through. That night I was awakened several times by the loud croaking of bullfrogs from the shallows around our island. What noisy neighbors!

By Wednesday morning the weather had cleared, but the wind was now coming from the Northwest, pretty much in our faces. We paddled to the North end of Lake Insula and tackled the largest portage of our trip. The 180 rod walk to Kiana Lake actually seemed easier than the 105 rod carry into Lake Insula. We headed onward into Thomas Lake where we really started feeling the headwind. We finally made it to the campsite just Northeast of the portage into Thomas Pond in time for lunch. After lunch we proceeded across Thomas Pond and into Thomas Creek after hiking across the famous Kekekabic Trail. We managed to easily run the rapids in Thomas Creek and avoid the 2 short portages. We camped for the night on Hatchet Lake at the northern campsite. It was cool and windy, so we didn't swim. There was lots of threatening weather going by to the North of us, but we stayed dry. After supper we canoed back to Thomas Creek to fish and look for moose. No luck on either count, but we did see a beaver swimmming.

The weather was nice again Thursday morning, but the wind was out of the West which was the direction we were heading. We portaged into Ima Lake and canoed across it. Before portaging into Jordan Lake, we watched a bald eagle sitting in a tree get harrassed repeatedly by a seagull. The narrow channel leading into Jordan Lake is quite beautiful. It is narrow like a river with big rock outcroppings. We paddled across Jordan, Cattyman, Adventure, and Jitterbug Lakes. We found the Eastern campsite on Ahsub Lake taken, so we camped at the Western campsite which had a great place for swimming in front of it. There was a very brave loon in front of the campsite who didn't seem to mind if we got close to it. We tried our luck at fishing, but only caught 1 smallmouth which was too small to eat. Between 5:00 and 7:30 that evening we saw a number of canoes heading across Ahsub Lake from Disappointment Lake to Jitterbug Lake. We weren't sure where they were planning to camp, but it was getting late.

On Friday we awoke again to good weather. We paddled the length of Disappointment Lake and portaged into to Parent Lake and then on to Snowbank Lake. It was July 4th, and as we entered Snowbank Lake the sounfd of firecrackers reminded us we weren't in the wilderness anaymore. After a brief splash war on our way across Snowbank, we made it to the landing and our car was still there. What a great trip!

 



Day 1 of 6


Thursday, August 20, 2009[paragraph break] When I woke in the morning, John had already gotten up and I could hear him messing around with our tarp. I stayed in bed while it was still drizzling out, and let him put the tarp up in a better location. My rain gear was still soaked; he hung a line under some dense pines and we hung some things up. I stayed under the tarp so I wouldn’t get wet. I was not in a happy mood; I still felt very vulnerable. I felt a little better after breakfast (tea and “Breakfast Ramen” … ramen noodles, dried fruit, toasted walnuts, and seasonings… very good). John managed to get a fire going, though it was really pretty lame. It would rain off and on, though mostly a light rain.

Later in the afternoon, quite a while after lunch, my rain gear was just damp, not wet. So we went out in the canoe to try our luck fishing (fishing from shore was futile) and we wanted to check out the campsite next to us. This would be the third campsite in from the portage to Turtle. It had one so-so tent pad (kind of rocky) and a decent fire area, nice view of the lake, but more exposed than our site. We were glad to be camped where we were. It started raining in earnest and we went back to our campsite, with my rain gear once again soaked through and useless. We made supper and went to bed by 8pm. A rather depressing day, all around. The only bright spots were when we watched a merganser family paddling around, listened to the call of the loons, and saw the loon family: mama, papa, and two mid-sized babies.[paragraph break] Pictures: our tarp area, fire grate area, tent pad, island view, grass growing in crack on rock in lake, the clear water of Clearwater, the loon family[paragraph break]

 



Day 3 of 6


Sunday, June 19, 2011

We were always taught when it rains, to never pack a tent wet, but on this trip, we would have gone nowhere if we hadn't done some of that. We managed the moisture the best we could in carefully chosen relatively dry sites, and ultimately probably wouldn't have moved had the rain poured down on us or had it rained continually to the point the temps finally dropped (which it did the last day). We spent a lot of the day trying to wait out the rain, leaving little time for travelling. That night we slept on Hatchet, which was the sloppiest I'd ever seen it with people's trash and handmade statues, with more rain that evening. We woke up the next day to a tent sprinkled in mayflies.  Greg making dinner!

 



Day 5 of 6


Monday, June 20, 2011

We headed through Ima to Thomas so I could begin the long road from beginner to master trout fisherman. [paragraph break]

Anthony, here more than happy to strike a pose! (Disclaimer: I take full responsibility for the frame pack, any other glaring inefficiencies standing in the way of a streamlined fashionable BWCA travel style, but we made it work and could do all our portages in a single trip!)[paragraph break]

Tragedy struck that day in a form I least expected. We decided to do try some trolling for trout. With our line out and us gently moving along, Anthony suddenly says "I could learn to love this." Other fisherman begin moving into the area and then I hang up on a rock. No big deal, so we start to turn the canoe around slowly and then bang, I see the line shoot up the rod towards the rod tip! I sense all my line and lure is gone forever when magically a tiny knot is tied around one of the last eyes and holds tight. I grab the line, and hopeless amateur I am, start putting it in the bottom of the canoe in a big pile. Well that big pile becomes a big knot and we had to pull to a campsite to fix it. I'm in the right place. I know how to get down to the fish. Other people are working the same area, when I hear just the happiest guttural "Yeah!" come from out across the lake. I know what the guy's got, so I work harder at the knot. Not much more than five minutes later I hear "I got another one!" I think I'm going to die now, and irrationally I consider chewing the knot to pieces with my teeth. Well, that knot took two days of my precious time before I gave up on it, and we left the spot, me pouting. Through Fraser up to Kekebabic, we really got into a groove, and covered lots of ground. The weather was relativey nice and Anthony really loved, loved, loved the change from flat to granite cliffs landscape. Kek was gorgeous, the stars came out that night, and Greg was game for some cliff diving.  [paragraph break] Then came the wind.

 



Day 7 of 6


 


Routes
Trip Reports
a
.
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
.
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
x
Routes
Trip Reports
fd
hgc
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports