Thanks everyone for the kind words, we are trying very hard to make everyone's trip enjoyable.
If you are searching, the lake is spelled Pillsbery not Pillsbury...also there's a portage from Pillsbery to Swallow that is not in the right location on any of the maps. If you are at a campsite looking for the portage, get back into the canoe and go 1/4 mile east into that small bay. There's the portage. Lots of folks walk through the campsite with a canoe and get stuck in the trees. All the maps use the same data, and we keep telling the map makers, but they keep printing it incorrectly. Half tempted to move the portage to match the map.
We cleared the portage on Meeds EP 48 (Poplar) so if you can't get a Lizz EP 47 permit there's an option (we didn't make it any shorter, it's still a mile long). I recommend the route from EP 50 cross bay to Poplar because there's so many different routes you can take. The entry at cross bay is gorgeous, especially early in the day, and with Tuscarora close by it's very convenient. They are a great outfitters and know that area very well.
Thanks, tiggy! I enjoyed that trip when I did it; I think you will too. I stayed at Rockwood the night before and they shuttled me to Cross Bay. I've stayed in the bunkhouse several times. It's nice that each one has a private bath with shower.
I like the paddle down from Cross Bay to Long Island. The first portage out of Cross Bay is way around to the right. Head south, swing around ~180, then back around left almost 180 to find it way back in the corner.
boonie, your photos are stunning! Just what the doctor ordered on a cold winter day!
Given all of the input, it looks like there are three excellent campsites for our group of 2 on Omega. Hopefully, we'll get to check them all out and pick the one that looks the best to us. Seems like we can't go wrong!
Here is a link to my Shutterfly albums. The 2012 album is the Cross Bay to Poplar trip. I went in and added captions to the campsite pictures. There are a couple pictures of site #2012 and a couple of #591 in the N bay. Also some pictures of the Long Island-Muskeg-Kiskadinna- Omega portages.
Sometimes you have to take campsite ratings with a grain of salt.
BTW, 2014 Shutterfly album was our Kawishiwi-Malberg-Little Sag-Mesaba- Zenith-Sawbill trip.
I didn't stay at the western Omega site, but I marked it on my map as future interestas I passed by. It felt like a place you would see a lot of wildlife from the campsite, maybe moose.
I think that the west end of Winchell does not get the heavy use the east end does and may offer at good site if Omega is full. I stayed three nights, two days there during a busy late July weekend and no one even paddled down to the west end of the lake. There is a campsite with a very small rock landing area and you have to lift the canoes up an outcrop to get them away from the lake. It is, however, a very nice campsite with nice views from the top and a sheltered fire place. Nice place for a one tent group.
Great to hear! Since there aren't a ton of sites on that lake and we're there over a holiday weekend, I was having visions of having to move onto Henson or take a "site of last resort." Peace of mind knowing 3 of the 4 sites on Omega are viable options.
Yes, it is. It's the first one coming from Kiskadinna. There's a decent space for at least one tent (probably not 4) and a nice rock shelf on the front, IIRC.
boonie: "The western site on Omega is nice enough too if not a big group. I stayed there on my trip. "
boonie, is that site 2012? That's the one site on the lake which seems to have no reviews. If so, glad to hear it's also an option for the two of us!
The western site on Omega is nice enough too if not a big group. I stayed there on my trip.
We’re going in over Labor Day weekend, so I know it will be a bit more crowded than your typical late August/early September weekend. I’ve been a bit anxious about campsite availability, particularly on Omega as there seemed to be only one excellent campsite. I’m thrilled to know 591 is also a good site. Seeing 590 described as “site of last resort” is not promising when you’re planning on spending two nights on that lake! We’re planning on being on Omega Saturday and Sunday, so I’m hoping the weekend crowds will either not have made it that far or already moved on. Thankfully, we don’t hit Horseshoe/Vista until Monday, so the long weekend folks should all be on their way out. Gaskin sounds like a good option if we’re not inspired by what we find open then.
Pillsbury looks interesting. If we run into more traffic than expected, that may be a viable audible. Also something to keep in our back hip pocket as a possible day trip option.
I’m looking forward to working with Mike and Carl at Rockwood. They were very helpful when I called and I’ve seen nothing but high praise on the boards.
The standard set for trip reports is pretty darn high! Will do my best to measure up upon return.
I going to make this my September trip
We did a loop in late August of 2014 from Meeds to Omega, Winchell, Gaskin, Horseshoe and back to Poplar. We really liked the far NE site on Omega (#591) even though it doesn't get the best reviews. When we were there the 'good' site was taken so we ended up at the NE site. It felt very secluded. It's an elevated site but it has very nice landing and a pretty easy walk up with a real nice view and great tent pads.
I also like ducks' recommendation of Pillsbery for solitude. I will spend at least one night there eventually. We didn't see anyone between Meeds and Omega, and very few people from Omega to Winchell to Gaskin. Horseshoe and Caribou were very busy in comparison.
Site 759 on Winchell was also fantastic. The tent pads are on a bit of a slope but that is the only thing negative I can say. Other than that everything is 5 star, even the latrine.
I look forward to a report after your trip ;) Your route is on my short list for my next solo. I've been to the area close to your EP and I've been in the area between Lizz and Omega and all around there multiple times. I would love to see the area between Rib and Omega.
Omega is one of my favorite lakes. I'm a big fan of skinny lakes so I guess that's why I like that area so much because there are many to choose from. As mentioned, Gaskin has many great campsites and Horseshoe is a great area for seeing moose. I was fortunate to see wolves on Horseshoe on an early May solo a few years ago.
Here's a sleeper idea. Pillsbury is a very quiet lake (stayed there for 3 days once and only saw 1 canoe pass through) and has good smallie fishing and we caught enough walleye for a fish fry. Only 2 campsites (1 is really bad) so if the eastern one is open you have a good chance of being alone.
Mike and Carl at Rockwood are awesome to work with. I only use their bunkhouse and still get 5star treatment. If I ever do the route you are doing I'll have them drop me off at EP 50 so I can paddle back to their beach like you are.
One of my favorite lakes is Gaskin. Horseshoe is a nice lake as well. From the middle point of Horseshoe back to Rockwood is under 2 hours. Very easy portages on this last section. There is only once nice site on Vista, if it's taken skip the other two and go back to Horseshoe. On Gaskin #628 is a 5 star site, as is #634. I also like #633. On Horsehoe #674 is nice and is also a prime moose viewing spot. #675 is really nice but after you unload all of your gear thinking you hit the jackpot and start setting up your tent you will quickly find that the whole site slopes one way or another. #673 is a good option. I spent a couple nights at #677 this past fall and really liked it also. Great sunset views at that site. I wasn't a big fan of Caribou because it feels very worn out. I was hoping to do this same route as you in Sept. It may be an option but it would be my 3rd trip back to MN in 2019 and my wife may not be too happy if I do a 3rd trip.
I did the same trip several years ago in late Sept. and enjoyed it immensely. I also laid over on Omega and circumnavigated it. I don't have much to add to what others have already said. Enjoy the trip!
btw, also did the Kawishiwi Lake, Malberg, Little Sag, Sawbill trip a few years ago. Very nice trip - we enjoyed it.
Long Island is great for day trips. Lots of lake to explore. If you wanted to get off of LIL trip down to Gordon is nice with big bluffs, or even Cherokee. The portages to Cherokee are real easy. That said, I spent a half day just wandering around eastern part of LIL and southern Karl on my last trip. There are a couple of campsites in the eastern end of LIL that would get you away from the traffic on the lake. One island site is especially nice.
The Muskeg to Kisskadina portage is really not that bad. I actually enjoyed it, but really took my time. I divided it into three sections and counted paces to figure when to stop. That made it easy. I was double portaging.
Get an early start when heading to your last stop. The Horseshoe/Vista are can be real busy. You may consider Gaskin for your last campsite. There are a bunch of sites there. The day from Gaskin to Poplar isn't too bad.
I did this exact same trip last year. check out the video https://youtu.be/vgHGsV2h7a4
Campsite #771 on vista is one of my favorite in the area.
592 on Omega is really nice too.
also check out 645 on Caribou if the site on Vista is taken. even though it is right across from the Lizz lake portage it has some of the best tent pads i have ever seen in the BWCA, they are almost completely flat.
if you decide to stay on Omega you can always take a day trip down to Winchell and check out the cliffs.
hope this helps
First, thank you all for your previous advice and suggestions. It helped tremendously to help narrow down options on EPs and outfitters for our late August/early September trip.
After a couple phone calls, we ended up calling a slight audible and are planning on doing the Cross Bay (EP 50) to Popular (EP 47) route with Rockwood. Using their bunkhouse helps resolve the “night before” lodging problem and their partial outfitting package is a great fit for our needs. We realize that a couple of the portages are a bit challenging, including “the Wall”.
Our initial thoughts are to spend two nights each on Long Island, Omega, and Horseshoe/Vista. I’ve read through most of the reviews and have some “borrowed” some good ideas. However, I still have a few questions--
1) Any other lakes we should consider to basecamp on?
2) Any recommended day trips from these lakes? We’re thinking about circumnavigating Omega on our layover day there.
3) Preferences on Horseshoe or Vista?
4) Any specific campsites recommended or to avoid? I see there’s a clear preferred site on Omega, but lots of good options on Long Island, Horseshoe, and Vista.
There are two of us (one tent), so we don’t need sites that can fit a large group. No interest in fishing. We’re looking for a bit of solitude, getting to enjoy nature, and relax. Hoping to see a bit of wildlife, but know that’s an extra bonus. We’d prefer to stay off of the big open lakes (e.g, Brule) as I’m not looking to deal with potential whitecaps.
(A trip through Malberg and Little Sag has been added to our “future trips” list.)