newguy: "Ducks, I will look for you! Everyone, thanks for the tips and trip reports. Anybody think it's worth pushing down to Vista or Gaskin instead of stopping on Horseshoe? Specifically thinking of MNLindsey's report about Horseshoe's crowds."
From my experience Gaskin is also a very popular lake and I've had times when I was not able to find an open site on that lake. Given you're on a popular route get an early start the first day and then be flexible. If you come across a campsite that you like then take it regardless of what lake its on. If it ends up being earlier in the day than you planned then you'll just have more time for fishing, swimming, and day trips. If needed you can make it all the way down to Gaskin if you don't find any sites open before that.
When traveling in a popular area during a busy time of year its best to have a rough plan in mind but remain flexible and open to change. If you encounter anyone going the opposite direction at a portage they can be a good source of info on campsite availability that can help you decide if you should push on or take whats available.
Ducks, I will look for you! Everyone, thanks for the tips and trip reports. Anybody think it's worth pushing down to Vista or Gaskin instead of stopping on Horseshoe? Specifically thinking of MNLindsey's report about Horseshoe's crowds.
Be prepared to love the owners of Rockwood. They helped us get in our canoe, gave us clea rand concise directions to the EP, and pushed us off. When we returned they were there to greet us on the shore, and helped us get out.
We basecamped on Horseshoe #672. It was quite nice.
We day tripped to Vista, and wished we would have camped at campsite #771. Absolutely gorgeous. The portage landing on Vista from Horseshoe is SUPER rocky, so be prepared to do gymnastics, or just get your feet/legs wet.
Here's our trip report/blog post from that trip.
Be prepared for that area to be really busy during the time you are there. Two portages to Caribou + one of the busiest times of the year = a lot of people. My point is that you may not have much of a selection of sites, so you may be wise to take what you can find.
Hey newguy.. I've been to the area multple times and have done many trips with each of my daughters(14 and 12) and just so happen will be staying at a cabin at Rockwood next week. If I see you around the grounds Wed. we can chat and I can point out lots of stuff on your map.
I'll have a flying moose hat on and will be there with my wife, daughters, baby boy Bruin, and black lab Echo. Echo likes playing w the resident dogs and the girls love the SUP and kayaks so I'm sure we'll be by the outfitters building here and there.
I was the first one to stay on the Caribou site across from the Lizz portage this year. It was a mess. The fire grate was ripped out and moved. If you have a tent that needs to be staked down it is difficult because of the boulders. The only reason I stayed there was I needed a quick exit the next morning. I would go to Horseshoe or Gaskin.
tashit: "nofish: "
Ah yeah I misread that. With that site in mind then I would agree. Nice site but too close to the portage.
This statement was about the site just north near the portage to Lizz Lake (#645).
This is the site we stayed at several years ago. You are correct, it wasn't a site for fishing or swimming from shore. My only other complaint was that it was easy to see the site to the east and the group there was a little on the loud side, although they did quiet down at dusk. Otherwise we thought it was a pretty nice site.
My wife and I just did this exact trip with my 6 year old daughter last week.
We were aiming for a basecamp on Horseshoe but opted for the last site on Caribou across from the horseshoe portage. We investigated many of the sites on Horseshoe during the trip and the site we had on Caribou was better than all of them. The only complaint we had about the site on Caribou was that it lacked logs around the fire grate to sit on but there was a nice table top rock to use for cooking over the stove. The site on Caribou has good access for swimming and also had good fishing from shore in the evening (walleye, perch, and smallmouth). Also good fishing close by just east of camp further back in the bay.
The portage to Horseshoe is close by but the statement that you can toss a football to people at the portage is a pretty big overstatement. We could see people at the portage but it was maybe 2-3 groups per day not a steady stream. Measuring on google maps the portage is actually a smidgen over a quarter mile away from the campsite on Caribou. At the very closest point in the typical paddle route I doubt anyone came within 200 yards of our camp so it we pretty quiet. From a privacy and noise stand point the site on caribou is better than any site on Horseshoe as every group we saw at that portage would have paddled within 50 yards of most of the campsites on Horseshoe since its such a skinny lake.
The best site we saw on Horseshoe was south of the portage from caribou on a point on your right as you paddle south. It had a nice area for tent pad but it was at the base of a hill so if there was a lot of rain you may have water running down hill toward the tent. The water access was ok but it was shallow and weedy so fishing and swimming from camp wouldn't be as easy or pleasant. The next best side looked to be the site on the left as your headed south from the portage but it was full so we didn't get a chance to check it out. The other site further south was back in the trees with only a small access path to the lake. Paddling by was also very buggy with hoards of biting flies so I have no idea how the group staying there tolerated it being back in the trees with no breeze.
We paddled Horseshoe a few times during our trip and didn't see any wildlife down that way. We did have a group of baby loons hanging around our camp the entire time we were there. We'd see them off and on all day long swimming right along shore all around camp. We also talked with a group at one of the portages during a day trip and they saw a mom and baby moose swimming on Caribou one afternoon.
Initially we hesitated taking the site on Caribou since we wanted to go further before setting up camp but having paddled Horseshoe and checking out several campsites we were happy with our decision to take the site we did.
I took my wife and daughter (then 6 years old) to Horseshoe a few years ago - mid June. We stayed at site 674, which was a really nice site. The water around the site was quite shallow, so we didn't do any shore fishing. But there was a mom and baby moose that spent the nights just outside camp and swam across the lake each morning. Lots of other wildlife in and around camp too. We saw more moose in the narrows to Vista.
We didn't fish as much as we wanted on Horseshoe, but caught some nice walleye in the bays just southwest of camp. Better fishing was in the channel to the Brule River in the southeast arm of the lake and below the falls at the portage into Vista.
We did not fish Vista, but we had a picnic at the top of the island just NE of the southernmost campsite. Easy climb to the top and great views of the lake.
Misquah was my favorite lake in the area. We trolled around for a couple hours, and my wife hooked into 2 good fish, but they both unbuttoned before we could identify them. If you want solitude and good views of the tall hills to the east, this is a good place to venture. The portage in is up hill, rocky, full of roots and mosquitoes, so most people avoid it.
This is great advice so far, thanks everyone!
Your timing would probably have to be about perfect to get the southern site on Vista but if it worked out you would be happy. Great site, beautiful lake and good walleye fishing too. The problem is if that is taken you could take the western site which is actually nice once you get up to it, but the landing and approach are not good at all. The site in the long narrow arm in the NW corner is the worst site i have ever stayed at in the BWCA, but we did because we were wanting the southern site - which we got the next morning. There are some small islands mid lake just to the north of the western campsite that we have fished with very good luck, just drifting with a jig and leech. I have heard people say that the fishing is better on the north side of Vista but we have never needed to go that far. But you could also potentially end up having to backtrack to Horseshoe if you don't like the high western site.
Horseshoe is a great lake, as folks have said. Unique and good chance of seeing moose but it is also a decent fishing lake for walleye. If you end up on Caribou one of the western sites might at least keep you out of the main traffic flow. There are some nice sites on Caribou and a few canoes passing by in the distance have never bothered me. Typically you will enjoy peace and solitude at the key times of the day, early morning and early evening and that is enough for me. Sometimes anyways.
Another idea would be to head west from Caribou to Meeds Lake, over a couple short portages and through a narrow river like waterway which is kind of neat. There are 3 sites on Meeds and the first two island sites are both nice. The 3rd one is also reportedly pretty good although I have never seen it. The fishing on Meeds is excellent for smallmouth and decent for walleye as well.
You really can't go wrong as long as you find a decent site somewhere in this area - as said getting an early start gives you more options. Have a great trip.
As others have said, get up early. There are fish around, but August can be very tough in that area. Bring leeches. No bluegill that I know of. Moosey area. Get up early for that too. Have fun!
I would second BigTim that you basecamp on Horseshoe. The three sites in the middle (two on the peninsula and the one opposite) are the coveted sites, good for moose viewing. The site on Caribou right across the portage from Lizz is quite nice, but it's...right across the portage from Lizz. You could toss a football to folks on the portage landing. That said, when I stayed there during a short solo trip, it was wonderfully peaceful at night. The southern site on Vista is the best; the other two are so-so. Misquah, just south of Vista, has sort of a cool but eerie vibe. However, the lone site is not good. If you do press on to Gaskin, site 634 on the western end is maybe my favorite BWCA site.
Leave early because Caribou will be crowded. There is in my opinion only one good site on Vista but if you can get it you will like it. Horseshoe is nice too and an easy trip from Rockwood.
You could push on to Gaskin. That's a great lake with several nice sites.
Get up early on the 1st. Horseshoe is pretty popular because it's pretty easy to get there. I suggest you base camp there - hit Vista one day and Caribou another for fishing. Walleye are in Caribou - fish the deeps that time of year. I've caught bass and northern on Vista - both with spinners. The paddle down toward Vista is prime moose viewing. Be quiet and paddle slow around those bends. We'll be in that area in early Sept. Horseshoe may be our favorite lake. Plenty of day trips can be made from there. Have a blast.
I leave for a trip with my brother and my daughter (10 years old, first trip) for a 3-night trip. We're staying at Rockwood Lodge Outfitters on Poplar Lake and entering the morning of August 1 with a Swamp/Lizz permit. I planned to base camp on Horseshoe on the assumption we (and especially my daughter) might have a better chance at seeing wildlife.
1. Would anyone recommend Caribou or Vista instead of a base camp on Horsehoe?
2. Any campsites you might recommend on any of these lakes?
3. I'll ask in the Fishing thread as well, but any fishing recommendations? I usually target walleye for a meal, love an accidental smallmouth, don't particularly like pike in my boat, and I'm sure the kiddo loves catching bluegill but hasn't had a chance for some of these larger fish. Horseshoe seems pretty shallow but fishing day trips are a great chance to see a neighboring lake.
4. Any fun sights or activities? I'm fine if it's "only" the wilderness.
5. Any final advice for a kid's first trip? I think we're pretty well prepared from a previous thread.