sns: "bombinbrian: "The next year we got a PMA permit for Sunday Lake, south of Iron and wouldn't you know we ran into a big boy scout group... "
They were just passing through, going up the Beartrap River from Iron
I’ve gone in Mid May and Mid October out of Sawbill. In May there will always still be people on lakes like Sawbill and Cherokee, but it thins out quick a few more portages in.
I’ve gone mid October and felt like I had the whole place to myself. On my way out I didn’t see anyone from Frost to Sawbill until I got back to the landing.
Being the only one on Sawbill was a unique feeling.
Very true comments on the placement of campsites. There are already a ton of recommendations of places to go for rarer traveled areas. But even on "average" lakes or routes for travel you can find back bays or arms that are off the main route. Malberg would be a good example...those sites in the center of the lake get a ton of use (hopefully not abuse) and it's a main intersection for a lot of route options. But if you go up that NE arm there's a site back behind a point that's not on any route...it's a hidden dead end. So you'd be on sort of a medium lake for busy-ness but could find a site for a night or two if you're passing through that's out of the way and you're a LONG way from any other sites on the lake other than one. (that site nearest the portage is trash and I doubt anyone uses it, so I didn't count it as a nearby site)
The same thing goes for......Lac La Croix. Big lake....could see people here or there. But there's enough islands and points and bays that if you stare at the map long enough you could pick some "favorite" campsites that if open would put you more or less by yourself.
bombinbrian: "The next year we got a PMA permit for Sunday Lake, south of Iron and wouldn't you know we ran into a big boy scout group... "
Were they staying on Sunday without a PMA permit or just passing through? Can't imagine they would have fit in the Sunday site...
Agree with the PMA recommendation for solitude, regardless - if you don't mind the labor!
Same here, very little trash and seldom green branches sawed off.
MooseBones: "Thank you all for your time and suggestions. I will research all of them. Being lifetime Q travelers, we were unaccustomed to having to search for hours to find a campsite. Also, the used toilet paper, beer cans, cliff bar wrappers, sawed off tree branches, the amount of noise from campers late at night....
I could just be lucky, but I haven't experianced any of this. Worst case has been some aluminum foil in the fire or a twist tie on the ground.
We did LIS North, up through Little Loon, Slim, Steep, Beartrack, Finger... We didn't see anyone from Slim until we hit Oyster again.
FYI, I think they named Steep Lake after the portage into it from the north...
The next year we got a PMA permit for Sunday Lake, south of Iron and wouldn't you know we ran into a big boy scout group...
My wife and I once spent 4 days on Alice (yes, Alice) without seeing another canoe. The trick was to camp on the opposite side from the sand beaches. There is one small site that is behind an island and unless you go out into the main part of the lake you have solitude.
The same goes for Insula. This past summer we spent the week at the end of June and saw a few canoes that were a mile away and one that was within a quarter mile. You just have to choose your campsite for solitude, not necessarily the best site.
This past summer we also spent several days on Hudson and saw only a couple canoes from our campsite and only a few more while fishing and they weren't particularly close.
Thank you all for your time and suggestions. I will research all of them. Being lifetime Q travelers, we were unaccustomed to having to search for hours to find a campsite. Also, the used toilet paper, beer cans, cliff bar wrappers, sawed off tree branches, the amount of noise from campers late at night....
Anyway, thank you again for the recommendations. I have also contemplated the Allagash River in Maine, sections 12 and 13, but we are so in love with this area it is hard to change after this many years.
I've had the same experience as Michwall2 - sometimes it's just luck of the draw. I've camped on Alice when I was the only one and the next day only saw one group until I reached my destination - Sagus -only to find it full. Have stayed on Little Sag a couple of times for a couple of nights and were the only ones there as far as we could see. You never know for sure, but the suggestions above will improve your odds.
Speckled, I suppose definitions of solitude vary, but for me, at a minimum, it would be seeing few people and infrequently. Being on a pass-through lake with a bunch of base campers, not really.
Solitude is a crap shoot in the BW. We can point you to places where you are more likely to find fewer people. But, in the long run, we have had solitude in surprising places. And other times, the places where we thought to find many fewer people were packed. Time of year sometimes plays a part, but other times not. Hard work (many portages or longer ones) usually means fewer people, but then again, we have been surprised here too.
And as usage patterns change due to the Covid situation, the usual patterns that we are used to encountering can also be thrown to the wind. Even the FS seems to be at a loss about how to respond or even if it should. Is there more base-camping? It seems so, but then again, some of us are finding more people much further to the interior than we are used to finding. Are those of you who are usual visitors to Q filling more of the interior? Don't know.
I guess that you could employ some of the other strategies suggested here. Find single campsite, dead-end lakes. Choose entries with much fewer numbers of permits. Etc.
I hope your trip this year finds that elusive place.
I'm curious by what's defined as solitude. Is it seeing no one for the duration of the trip? See people only on travel days?
We've gone on around 30 trips over the last 20 years and only once did we have a trip that felt "busy" with people. It was east of the gunflint and campsite availability was an issue.
Our EP's have been spread out as well, with about a 1/3 coming from either Ely, Gunflint or Central BW section. We've gone in on EP's with a couple permits a day to the more popular EP's. We've gone in every month of the summer and as early as fishing opener and as late as the last weekend in October.
I've never had an issue finding solitude. I feel like during the busy times or busier Ep's we typically see one or two parties per day during travel days and rarely see anyone on rest days. Our normal first day probably avgs between 10-12 miles in.
Traveling through non-busy EP's and during non-peak times, we're lucky if we see anyone the entire trip.
I would find a route and plan to layover on lakes with only one site on them. Spend the first day busting butt to get to the interior first. Check the maps as there are many of these lakes with one site.
It’s a fairly simple equation, the harder it is to get there the less people you will see.
If solitude is the number 1 priority a PMA is the only way to go.
If fishing is important you will need to research some lakes that are far from entry points while also being productive.
If there were a perfect lake everyone would camp there LOL.
Good luck in your planning, it can be half the fun!
Summer 2020, I did not meet a single group on a portage when ZI did my loop from EP Bower Trout to EP Ram Lake (these EPs are within walking distance of each other). I camped on Bower Trout, Vernon, Davis, Omega, Horseshoe (only crowded lake I was on), and Ram. I saw lots of campers on Brule but no boats on the water when I paddled through. I had Davis completely to myself, but the portage to get out to Kiskadinna is a BEAR. I paddled Winchell one still morning and did not see a single soul at any of the campsites east of the portage from Omega. Very quiet once I dropped south of Horseshoe.
When my family did the Frost River in July 2020, we didn't see anyone during the day, but could hear some people behind us. When we camped on Afton that afternoon, three other groups came past. Little Sag was surprisingly quiet. Ogish was crazy busy!
We loved our travels through a PMA in 2019, but it was hard work. There is a group on here that has lots of great PMA info.
Lady Chain- Ella and Hazel were both completely deserted when my son and I went thru there last summer. 2 days layover on each one.....not a soul.
Option 1. Lollipop out of Kawishiwi. Day 1 Kawishiwi to Malberg. You will leave most of people behind after Lake Polly. Day 2. Malberg to Adams/Beaver area. This is a seldom visited area off the beaten path. Day 3. Beaver/Adams to Makwa Lake. Very lightly travelled route. Stay on any spot before you get to Makwa for an extra day of solitude. Day 4 - Makwa to Malberg. There may be a few more people but not usually many. Pick any of the smaller lakes along this path for another day in paradise. Last - Malberg to Kawishiwi.
Option 2 - Little Sag Loop. Shuttle from Sawbill to Kawishiwi entry. (you will finish at Sawbill.). Day 1 - Kawishiwi to Malberg. Day 2. Malberg to Little Sag. This is a light travelled path. Check out the canyon along side the portage out the northeast corner of Malberg. Little Sag is a larger lake with many islands and bays that can get you away from the travelled routes. Even with others on the lake, you will feel alone. Stay at least one extra day here to fish or day trip any one of the several lakes to the north and east. Day 3. - Little Sag to Mesaba Lake. This route touches on the Frost River at Whipped and Fente Lakes. Beware the portage from Fente to Hub. This is very lightly travelled space. Mesaba Lake is my favorite spot to stop here, but I have never had much luck fishing it. Day 4 - Leave very early to make your way to Sawbill Lake. The 480 rod portage from Zenith to Lujenida is mostly long. There are few short ups and downs and wet spot in the middle. Stop to see the Viking Dolman along the Kelso river on the way back to Sawbill Lake.
Option 3 - Entry Little Indian Sioux North. Day 1 - Entry to Little Shell or Lynx. Day 2 Lynx to Gebeonequet Lake. You will leave most people behind at Shell Lake. You might run into a few people on Oyster Lake, but we saw no-one after the portage from Oyster to Rocky Lake. Find the small pictograph on the way through Rocky. Gebe is a beautiful spot. Maybe plan to spend an extra day here. Day 3 - Gebeonequet Lake to Fnger Lake. Savor the river paddling along Gebe Creek and Pocket Creek. Pocket Lake is a pretty spot. Do your research to find the campsite on Finger Lake that has pictographs right in the camp!. Spend some time here enjoying the solitude.
Day 4 - Finger Lake to North/South Lake or Snow Bay or Lac La Croix. This is a rollercoaster ride of elevation between lakes. Lots of solitude here. Pick an extra lake to stay on. Day 5 North/South Lake to Pauness Lakes. Day 6 Pauness Lakes out.
Others have suggested either the Louse or the Frost Rivers. Those will definitely give you solitude, but the work is a magnitude higher than all of these.
Yea PMA or something on the interior. Louse river...etc for regular inside the park areas. Little Indian sioux south
Check out the PMA's, not Quetico, but more private.
it is helpful when you are asking for routes if you say:
how many days do you plan to be out?
loop, out-and-back, or base camping?
do you fish? if so, what do you want to catch?
how long of portages are you willing to make?
how many miles is a long day for you?
Solitude is relative, but we found plenty of it when we did long trips, while "having to resort" to the BWCA. However, I think the 2020 season was far more crowded than anything we experienced in the BWCA ever, and if predictions are correct, there will probably be another season like it.
Take long portages, travel to an far-interior lake or do a PMA trip. You may be lucky, or you may be disappointed, but you will still be in a pretty wonderful place, IMHO.
My boys and I are planning another BW trip this spring. We have been to the Q many times over the years and had to resort to the BW. Do you guys have any suggestions for finding solitude in the BWCA? Last year's BW experience was less than ideal..... If you have any particular route suggestions, you can always email me if you are more comfortable with that.
-Thank you, MB