For what it is worth I am leading a scout trip on Moose in August, but not through Northern Tier. As of now, we do not plan to get a tow.
Our (Very) tentative plan:
Day 1(Wed): Paddling out of William and Halls where we will be bunking, shoot for Knife lake near Isle of the Pines. Plan may be adjusted if we take longer than expected to get to Birch.
Day 2: Assuming we made it to Knife, we will spend the day doing day trips, fishing, etc. If not we will travel to Knife. Either way, we should be able to climb up Thunder Point this day.
Day 3: Travel day to Ensign.
Day 4: Day trips from Ensign, fishing, etc.
Day 5: Paddle back to William and Halls.
I have paddled on Moose with favorable winds and it can be a very nice paddle. I have also paddled on Moose with wind shooting up the lake and it is....memorable.
Regarding wind direction, I would bet that there is significant wind blowing SW to NE on the lake 7 days out of 10. 2 days there may be little of no wind, and 1 day where there is wind going the other way.
Many thanks to all your replies. I greatly appreciate all the comments and advice.
While only half of our group has experience in the bdub, they all have at least some watercraft (canoe/kayak) experience. At least half have been through the portaging experience, too -- four of us doing the mile portage on Basswood last year. We'll be meeting later this summer to coordinate our packing/meals/etc, and I'll present this trip to them at that time. I'll look at the return through Vera and Ensign, too. Some new scenery and new lakes would be nice, but I'm not sure they'll want to tackle the longer portages. A good option, though.
We'll definitely keep our options open, and always modify if needed. I'm not one to take a chance with the weather, so if the winds start howling, we'll hunker down till it blows through.
Again, thanks for your replies. It's very useful being able to discuss things here and get information from others who have more experience. Hoping you all have a great summer, and I'll try and post a trip report once we make our trip in September.
I don't understand the aversion to paddle Moose. One of my favorites, right there with PP to Basswood Falls or Bottle River to Snow Bay.
Get the tow. Lol we regretted not getting a tow on the way out, but guess what if you have Verizon you can get service at the drop off point. We called up the outfitter and got a ride back. Thanks to La Tourrells!
I should add I think the tow is necessary if you are trying to push to SAK. If you are just going for the isle of pines area then nah yeah probably not.
I've paddled and been towed. There's nothing WRONG with the paddle, except the motorized zone, IMO, can get a bit hairy with people whizzing around you. Well, that, and in my old age, I kinda like the tow on the way in, at the very least.
One of the most miserable paddles ever was coming back from knife a few years ago. It was rainy, super windy, and cold (upper 40s/low 50s). Wind right in our face, couldn't see much between the rain and the up and down on the white caps...and after we yelled at a boat of drunk (I assume) dudes who buzzed us, they CONTINUED to buzz us (intentionally). That was september :D
jwartman59: "You don’t mention whether the newbies have paddling experience. I highly recommend getting out in canoes prior to paddling moose lake. If moose lake is windy it is not the time to be figuring out the J stroke."it's a good idea if limited paddling experience to get out and practice. One thing to remember; your canoes will be more stable with gear than without. Assuming properly liaded, and not over-loaded. Fortunately, you have a fair amount of time to get prepared. Pete
I may have missed it but one thing folks haven't touched on is efficient portaging. I'd speculate that with a group of 9, some of them first-timers and in 3 man canoes that you will be carrying quite a load. First-timers typically bring way too much stuff so I would monitor that if possible. Personally, I'd have your group limit it to one pack per person with group gear (tarps, cooking pots, etc) shared among those packs and then 2-3 food packs/barrels. Too many packs or loose items and you can't single portage and it makes repacking the canoe a little more time consuming after each portage. Moose Lake to the middle of Knife is 100% doable in an easy day if you get an early start, pack well and portage efficiently. I hope you post a trip report when you get back and let us know how it went.
Have a great trip!
I've never gotten a tow on Moose. I've never gotten a tow anywhere in the BW
Plenty of people don’t get a tow…you will certainly not be alone paddling moose. Canoeist’s will outnumber motors by quite a bit.
I think many get a tow for a variety of reasons. Myself I just don’t consider motorized lakes part of my boundary waters experience. I can paddle with motor boats on lakes with cabins on them at home…I want out of he motor zone as quick as possible and a tow accomplishes that. The motors are here to stay so either I get over it and paddle or I can use one to get away…
Given the description you offer of your group-you should get towed. In a group of 9 there will be multiple variabilities of every kind and with so many with little experience there will, almost certainly, be several "weak links". If the goal of the trip is to maximize frustration and make enemies then have at it and push as many limits as possible. Here, it is better for the go-getters to have to hold back than for the easy-goers to be pushed past their abilities.
That said, if this is a stout, fit group who is better at portaging than paddling go straight up through Vera to the South Arm-in a day.
Otherwise, what is the collective goal of this trip?
Cc26: "Savage Voyageur:It would be $630 for your group to take the tow with a tip.
I tip 20% no matter where the tow goes. Calculate the amount before the trip and collect tip money from group members for both tow out and tow back. Then make one person the tip person. Everyone stores there wallet in the bottom of their packs and not easily available. Most tow guys are young kids working and appreciate the money.
I’ve done it both ways. The tow is certainly nice if you want to get deeper into the BWCA the first night. Last year I soloed out of Moose and paddled. I stated early and was in my camp on Birch around noon. I was tired as I drove straight from Cincinnati. I’m glad I got that sight as there was a constant stream of canoes coming by looking for a site well into dusk. Many looked very disappointed. No one asked to share or I’d of let them. I went to Ottertrack and staged there a spell. I wanted to visit Benny’s old place. Wind was up when I paddled out, but it as fine.
I will say that the towboats can be annoying but most gave me space and were aware of their wake. I’m glad I paddled moose as it is a nice lake and had many open campsite.
Cc26: "Savage Voyageur:It would be $630 for your group to take the tow with a tip.
We do $10/person. Which probably is in the middle, I’m sure there are some that tip more and some that don’t tip at all.
Savage Voyageur:It would be $630 for your group to take the tow with a tip.
What is a good/generous tip amount...say from VCO to Red Rock....asking for a friend...
You don’t mention whether the newbies have paddling experience. I highly recommend getting out in canoes prior to paddling moose lake. If moose lake is windy it is not the time to be figuring out the J stroke.
You can easily paddle Moose; many people do and you will see other paddlers. Regarding the wind, that is something that is uncontrollable, so why worry about it? Part of the enjoyment of the journey is dealing with the unexpected along the way.
I'm with the paddle Moose group. Often enter mid afternoon and camp on Sucker or Birch. Only once did I find wind and waves an issue, returning to EP from PP, but made it just fine ducking behind islands for a break. Never many boats when I've been there, often September.
I just got back from a trip around the Ensign area. We took the tow from LaTourells to the Splash portage, and took the tow after the trip was over from Splash to the outfitter. The reason we take the tow is to get to our campsite early in the morning and then we can fish all afternoon. The reason we take the tow on the return trip is because we all have long drives and want to get back home before dark. I’ve never paddled Moose and I never will as long as a tow is available. On the way back we saw many canoe groups heading into the BWCA going north. They were paddling with the wind to their backs 28 mph. They had 3’ waves that they were trying to paddle in. I also saw one group trying to paddle against the winds and 3’ waves. They were not doing very good as we wizzed by in the tow boat. I’m assuming that cost is an issue for not wanting the tow and I fully understand that. It would be $630 for your group to take the tow with a tip.
If you must paddle this lake you probably won’t have a problem going in, because the winds will be at your back. But coming out you will want to start paddling early and be off the lake by 10:00 AM. I’ve been on Moose many times before and it’s always rocking and rolling from the winds.
Several years ago, took 4 adults, with 4 kids, 15-16 years old, and paddled Moose Lake to Ensign. It is a bit of work with the winds, but if you hug a shoreline heading North, it makes it much easier. As long as you're close to shore, the motorboats aren't a problem, and most of them are pretty considerate, but not gonna lie, some of them can be real jerks! We did take a day to head up to Canada, winds were fierce, waves were bad, and that is when we had the problem with two motorboats. My son had some choice 4 letter words for them as they screamed by us as we were trying to get across through the waves.
I never get tows. Ever. I like paddling. I go to the BWCA to paddle, not to fish so getting a tow would feel like a waste of a great lake. I've paddled Moose, Vermillion, Saganaga, and Seagull.
I did a 2 day, 1 night solo last fall as a quick weekend getaway. Put on Moose Lake at 7:30 am, and went the long way around to Ensign (Moose, Newfound, Sucker, Birch, Frog, Trident, Ensign). Reached Ensign by noon or so. Paddled out the short way the next morning and was on the road back to the Cities by 11:30 am or so. On my way out, I had a pretty steady wind from the southwest. I stayed near shore and used whatever shore features I could to limit my exposure.
I think your trip plan is very reasonable. Watch the weather as you get closer. If there are going to be really strong winds on your entry or exit day, then consider other options. Stay flexible on your plan.
I have done it multiple times. I tend to stick near the shore for calmer water and boat avoidance. You plan is easy enough for a five day trip. Knife is a great destination. Go to Thunder point and Eddy falls for sure. I agree with the returning via Vera comment as well.
More of a concern than the wind is the wind velocity. If the wind is high, your likely hood of tipping a canoe is much greater. The seemingly lack of experience of your group means you should try to stay somewhat close to shore and in the lee of islands in areas where high winds are scooting. If the winds are in a somewhat westerly direction and high, cross over to that side to paddle most of the way up Moose. The sw winds are not at all uncommon in summer months and can often precede a cold front with storms. Having said all that, your chances of having favorable winds are good. If you get high winds, be extra cautious and if possible, have someone in the stern who has some idea of how to handle a canoe and also does not mind giving directions to the other paddlers on which side to paddle on if needed. If totally unexperienced, someone who has good horse sense will pick up the process quickly. If all this seems to scare you, leave very early and the likelihood you will be past Moose before the wind picks up is very good. Good Luck.
Every Northern Tier crew paddles out of base on Moose entries and doesn’t get a tow. You’ll want to paddle up and camp somewhere on Birch day 1. Once you get into the portages going into Knife you don’t have campsites. I’d plan on camping before the Birch Lake to Carp Lake portage.
If things are going well then push through to Knife. My crew with Northern Tier in 2019 paddled that whole way and made it into Knife camping right by the isle of pines on day day 1.
Day 1 Birch Lake. Day 2 and 3 Knife. Day 4 somewhere back towards Moose and then out day 5.
You could swing through to Vera and out Ensign doing a loop. Little longer portages then but both Vera and Ensign are pretty lakes and worth seeing!
I've paddled it. Easily doable and yes there are motor boats going by but they slow down so you don't get rocked by the wake.
Your plan sounds very reasonable.
You can never predict how the wind/weather is going to be that far out.
Generally speaking, the Moose Lake chain is a good long stretch of unobstructed paddling up to the border. The reason most people get a tow is to get to the non-motorized zone quicker. Moose can be like a water highway with boats buzzing back and forth.
When I go in at Moose solo I never get a tow. I go up there to paddle. It is only about 5.5 miles to Indian portage so 3 person canoes can do that easily in 1.5 hrs.
I would go all the way to Knife, it's not that far. Maybe come back through Vera and Ensign if you can do a little longer portaging. Winds are variable but generally from the SW. 3 person canoes can paddle wind easier.
We'll be doing a trip early September. Entry point is locked in for Moose Lake, so looking at options. Most of what I read about Moose Lake trips starts with "got a tow . . . ."
Getting a tow is not an option for our group of nine (three 3-person canoes), and we're locked in for Moose Lake. I want to get the group out of the motor zone, and am thinking of heading up to Knife Lake. I've got a couple questions, and am open to any advice that would help make this trip more enjoyable. About half of our trip will be newbies. I'll be the most seasoned BWCA person on the trip, with only 3 trips under my belt.
1) Does anyone actually paddle Moose Lake? (I'm sure some do, but just finding it frustrating reading the trip reports, all beginning with a tow.)
2) I think I've read that the winds come out of the SW in this area, so that means we'll have wind at our backs going in, but be coming into the wind our whole way out. Is this an accurate assessment of the wind directions for this trip? I know winds can vary greatly, but just wondering what you think winds will be like on Moose, Birch, and Knife this time of year.
3) Does Moose to Knife (up to Thunder Point) sound reasonable for a 5 day/4 night trip? I'm thinking camping one night somewhere between Moose and Knife, two nights on Knife, and then the final night back towards (or on Moose).
Any advice/suggestions would be appreciated.