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Date/Time: 06/14/2024 11:53PM
Louse River Route

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Previous Messages:
Author Message Text
joeandali 01/11/2024 11:53AM
airmorse: "airmorse: "joeandali: "Did the route clockwise this past August. There are some harder than average portages along the route, but the river is very pretty and you should not see very many people. Here is my trip report Louse Trip Report "




Nice report. Thanks for the info."




Can you approximate where on Zenith the plane crash is. I would like to check that out."



The portage from Duck puts you into a bay. Paddle to the main portion of the lake and go left (northeast). You can see the metal from the plane on your left, on the peninsula separating the bay from the main lake.
RoundRiver 01/10/2024 10:28PM
This is one of the absolute best, most beautiful, and remote routes in the BWCAW. Why on earth would you want to rush through it? Take it slow and soak it in. I did it years ago and have been wanting to do it again for many years. But do not want to do this one solo and have a hard time finding the right person who will take a week off to do it.
sconnie84 01/10/2024 02:28PM
cowdoc: "ok......did the math. Kawishiwi to Polly to Malberg......added 2.5 for Malberg to Trail. Comes close to 10 hours. "


Thanks! This is great info. So I am gathering that it is a much shorter trip to get to Trail Lake (and maybe possible in one day depending on beaver dams, water levels, etc) from EP 38 then EP 39. That helps a lot!
Minnesotian 01/10/2024 11:54AM

Great route, one of my favorites. However, the ease of doing this route, especially the actual Louse River section, is highly dependent on water level and beaver activity. Oh, and amount of lily pads growing especially on Bug Lake.


Going from Wine to Malberg in one day (either direction) is plausible, but I would put Trail Lake in the plans as a backup destination depending on how the day goes.
cowdoc 01/10/2024 10:45AM
ok......did the math. Kawishiwi to Polly to Malberg......added 2.5 for Malberg to Trail. Comes close to 10 hours.
cowdoc 01/10/2024 08:35AM
I also have a Kawishiwi to Malberg trip.....if I get bored later I can check my journal times and add the 2-2.5 hours on to get an estimate that way.
cowdoc 01/10/2024 07:57AM
sconnie84: "For those who have done this route, does anyone have an estimate of how long it took you to reach Trail Lake from EP 38? I'm wondering if it's possible to get there in one day. Also, is it any faster or slower to get to Trail Lake from EP 37? Any insight would be appreciated!"


This got me thinking so I went back through my trip journals. Two tandems and 4 experienced trippers took a little over 6 hours to get from Sawbill to island site on Wine. This wasn't race pace....we checked out Kelso Doleman and some other things but we still make good time. We layed over a day on Wine and that is where my watch broke but I still have some good time estimates from getting time off weather radio. My journal says we left Wine at 7:30ish and got to Malberg about 6:00. We checked out 2-3 sites on Malberg, unpacked, got weather radio out,etc....so, subtract half hour to hour gives you 9-10 hours for Wine to Malberg via Louse River. Again, we moved along that day but did some sight-seeing and some portage hunting. I have a blurb in the "portage and campsite" forum describing most of the portages along the Louse if you care to read it.
I'm going to estimate that Trail to Malberg was close to 2 hours....maybe 2.5 so thats 7.5 to 8 from Wine. Doing the math from Sawbill to Trail says about 14 hours as a pretty good estimate then.
Ten hours is a long day.....14 is really long. Depends on how much is paddling vs portaging and how rough portages are. Hope this helps.

Portage into Trail....lake upper right

South end of Trail looking north

South end of Trail looking west to portage
Michwall2 01/10/2024 07:28AM
airmorse: "airmorse: "joeandali: "Did the route clockwise this past August. There are some harder than average portages along the route, but the river is very pretty and you should not see very many people. Here is my trip report Louse Trip Report "




Nice report. Thanks for the info."




Can you approximate where on Zenith the plane crash is. I would like to check that out."



Check out the maps section of this website. Use the Sawbill Lake Entry and work north to Zenith Lake. You will see a blue dot just east of the little bay where you find the Zenith/Duck portage. When you are there start at that bay and work your way east. As I remember, you can see it from the water. Or at least you will see a spot where the vegetation has been trampled to get up to it.
YardstickAngler 01/09/2024 10:41PM
sconnie84: "For those who have done this route, does anyone have an estimate of how long it took you to reach Trail Lake from EP 38? I'm wondering if it's possible to get there in one day. Also, is it any faster or slower to get to Trail Lake from EP 37? Any insight would be appreciated!"


I left the Sawbill landing at 5:20 AM and by the time I made it to Wine, I was happy to call it a day. Especially considering the portages on the east end of the Louse, there’s no way I’d personally consider Sawbill to Trail in a single day. I’m not the speediest traveler by any means, but I kept moving along with just one short breakfast break and it took me over 8 hours to reach camp on Wine. Maybe if I was part of an extremely capable and motivated tandem crew that was in a hurry for some reason, I’d stretch for Trail. But as much as I like to travel, I don’t want to travel that hard.


It looks like it would be (just slightly) less time and distance to reach Trail from EP 38 Kawishiwi, but still a very long haul with at least a couple portages on the Louse portion that are more rugged. I also prefer to travel downstream on the more rugged rivers (Louse, Frost) versus upstream. Louse flows east to west.
sconnie84 01/09/2024 09:59PM
For those who have done this route, does anyone have an estimate of how long it took you to reach Trail Lake from EP 38? I'm wondering if it's possible to get there in one day. Also, is it any faster or slower to get to Trail Lake from EP 37? Any insight would be appreciated!
airmorse 01/09/2024 09:31PM
airmorse: "joeandali: "Did the route clockwise this past August. There are some harder than average portages along the route, but the river is very pretty and you should not see very many people. Here is my trip report Louse Trip Report "



Nice report. Thanks for the info."



Can you approximate where on Zenith the plane crash is. I would like to check that out.
airmorse 01/09/2024 09:29PM
joeandali: "Did the route clockwise this past August. There are some harder than average portages along the route, but the river is very pretty and you should not see very many people. Here is my trip report Louse Trip Report "


Nice report. Thanks for the info.
joeandali 01/09/2024 06:46AM
Did the route clockwise this past August. There are some harder than average portages along the route, but the river is very pretty and you should not see very many people. Here is my trip report Louse Trip Report
Michwall2 01/08/2024 06:59AM
airmorse: "cowdoc: "Me (57 at time), and my kids in there 20s did Wine to Malberg in a day. I gave them the option to stop at Trail but they chose to go to Malberg. Long day but not grueling. "



Thanks Cowdoc. I'll be mid 50's as well. Planning on this being a solo. It's always a time factor with me. I don't want to blast thru these areas and not enjoy them. Yet want to make good progress as I have to fit this in my vacation time off.



So am inclined to do Wine Malberg in one day as well.



Thanks again. "



For me it wasn't just the day from Wine on. It was the combination of coming over the Lujenida/Zenith portage (first day/no portage legs/full food pack) and then diving into the Louse River route. I was also in my early 50's when we did this route. And it is not just the stamina, there are also navigation challenges in the route. There are beavers at work too. This all takes time. I wouldn't go into this route with the requirement that I finish in one day. If you want to make it a challenge, then go ahead, but not a death march.


This is also not mentioned in most places, but the route from Wine to Bug Lake is highly dependent on the beaver dams. Several years back the only way in and out of the Louse River on the east end was through Mesaba/Dent Lakes. A beaver dam had blown out between Wine and Bug. It was several years before the Wine/Bug route was active again.
airmorse 01/04/2024 08:25AM
cowdoc: "Me (57 at time), and my kids in there 20s did Wine to Malberg in a day. I gave them the option to stop at Trail but they chose to go to Malberg. Long day but not grueling. "


Thanks Cowdoc. I'll be mid 50's as well. Planning on this being a solo. It's always a time factor with me. I don't want to blast thru these areas and not enjoy them. Yet want to make good progress as I have to fit this in my vacation time off.


So am inclined to do Wine Malberg in one day as well.


Thanks again.
airmorse 01/04/2024 08:24AM
YardstickAngler: "



Did you do this trip? How was it. Trip report?




Thinking of doing this solo. Possibly clockwise. But could be convinced to do it counterclockwise.




Thx."




I did it last year as my first solo counterclockwise out of Sawbill and absolutely loved it! Here is my trip report. 2023 Louse River Solo "



Nice report. Thank you.
cowdoc 01/03/2024 06:32PM
Me (57 at time), and my kids in their 20s did Wine to Malberg in a day. I gave them the option to stop at Trail but they chose to go to Malberg. Long day but not grueling.
YardstickAngler 01/03/2024 02:27PM



Did you do this trip? How was it. Trip report?



Thinking of doing this solo. Possibly clockwise. But could be convinced to do it counterclockwise.



Thx."



I did it last year as my first solo counterclockwise out of Sawbill and absolutely loved it! Here is my trip report. 2023 Louse River Solo
airmorse 01/03/2024 11:45AM
A1t2o: "How tough is the Louse River? Could I make it from Wine to Malberg in a day without killing myself in the process? The guys that might go on this trip are between 30 and 40, mostly dad bod's, but still in reasonably good shape.


I know the river route is going to be a pain with down trees, beaver dams, and so on, I just wonder how bad it will really be. I know that one day is probably unrealistic, but would it still suck to do it in 2?


I'm looking at a loop through Louse River and the Lady Chain to start and end in Sawbill."



Did you do this trip? How was it. Trip report?


Thinking of doing this solo. Possibly clockwise. But could be convinced to do it counterclockwise.


Thx.
StLouisPaddler 01/13/2022 06:50PM
We went east to west in August. I don’t recall much of a current at the time. You could certainly go the other way as long as you don’t mind going uphill over the beaver dams.
straighthairedcurly 01/12/2022 09:45PM
I did it west to east in late June (low water year). Honestly, I never had an area that I noticed the current or wished I was going the other way.
cyclones30 01/12/2022 05:32PM
You are correct, it flows into Malberg. I've only done the lower reaches of the Louse (from Malberg to Bose/Frond and back) and there were quite a few areas where you didn't even really notice current. But there were also plenty of pinch points and narrows where doing one direction vs the other is noticeable. This was in spring when the water was just barely high enough to skip the portage on the Malberg end...not crazy high water but not summer/fall lows either.
Michwall2 01/12/2022 04:15PM
Yes. Louse flows east to west into Malberg.


The biggest deterrent to going west to east is always having to pull your canoe up all those beaver dams. There are a couple darn big ones along the route. All those narrow spots along the river from Malberg to Frond would give me pause going up the beaver dams.


I also think there are likely to be more route finding challenges going upstream, but that's me. Going downstream you pretty much paddle until you can't go any further. Going upstream sometimes the portage ends are tucked in downstream from the real paddling fault. So you end up backing up and searching for the portage end. Others may have different observations on river travel.


A1t2o 01/12/2022 11:57AM
The Louse River flows east to west, right? Is there any reason I should go the other way? I read the report in the link and I was thinking that if there is little to no flow on the river then doing the loop in that direction might give me a lighter food pack on the more remote portages.
StLouisPaddler 01/11/2022 10:05PM
I agree with the comments so far. We did Louse last summer. We went from Wine to Trail and stayed on Trail then went to Malberg the next day. It was beaver dams all over the place for those two days. I would not have wanted to try it in one day. If you break it up, consider staying on Trail. We took the north campsite and had good fishing in the bay at the north end.
straighthairedcurly 01/11/2022 09:26PM
I just did the Louse River route last summer. It helped to have some great portage details from other folks on this site. The notes were invaluable at saving me time. Despite that I still have one portage that I never found exactly.


I decided to split the Malberg to Wine distance into 2 days since I don't like to run myself into the ground and I wanted to be able to enjoy the solitude of the Louse River. However, adding up my travel times of 3.5 hours (Malberg to Trail) and 4.5 hours (Trail to Wine...including searching quite awhile for that portage mentioned and having to backtrack for a lost map). So if I had done it in a single day, it would have been 8 hours. BTW, that was single portaging and paddling solo. A long day, but doable. If double portaging, I don't think I would recommend doing it in one day. The portages between Wine and Trail are a lot tougher than those between Trail and Malberg.


Here is a link to my trip report on this route: All Loused Up
Michwall2 01/11/2022 01:46PM
I have read of those who have done it in one day. I would not recommend it.


Please check with your outfitter about this route. Beavers change the length and number of portages all the time through here. These are my recollections from about 10 years ago.


We did it as you are projecting to - east to west: Wine to Malberg. Day 1 Sawbill, Kelso River, Kelso Lake, Kelso River, Lujenida Lake, Zenith Lake, Frederick Lake, Wine Lake. I am assuming double portaging. The long paddles from Sawbill entry to Kelso River/Lake and up the Kelso River to Lujenida will have you ready to get out and walk by the time you get there. Remember that your food pack(s) will be at their heaviest and you will not have your portage legs yet. The 480 portage will take several hours to complete. Make sure you fill your water bottles to the brim. The route from Zenith to Frederich usually has at least one pull over in it. Not a beaver dam, but not a clear paddle straight through either. By the time you get to Wine Lake you will be tuckered out.


Day 2. Wine, Mug, Poe, Louse, Louse River, Bug Lake, Louse River (with 3 portages), Trail Lake. Beware the portage from Wine to Mug Lake. The Mug Lake end has a very steep and slippery rock face ending. If you have high water look for the waterfall (or double waterfall in very high water) to the left of the portage on Mug Lake (Almost to the west end?). The portage from Poe Lake to Louse lake is entirely a rock garden. As in you have to think about every foot placement or you will break an ankle rock garden. Go as far as you can down the lake and the portage is on your right. It is not always apparent, but get out and look, it's there. The portage from Louse Lake to Louse river starts the same as the last, rock garden. But the rocks get fewer and fewer as you go. There was a very large beaver dam a couple hundred yards upstream from Bug Lake. Bug Lake is a lily pad garden. Very lovely. You do more walking than paddling on the next segment of the river. Somewhere along here is a very lovely meadow with a tamarack grove all along the north side of the meadow (back aways.). The last portage has a ravine you will have to navigate through. Put the canoe down. Climb down, pull the canoe in after you, put the canoe on the other side (15-20 feet), climb up, pull the canoe up and restart your walk. By the time we got to Trail Lake we were all in.


By the way, I saw a picture of one of the biggest northern pike I have ever seen taken on Trail Lake. It was on the Sawbill Canoe Outfitter website several years ago.


There were several places along this day where we thought, does the portage continue over that rock garden ahead of me? It looks like it might, but you missed the turn onto what looks like a game trail back about 15-20 feet. I had to put a pack down and help the canoe carrier get the canoe back to where we knew was portage trail and then look around for that game/portage trail. This happened at least twice. We started scouting some spots without the gear to avoid this. But, that takes time.

Day 3. Tail Lake, Louse River (5 portages), Boze Lake, Pond, Frond Lake, Louse River, Malberg Lake. All the portages through this section are affected by beaver work. We went in Aug of a low water year. Most of ours were longer. Ask your outfitter about the Boze to Frond section. I think there may be a portage that goes all the way from Boze to Frond skipping the pond. We didn't find it, but others told us it was there. When we went all of the narrow sections of the river had a beaver dam in them. We pulled over at least 4-5 dams between Frond and Malberg. Others have reported paddling through. Some trip reports say that in higher water you can skip the last portage into Malberg. We could not.


The last day was over before we were ready to stop, but we wouldn't have made it all the way in one day. Besides, we had one of our most magical BW moments while camping on Trail Lake.


We had another trip on the Louse planned about 5-7 years later, but it was scuttled by an equipment failure.


Hope your trip over the Louse River is a great as ours was.
A1t2o 01/11/2022 12:40PM
How tough is the Louse River? Could I make it from Wine to Malberg in a day without killing myself in the process? The guys that might go on this trip are between 30 and 40, mostly dad bod's, but still in reasonably good shape.

I know the river route is going to be a pain with down trees, beaver dams, and so on, I just wonder how bad it will really be. I know that one day is probably unrealistic, but would it still suck to do it in 2?

I'm looking at a loop through Louse River and the Lady Chain to start and end in Sawbill.