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JSterling
 
01/11/2019 02:50PM
Hi Everyone,
Sorry for the long first post. I am working on planning my first trip. We are a group of 4 that has a good bit of outdoor experience with some canoe experience, but we live on the east coast, so we have not made it up to Minn before now. We are looking at a 10 day trip in early August. I wanted to see if anyone had any recommended routes for us. We would be traveling most days, but not planning to push very hard each day. Our top priority is probably nice scenery and experiencing what the area has to offer. We would also be fishing, primarily for smallmouth and pike. We are hoping to avoid larger lakes where we would have to deal with wind/waves and long crossings.
After a bunch of reading, this is a route I am looking at...EP50 from Ham, heading down to Long Island, then heading east to Omega, up to Meeds and Caribou, down to Gaskin, then Winchell to Davis to Cone lakes and Cone Bay on Brule, then to Cherokee, then back up to Long Island and out (with a possible detour to Snipe). Any general thoughts on this route? Is it going to be hard to find a campsite near Poplar and Brule in August? Any particular lakes near this route that are especially nice?
Is there another route (particularly on the western side) that you think would be better? Thanks for all you help!
Justin
 
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01/11/2019 04:35PM
Last June I did a route through Knife Lake that was just right for 9 days, would be great with 10. No travel day was longer than 6 hours total, double portaging, not rushing, taking our time to enjoy the sights and a breather from harder portages). I ended up doing 2 trips through Knife last year and will definitely be back. Beautiful area with tons of fish around and super clean water.

Now, I know you want to avoid big water, but for the most part, the crossing of large bodies of water is pretty tame in this route compared to trying to cross Basswood, Seagull, Saganaga, or Brule. If you take the tow on Moose you'll save basically an entire day of paddling, especially if it's windy. On the big water for this route, you'll be pretty close to shore for most of it, so you can pull over if wind/waves get bad.

* Stay at Moose Lake with an outfitter right on the lake
* Get a tow to Birch Lake
* Head down to Knife, stay somewhere in the middle (great fishing all along Knife, very clear water and beautiful area)
* Head down to Kekekabic, ideally through Eddy to see the falls (awesome laker fishing, beautiful rolling hills, ultra clear water)
* Kek to Fraser (beautiful area, isolated travel day, more lakers)
* Fraser to Ima (also quite beautiful, portages get easier the closer to Ensign you get)
* Ima to Ensign (easy portages, less clear water, still beautiful, Jordan area is lovely and Cattyman Falls are a must-see)
* Ensign out to the Splash Lake portage, catch a tow back

I think the route in total is something like 40-42 miles when double portaged. We didn't have to push super hard on any of the travel days. I thoroughly enjoyed this route and might even do it again with some relative newbies because it was about intermediate for required strength and endurance, with good payoff.

Here's 2 photos of Kekekabic for you! It was day 3, had been cloudy and windy the whole time... and then........!



sedges
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01/11/2019 06:47PM
https://bwca.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=trip.report_view&sel_trp_id=5295

Journal from a very similar trip 10 day trip. I started at Round and went through Snipe and exited at Ham and Cross River Access. Reverse of your trip trip. You would definitely have time to do the farther east run to Gaskin. Caribou, Gaskin, Winchell, Brule and Cherokee will be busy in August.

You are not traveling a long route, so you could stop and get a campsite early, like by early afternoon. I was in camp before noon a couple of days. That eases the risk of find all sites full. Try to get through Brule early in the day. Long Island/Karl lakes are fine place to take a break for a day or two. You will be traveling through there twice.

This is a gorgeous route with both old forest and young forest recovering from burns. I'm not a fisherman, so no help there, but I did see folks catching fish regularly on the route.

If you are needing an outfitter. Tuscarora Outfitter is convenient to the route and great folks with good service and equipment. They have bunkhouse, great breakfast. Round Lake Access and Tuscarora Outfitters are just a short walk from the Cross River Access if you choose to start at one and end at the other. I pay the $5/night to park my car there if I am using either Ham or Missing Link entry.
01/11/2019 07:41PM
That would be a good trip and you should be able to cover it without trouble. I've been over most of it - all except for the Winchell to Cherokee section. I've also entered there and exited at Round several times - just about a 10-15 minute stroll to Cross Bay.

The nice thing about a 10-day trip is you can cover quite a bit of territory, even if most days means 7 and not pushing it means 4-5 hours, you'll still cover 8-12 miles a day. That's figuring double portaging; single portaging you'd cover a lot bigger loop.

You could enter there and head west too for a nice trip.

A good option on the Ely side would be Little Indian Sioux River North (LISN) (EP #14) with a loop N then E, S, W. You could slip out on LLC to see the pictos on the E, even go over as far as Iron Lake. Something like Little Loon, North, Finger, LLC (pictos), Iron, Agnes, Oyster, LISN.
01/11/2019 08:56PM
+1 on what Boonie said. I have not been to that particular area but looking on a map that looks like a great plan and you avoid big water. There are ways to extend or shorten your travel miles which is ideal if the fishing is on or off, or weather. There are tons of potential 10 day trip routes in the BW, but your plan is solid. I would go with your idea.
01/11/2019 09:43PM
you say Winchell to Davis (and then the Cones).....are you going through Cliff and North Cone to Davis....and then back out again? Davis is gorgeous but only has 2 sites, but not many people go in there. East site is the nice one. Long haul in there and back out if its full. Decent trail but a pretty good up and over.
01/11/2019 09:52PM
also, beware of the 93r from Pillsbury to Swallow. Mismarked on many maps. It starts about 100 yards east of where it is marked on most maps.
mooseplums
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01/12/2019 08:28AM
I think the trip you laid out is a great route....bear in mind, that Meeds, Caribou, and Gaskin are usually fairly busy, and finding a campsite may be tricky...particularly Caribou, and Gaskin.
01/12/2019 02:52PM
I love your route, some of my favorite parts of the park. We have been to Cherokee three times; it is my all-time favorite lake.
JSterling
 
01/12/2019 03:20PM
Wow! Thank you everyone for your replies.

flynn - That sounds like a great trip. Thanks.

sedges - Thanks for the link to your trip report, it looks like you had a great trip. Thanks for the pointers. If we go with this route, we will work with Tuscarora Outfitter. They were super nice when I called to ask some questions yesterday.

boonie - It's funny that you mention the EP#14 trip. After talking with VNO, I am intrigued by that trip or a similar trip of starting there and making our way up to Gun and LLC and then going back down south to Green, Oyster, Nina Moose and out EP #16.

cowdoc - I was looking at the overview map on the back of a Voyager map when I was listing the lakes and the overview map shows portgages from Winchell to Pup and then Pup to Davis. These do not show up on the detailed Voyager map. Thanks for pointing this out and the heads up about the Pillsbury to Swallow portage.

minnmike and Spartan2 - Thanks for your responses.

mooseplums - Thanks for the heads up about the busy lakes.

JSterling
 
01/12/2019 05:33PM
Does anyone have any thoughts on the major differences between the trip I originally posted about and a loop from EP14 up to Gun and LLC and then back down to Nina Moose? I am not sure if these two trips would be about the same for someone that has never been to the BWCA or if they have a completely different feel to them. Thanks for your help!
01/12/2019 07:45PM
Either one of those trips will be a nice trip for you. Assuming you go from Gun to LLC and swing by the pictographs there - which I'd highly recommend. They'll both have their share of scenery and some busy spots.

I'm a little confused though by the mention of Nina Moose . . . ? Do you plan to continue south from there to exit at Moose River North, which is 8-10 miles from your entry? Or go back north from there to cross Hustler and Shell to complete the loop to Little Indian Sioux River North?

Where are you coming from in the East? Depending on travel time the first option takes you up the very scenic North Shore of Lake Superior. Or would you come through Canada and down from Grand Portage to Grand Marais?


JSterling
 
01/12/2019 09:37PM
Boonie - Thanks for your reply. For the Gun/LLC trip, If we started at EP14, I was thinking we would exit at Moose River North. When I was talking with someone at VNO they mentioned dropping us off at Moose River North EP16 and picking us up at the end of the trip at EP14. I thought this was a good idea because we could see both rivers with no backtracking. I wasn't sure if it really mattered which direction we did the loop.

We will be coming from Virginia. If we do the Eastern Trip, we will be driving up the North Shore, which is a plus for that trip. Thanks for all your help.
01/12/2019 10:39PM
The route from Winchell to Davis through Pup has become more of a bushwack. Those old portage's are not maintained and only trod by an adventurous few. I like the rest of the route.
01/12/2019 10:40PM
Yes, you can do that, I've entered 14 and exited 16. That'll make a shorter loop than the eastern (Cross Bay) one, depending on where exactly you go. I've entered at both of those entries and it doesn't really make much difference which way you go, but I'd probably go clockwise since the prevailing winds are usually NW and that will be easier on LLC. But who knows which way the wind blows when you are there ;).

I don't know where you are leaving from in Virginia, but I live in Morgantown, WV, and I always go via MI and the UP rather than out by Chicago. It's really only 40 miles longer and there's a lot better scenery and a lot less traffic. A much more relaxed trip. It doesn't take much longer even if you don't get tied up in traffic around Chicago. Been there, done that. The speed limit on I-75 north of Bay City is now 75 mph and large parts of the UP are 65 mph. It may or may not make sense from where you are, but worth checking it out.

Have a good trip.
mastertangler
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01/13/2019 09:19AM
Lots of positive encouraging advice. That's good........shall I be "that guy" and toss some cold water? Maybe not so much cold water but just some fishing perspectives from a fisherman that has spent the majority of his time the last several decades fishing the shield of Canada in August.

You are likely to be very pleased with the astetic quality of your route. Cherokee is indeed a gorgeous lake. We were hard pressed however, to catch fish on that water in August using traditional spring and early summer methods. We did not starve and lucked into one Lake Trout.

I do not like fishing the smaller bodies of water in August. I find the August fishing on these smaller waters particularly difficult in August and much prefer larger waters. Weather is generally stable in August and getting blown off the big waters before 2 p.m. Is unlikely on most days.

Fishing in August on the shield can be more challenging than one might think. Gone are the spread out and easily accessible fish which are typically 15ft and shallower. The norm in shallow water in August is small fish. 14" walleye can be had in weeds.......the same with hammer handle pike. Watching 4lb smallmouth cruise by like you might see in June is long gone.

Instead fish tend to concentrate and school up. Walleye might be found on an offshore reef and quality fish are often found at 25ft. I often catch decent pike in the 33" to 36" class at the same depth while trolling for walleye. The exception is bigger pike right at dusk tend to slide up in 15ft even in August for a nighttime snack before bed. If a pike of 40" or better is on your radar screen you should be fishing on rocky bottom or the end of deep weeds in 12ft to 15ft an hour before dark until dark. You may fish several hours without a strike but that one strike will be worth it.

The quality smallmouth in August has been a tough nut to crack for me but then again they are not high on my priority list. Another fishing guru on this board has good success fishing significant inflows with tube jigs.

In any event........August is lovely paddling and the bugs are very tolerable at that time. But if fishing is high on your priority then June and early July is much easier to do well especially if you lack electronics. If August is set in stone and you lack electronics then position your vessel a cast away from the shoreline and fish below your boat and out into the lake. Jigs are good for this as you want to fish near bottom. A 3/8 or 1/2 ounce bass flipping jig with the weed guard removed and a trailer attached will put you in the game. Be patient and fish near bottom. Have plenty of jigs or use a knot2kinky tieable titanium leader in a light lb test of say 14lb, very discreet. Use small cross lock snaps and tiny spro power swivels to complete your insurance package. Despite conventional wisdom pike are very attracted to jigs, especially larger offerings, and tend to nip them off.

If you lack electronics look to the bank for clues. Often the topography below the water can mirror what is above. Generally speaking, avoid smooth rock shorelines or steeply plunging shores. Instead focus your efforts where you see more gently undulating shore and where rocky rubble lines the bank. There is much "dead" water in canoe country at times.

Set your fishing expectations low..........rather focus on the beauty that surrounds you. Fishing can be world class......or not and much can depend on your time of year.
 
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