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Guest Paddler
06/17/2019 11:02AM
Disclaimer: First time poster and first time BWCA visitor.

•There will be four city dwelling guys of, at a minimum, moderate physical ability. A couple have been to the BWCA before, but it's been years
•Looking at Mid-September 2019 (I hate mosquitoes, they love me, and Labor Day weekend is a no-go per wife)
•Need to rent two canoes (assuming that limits entry points)
•Driving up from Twin Cities on Wednesday and returning Sunday
•Since Wednesday and Sunday are shorter days I was thinking we would do:
•Short trip out Wednesday and camp
•Longer trip out on Thursday and camp there two nights.
•Longer trip back Saturday and camp.
•Finish it with a shorter trip back Sunday so we can hit the road by noon or so.
•Ideally would like to have three different sites with access to good fishing (i.e. walleye)
•Scenery is a plus (understanding most places are nice, but if there is somewhere extra nice and good wildlife viewing)
•The fewer the people, the better (I generally like people, I really do)

Any ideas/suggestions on a good four night trip that will be somewhat challenging and rewarding? My goal is to make this fun, but not too easy either. Thanks!
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distinguished member(1208)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/17/2019 11:15AM
Couple quick things. There is an outfitters link at the top of this site that will hook you up with places to rent stuff. Also pull up a Google map of the BWCA and look at the burn area and stay out of it as it isn't much fun... unless you want to see what a forest fire can do. It is a cool sight to see.

My suggestions would be entries 32/33, 38, or 47.

32/33 is a nice area that has lots of loops that you can see from the maps on here. Also near the burn area if you care for that.

38 is my personal favorite area.

47 is also very nice and has a lot of moose in that area.
distinguished member(670)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/17/2019 12:42PM
Welcome to the forum... or your first post anyway!

EP 37 (Kawishiwi) offers a decent trip to your specifications:
Day on, Enter Kawishiwi, paddle up to Square, then Kawasachong. If you still have a couple hours of daylight, keep going up to Polly. Lots of campsites on Polly. If you don't, grab one of the sites on Kawasachong. It would be ideal if you could get to Polly, as there are lots of portages between Kawasachong and Malberg.

Day 2: Polly to Koma to Malberg early and grab a campsite there for your 2 days of basecamp. Day trip down to Fishdance to see the pictographs, spend the rest of the day fishing, etc.

Day 3, Day trip Malberg, River, Beaver, Adams, Boulder (lunch) then backtrack. Day 2 and 3 are my two favorite days I've spent in the BWCA. Day tripping is easy, don't have to double portage.

Day 4: backtrack the way you came in, go all the way back to Kawasachong and camp there. You should be able to get out by noon on Day 5 easily.

Sawbill outfitters on Sawbill Lake is somewhat close, but Sawtooth outfitters in Tofte is pretty convenient if you have a vehicle than can carry the canoes. If you need a shuttle, then either is about the same.

The only thing I don't know about is fishing as I don't fish in the BWCA. Others might have much better trip ideas if fishing is a high priority.

I believe that permits are good for 9 people and 4 boats, so you shouldn't have any issues there.
member (5)member
06/17/2019 01:22PM
Thanks for the quick feedback. I will certainly look at these on the map.

A couple quick questions--
•Do you reserve the campsites or are they just first come first serve? I thought you needed to reserve them, but in reading the comment above it seems to insinuate yo can just go wherever (stop here or keeping going then stop here instead).

•I'm assuming a standard Minnesota fishing license suffices (obviously not on Canada side)

•Every place seems to have canoes, but are kayaks available?

•Are the paddles they provide single blade or do you have the choice of double (kayak style)? I believe I saw one image on this site where someone had a double. Note that I am 6'9" so kayak paddles work better for my back.

distinguished member(891)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/17/2019 01:44PM
You reserve a permit to enter on the day and place to enter. Campsites are first come.

Yes, Minnesota license is what you need with all the necessary extra (if needed for special species, e.g. lake trout.)

You want the canoes. While it may seem to be counter-intuitive, kayaks are more work. It involves portaging. With a kayak you have to unpack the kayak hold into a portage pack, portage the portage pack, then unpack the portage pack back into the kayak hold. Also, kayaks are not the most portage friendly watercraft. Some people do it, but most find canoes more efficient. There are a number of youtube's about how to approach portages efficiently with canoes.

Talk to your outfitter about your paddle needs and your height. Most have double blades for their solo canoe paddlers, but you may find that they have the correct length single blade paddle for you. Most canoeists find that double blades will give them a wet lap from water dripping down the shaft.

distinguished member(1208)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/17/2019 02:06PM
First come first serve. So get an idea of a few you like and hope you get them. September shouldn't be too bad. Once you go in through the entry point you pay for you can go anywhere at anytime in the BWCA as long as you stay in it.

So if you look at the map you can kind of look at some routes that might interest you. And just head that direction and stop when you need to or want to.

MN license yes.

No idea about kayaks. Don't see many up there but there are a few.
member (36)member
06/17/2019 07:56PM
We are planning a five day four night trip in late July. The mosquitoes will be worse in July than September but the likelihood of rain over Labor Day is better. As of right now, we are planning to get a tow to the Birch Lake portage and then head out on Knife to Bonnie, Spoon, Dix, Skoota, Missionary and Vera. Then out of Vera to Ensign and back to Moose. The question marks are an old Grandpa (me) on the two long portages (180 rods) on either side of Vera. I did it at age 22 but, 45 years later, it might be a little more of a challenge. Oh well, I can't think of a better place to assume room temperature!
distinguished member(2294)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/17/2019 08:28PM
Hey, here's a possibility for you...
EP 39 Baker Lake north to South Temperance Lake. Smaller lakes, no big water. Stretches of long narrow river like paddling that is beautiful. Not a real popular entry. Very good fishing, plenty of walleyes. Known as a spot with better than average odds of seeing moose. Put in on Baker and head up to Kelly or Jack your first night. Head up to South or North Temperance Lake and stay two nights - classic and beautiful BWCA lakes full of points, islands and bays. Head back part of the way on night 4 for an easy exit. If you were willing to sacrifice night one in the bWCA there is a small National Forest campground right there at Baker Lake, free, rustic with 4 sites. It's a great place and a great way to transition into a canoe trip. Then get an early start the next morning and you could get all the way to South Temperance...or not. There's a nice site at the north end of Kelly that would give you seclusion and the sound of running water. After you cross that portage, at the north end there is a short trail off to the left that leads to an old abandoned gold mine which is kind of cool to see, lots of artifacts lying around. This is a nice trip with mostly short and generally easy portages.

There are 3 permits allowed for Baker Lake per day. I looked at the mid September timeframe and over a period of 20 days of the 60 permits available, only 6 are taken. Quiet area. For comparison purposes i looked at EP 47 Lizz Lake which is also a great entry and allows 4 per day - there are 17 permits taken in that same timeframe. Mudro Lake #23 would be another great place to go, busy but for a reason. There is a 6 per day quota there and in that same period 69 permits are already reserved. The period I looked at for these comparisons was Sept 6 through Sep 25.
distinguished member(1208)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/17/2019 09:53PM
Lindys idea is another good one. Thats a nice area.
06/17/2019 09:54PM
lindylair: "Hey, here's a possibility for you...
EP 39 Baker Lake north to South Temperance Lake. Put in on Baker and head up to Kelly or Jack your first night. Head up to South or North Temperance Lake and stay two nights - "

Are any of these lakes affected by a recent burn?

(I was also looking at some reports of Vern lake and I think it was affected by a burn within the last 15 years or so?)
distinguished member(2181)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/17/2019 10:04PM
Half of your username is good :)

The 2 routes mentioned above would be good options. Kawishiwi to Malberg would be more challenging portage-wise than the Baker option.

As for the canoes, we rent every time we go up. If the outfitter isn't on the lake you're entry point is for (usually it's not) then either they can shuttle you and all your stuff (for $$) or they will lend you straps and pads and help strap it to whatever you're driving.

The only thing you need to reserve is your entry point location and date. You have to start at that location on that day, what campsite you choose out of the available ones is up to you. If you end up going 1 mile or 100 on the first day it's all the same.
06/18/2019 06:56AM
If I follow your plans it is a short day trip on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday base somewhere and a third "trip" on Saturday camping overnight. That could be three separate trips, complicated, but interesting. Reserved permits only allow one entry/exit and once you leave the BWCA restricted area your permit ends. Day permits can be filled out at the entry point and allow day paddling, fishing, etc. but no camping and you must be back at the EP by the end of the day.

IF you can get the permits for dates you want in September (a great time to go!) consider camping Wednesday night at Sawbill campground and using a day pass to get familiar the canoes and gear. Thursday you can head west to Alton/Phoebe as you chose finishing your trip there or IF you get another permit coming out Friday night camping again at Sawbill then going in Saturday for a run up Lujenida or east. If you do not get the second permit you can still plan the trip north or east of Sawbill to round out your experience. Sawbill has multiple trip options and the campground at the EP, is a really nice area, but can be busy. Their outfitter can help a lot.

I use a kayak paddle when canoeing and there is lots of discussion on that. This site has lots to offer for trip planning and worth the time to use its search engines. The drip cups on most kayak paddles keep water off your lap, but it will fall off the blade onto your shins and feet in high angle paddling. Remember the canoe seat sits higher than a kayak so a longer paddle is really necessary and while outfitters do provide kayak paddles, I doubt you will find one long enough for your height.
06/18/2019 09:49AM
Do you have a preference based on driving time for Ely/Echo Trail, Tofte/Sawbill Trail, or Grand Marais/Gunflint Trail?

All the entries mentioned are good.

Ely's probably closest and some entries are not far from there; Tofte probably not a lot farther and the North Shore is a nice drive, but Sawbill/Kawishiwi Lake are about another 30-45 minutes; Grand Marais 30 minutes up the shore from Tofte and entries out the Gunflint Trail (such as EP #47) another 45 minutes to an hour plus.

I'd also suggest skipping the kayak - you don't want to spend your time figuring it out, especially since you'll be getting a late start and sites are first come. Yes, you can get a kayak paddle with the canoe, but may vary with the outfitter. Check with the outfitter you're using. I get a short one from Sawtooth, but don't know what other options they have. Rockwood used to have (2012) long ones (maybe 280CM?).

Most outfitters have ways of getting two canoes on a car, but once again, check with the outfitter you are using.

senior member (70)senior membersenior member
06/18/2019 02:33PM
My immediate thought is for the Cherokee Loop out of EP 38. You can have your permit sent to Sawbill outfitters and they have full outfitting to include showers at the end. Also is a campground there should you head up Tuesday night. You can see their route suggestion, but if you are doing short day in and out I would reverse the route.

Head in Wednesday from the EP to Burnt Lake. This is an awesome walleye lake. It can be crowded because of this reason. Only takes a few hours to get there and set up so you can fish the night bite. Be happy to point out spots if you want. Either peninsula site and the south end site are great sites. The two norther sites are closer to the best fishing holes, but are not as nice. Still decent.

The next day make a long trip to Cherokee or my suggestion is stay on S Temperance. On your way up drag a Rapala or a spinner through Kelly and Jack and pick off a shore lunch mess of walleye or pike (smallies galore). Cool bonus is the Abandoned Gold mine at the end of the portage between Kelly and Jack. It is just off the portage just before getting to Jack. Maybe 50 yards into the woods, there is a rough trail back to it.

I would stay on S Temperance at the site right off the portage on the S side of lake. Awesome cliff site. At night, you can walk the rocks to the lake and bobber fish for nice walleye.

Day 3, take a short move into Cherokee lake and try your hand at some late season Lake trout. Stay on any of the south or mid area sites on the islands. Beautiful lake to just drag deep divers or cast to shoreline and take smallmouth and pike (some walleye).

Day 4 will be a tougher day bringing you back to Sawbill. Stay on one of the northern or mid-sites. Plenty of pike and smallmouth action. Makes for a quick morning or mid-afternoon paddle to the EP.

I have plenty of fishing suggestions if you want to send me a email. When we took the three trips here, we always saw moose.
member (5)member
06/20/2019 01:26PM
Thank you all for the suggestions. We are working on nailing down the exact dates and confirming our 4th man. In looking at the available permits for Mid September there is a lot of availability so I'm not too concerned. I will run some of these ideas past my buddies and see if they have any suggestions or concerns. Having never been there I don't know Peter from Paul so I appreciate your input, advice, tips.

And to clear one thing up, we are planning on entering and staying there multiple nights, not coming and going each night-- I think there was some confusion on that.
Day 1: Drive up from TC's, Canoe out 1/5th, Camp
Day 2: Canoe out 4/5th, Camp
Day 3: Camp
Day 4: Canoe back 4/5th, Camp
Day 5: Canoe back 1/5th, Drive back to TC's

Along those lines, my thinking was that getting in deeper to the heart of BWCA would be better than staying on the skirts. Maybe setting up 3 camps over 4 nights is a bad idea?

On a sad note, this weekend happens to be Vikings/Packers weekend. :(
But at least we'll make it home for the barn burner that will be MNF (Browns/Jets) :)
06/20/2019 02:01PM
"Along those lines, my thinking was that getting in deeper to the heart of BWCA would be better than staying on the skirts. Maybe setting up 3 camps over 4 nights is a bad idea?"

Maybe, maybe not - it depends on a lot of things. Some of those things you don't really know and some you can't know and must adjust to at the time, such as weather. I prefer to travel - I don't fish - but others prefer to go in a short distance and set up a base camp. Traveling involves more work with setting up and taking down camp, as well as portaging. The shortness of your time along with your general inexperience and not really knowing how quickly you'll travel leads me to suggest the following:

Leave the decision about that extra day traveling until the trip, when you'll have a better idea of the traveling, as well as the weather. In your situation, an out-and-back trip vs. a loop or point-to-point, will make it easier to adjust to the unknowns. Sometimes the weather - lightning, strong winds - will preclude traveling and 3 days is not much flexibility in that regard.

If your desire is to leave much of the crowd behind, you can do that by taking a longer/more difficult portage, but I'm not sure that's something you want to tackle on this trip . . . ? I know you don't want to make it too easy or too hard. Do you have any idea yet how much your gear, food, and canoes will weigh and have a plan on how to pack and portage it?

member (5)member
08/28/2019 02:01PM
Wanted to provide an update. We are heading out in a couple weeks, but we were steered toward Baker Lake entry point #39 and will be doing a loop-- starting at Baker and working our way north to Cherokee (Baker > Peterson > Kelly > Jack > S. Temerance > N. Temperance > Sitka > Cherokee) then back south (Cherokee > Ada > Sawmill > Smoke > Flame > Burnt > Kelly > Peterson > Baker). There's one long portage to Temperance and another on way back to Kelly, but have been told the are quite easy.

Any tips on any of those lakes for good fishing (walleye is the goal)? Good campsites or ones to avoid?

08/28/2019 04:10PM
Have a good trip!
distinguished member(891)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
08/28/2019 05:59PM
WrigleyHawkeye: "Wanted to provide an update. We are heading out in a couple weeks, but we were steered toward Baker Lake entry point #39 and will be doing a loop-- starting at Baker and working our way north to Cherokee (Baker > Peterson > Kelly > Jack > S. Temerance > N. Temperance > Sitka > Cherokee) then back south (Cherokee > Ada > Sawmill > Smoke > Flame > Burnt > Kelly > Peterson > Baker). There's one long portage to Temperance and another on way back to Kelly, but have been told the are quite easy.

Any tips on any of those lakes for good fishing (walleye is the goal)? Good campsites or ones to avoid?


You will love this route. A few observations/suggestions;

After the first portage, there is a small section of river before it opens into Peterson Lake. Depending on the water level there is a small section of rock garden that you may have to get out and line your canoe through. Knee to waste deep.

There is an abandoned mine shaft on the west side of the Jack end of the Kelly/Jack portage. You can find some trails that lead there toward the end of the portage.

The peninsula site on Jack Lake is the better of the two on Jack Lake.

Jack and Weird are moosey lakes. Keep your eyes pealed.

The site in the northwest corner of South Temperance is a nice site.

The Sitka portage end of the Sitka to Cherokee portage is a small inlet that is sometimes hidden by grass and brush. Take your bearings from the portage end you are standing on and the small island just off shore from there. It will help you locate it faster.

The Sitka to Cherokee portage is a roller coaster.

The staging area for the put in on Cherokee is about 20' off the water with stone steps leading steeply down to the water. Keep your gear up on top until you are ready to actually load and paddle away.

I like the campsites on the north end of Cherokee. Others like the south end. Investigate a little on the maps here (They have interactive campsite ratings by members.). Its a big lake and its a good idea to have a campsite or two in mind. (especially if the wind is blowing when you arrive.)

If you get a chance to run up to Frost Lake, it is worth the time and effort. Beautiful sand beaches and good chances to see moose.

Cherokee Creek can be moosey. Try to be as quiet as you can through here. It is also a beautiful paddle with many other wildlife spotting opportunities.

While others complain about the Cherokee Creek to Skoop Lake portage, after the Sitka to Cherokee, its a piece of cake.

Don't forget to fish Sawbill Lake. There are some great walleye and SMB to be caught there.

Two cars? - consider just stopping at Sawbill Lake. Outfitter has showers and beer. You can rent canoes there and make a quick (and clean) get away.

I like the fire lakes, but if you are trying to maximize fishing time, perhaps you will find what you want elsewhere and not have to travel as far.

Have a great trip!
member (5)member
04/10/2020 12:20PM
It's been about half a year since we went and I realize I never provided a follow-up (rude, I know). Since I we are under a stay-at-home order now (COVID-19) and work is slow I figured why not.

We headed out of the cities early morning and beat all the rush hour traffic and got up to Tofte and in Baker around 1:30 (stopped for a good lunch before going in). The weather was raining all morning and early afternoon, but cleared up and was great when we put in (cloudy, but dry). We made it up to Jack Lake early with plenty of daylight to spare and setup at BWCA Campsite 928. This was a great site and would highly recommend. We tried our hand fishing that evening, but were unsuccessful.

We got up early the next morning to head to Cherokee. We were able to essentially bypass the first portages by leaving the canoes packed and just wade them up the shallow water instead—much easier then unpacking and carrying everything. Then we hit the beast (portage 584) from Weird to South Temperance Lake. The trail was well defined, but it was extremely long (close to a mile I believe) and the rain the day before made it extremely muddy and slippery. It took us some time and as we did the weather changed on us and the winds really picked up (and not in our favor). By the time we got back in South Temperance and paddling towards Cherokee, the wind was at our face and we seemed to be going forward three feet then back two. The whitecaps were pounding the canoes and water was coming in. We tried staying closer to shore to mitigate the waves, but that was still a challenge for us city folk. After a little deliberation we decided to call it on the north end of South Temperance and setup at Campsite 907 near Brule Lake. We just got the tents and rainfly up when the rain started.

The rain continued through the night until about 5PM the next day—often times extremely heavy with strong winds. We obviously modified our plans and decided at 5 that this was as good a time as any to try to get some fishing in so we headed over to Brule with the hopes of getting up to Wench for some trout. But as luck would have it, we made it through to Brule and the big island right there and the rain started again so we nixed Wench and tried our hand in those waters, unsuccessfully of course.

The next day was Saturday, day 4, and the weather was perfect. The water was perfectly still and we saw sun for the first time the entire trip. The goal all along for this day was to head back toward the entry point so the next day would be an easier paddle and we could get out early, return stuff to outfitters, get cleaned up, and hit up a bar to watch the Packers and Vikings game. Cherokee was nixed by now, we felt battered, and beaten from the rain and wind (and no fish, struggles finding dry wood, etc). We decided we would head back the way we came and find a site along the way near Kelly and Peterson. Of course we had the portage from hell which was now even muddier and water halfway up your knee in parts. We stopped periodically to fish and take breaks since we had time, but had no luck. We ran into quite a few people and not a one had any luck either so that provided us some sense of gratification knowing we weren’t alone.

We got to Kelly and the site we looked at on the way up were occupied so we kept going to Peterson, but those too were occupied. At that point we had two options, turn around and head deeper to find a site, or head out. We decided the latter and casino route (which ended up being booked so we just went to Duluth). We packed up the truck and headed back to the outfitters. It was then we realized just how bad the weather was while we were there. There were trees down all over the place, some now covering the roads. When we returned the canoes the outfitter mentioned there were extremely strong storms in the area.

All in all it was a good test for us and we are up for it again this fall. Hoping for better weather but understand it’s out of our hands. We will try a different route, but that is yet TBD.
04/10/2020 03:16PM
Thanks for the follow-up. It's nice to hear how it went, problems encountered, lessons learned, etc. Glad to hear you thought it a good test and ready to try again. Weather can be a factor. I did a lot of shorter trips like yours in the beginning and a couple of bad weather days when you really only have 4 days kind of messes with the plan.

Just curious what your trip dates were? I entered at Baker last fall for the first time on 9/15 and did the loop you had planned on doing.
member (5)member
04/10/2020 04:48PM
We went out a couple days before. The plan was 9/11-9/15 but had to cut it a day short as described.
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