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Adam32
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01/17/2020 12:50PM
Looking for some advice about doing the Voyager trip route (Crane to Grand Portage). No time frame, two boats, four guys. Route suggestions, where does the last portage come out?
 
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sedges
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01/17/2020 03:10PM
The route follows the border the whole way. The border was negotiated so that both the US and Britain could use this route in the fur trade days. If you are not trying to break records, give yourselves ten days, more if you want layovers.

Lots of good fishing along the way. Grand Portage, at nine miles long, comes out at Grand Portage National Monument on Lake Superior. Except for the big one and maybe Long Portage (2 miles), this a a major paddling trip. Be prepared for the big lakes and rough conditions if there is much wind. Plan on early wake up and simple breakfasts to get you on the water at first light before the wind starts up.

I like June for this trip for the long days. Often you get shore bound in the middle of the day by wind, but get a few hours of travel in the evening calm.

You'll have eaten all your food by the time you do Grand Portage. If you pack lite enough, you will be single portaging. It's really not that bad.

One of the big problems with this trip is the shuttle. Its a 240 mile drive from Grand Portage to Crane Lake.
chessie
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01/18/2020 09:45AM
Sedges: would you be so kind as to elaborate on time preference for this trip: As in - late May/June vs. late July/August? Especially w.r.t. bugs, water levels, etc. Also, for someone who is not very able bodied (but very experienced BWCA tripper) - would be at a slower pace, so 2+ weeks. More details/suggestions/tips welcome and appreciated (same route in mind as original poster).
sedges
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01/18/2020 10:07AM
I like June for this route for the long days around the summer solstice. With all the big lakes you are likely to be windbound at some point on the trip, maybe several days. Long daylight hours help you make up miles on good days if you are windbound a lot. It also gives you a chance to just sit out a windy afternoon and make some miles if the wind drops in the evening. I remember getting into the west end of Saganaga in the early afternoon and not being able to get on the lake it was so rough. We hung out on shore and read and napped and played cards. About 6:00 PM the wind dropped and we paddle the whole lake before dark, camping near the first portage into the Granite River.

Of course bugs are worse in June, but I've managed to ignore that for the long days and fewer people. Water levels are only an issue on the Pigeon River and could very well be lower in late summer.

As far as a route for a less than able bodied person it depends. Probably the Grand Portage is not a good idea, Long Portage would be rough, too. If the person can paddle well and has good strong companions to take up the slack on the portages the big lakes offer lots of travel with few portages.

You could plan to end the trip short of Grand Portage or short of Long Portage for that matter and still have an epic tour. There are lots of opportunities to bail out if the trip is not working out... Saganaga at the end of the Gunflint Trail, Gunflint Lake, Rose Lake going south to Hungry Jack or Bearskin area. All of these bail out points have services and could likely shuttle you to your vehicle. Earlier in the trip you could bail out at Prairie Portage and get an outfitter to shuttle you back to Crane Lake.
billconner
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01/18/2020 12:22PM
Sorry for interrupting but which or where is the Long Portage? And is there any options to camp on the Grand Portage?
sedges
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01/18/2020 12:51PM
Long Portage is between Rose and Rove Lakes. Roughly 2 miles as I recall. Headed east, the first half is now on an old railroad grade and is level and easy. It leaves the RR grade and gets real interesting. Lots of ups and downs and when I was there quite a few boggy places.

You need to be careful not to miss the turn off the grade as it goes gradually around and ends at the east end of Daniels Lake.

There are two campsites at the Pigeon River end of Grand Portage. You need to get a permit in advance. There is no backcountry camping allowed on the trail itself. We camped at Partridge Falls the night before doing Grand Portage, but that was in the 1970s. Things might have changed about camping there. I would contact the Grand Portage Band and seek their input.
billconner
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01/18/2020 01:22PM
Thank you.
yellowhorse
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01/19/2020 08:33AM
Chiming in as it's on my bucket list, too.
billconner
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01/19/2020 09:01AM
yellowhorse: "Chiming in as it's on my bucket list, too. "

+1 but look at Grand Portage to Lake of the Woods.
yellowhorse
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01/19/2020 01:11PM
billconner: "yellowhorse: "Chiming in as it's on my bucket list, too. "


+1 but look at Grand Portage to Lake of the Woods. "


A suggestion for me or your specific plan? I presume most people go west to east to avoid headwinds, go downhill and be lighter on the Grand Portage to Lake Superior?
sedges
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01/19/2020 04:02PM
Actually, going west to east you are going upstream most of the trip. The Laurentian Divide is crossed between North and South lake. There are very few places that you have to deal with current, however. Maybe a little on the Granite River, Basswood River and Loon River. Upstream travel was never problem on our trips except 1968 when we started on Rainy Lake the day after 13 straight days of heavy rain and the dam at Prairie Portage breaking(of which we were unaware).

If you are figuring that Lake of the Woods will be one anchor, going west will make the Rainy River easier going downstream, but it means starting the trip with the Grand Portage and upstream travel on the Pigeon River with all your food.

Portaging the dam at International Falls is urban and may need permission from the paper mill for access. You might try to find an Uber driver with racks.
Adam32
member (23)member
 
01/19/2020 06:41PM
Thanks sedges, lots of good info!
billconner
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01/19/2020 07:28PM
sedges: "Actually, going west to east you are going upstream most of the trip. The Laurentian Divide is crossed between North and South lake. There are very few places that you have to deal with current, however. Maybe a little on the Granite River, Basswood River and Loon River. Upstream travel was never problem on our trips except 1968 when we started on Rainy Lake the day after 13 straight days of heavy rain and the dam at Prairie Portage breaking(of which we were unaware).


If you are figuring that Lake of the Woods will be one anchor, going west will make the Rainy River easier going downstream, but it means starting the trip with the Grand Portage and upstream travel on the Pigeon River with all your food.


Portaging the dam at International Falls is urban and may need permission from the paper mill for access. You might try to find an Uber driver with racks."


Yellowhorse - no, not a suggestion, just my planning.

I have an acquaintance in IF so would come out at Voyaguers Park office and shuttle far enough downstream of dam. I get the GP and also prevailing winds on Basswood, however I have three times PP to Basswood Falls and they have all been delightful memorable days. (I'll regret saying that now.)

Finding camping spots west of IF and dealing with permit for VP is not worked out. I do think I'll get a sat phone, an I-69, and have an RABC for flexibility, and play Q permit by ear. Not all details worked out and I don't like to be pinned down by a specific plan, but want to have solutions. (And figuring a re-supply at PP.
sedges
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01/19/2020 09:07PM
Basswood is the least of your big water concerns. It has lots of cover compared to wide open lakes like Mountain, Moose and South Lakes. Gunflint is real wind funnel. Rainy? Been blown off many of the east end lakes with east winds off Superior. Ya just never know!
GraniteCliffs
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01/19/2020 09:58PM
The trip you are planning is on a lot of bucket lists. I went once from Lake Superior via the Grand Portage to the Falls Chain, up to French Lake Park HQ and down the Maligne and back in the top of the BW and then out the bottom of the BW to Lake Vermilion. It was an awesome trip.
I have to admit the allure of your trip is offset by the logistics and the big and busy water. If you could find a way to detour and stay on some smaller and less busy lakes it might be more enjoyable. It might just be a choice of accomplishing your goal vs changing up the scenery a bit by leaving the border run.
Either way, what great options to be able to consider. Good luck!!
01/20/2020 11:09AM
Here is some information that I have typed up to help first timers on the route. The information comes from an annual canoe event coordinated by an outfit called WaterTribe (ignore any references to the events). WaterTribe paddlers meetup in Ely, shuttle to our starting location, and then shuttle back to Ely from Grand Portage. I have paddled it seven times recently and will go again this September. Hope this info helps...

Location- We meet in Ely, Minnesota (pronounced “ee-lee” and is known as the “Canoe Capital of the World”) the day before the Challenges are scheduled to start. Ely is approximately 4 ½ hour drive and 260 miles from the heart of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. There are no feasible public transportation options from the Metro area to Ely so plan accordingly. Options for lodging around Ely include a hotel, motels, outfitter lodges, campgrounds, or your vehicle. Check out the Ely tourism website for options and much more local information at www.ely.org/lodging/motels

Travel Permits –Each group will need to acquire a United States Forest Service (USFS) BWCAW travel permit well in advance of the Challenge. Each BWCA entry point has a specific number of permits issued per day. Travelers must enter the BWCA at the entry point and on the date for which their permit is issued. Permit groups can be up to a maximum of 4 canoes and 9 people. Permit groups must camp together during the entire Challenge. Permit reservations become available starting the last Wednesday in January. Permit reservations, BWCA rules and regulations and other helpful information is available at: https://www.recreation.gov/permits/233396 The permit process has changes for 2019 and is not always clear.

Shuttling- Shuttle arrangements will be prearranged for you to get yourself, gear, and canoes to your starting location. All participants will meet at Piragis Outfitting early in the morning to catch the shuttle to our start locations. Shuttles vans with canoe trailers will leave from Piragis Outfitting in Ely. As part of this service, your personal vehicles can be parked at their business. Come ready to throw your canoe packs into the shuttle van and go. There is no time to be checking gear or packing.
Return shuttles will depart from Grand Portage the morning of the Finish Deadline as described in the WaterTribe Schedule and bring us back to Piragis. This makes renting any needed gear really easy if you rent from Piragis (they will load and unload your canoes). Rental gear with pricing can be found on their website: www.piragis.com/partial-outfitting/canoe-rental-partial-outfitting

Route- Open Google Earth and from your chosen start location, just follow the international boundary line that is shown there separating the United State from Canada- this is basically the route. The only required deviation from the international border is near the finish. The Pigeon River from Fort Charlotte to Lake Superior is unnavigable so a trail called the “Grand Portage” was established hundreds of years ago and is still the way to go to get to the Grand Portage Fort on Lake Superior. There are some shortcuts along the border that can be taken, if you chose, but don’t wander into Canadian territory (unless you’re a Canadian citizen). If you do the longest challenge called the Kruger/Waddell Challenge (starts in International Falls), there will be about 40 lakes, 6 rivers, and 40 portages to traverse. What’s a “portage”?- It’s an established trail where you will have to carry your canoe and gear to avoid unnavigable areas. Portages on canoeing maps are measured in “rods”. A rod is 16.5 feet long, so a mile-long portage is 320 rods.

Portaging Technique- Efficient portaging is important to completing one of these challenges! It is easiest to do by traveling in tandem canoes that will allow 2 people to share the load. The goal is to walk each portage only once (called single portaging). If you have too much gear/weight, you will have to go back to carry a second load (called double-portaging) and this will slow you down and wear you out. So- for a tandem team, each person would carry a small daypack, one would carry the canoe, and the other would carry the big canoe pack with the food and camping equipment in it. You will need to figure out who is carrying the canoe pack and how much weight they can handle on rough terrain. The difference between an easy portage versus a hard portage is largely determined by the amount of weight you’re carrying. If need be, the person carrying the canoe could also carry a second canoe pack, but this will make the going tougher. Oh, and the canoe is carried on your shoulders upside down using a padded yoke on the center thwart.

Cell Phone Coverage- Ely is good, everywhere else is poor or not available. Coverage will vary greatly with carrier. At Grand Portage – cell phones and computers will hook up to the Casino Wi-Fi in your room or in the lobby.

Gear- Nothing too unusual here other than packing light. Pack only the necessary paddling gear, camping gear, and all the food you will need for the length of your trip. There is nowhere to resupply without adding significant miles and time to your trip. Gear needs to be packed into “canoe packs” for efficient portaging. Packs need some type of water proofing, either having a plastic liner or made of a water proof material. The canoe pack needs to slip easily in and out of the canoe and ride low in the boat to help keep a low center of gravity.

Water- Fresh drinking water is everywhere around you. Only carry what you need for the next few hours. But know how to prevent ingesting Giardia bacteria that are everywhere in our world. Filter or boil all water is the safest bet. Some people drink straight from the lake if you are out in the middle of a big lake- don’t blame me if you get beaver fever.

Navigation- Obtain paper maps for the length of your route. For the portion of the route through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), use maps produced from McKenzie or Fisher. These maps show the lakes, rivers, land contour elevations, designated campsites, and portage locations. These maps when combined with a compass will be sufficient to keep you on track. GPS is a good backup if your map skills are uncertain and for night-time travel. Voyageur Maps has online canoe maps that can be viewed at www.voyageurmaps.com for planning purposes.

Land Ownership/Governmental Restrictions- Brief summary of where we will travel and who controls it.

Voyageur’s National Park- For Kruger/Waddell participants only. Starting at International Falls going approximately 60 miles to Little Vermilion Lake is within the Voyageur’s National Park. The Park is open to motorized boat traffic and attracts fishing boats and big slow moving house boats. No entry pass needed but camping is at designated, pre-reserved campsites only. These sites are well developed for motor boats and include a dock, tent pads, latrine, picnic table, and bear proof containers to store food. If you intend to camp you will need to reserve a campsite before the Challenge starts.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA)- For all participants. Starting at Little Vermilion Lake and going all the way to the Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River you will be with the BWCA and/or the less restrictive Superior National Forest. Most of these lakes are non-motorized. A permit called an Entry Permit is required to enter the BWCA. These must be obtained well in advance but cannot be picked up until the day of or the day before your planned entry date. When obtaining the Entry Permit, designate Piragis as the location you will pick up the permit. Other notable rules for this area are- maximum of 4 canoes and 9 people in a group, must camp at designated campsites (no need to reserve), no disposable food cans or glass bottles, and no portage wheels or sails or mechanical assistance allowed. This is a man-made wilderness, however, it is fairly wild and vast with limited places to exit or get help.

Grand Portage National Monument- The Grand Portage including Fort Charlotte to Lake Superior is a narrow strip of land managed as a national monument due to its huge historical importance. Outside this strip of land is Grand Portage Indian Reservation lands. There are 2 large group campsites available at Fort Charlotte (this is the beginning of the Grand Portage) and should be reserved from the Park Service in advance (no fee for camping).

At the finish- All the Challenges finish at National Park Service Grand Portage Historic Fort on Lake Superior. Hit your final Spot “I’m OK” message when you walk through the fort entrance gate. You have now finished the Challenge but you still need to get to where you will rest/sleep/celebrate. We store our canoes at the nearby marina located ½ mile south. You can paddle the Lake Superior shoreline, portage along a road, or maybe some helpful WaterTriber will drive you there. BeaV-established tradition says you should paddle but beware of the big lake and respect it- you still could die.

This is a remote area within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. Except for the historic fort, everything here is owned by the tribe. Everything includes the lands, a casino, a hotel, a marina, laundry facilities, and a convenience/liquor store. Most participants will hang out here together, cheering on other finishers, and waiting for the shuttle back to Ely on the last day. Accommodations available include RV and tent camping at the marina or hotel rooms in the casino. The casino has a restaurant and bar. Other than these improvements, there is nothing else for civilization for miles around- nice!!!! If you want to stay in a hotel room, reservations are recommended. Their website is: www.grandportage.com
01/20/2020 11:42AM
chessie: "Sedges: would you be so kind as to elaborate on time preference for this trip: As in - late May/June vs. late July/August? Especially w.r.t. bugs, water levels, etc. Also, for someone who is not very able bodied (but very experienced BWCA tripper) - would be at a slower pace, so 2+ weeks. More details/suggestions/tips welcome and appreciated (same route in mind as original poster)."
I have always done it west to east for 2 reasons-

food weight/portaging- the portages get more frequent and tougher the further east you go. By starting at Crane Lake, you will eat up more of your weight as you go. By the time you get to the hard stuff (Pigeon River to Lake Superior) your food weight will be to a minimum.

finish location- it is pretty cool to finish the trip at Grand Portage on Lake Superior. Spend a day or two here to suck in the history. There is a history center and a recreated historic fort.

Bugs- do it in May or September to minimize. Otherwise, you will have to deal with some bugs especially on the Grand Portage trail.

Water Levels- Main concern would be on the Pigeon River. The Pigeon tends to get low in late summer and fall. Low water will require walking the river thru the English Rapids area. (picture attached) Can be tough work and hard on ankles wading thru boulders. A May or June trip would avoid low water issues. Too early, though, could cause high water issues.

A person can avoid the physically most demanding part of the route (but still paddle the entire border route of the BWCA) by exiting at North Fowl Lake to the McFarland Entry Point. You would have to make arrangements to have someone meet you here.

chessie
senior member (96)senior membersenior member
 
01/20/2020 12:00PM
What is a good source for navigation map for the Eastern area OUTSIDE of the BWCA? Thanks!
01/20/2020 12:18PM
chessie: "What is a good source for navigation map for the Eastern area OUTSIDE of the BWCA? Thanks!"
From memory...McKenzie Map #98 and go to the Grand Portage National Monument website for the map of the Grand Portage- Trail

I see on their map that they don't show the first road crossing. Cowboy Road is about 1 mile to the west of Old Highway 61.
yellowhorse
senior member (82)senior membersenior member
 
01/21/2020 08:35PM
GraniteCliffs: "The trip you are planning is on a lot of bucket lists. I went once from Lake Superior via the Grand Portage to the Falls Chain, up to French Lake Park HQ and down the Maligne and back in the top of the BW and then out the bottom of the BW to Lake Vermilion. It was an awesome trip.
I have to admit the allure of your trip is offset by the logistics and the big and busy water. If you could find a way to detour and stay on some smaller and less busy lakes it might be more enjoyable. It might just be a choice of accomplishing your goal vs changing up the scenery a bit by leaving the border run.
Either way, what great options to be able to consider. Good luck!!"


Quite an epic trip. Did you write up a trip report?
yellowhorse
senior member (82)senior membersenior member
 
01/21/2020 08:37PM
Thanks for sharing your insight BeaV! Always enjoy following your adventures in water tribes and your AK trip deserves fantastic props. Cheers!
01/22/2020 08:43AM
yellowhorse: "Thanks for sharing your insight BeaV! Always enjoy following your adventures in water tribes and your AK trip deserves fantastic props. Cheers! "
You're welcome!

And I forgot to mention...McKenzie Map #98 neglects to show Partridge Falls and the portage on river right. This is a big fall! A must avoid location!

Hopefully, newer prints of this map will indicate- they have been notified.
Adam32
member (23)member
 
02/10/2020 11:04AM
Thanks BeaV for a the info. Getting excited already for the trip!!! Any thoughts on a preferred GPS unit
Grandma L
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02/10/2020 04:44PM
Hey Adam32, Are you thinking of doing the Border Route Challenge in September? Check the WaterTribe.com site. Paddlers sign up to do either the Crane/Little Indian Sioux River North entry) and paddle and portage to Lake Superior or Dove Point (Rainy) entry to Superior. There are already 10 Challengers signed up to paddle from Sha-Sha Resort on Dove Point (east of International Falls) to Lake Superior and one for the Little Indian Sioux entry. Some are going solo, tandem or as groups. It is not a race - they each paddle at their own pace BUT all aim to finish in 8 days so they can share shuttles from Grand Portage to Ely. Those that finish early usually hang out at the Casino Hotel and wait for the rest so we can have a Prime Rib Dinner together on Saturday night before the shuttle on Sunday morning.
02/10/2020 04:46PM
Adam32: "Thanks BeaV for a the info. Getting excited already for the trip!!! Any thoughts on a preferred GPS unit "
You're welcome!

GPS preference- I have a Delorme but they were bought up by Garmin. Garmin's seem to be the one to go with now...but I haven't looked at them. If you haven't been there, check out the GPS forum on this site.

The Voyageurs Route is awesome. Lots of water and tons of history. And a big accomplishment to paddle all the way across the BWCA in one trip! Have fun!
straighthairedcurly
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02/10/2020 08:04PM
Great info. I am hoping to do the Moose Lake Challenge along with my son. I have been reading info from past challenges and have been on the Water Tribe site. I haven't signed us up yet because I still need to arrange whether work will allow me that time off. I am pretty sure I can convince them.

For Moose Lake start, it sounds like we need to arrange to get to the start point on our own since the Piragis shuttle is focused on delivering the farther out groups (and it looks like there haven't been any Moose Lake starters in awhile). To return to Ely, can we use the shuttle from Grand Portage Sunday morn?
WhiteWolf
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02/11/2020 07:21AM
straighthairedcurly: "Great info. I am hoping to do the Moose Lake Challenge along with my son. I have been reading info from past challenges and have been on the Water Tribe site. I haven't signed us up yet because I still need to arrange whether work will allow me that time off. I am pretty sure I can convince them.


For Moose Lake start, it sounds like we need to arrange to get to the start point on our own since the Piragis shuttle is focused on delivering the farther out groups (and it looks like there haven't been any Moose Lake starters in awhile). To return to Ely, can we use the shuttle from Grand Portage Sunday morn? "


Should be able to use the shuttle. About 30-60 days before a count is given on who needs what to make sure there is enough vans etc.

02/11/2020 07:52AM
straighthairedcurly: "Great info. I am hoping to do the Moose Lake Challenge along with my son. For Moose Lake start, it sounds like we need to arrange to get to the start point on our own since the Piragis shuttle is focused on delivering the farther out groups (and it looks like there haven't been any Moose Lake starters in awhile). To return to Ely, can we use the shuttle from Grand Portage Sunday morn? "
You are correct- Moose Lake Challenge participants arrange their own transportation to their start since it is so close to Ely. There is a big parking lot at the public access on Moose- that is where I would park my vehicle if it were me.

You absolutely can join in on the shared Piragis shuttle from Grand Portage back to Ely. Then you would just need to get a ride from Ely back to the public access.
Grandma L
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02/14/2020 06:46PM
straighthairedcurly: "Great info. I am hoping to do the Moose Lake Challenge along with my son. I have been reading info from past challenges and have been on the Water Tribe site. I haven't signed us up yet because I still need to arrange whether work will allow me that time off. I am pretty sure I can convince them.


For Moose Lake start, it sounds like we need to arrange to get to the start point on our own since the Piragis shuttle is focused on delivering the farther out groups (and it looks like there haven't been any Moose Lake starters in awhile). To return to Ely, can we use the shuttle from Grand Portage Sunday morn? "

Hope to see you on Sunday in Duluth for lunch! Chat then!
Adam32
member (23)member
 
02/16/2020 09:17PM
Was looking at the route but not the challenge, wanting to not feel rushed through it is all. With some of that big water would like to be able to hang out if wind and weather doesn't look good.
cyclones30
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02/17/2020 07:22AM
Adam32: "Was looking at the route but not the challenge, wanting to not feel rushed through it is all. With some of that big water would like to be able to hang out if wind and weather doesn't look good. "

You could start your trip well ahead of the race start, and still take advantage of the shuttle it sounds like? Pretty sweet deal if true
 
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