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01/28/2020 06:28PM
My husband and I are taking our first BWCA trip this year. We will be going the 3rd week in September. We have extensive backpacking and remote camping experience. We have significant experience kayaking and canoeing. We do not have portaging experience so there will be a learning curve with that.

Our trip priorities are good fishing, solitude (the fewer people we see the better), small lakes or rivers, and good scenery. We are feeling very overwhelmed with were to begin to plan a trip route. Ideally we would like a loop or out and back.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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distinguished member(7353)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/28/2020 07:03PM
It's a great time. You will see a few people but not many. It's a good time if year to do the more popular routes, which are crowded in July and August. I think you'll find nearly any recommend route very pleasant, so no need to feel overwhelmed.

Will you need an outfitter or do you have everything? And do you have a preference for east or west - up the north shore or over towards Ely?

I love Ely and have nearly always gone through there. There are advocates equally loyal to east side.

You'll get a lot of suggestions in the next 24 hours, I'm sure :)
01/28/2020 07:13PM
We do have everything we need so we wont need to rent anything from an outfitter. We have no preference on where we go in. Being as it is our first time we are open to all suggestions.
senior member (75)senior membersenior member
01/28/2020 09:04PM
There is no perfect route. You will not see many other people in late September no matter where you go. I will not recommend a route: read a few trip reports on this site and you will find a loop that excites you.

My advice about portaging is to practice before you leave home. Load the canoe with all of your gear and then actually practice unloading it, carrying your stuff a few yards and loading it again. Do this a few times and you'll figure out real quick what needs to change and it's better to do that in your backyard than at the beginning of a portage when another group is waiting. Remember oddball things like the fishing poles, fishing net, 3rd paddle, bailing sponge/bucket and life jackets. When I'm single portaging with two people and one canoe, everything other than the fishing rods and paddles goes in a pack or gets strapped to the canoe. Whoever isn't carrying the canoe gets the paddles and rods. Sometimes strapping things into the canoe is a PITA. Practice makes perfect. When I single portage solo or bring a cooler I have a system where the paddles, fishing pole, trout net and life jacket get held in place by my seat cushion and a single bungee (this frees person #2's hands to carry the cooler) . I can strap things in quickly and undo them just as fast; this way I can fish between portages without it being a major effort to get to the rods and (hopefully) the net. If you do strap things into the canoe make sure to lift it to test the balance at home and adjust accordingly. I'm assuming that with your backpacking background you will be single portaging: I highly recommend it.

The big question for me when single portaging with two people and one canoe is: Who goes first? If the canoe goes first you run the risk of spooking wildlife without getting to see it while if the other person goes first who's going to pick up that net when it falls out of the canoe? A good habit to develop is making sure the last person at a portage landing looks around for any forgotten/fallen items before taking off down the trail. This is easier to do without a canoe on your shoulders.

I hope you have a great trip! Don't stress about it too much between now and then! If you've done a bunch of backpacking then canoe tripping should be easy.
member (47)member
01/28/2020 09:14PM
How many days/nights are you planning? That will help with route suggestions. For scenery are you interested in waterfalls, pictographs, other...?

As bill said you are going in the low season so you will have solitude almost everywhere.

Even though you don’t need gear, you could narrow down east vs. west depending on where you are coming from and if you want a night “in town” to readjust to civilization before you go home.
01/28/2020 09:32PM
We are coming from southern Minnesota so anywhere is a drive which we are used to. We have family and places to stay all through north Minnesota so it really doesn’t matter whether east or west. We are planning on 6 nights and 7 days. We don’t have any plans on staying in any towns, that’s not really our thing. Usually when we get back to civilization after being out in the woods we either go to a campground, family’s house, or go straight home.

Our main loves are fishing and just being in nature away from people. We don’t have anything specific as far as sight seeing. We are truly open to anything.
distinguished member(7353)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/29/2020 05:32AM
So if you need no outfitter services nor lodging before it after, I'll suggest one route that has some options: enter at EP14 Little Indian Souix. Classic BWCAW. Here's one trip report - not mine - that will give you a sense of it. Report
There are many options.

You mentioned kayaks. If that's what you are taking, that would affect recommendations, and elicit many recommending you rent canoes. Beware.
01/29/2020 06:41AM
Another vote for no specific recommendations. You are local enough to know benefits of a north shore drive for someone who has not been that way, etc. Once in the BWCA there are some topography differences and tree species do vary, but generally speaking it is pretty much the same...wonderful.
I backpack and paddle in many places and while the BWCA is showing some wear from use, it remains one of the cleanest and less crowded places I visit. You really cannot go wrong from my perspective and you are going at a really good time of the year.
01/29/2020 06:50AM
The Little Indian Sioux entry is nice and would provide a loop up through Slim, Finger, Pocket, Hustler, Oyster etc. I did it solo in 2012 and it's well travelled and not difficult. A layover day on Finger would be my choice. On Gebe-on-e-quet there is a tourist attraction of sorts. High on a bluff mid lake someone built a row of chairs using large stone slabs.

Another route choice would be entering at Moose Lake and going east through knife before looping down through Kekakabic, Frasier, Ima and Ensign and back to Moose. I've done parts of this and it's well travelled and scenic.

distinguished member(2525)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/29/2020 08:05AM
Lots of options and honestly, don't be in a rush for a permit even though they are released today. You won't have a lot of competition for late sept permits this early, so take at least a few days and figure out your route goals.

Never portaged? You've got plenty of time to practice and work out for it. Ask us questions as it gets closer and you're going to try.

Route suggestions...for smaller waters and fishing. Mudro EP 22 or 23 up thru Fourtown, Boot, Gun to Thunder/Beartrap. Nice lakes and campsites all the way. If you want different scenery on the way back out, from Gun go to Bullet and down Moosecamp river. Narrow winding river with Moose and other wildlife chances
01/29/2020 10:23PM
We are note doing kayaks. We will be using a canoe.
distinguished member(1477)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/30/2020 08:00AM
In recent years I have done several trips that time of year through EP #47 Lizz & Swamp Lakes on the East side up the Gunflint Trail. The day before we explore Grand Marais and pick up any last minute items. We use a bunkhouse at Rockwood and pick up our permit there as well. Dinner is usually Trail Center or Poplar Haus, both only a few minutes from Rockwood. In the morning we launch from Rockwoods landing and it's a 20 minute paddle across Poplar to the first Portage into Lizz. You officially enter the BWCA about 1/3 the way across Lizz. There are many lakes in that area, most are long and narrow. We go across Caribou, through Horseshoe and into Gaskin. It takes a little under 4 hours of leisurely paddling and portaging to reach Gaskin. There are campsites on every lake along the way. You will run across only a few people on this route. Like I mentioned early, there are many lakes and routes in the area for exploring. If you stay on Horseshoe or Caribou your last night you can be back at Rockwood in about an hour or so your exit day. This area is very well known for moose viewing. The leaves and scenery are gorgeous this time of the year. It's a good trip to get acclimated to the BWCA. At any time you are only a few hours from civilization but it feels like you are deep into the wilderness. For me I think Gaskin has some very nice campsites and isn't very busy. The small skinny lakes to the north and west (Omega, Kiskadinna, Henson) are very nice to paddle and explore. Winchell on a calm day would be a nice day trip. There are some cliffs on the south side of Winchell that you could climb to explore. Vista has a nice campsite at the south end. Carl and Mike at Rockwood are a pleasure to work with.
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