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09/30/2020 08:43PM
Hello all!

I've been posting here intermittently since I started planning my first trip to the BW about 7 years ago. Since that first trip I have gone eight times! Every year I've made the trek back with my amazing fiancé (then girlfriend) and we even went twice one year! We have gone with our kids, with a couple of friends and gone by ourselves on a fabulous immersive 10 day trip! On our many trips, however, we have avoided (unintentionally) the central part of the BW.

We have covered a good amount of area from Gunflint Lake East all the way to Moose Lake, spent many trips in the Rose Lake area and most of the other lakes in the area like Rove, Watap, Mountain, Clearwater, Bearskin and Duncan, Johnson Falls, did the monster portage, basked in the Rose falls, caught Northern Pike like crazy on Deer Lake, caught in horrific winds on Duncan, had bears scare our neighboring campers out of the bw! We've done 4 trips to this region and have explored it well.

We also have spent a lot of time in the Lac La Croix region and have done trips there that have covered Shell, Lynx, Oyster, Hustler, Agnes, Ge-be-on-e-quet, North, South, Beartrack and Little Bearttrack, Fat, Finger, Thumb and Pocket and more. We have had 3 trips to this region and have also explored it pretty well.

We have done one trip (our first actually) up around lower and upper Basswood Falls, Mudro, Fall, Newton, Basswood, Fourtown, Horse. (Lower Basswood Falls is still one of my favorite sights)

Now I'm planning trip number 9 and bringing 2 enthusiastic friends for their first time! I looked at the BW map and realized I have never even looked at the central area. Now, I want to plan a trip there. I am thinking like EP 27 Snowbank out of Ely or Kawishiwi or Sawbill out of Grand Marais. We have 6 nights to be out. Our priorities are: 1) Remote/minimal traffic 2) Waterfalls/Scenery 3) Wildlife (moose!) 4) Fishing 5) Nice campsites
We plan to travel every day so we can see as much as possible, but would take a layover day or two if feeling more like slowing the pace. We are going right in the middle of June, like the 17th-25th 2021.

I would love to hear suggestions, stories, trip reports from this region. Places I should absolutely see, or places to avoid. I thank you in advance for any info. Im looking forward to planning for next year!
 
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Bdubr
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10/01/2020 08:12AM
I think EP Snowbank would be a good go for you all. You can head east through Ima, Thomas, Fraser, Boulder, Adams, into the river and into Alice, and back up through Thomas and back? Or, you could do that same loop and come out via Insula and the number lakes (Lake one, two and three), then get picked up by an outfitter for a quick ride back to Snowbank? That area is gorgeous and definitely one of the more remote areas once you get to Fraser and beyond. Lots of great destination lakes on that route and if you're fishing, you should have some success as those are great fishing lakes too.
If you're traveling everyday you'll have time, but you can always adjust the route too as there's "outs" a long the way if you want to shorten the trip....
Michwall2
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10/01/2020 08:26AM
While your friends may be enthusiastic, you don't say how much canoing/camping experience they might have?

Six nights out of Kawishiwi Lake can give you a lot of nice trips. Here are 2 options:

Option 1 - This one ends at Sawbill. Get a shuttle from Sawbill Outfitters to the Kawishiwi entry (about $80). Day 1 Kawishiwi to Malberg (this may be aggressive for first timers). Day 2 Daytrip to the Fishdance Pictographs (southwest along the Kawishiwi River/Lake) and fishing the river. Day 3 Malberg to Little Sag (Take in the falls and Canyon along the portage to the northeast out of Malberg). Day 4 - Explore and fish Little Sag. Day 5 Little Sag to Mesaba Lake. This will be the most remote part of your trip. Day 6 - Fish Mesaba Lake and enjoy the solitude. Day 7 Mesaba to Sawbill Lake.

You will likely see people through Malberg Lake and probably your visit to Fishdance and pictos. But once you leave Malberg headed northeast, you will encounter far fewer people. You may see boats in the distance on Little Sag, but we have seldom be bothered by their presence here. If you want a day trip out of Little Sag, consider visiting Mueller Falls on the portage trails northwest out of Gabimichigami. The portage out of Little Sag to Mora Lake follows one of the most scenic falls in the BW. Make sure to get some pics. Once you leave Mora headed southeast, you enter some of the least visited routes in all the BW. However, be prepared to work for this solitude. The 300 rd portage between Fente and Hub Lakes will get your heart rate up. The 480 rd portage from Zenith to Lujenda is the one that really supplies the solitude here. Its not hard so much as just long.

Option 2 - Day 1 Kawishiwi to Lake Polly (You will have company on Polly Lake.), Day 2 Polly Lake to Amber Lake (West of Malberg Lake lies beautiful little Amber Lake. Take the first campsite on the east side of the lake. It has a nice sand beach with it. You are now out of the main travel paths and likely have the lake to yourself (campsite taken? check back to one of the campsites on the Kawishiwi River near the entrance to Amber Lake.). Day 3 - Day trip to the pictos on Fishdance Lake and fishing the river. Day 4 Amber Lake to Boulder Lake. You are in another very seldom visited places in the BW.
Day 5 - Boulder to Makwa Lake - Study the maps and the trip reports here about the portage out of Boulder Lake to Ledge Lake. This will be your most remote part of the trip. If you want to keep that remote feeling you could pull up short on Hoe Lake for the night. Day 6 Makwa (or Hoe) back south to Malberg Lake. Take in the falls and canyon as you enter the northeast corner of Malberg Lake. Day 7 Back to Kawishiwi Lake entry.

The second option is less aggressive travel and will allows for more fishing time.

A lot of the easier routes out of Sawbill run by other entry points and are not as remote as you can get out of Kawishiwi. But here are a couple options you might consider.

Option 1 - Day 1 Sawbill to Cherokee, Cherokee Lake is an island studded beauty with great hills for scenery to the north and east. Try your luck for lake trout here. Day 2 - Cherokee to Long Island Lake. This is a shorter travel day. Spend some time fishing. Day 3 Long Island Lake to Tuscarora Lake. There are 3 entry points just north of you today. You will see others at first. Once you leave Snipe Lake you enter a very little traveled portion of the BW. Copper Lake is actually the entrance/exit to a PMA to the south. However, Tuscarora Lake is a busy lake. Be prepared to hunt for a campsite here. Day 4 Tuscarora to Little Sag. You will start to find some solitude here. Not many travel this route. You could also pull up short on Mora Lake if you don't want to venture out on the larger lake. Day 5 Little Sag/Mora - Take a day to fish here. Day 6 Little Sag to Mesaba Lake (see above). Day 7 Mesaba Lake to Sawbill (see above).

Option 2 Get a shuttle to Baker Lake entry. (See above.). Day 1 Baker Lake to South Temperance Lake. (All full? Try either North Temperance or Brule Lake) Day 2 South Temperance Lake to Winchell Lake. Day 3 Spend a day finding the waterfall on the south shore and climbing the cliffs for a fantastic view. And of course - fishing! Day 4 - Winchell to Long Island Lake. There are 2 very nice sites on the far eastern end of LIL. Day 5 Long Island Lake to Frost Lake. Frost Lake has some good fishing and the best chance to see a moose. Day 6 Frost Lake to Cherokee Lake. Day 7 Cherokee Lake to Sawbill Lake.


Want a very aggressive route ?

Louse River route and northern loop.
Day 1 - Sawbill to Wine Lake, Take you across the Lujenida to Zenith portage. You get to solitude right away! Stop and see the Viking Dolman on the Kelso River north out of Kelso Lake. Day 2 - Wine Lake to Trail Lake - Very few people make it into this part of the wilderness. Your route finding skill will be tested. You will find lots of beaver dams to pull over. Trail Lake is very remote and you will likely have the place to yourself. Day 3 Trail Lake to Malberg Lake. Lots and lots of beaver dams today. Day 4 - Malberg Lake to Little Sag. Day 5 Fish Little Sag. Day 6. Little Sag to Mesaba Lake. Day 7 Mesaba Lake to Sawbill Lake. Yup. You will cross the Lujenida to Zenith portage again! But your food pack will be mostly empty and you will have some great portage legs by now!. (You could also return to Sawbill via the Lady Lakes Route by turning south at Malberg instead of north. You will find more people along this route. However, it is not as aggressive portaging/travelling. You would likely find more fishing time as a trade off for more people.)

There are a myriad of routes that will be less aggressive than these out of Kawishiwi or Sawbill. You can find several of them on the Sawbill Outfitters website. Many of the shorter routes can be stretched to 6 nights with days of fishing and day trips. But they are not likely to give you the solitude you might want. Or meet some of the other criteria you mentioned. I tried to meet as many of the criteria you requested as I could with each route.

Have a great trip!
TuscaroraBorealis
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10/01/2020 08:30AM
mschi772
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10/01/2020 08:37AM
I'm looking forward to a Wine Lake area trip next year. I expect Mug Falls to be a highlight. The old airplane remains will also be a novelty. Gonna enter at Sawbill and either base-camp somewhere in the general Wine Lake area or do a litte loop including Bug, Dent, Mesaba, Hub, etc before coming back out.

I've heard of pictographs on Fishdance and Jordan Lakes. A popular route that includes Jordan is Snowbank to Lake One (or vice versa) which loops through Insula, Thomas, Ima, etc. Fishdance could probably be reached from Insula as well, but I've also read that a Kawishiwi entry to Malberg will also get ya nearby.
TuscaroraBorealis
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10/01/2020 09:39AM
mschi772: "I'm looking forward to a Wine Lake area trip next year. I expect Mug Falls to be a highlight. The old airplane remains will also be a novelty. Gonna enter at Sawbill and either base-camp somewhere in the general Wine Lake area or do a litte loop including Bug, Dent, Mesaba, Hub, etc before coming back out.:

Fine Wine north of Sawbill
Jasonf
member (43)member
 
10/01/2020 07:38PM
Michwall2: "While your friends may be enthusiastic, you don't say how much canoing/camping experience they might have?


Six nights out of Kawishiwi Lake can give you a lot of nice trips. Here are 2 options:


Option 1 - This one ends at Sawbill. Get a shuttle from Sawbill Outfitters to the Kawishiwi entry (about $80). Day 1 Kawishiwi to Malberg (this may be aggressive for first timers). Day 2 Daytrip to the Fishdance Pictographs (southwest along the Kawishiwi River/Lake) and fishing the river. Day 3 Malberg to Little Sag (Take in the falls and Canyon along the portage to the northeast out of Malberg). Day 4 - Explore and fish Little Sag. Day 5 Little Sag to Mesaba Lake. This will be the most remote part of your trip. Day 6 - Fish Mesaba Lake and enjoy the solitude. Day 7 Mesaba to Sawbill Lake.


You will likely see people through Malberg Lake and probably your visit to Fishdance and pictos. But once you leave Malberg headed northeast, you will encounter far fewer people. You may see boats in the distance on Little Sag, but we have seldom be bothered by their presence here. If you want a day trip out of Little Sag, consider visiting Mueller Falls on the portage trails northwest out of Gabimichigami. The portage out of Little Sag to Mora Lake follows one of the most scenic falls in the BW. Make sure to get some pics. Once you leave Mora headed southeast, you enter some of the least visited routes in all the BW. However, be prepared to work for this solitude. The 300 rd portage between Fente and Hub Lakes will get your heart rate up. The 480 rd portage from Zenith to Lujenda is the one that really supplies the solitude here. Its not hard so much as just long.


Option 2 - Day 1 Kawishiwi to Lake Polly (You will have company on Polly Lake.), Day 2 Polly Lake to Amber Lake (West of Malberg Lake lies beautiful little Amber Lake. Take the first campsite on the east side of the lake. It has a nice sand beach with it. You are now out of the main travel paths and likely have the lake to yourself (campsite taken? check back to one of the campsites on the Kawishiwi River near the entrance to Amber Lake.). Day 3 - Day trip to the pictos on Fishdance Lake and fishing the river. Day 4 Amber Lake to Boulder Lake. You are in another very seldom visited places in the BW.
Day 5 - Boulder to Makwa Lake - Study the maps and the trip reports here about the portage out of Boulder Lake to Ledge Lake. This will be your most remote part of the trip. If you want to keep that remote feeling you could pull up short on Hoe Lake for the night. Day 6 Makwa (or Hoe) back south to Malberg Lake. Take in the falls and canyon as you enter the northeast corner of Malberg Lake. Day 7 Back to Kawishiwi Lake entry.


The second option is less aggressive travel and will allows for more fishing time.


A lot of the easier routes out of Sawbill run by other entry points and are not as remote as you can get out of Kawishiwi. But here are a couple options you might consider.


Option 1 - Day 1 Sawbill to Cherokee, Cherokee Lake is an island studded beauty with great hills for scenery to the north and east. Try your luck for lake trout here. Day 2 - Cherokee to Long Island Lake. This is a shorter travel day. Spend some time fishing. Day 3 Long Island Lake to Tuscarora Lake. There are 3 entry points just north of you today. You will see others at first. Once you leave Snipe Lake you enter a very little traveled portion of the BW. Copper Lake is actually the entrance/exit to a PMA to the south. However, Tuscarora Lake is a busy lake. Be prepared to hunt for a campsite here. Day 4 Tuscarora to Little Sag. You will start to find some solitude here. Not many travel this route. You could also pull up short on Mora Lake if you don't want to venture out on the larger lake. Day 5 Little Sag/Mora - Take a day to fish here. Day 6 Little Sag to Mesaba Lake (see above). Day 7 Mesaba Lake to Sawbill (see above).


Option 2 Get a shuttle to Baker Lake entry. (See above.). Day 1 Baker Lake to South Temperance Lake. (All full? Try either North Temperance or Brule Lake) Day 2 South Temperance Lake to Winchell Lake. Day 3 Spend a day finding the waterfall on the south shore and climbing the cliffs for a fantastic view. And of course - fishing! Day 4 - Winchell to Long Island Lake. There are 2 very nice sites on the far eastern end of LIL. Day 5 Long Island Lake to Frost Lake. Frost Lake has some good fishing and the best chance to see a moose. Day 6 Frost Lake to Cherokee Lake. Day 7 Cherokee Lake to Sawbill Lake.



Want a very aggressive route ?


Louse River route and northern loop.
Day 1 - Sawbill to Wine Lake, Take you across the Lujenida to Zenith portage. You get to solitude right away! Stop and see the Viking Dolman on the Kelso River north out of Kelso Lake. Day 2 - Wine Lake to Trail Lake - Very few people make it into this part of the wilderness. Your route finding skill will be tested. You will find lots of beaver dams to pull over. Trail Lake is very remote and you will likely have the place to yourself. Day 3 Trail Lake to Malberg Lake. Lots and lots of beaver dams today. Day 4 - Malberg Lake to Little Sag. Day 5 Fish Little Sag. Day 6. Little Sag to Mesaba Lake. Day 7 Mesaba Lake to Sawbill Lake. Yup. You will cross the Lujenida to Zenith portage again! But your food pack will be mostly empty and you will have some great portage legs by now!. (You could also return to Sawbill via the Lady Lakes Route by turning south at Malberg instead of north. You will find more people along this route. However, it is not as aggressive portaging/travelling. You would likely find more fishing time as a trade off for more people.)


There are a myriad of routes that will be less aggressive than these out of Kawishiwi or Sawbill. You can find several of them on the Sawbill Outfitters website. Many of the shorter routes can be stretched to 6 nights with days of fishing and day trips. But they are not likely to give you the solitude you might want. Or meet some of the other criteria you mentioned. I tried to meet as many of the criteria you requested as I could with each route.


Have a great trip!"


Dang! I wasn't the person asking but nice write up!
schweady
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10/01/2020 08:24PM
When you guys go in at Kawishiwi Lake and need a roof over your head the night before and a place to rent a canoe, where is your go-to? I often look at it, but it's a long road from anywhere...
cyclones30
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10/01/2020 09:16PM
schweady: "When you guys go in at Kawishiwi Lake and need a roof over your head the night before and a place to rent a canoe, where is your go-to? I often look at it, but it's a long road from anywhere...
"


Canoe rental either from Sawtooth outfitters in Tofte where you turn north from the Superior shoreline. Or Sawbill right on Sawbill at that EP...both good options. The roof over your head is a little more challenging....especially this year with most places having bunkhouses and stuff closed. Sawbill has a nice campground but you're camping. There's a motel-ish in Tofte but when I looked into it...the prices were pretty high.
cyclones30
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10/01/2020 09:18PM
And to the OP....you've already got a lot of good suggestions for the middle part of the park.

You mentioned Agnes and Oyster....but not Iron. So that means you've never been to Curtain Falls?? If so....start @ Moose River North and head through Agnes and LLC to Iron and check that bucket list place off. Then you could backtrack the same way or.....if you've got 2 vehicles or an outfitter to help you shuttle....from Curtain Falls continue to Crooked and go past your other favorite spot (Lower Basswood) and wheelbarrow falls and either up the Horse River out to Mudro or....portage around Upper Basswood and see another great falls. Then out via Jackfish Bay to Mudro. EP 16 to 22/23 is a fantastic route. Scenery, points of interest, fishing, etc. Table rock is right along the route if you're into historical things. Pictographs near LBF and an even better set on LLC not far off your route.
schweady
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10/02/2020 09:32AM
Thanks, cyclone30. And now, back to your regularly scheduled program...
10/02/2020 10:05AM
Michwall2: "While your friends may be enthusiastic, you don't say how much canoing/camping experience they might have?...
....Have a great trip!"


Thank you to everyone who gave input! I have my day to read these trip reports and look at the suggested routes here. This is fantastic!
To Michwall2: Our friends joining us are both camping enthusiasts. Both in their 30's and in good shape. He is a former Army medic with lots of outdoor experience. He's also accustomed to carrying MUCH larger and heavier packs so that's good :)
She's a tough go-getter with a love for outdoors, no fear :)

There is no worry of succumbing to the physical or environmental stresses. Paddling will be the question. I know they have both done a bit, but Im not sure how much experience together paddling a canoe?? In any case, we will get a couple of practice sessions in with them locally prior to the trip to help hone the skill, since that is the area where most of your travel distance and time are spent. The more proficient you are the more terrain you can cover. Thanks for raising that question! It will certainly help us to practice with them a bit!

I just wanted to add something about the paddling experience: I recall our first trip to the BW. We never paddled before. We didn't do so great on time, loading, unloading, balancing, tracking, steering, wind considerations and only almost capsized once :)

8 Trips later (and one paddling lesson) We cut through the water like a knife, adjust to the wind like pros, load and unload the boat with thought and precision. The amount of distance we are now able to cover because of our experience here is huge. We have had no problem covering 10-12 miles a day without over exerting ourselves. I cant say enough about how much time can be saved when you properly paddle together and have a good system of balance and loading/unloading the canoe at portages.
Lailoken
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10/03/2020 09:45AM
How do you think the Frost river and other rivers are this year. Low water and rocks are okay but low water and muddy bogs are not easy.
mmrocker13
senior member (72)senior membersenior member
 
10/06/2020 10:48AM
You could keep going from LBF up into crooked...best fishing, beautiful scenery, rarely crowded.
Michwall2
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10/07/2020 09:02AM
drglock: "Michwall2: "While your friends may be enthusiastic, you don't say how much canoing/camping experience they might have?...
....Have a great trip!"



Thank you to everyone who gave input! I have my day to read these trip reports and look at the suggested routes here. This is fantastic!
To Michwall2: Our friends joining us are both camping enthusiasts. Both in their 30's and in good shape. He is a former Army medic with lots of outdoor experience. He's also accustomed to carrying MUCH larger and heavier packs so that's good :)
She's a tough go-getter with a love for outdoors, no fear :)


There is no worry of succumbing to the physical or environmental stresses. Paddling will be the question. I know they have both done a bit, but Im not sure how much experience together paddling a canoe?? In any case, we will get a couple of practice sessions in with them locally prior to the trip to help hone the skill, since that is the area where most of your travel distance and time are spent. The more proficient you are the more terrain you can cover. Thanks for raising that question! It will certainly help us to practice with them a bit!

I just wanted to add something about the paddling experience: I recall our first trip to the BW. We never paddled before. We didn't do so great on time, loading, unloading, balancing, tracking, steering, wind considerations and only almost capsized once :)

8 Trips later (and one paddling lesson) We cut through the water like a knife, adjust to the wind like pros, load and unload the boat with thought and precision. The amount of distance we are now able to cover because of our experience here is huge. We have had no problem covering 10-12 miles a day without over exerting ourselves. I cant say enough about how much time can be saved when you properly paddle together and have a good system of balance and loading/unloading the canoe at portages."


Then I would say, with your help, my routes will work. It's a matter of balancing the travel/fishing equation. I am more of traveler and the routes I gave have a lot of travel but they will accomplish more of your sightseeing/solitude goals. If you want more fishing time, you will need to back off on the travel to leave more time to fish and save some of the sightseeing for another time.

Have a great trip.
Michwall2
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10/07/2020 09:09AM
schweady: "When you guys go in at Kawishiwi Lake and need a roof over your head the night before and a place to rent a canoe, where is your go-to? I often look at it, but it's a long road from anywhere...
"


There are no bunkhouses or hotel/motels along the Sawbill trail. If you need a hotel/motel, you will need to find a place out on the North Shore. As noted before, many can get pricy in high season. There is an AmericInn in Tofte and a couple resort type places along Lake Superior. Another 30 min (or so) north is Grand Marais with many more options. I don't know if they will be any less pricy through.

We usually stay at the campground at Sawbill Lake. I do this because there is an outfitter there to rent tripping gear, pick up my permit, get a shuttle if needed, and showers at the end of the trip. If I am in the Sawbill area for entry, I try to arrange my route to end there. It is nice to get a chance to clean up before traveling several hours in an enclosed car. If you don't need an outfitter, there are several NFS campgrounds along the Sawbill Trail and a couple small campgrounds at other entries (Kawishiwi and Baker Lakes). The smaller campgrounds at the lakes are often full. I would not have those as my only alternative.

I also like to stay at the Sawbill Campground because I often get to listen to the loons into the evening. It gets me into the "wilderness" mode so much sooner!

Good Luck!
 
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