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11/25/2020 11:53AM  
Hey Gang,

I'm planning my first trip out to the BWCA this year and I'd love to get some insight on some ideal routes or locations.

I've taken to backpack camping heavily over the last summer, so I believe I have all the gear necessary (so we wont have to visit an outfitter). It will only be my fiancée and I, looking at 6/10/2021 currently. I'll be getting married and heading up north on that day, so this trip will serve as our honeymoon. We've looked at the entry points and we think Fall Lake (EP 24) would be where we would like to launch our canoe from, the tentative plan is to paddle out to Newton lake, and then to Pipestone Bay/Lewis Narrows area where we can grab a campsite. However, since we're pretty new to this we're keeping an open mind on location! In-and-out is what we were aiming for, no loops.

We'd like to avoid really long portages, but also don't want several small portages to avoid unpacking and packing several times (easy, right? lol). However, we're both in good physical and mental health, so its not something we're unable to do. Wherever we go, we'll be planning on setting up a basecamp for 3 days (Trip Plan will be to launch in Friday and pull out on Monday).

We are looking for something secluded since this will be our honeymoon, but we're pretty flexible. While there, we'll mostly be lazing about and enjoying the fresh air and peace. One of the top things I'm looking forward to would be the stargazing, It's one of my favorite things about going up north and I hear its absolutely gorgeous out in the BWCA. It would also be nice to have a hike nearby to a lookout or some other fantastic visual, but that's not a deal breaker.

Neither of us fish, so finding a good fishing spot isn't a concern. We may take some day trips out on the lake, but the most we would be doing is going for a swim.

Thanks for any help/insight/wisdom you can provide!
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senior member (54)senior membersenior member
11/25/2020 11:58AM  
We basically did the same trip last Aug (my wife and I). Super easy portages, and not a bad paddle until you get to Pipestone Bay.

The only problem can be the wind. That's some big water and we had some horrible wind which was actually scary at times. If you stay close to shore it's a lot easier but your travel time can go way up over a straight line. If you start early you have a better shot at less wind.

We stayed at campsite which was just to the south of the narrows (1588) . We loved this site as it was huge with a good sandy landing on the left. Big rock for just hanging out and fishing.

Only a few fish from camp but we paddled to the rock pile straight out and had some success. It's impossible to miss.
11/25/2020 12:30PM  
Since it sounds like solitude is your focus....I'd vote for looking elsewhere for your entry point. There are motors allowed in those areas so you won't get the true BWCA experience and the peace and quiet may not be so true right there. And that's some big water for your first trip if it's windy

As for what you are looking for......tons of options. Out of the Ely area, you could go for Slim Lk (EP 6) and get one of the sites on that lake or there are 3 other lakes nearby all with only a single site on each so you could have a lake to yourself on those. Or you could put in right on Moose (25) (yes it allows motors) but take one portage halfway up the lake to Wind and you're away from all that and have some campsites to pick from. Ensign is farther up Moose and easy to portage to, to the East but is a zoo normally....not what you're looking for it sounds.

More out of the Tofte area up the north shore there would be Hog Creek entry and go to Perent lake. Lots of site options there and a very easy/short portage to get there. Then you just paddle a winding stream to the lake. Homer Entry to Vern or Pipe would fit that too as sort of a quieter out of the way entry with smaller water and fewer/easier portages.
11/25/2020 01:52PM  
Good entry date for star gazing with the moon waning. The BWCA has some nice trails and in some places canoe routes overlap. An easy entry with both would be Clearwater. Caribou is a single portage and has some good camp sites. It is also on the border route trail with some nice bluffs. Johnson Falls would be an easy day trip.
The area is off the Gunflint trail and the drive up the north shore is a treat itself for many.
distinguished member(2661)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/25/2020 07:01PM  
Joose, of the options mentioned so far i am partial to the Homer entry and paddling to Vern or Pipe. Pretty easy entry with only a couple very short portages and a lightly traveled area. Good campsites and good fishing (not your deal) and a very good chance of solitude. Paddling up the Vern River is a daytrip you would likely enjoy.

Or...enter at East Bearskin and paddle about 35 minutes to the portage on the south shore to Crocodile Lake. Take the 100 or so rod portage to crocodile and pick from 4 campsites with the second being he best and the 4th being the second best(west to east) It is a dead end lake so often overlooked and rarely busy. It is an excellent and easy walleye fishery so if you have any interest at all in throwing a bobber out you will likely be rewarded. Good exploration daytrip down the crocodile River at the east end. Very quiet and pretty. hiking on either of those trips. Slim Lake entry is another good one, 4 nice campsites on the lake and a very pretty lake. There is a network of hiking trails on the southern and western sides of the lake that could provide a diversion. Also, as mentioned a couple lakes with single campsites reportedly very nice if you are willing to take a couple more portages and have true solitude.

Final option is something different, not even in the BWCA but very similar and every bit as remote, with some advantages. No permit required and the BWCA rules prohibiting cans and bottles do not apply. And the sites have picnic tables which might be underrated as a feature. Astrid Lake would be the goal, a few different ways to get there but I would recommend putting in on the Hunting Shack River and paddling about an hour south on a beautiful little wilderness river to where it enters Astrid Lake. There is one beaver dam pullover but with your dates the water might be high enough to make it a piece of cake.

A buddy and I stayed there for 5 days in mid September and had the place totally to ourselves. While reports from the BWCA that same time, including my normal tripping partner, was tons of people. Two good campsites, one more scenic, one more user friendly with a great sand beach. But there is also a pretty extensive network of hiking trails in the area - we did some hiking and it was great. Lots of old growth huge pines and some massive erratics(boulders dropped from the bottom of a glacier many years ago) the size of small buildings. We loved it and i can tell you it felt every bit as remote as the BWCA for sure.

Here's a link to the route we took off the Echo Trail:

Hunting Shack River to Astrid

A couple shots from the trip:

The Hunting Shack River

Scene along the hiking trail

Our campsite, the northern one. What you don't see is 40 feet of sand beach.

Astrid Lake

For the first time ever we brought a cooler with fresh food and adult beverages and used a ratcheting strap to secure it to the solid metal legs of the picnic table. Worked great.

I will be returning, gotta bring my normal tripping buddy here to check it out. Just another option, pretty easy entry and high on solitude, at least when we were there. We didn't see anyone on the lake or the trails for 5 days.
11/26/2020 10:16AM  
There are already a lot of good suggestions above. I'll second going in Moose Lake up towards the Canadian border. There are a few good campsites tucked in amongst the islands up there. Also, Saganaga is a good option. Paddling into Red Rock Bay. There are some relatively isolated spots in there or go into Ester or a similar lake after Monument portage. More solitude with only a portage or two to get there. A tow to American point would make that a short day and less work.
distinguished member(2479)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/27/2020 08:40PM  
Don't forget the double high queen air mattress. With repair kit. If ya know what I mean
distinguished member(1819)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/11/2020 07:20AM  
The wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary on Basswood Lake in June of 2012. We had a beautiful room and a nice shower house.
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