BWCA Tow from Crane Lake to Beatty Portage Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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Caboose
member (9)member
 
03/14/2021 12:11PM  
Hello,

We're planning a trip through Lac la Croix this summer and are using an outfitter near Crane Lake. They offer a motor boat tow service from Crane Lake to Beatty Portage, and then back for our return trip, for $700. This would allow us to avoid about 8 hours (each way) of paddling. Is it worth it? I've never been to this area, and unless the route is bombarded with motor boats, or always wind bound, or something like that, I just don't see the reason to pay this much for a tow. What do you all think? Does anybody have experience with this route? Should we paddle it or pay for the tow? Thanks in advance!

-Caboose
 
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03/14/2021 12:39PM  
Everyone should do it once for the experience. The bus ride is a "trip". And the mechanical portages are awesome!!!

The boat ride itself up the Loon River is sweet.

Back in the day the bus driver would put down a 6 pack going over then pick up another 6 pack for the return. He must have gone thru 3 livers and half dozen kidneys.

I'm assuming you are using Andersons.
03/14/2021 01:03PM  
Verify the time of your departure(s). Check to see if there is any possibility you will have to wait idly by while they or any other tow service company you might use wait for more passengers or supplies for the passage. The trip will likely be worth it if the cash flow is not too high.

We sat around once for an additional four hours due to the bundling of incoming trippers. Anderson outfitters was not the company involved, but check just the same.
Voyager
distinguished member (334)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/14/2021 01:32PM  
I've never taken a tow. I'd much rather paddle, but I do understand the reasons for a tow- time constraints, wind. There are 2 nice sets of pictographs on Lac Lacroix, 1 on the U.S. side, 1 on the Canadian side. They deserve a look if you haven't seen them. View the Canadian pictos at your own risk. There's always the debate about the legality. How many in your group? If there were 6 of you, divided up it wouldn't be so bad. I also don't like to be locked into their schedule. If I want to leave earlier or stay longer, I can. Lac Lacroix can get windy. There are a couple of short portages that help avoid some of the wind. One is in Snow Bay and is on some of the maps, the other, a little further east, across a narrow strip of land. That one is not on any maps.





OtherBob
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03/14/2021 01:48PM  
Anderson no longer offers the bus ride over the Dawson Portage. They said the Canadians have a rule against foreign (US) businesses maintaining an operation (parking vehicles) on Canadian land. I assume the US has a similar rule. Anderson's shuttles are strictly Loon River boat trips.
Zup's, a resort on a Canadian island, runs a van and truck across Dawson Portage when the Loon River depth is too low for their boats (at least that was the case several years ago). When that happens, they need to use 2 boats and two or more vehicle drivers to make the trip.
The boat ride up the Loon River is more fun, though, and you experience the Loon Falls and Beatty mechanized portages. Paddling the Loon River does not look like fun, as paddlers' middle fingers were raised towards the boat drivers raising big wakes on the narrow stream. Enjoy the Lac La Croix trip, whichever way you get there.
marsonite
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03/14/2021 03:25PM  
Now in general, I don't like tows and would always paddle if I can. Scheduling a tow just adds another level of stress that is just what I am trying to get away from. However, I would not paddle that route. Just too much boat traffic on a narrow river for it to be enjoyable. I say either take the tow, or get a permit for Little Indian Sioux north and paddle in that way.
cyclones30
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03/14/2021 03:28PM  
If you can get an EP 14 for your date, paddle to LLC. (since that's the only option there)

If your only option is an EP 12 or whatever Crane Lake/Loon River is then I'd take the tow you talked about. It's a long paddle otherwise and although cool area, if there are other boats running it you will go for a ride when they go by.

With the border closed, the farthest they can get you is just short of Snow Bay on LLC. I'd ask them if they'll make it cheaper if they just drop you at the dock at the lower end of the Beatty portage. It should be cheaper as it's a shorter run and they don't have to pay for that rail portage both ways. Super easy walk over mowed grass to the other side and you can paddle (as long as it's not super windy) to Snow Bay or wherever you want easily. I feel them dropping you basically on the edge of Snow Bay is almost cheating :)
snakecharmer
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03/14/2021 08:01PM  
airmorse: "Everyone should do it once for the experience. The bus ride is a "trip". And the mechanical portages are awesome!!!


The boat ride itself up the Loon River is sweet.


Back in the day the bus driver would put down a 6 pack going over then pick up another 6 pack for the return. He must have gone thru 3 livers and half dozen kidneys.

I'm assuming you are using Andersons. "


I agree with airmorse on this. I've done the Crane Lake to LLC shuttle three times...the first time in a jet boat. It is quite a ride! Very memorable!
03/14/2021 09:19PM  
snakecharmer: "airmorse: "Everyone should do it once for the experience. The bus ride is a "trip". And the mechanical portages are awesome!!!



The boat ride itself up the Loon River is sweet.



Back in the day the bus driver would put down a 6 pack going over then pick up another 6 pack for the return. He must have gone thru 3 livers and half dozen kidneys.


I'm assuming you are using Andersons. "



I agree with airmorse on this. I've done the Crane Lake to LLC shuttle three times...the first time in a jet boat. It is quite a ride! Very memorable!"


It's a shame the bus ride is no more. That was one crazy time. Story goes Stu lost the brakes at the end of the Dawson Portage once and the bus went for a swim.

Gosh I feel old now.
PineKnot
distinguished member(1990)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/14/2021 11:41PM  
Wow....you saying Stu was pounding beer and drove the bus into the water?? Which Stu you talking about?
03/15/2021 01:06AM  
The loon river is at best a last minute entry to the bwca. Crane lake sucks. I have no problems with sharing with motor boats but crane lake has a high level of stupid motorists, I don’t think they are evil, they just seem stupid.
03/15/2021 06:45AM  
PineKnot: "Wow....you saying Stu was pounding beer and drove the bus into the water?? Which Stu you talking about?"

Not the same Stu. Never got the name of Mr. 6 pack.

There were a few different bus drivers. The Stu I was referring to was a Zups employee at the time.
03/15/2021 08:33AM  
It's cheaper if you just get dropped off at Beatty portage than the full tow to Snow Bay. Ask Mark Andersen or one of his staff for their pricing. The info is up on their website. It's cheaper still if you get dropped at Loon Falls portage. Once you cross both rail portages, the price converts to a per head charge but there's a charge per boat (unless you rent a canoe). I'm sure Zup's has a similar pricing structure. It's worth the cost to do at least once since Quetico is not an option this summer.
03/15/2021 09:11AM  
I wish “rocket Randy” was still was in business. He had the first jet boat and was almost half the price. He smoked 2 packs of lung darts each way (which might explain why he isn’t in business) but was entertaining and the ride was fun.

Agree with others though if you can afford it...it is fun...if you are doing a south west Quetico entry it is almost the only way to access the park unless you can take 2 weeks off of work.

T
03/15/2021 10:35AM  
timatkn: "I wish “rocket Randy” was still was in business. He had the first jet boat and was almost half the price. He smoked 2 packs of lung darts each way (which might explain why he isn’t in business) but was entertaining and the ride was fun.


Agree with others though if you can afford it...it is fun...if you are doing a south west Quetico entry it is almost the only way to access the park unless you can take 2 weeks off of work.


T"


Was that Scott's Jet Boat?
03/15/2021 12:42PM  
If it's a BWCA Lac La Croix trip then I would just use EP14 or EP16 which would provide flexibility and save money. If it was a Quetico trip then I would definitely use the Crane Lake boat service. It is not inexpensive, but it allows for more time in Quetico and the ride itself is a fun experience.
RatherbeDuffing
member (50)member
 
03/15/2021 12:43PM  
I did that trip for the opener a few years back... we did not take a tow. Getting through King Williams Narrows was a bit nerve wracking. Motor boats blasting through there created quite the cross-chop. Once we actually got on the loon river I think we saw one boat the whole time (there and back).

We did some exploring of the portage on the east side of Crane. It looked like it was going to be more trouble than it was worth. Looked like the kinds of portages where you end in mud up to your chest.
03/15/2021 06:24PM  
airmorse: "timatkn: "I wish “rocket Randy” was still was in business. He had the first jet boat and was almost half the price. He smoked 2 packs of lung darts each way (which might explain why he isn’t in business) but was entertaining and the ride was fun.



Agree with others though if you can afford it...it is fun...if you are doing a south west Quetico entry it is almost the only way to access the park unless you can take 2 weeks off of work.



T"



Was that Scott's Jet Boat?"


Nah...it was through a resort. I don’t think they are even listed on Crane Lake tourism anymore. Maybe doesn’t exist. Used to advertise in the Boundary Waters Journal..—haven’t talked to them since 2010.

T
lindylair
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03/15/2021 06:30PM  
I guess I just don't understand the motivation for this route with the concerns over the first part of the trip on Crane and the Loon River and the crazy amount of dollars for a tow. $700 would pay for 3-4 complete week long BWCA trips for me, or more and there is no way I could justify that expense to get to an area I could paddle to in a day and a half....and enjoy the scenery along the way(with no motorboats).

Wanting to see the expanse of Lac La Croix is a worthy goal but there are other simpler and cheaper ways to go about it. If the tow is a cool "experience" - well I have taken long boat rides before, usually a means to an end and not something I would pay a lot of money for.

Just got to wonder why this route with the potential negatives and cost involved? Maybe it is a bucket list thing for you, something you really want to do. If that is the case I hope it works out great and proves to be worth it, whether you paddle or pay for the tow. I would be thinking about all the cool gear I could have bought with that $700 the whole time.
billconner
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03/15/2021 06:50PM  
Lindy +1. I go to paddle. Love the paddle up and back on Moose as well. Plus frugal (polite "cheap") from my parents getting married at begining of the depression - 1931 - living on lack of expense.
cyclones30
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03/15/2021 07:10PM  
I've paddled to Snow Bay on the day we put in at EP 14.

So yes, the tow is pricey. But if 14's and 16's are all gone for the dates you can go....the river may be your next best option.
 
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