BWCA Snowbank to Grand Portage Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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sgtbowe
member (31)member
 
03/17/2021 10:52AM  
I'm entering Snowbank on May 16th for a solo trip along the border route to Grand Portage assuming ice is out by then. I'm feeling optimistic at this point.

I haven't verified my Fort Charlotte backcountry permit yet. In the event that I don't get it does anyone know if there are decent areas in the Grand Portage State Forest for dispersed camping near the Pigeon? I am aware that I can't camp on the Reservation.

I'm planning to finish the trip around the 21st or 22nd. I'm in good shape, single portage, and like to punish myself with long hikes and marathons so I believe this is realistic. I do have flexibility in case of weather or other delays. I'm not crossing big water solo in heavy winds.

I've searched the forum and found that I need to be wary of the portage at Partridge Falls since it's not on the map.

Any other advice on this route during this time of year?
 
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Voyager
distinguished member (335)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/17/2021 04:20PM  
Stay safe! You'll pass through lots of big cold lakes. Don't take any unnecessary risks on crossings. The S. Fowl L. to Pigeon R. portage has been discussed on here before, but in case you missed it- It's starts out steep. When you come to the 1st level spot turn right. If you don't you will be on the trail to the viewing spot. I've known people who have missed that fork and carried their whole outfit to the top. Not fun! You'll probably be able to paddle most of the rapids in May, instead of the usual wading, later in summer. You should be fine time-wise. I usually figure 2 days from South L. to L. Superior. I wouldn't think you'd have any trouble getting a Ft. Charlotte permit in May. There really aren't any places to camp along the Pigeon that I know of. As you know, you must respect the reservation lands. I have bivyed at the start of the Fowl portage and know 1 person who bivyed at the Pigeon R. end. Not too level at the far end and full of otter doodoo.
cyclones30
distinguished member(3910)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/17/2021 06:34PM  
You might be ahead of any potential portage clearing/maintenance. So the grand might have more downed trees and stuff to dodge than later in the year.
sgtbowe
member (31)member
 
03/18/2021 10:32AM  
Thanks for the info. I will be especially careful on big water. I'm all for risk mitigation and don't mind paddling extra miles (following shoreline) to make big water safer. I work on the water for a living so am pretty realistic about the actual risks. I really appreciate the heads-up on the portage to the Pigeon. Extra portaging is up there on my list of least favorite things. Depending on the weather I may use a hammock for the trip so that should open up some bivy areas if I get stuck without the Fort Charlotte permit but it sounds like I can probably expect to receive it. Thanks again!
cyclones30
distinguished member(3910)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/18/2021 12:15PM  
If you're not already a Tumblehome podcast listener, they've got an episode or two on a trip they did of the Grand Portage. If I recall, they put in near the John/Fowl area. Spent a night somewhere down the river, then did the portage the next day. They've got Youtube videos on it but also "in the field" recordings of portages, the falls, and more on your approach to the big portage. And actual GPS'd length of the big one...which differed from all the signs they saw.

They're also a site sponsor here
sgtbowe
member (31)member
 
03/18/2021 01:09PM  
I'm not but I will certainly check them out.
cmanimal
senior member (73)senior membersenior member
 
04/15/2021 07:05PM  
fun trip. 2 cents that I will add having done that route in Aug 2020 is to be careful at the Ft. Charlotte take out, as the portion of the steps extending into the river had decayed ( wasn't present) leaving stubs of rebar in the mud at the right height to puncture your canoe or kayak. Thankfully I found some with my foot first, and was very careful after that.
04/19/2021 09:18AM  
Camping options- there are options but these require common sense.

I have paddled the Pigeon 9 times now, and other than knowing about Partridge Falls, the most important piece of information is watching the stream hydrograph here: Pigeon River Hydrograph

It's currently not recording due to winter time but should start measuring soon hopefully. The Park service warns of difficulties if less than 100 cfs or over 500 cfs. This is basically sound advice. I will add a solo boat makes these difficulties less. And a long no rocker typical BWCA-style boat makes them worse.

In May, expect difficulties(fun) with higher flows. Being solo, I would tie in my gear just to be safe in case of capsize. The first stretch (about 800') from where the Voyageur-era English Portage was at, is the most thrilling stretch.
sgtbowe
member (31)member
 
04/19/2021 10:03AM  
Thanks. I will be tying my gear in. I always do so when paddling solo, among many other extra precautions. I've been waiting for the hydrograph to populate. I imagine it will soon. Sounds like perhaps I'll be fine as far as camping options if I bring my hammock and practice leave no trace. I received confirmation that my application for backcountry camping was received but nothing noting whether it was approved yet. I'm in a Wenonah Advantage. Should be fun. :)

Rebar noted as well.
Voyager
distinguished member (335)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/20/2021 07:58AM  
I received a phone call from the Ft. Charlotte camping guy regarding my Sept. permit. It's approved but he informed me that they will only have 1 of the 2 campsites open due to Covid. That will limit capacity by half.
cmanimal
senior member (73)senior membersenior member
 
04/20/2021 11:12AM  
I submitted my permit for 2021 on 2/24 and received the approval on 3/15, so If it's been longer than 3 weeks I'd drop them a line. They did inform me last year that the date I choose wasn't available and what dates were available. Beyond the initial response taking a few weeks the follow ups and additional conversation about paddling the Pigeon river were good. Bill Clayton from the NPS at G.P. was my contact last year.
sgtbowe
member (31)member
 
04/20/2021 11:28AM  
Hmm. It has been longer than 3 weeks. I'll give them a call. Thanks.
 
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