BWCA Northern-most lake you can drive to? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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Lawrence
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06/14/2021 12:32AM  
Hello, everyone!

I am turning 32 this coming September and am planning to spend a week up in the BWCA. I have never been in the BWCA before, so I have no idea where to start even planning. In the midst of scouting maps for lakes to camp at, I quickly realized that many of the lakes cannot be driven to. I'm hoping some of you may be able to recommend the northern-most lake that is accessible by car? I was trying to look for a lake as close as possible to the Canadian border. I'm thinking I want to be on a west-facing campsite, as well. I have my own kayak so something with a launch or carry-in would be ideal, but prefer the lake does not allow motorized boats on it.

Thank you so much for your help!

-Lawrence
 
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marsonite
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06/14/2021 05:53AM  
The only two lakes I can think of that allow you to drive to them and also do not allow motors are Brule lake and Lake One. Maybe someone can think of some more. Neither are really close to the Canadian border. As far as camping goes, both lakes certainly have west-facing campsites, but all campsites are available on a first-come basis, so it's always a crapshoot as to whether the one you want is occupied.

Good luck! Enjoy your trip.
billconner
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06/14/2021 06:18AM  
If you want to base camp and car camp, consider the SNF campgrounds. I've only stayed at Jeanette Lake and it was quite nice.
06/14/2021 06:18AM  
Off the top of my head, Duncan and Daniels seem to be possibilities. You could go up to Rose Lake and that is on the border. The waterfall by the stairway portage is scenic, too.

But you need to understand that the BWCAW isn't a place where you go car-camping. There are very few actual campsites that you can drive to and they are all in campgrounds with other campers nearby. The idea of the BW is that you put in at an entry point, load up your gear into your canoe (kayak?) and paddle out to find a campsite.

Again off the top of my head, all of the campgrounds that I can think of where you stay right on an entry point lake are on motorized lakes. Except maybe Flour Lake off the Gunflint. That might be a possibility: drive to Flour Lake off Clearwater Road (Gunflint Trail area), camp there, and do day trips on Flour, over to Moon and Deer, or even as far as Caribou. But Flour Lake is not a designated entry point, so you could only get a day permit from there. Not border lakes, either.

From your post I can't quite tell if you are wanting access to your car, or if you really are planning a trip of several days. And also, the motor use on the BWCA lakes is really not that prevalent, so even if you choose an entry point like East Bearskin, or Seagull, Clearwater, or Saganaga, it is possible to portage to a quiet all-paddle lake fairly soon after your departure.

billconner
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06/14/2021 06:58AM  
Not to disagree with Lynda, but Jeanette is I believe non-motorized and has some walk in campsites away from cars, and Kawishiwi campground is on a non-motorized lake. I think there are others that are on non-motor lakes.
mjmkjun
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06/14/2021 08:17AM  
There's a few primitive campgrounds off the Gunflint Trail, like East Bearskin Campground. Primitive restrooms/water spigots in the campground. East Bearskin Lake does allow motorboats but I've been out of that Entry Point twice and hp limited motorboats are few and polite when present. Portages are short and few if you want to plan overnight to the eastern lake(s) like Alder, Canoe, Crystal, or Pierz lakes. (No motorboats past the east end of Bearskin Lake) Doable portages with a kayak, if lightweight. Nice hike to Johnson Falls from Canoe Lake. Easy day-hike trip.
Clearwater Lake/Outfitter is also nearby and access to the Canadian border is close, but also allows motorboats. Those portages leading to the Canadian border would be difficult with a kayak, to say the least. Uphill climb out of Clearwater. You could have a nice time fishing/basecamping staying only on Clearwater Lake which would be easily accessible with your kayak. Check out the map section(s) of this site.
Most motorboat traffic is speed limited & respectable of the paddlers.
You like observing sunsets, I assume, from your preference of a western-facing site. It's a gamble on availability, as someone has mentioned.
If you are in that area, a day trip to Rose Lake is worth the effort. You'd need to fill out a day-trip permit at entry point you choose. They are kept in a wooden box on EP's billboard/signage. (Edited: opps...i meant hp not mph on boat motor restrictions)
06/14/2021 08:29AM  
Hey there, glad you are starting to plan. I'll give you a few things to consider. You have a good chance of not being able to find a drive to campsite during Sept for starters so be prepared for a plan B on whatever you choose. The BWCA usually requires a portage where you carry everything in...not always but it does make it easier to find what you are looking for if you can incorporate that in.

I like planning random trips so here is an idea that you could look into.

Get a permit for EP 62 Clearwater Lake and get to the far east end of it. This EP you can put right in and go. The first roughly mile is motorized but it stops after that. So you can be on the lake but be like 4 miles away from the motors. There is a west facing campsite, the second to last from the east end of the lake that you could aim for. From here you could base camp and even take a day trip up to Mountain Lake on a short portage that you only need to bring your kayak and some food across to visit for a few hours and that is the Canadian Border.

Another good option is Moose Lake EP 25. Again it starts out as a motor lake but only for a short distance. This one you can paddle in all the way to the border and find lots of campsites...though it is a busier area so I am not sure about ease of finding one of those sites open but I would think in Sept you could.... if you choose this be sure to ask others about that.

Both those options are easy access and though they start off with motors it isn't long before they are out of sight and probably sound too since they are big lakes.

Quick tips at starting your planning.
- Make sure you are able to carry all your stuff within 2 trips.
- Make sure your food is light enough and able to be secured in some way at camp.
- Have a way to cook.
- And since it is your first time just look at the guidelines of what you can have and what you can't like don't bring glass and cans in for example.

Good luck planning!
Northwoodsman
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06/14/2021 09:29AM  
Sawbill is also an option, although not that close to Canada. From there you have a choice to enter the BWCA and stay in it, or you can paddle back to the EP at the end of every day and camp at the SNF campground. Each day you would fill out a free day-use permit. On Sawbill there are campsites in the BWCA and outside the BWCA. The ones outside the BWCA have fees. One thing to consider, once you leave the BWCA, you need a a NEW permit to go back in if you are overnight camping. For example if you enter on Brule (or Sawbill) and park in the parking lot and paddle to a campsite and spend the night, you can't go back to your car to get something without a new overnight camping permit to re-enter. There are daily quota's on these and Sept. is still a fairly busy time. On Brule all the campsites are in the BWCA. You can only enter the BWCA on the date listed on your permit and at the EP listed on your permit.
thegildedgopher
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06/14/2021 12:32PM  
x2jmorris: "Get a permit for EP 62 Clearwater Lake and get to the far east end of it. This EP you can put right in and go. The first roughly mile is motorized but it stops after that. So you can be on the lake but be like 4 miles away from the motors. There is a west facing campsite, the second to last from the east end of the lake that you could aim for. From here you could base camp and even take a day trip up to Mountain Lake on a short portage that you only need to bring your kayak and some food across to visit for a few hours and that is the Canadian Border.


Another good option is Moose Lake EP 25. Again it starts out as a motor lake but only for a short distance. This one you can paddle in all the way to the border and find lots of campsites...though it is a busier area so I am not sure about ease of finding one of those sites open but I would think in Sept you could.... if you choose this be sure to ask others about that.


Both those options are easy access and though they start off with motors it isn't long before they are out of sight and probably sound too since they are big lakes. "


Sorry, but you are incorrect on both fronts. Motors are allowed on the entire length of both Clearwater and Moose. On both lakes there is a brief section on the west end that is outside the BWCA, with no horsepower restrictions at all; cross the border into the BWCA and it's still open to motors, but subject to horsepower restrictions (10hp on Clearwater, 25hp on Moose>Newfound>Sucker>Basswood chain).
06/14/2021 01:11PM  
Think about Sea Gull lake, except for a section along Three Mile Island the rest of the lake is motor free. Sea Gull is huge with tons of good camp sites but is not a lake to fool with if you are used to rivers or protected waters. Click on the maps and entry points feature of the forum. Welcome to the club.
Lawrence
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06/14/2021 03:06PM  
Spartan2: "Off the top of my head, Duncan and Daniels seem to be possibilities. You could go up to Rose Lake and that is on the border. The waterfall by the stairway portage is scenic, too.


But you need to understand that the BWCAW isn't a place where you go car-camping. There are very few actual campsites that you can drive to and they are all in campgrounds with other campers nearby. The idea of the BW is that you put in at an entry point, load up your gear into your canoe (kayak?) and paddle out to find a campsite.


Again off the top of my head, all of the campgrounds that I can think of where you stay right on an entry point lake are on motorized lakes. Except maybe Flour Lake off the Gunflint. That might be a possibility: drive to Flour Lake off Clearwater Road (Gunflint Trail area), camp there, and do day trips on Flour, over to Moon and Deer, or even as far as Caribou. But Flour Lake is not a designated entry point, so you could only get a day permit from there. Not border lakes, either.


From your post I can't quite tell if you are wanting access to your car, or if you really are planning a trip of several days. And also, the motor use on the BWCA lakes is really not that prevalent, so even if you choose an entry point like East Bearskin, or Seagull, Clearwater, or Saganaga, it is possible to portage to a quiet all-paddle lake fairly soon after your departure.


"


Sorry, I should've been a little more detailed! So I will be bringing camping gear but I don't plan on kayaking/portaging from campsite to campsite on different lakes. I want to drive up to a single lake and spend my week at a single campsite. I've seen photos of people on trips up there where they've got their car actually parked directly on the campsite with their tent setup next to it. That's how I want to get setup.
OtherBob
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06/14/2021 03:14PM  
Saganaga meets most of your criteria: drive-up access, no portages. view of Canada, lots of campsites, many with a sunset view.
The west end is motor free; the main lake has limited permits for motorboats. You probably won't see more than a handful in a day. Motors are limited to 25 horse, and you won't see jet skiis and tubers.

Kayaking is a good choice for this big water with sometimes big waves.
thegildedgopher
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06/14/2021 03:16PM  
Lawrence: "Spartan2: "Off the top of my head, Duncan and Daniels seem to be possibilities. You could go up to Rose Lake and that is on the border. The waterfall by the stairway portage is scenic, too.



But you need to understand that the BWCAW isn't a place where you go car-camping. There are very few actual campsites that you can drive to and they are all in campgrounds with other campers nearby. The idea of the BW is that you put in at an entry point, load up your gear into your canoe (kayak?) and paddle out to find a campsite.



Again off the top of my head, all of the campgrounds that I can think of where you stay right on an entry point lake are on motorized lakes. Except maybe Flour Lake off the Gunflint. That might be a possibility: drive to Flour Lake off Clearwater Road (Gunflint Trail area), camp there, and do day trips on Flour, over to Moon and Deer, or even as far as Caribou. But Flour Lake is not a designated entry point, so you could only get a day permit from there. Not border lakes, either.



From your post I can't quite tell if you are wanting access to your car, or if you really are planning a trip of several days. And also, the motor use on the BWCA lakes is really not that prevalent, so even if you choose an entry point like East Bearskin, or Seagull, Clearwater, or Saganaga, it is possible to portage to a quiet all-paddle lake fairly soon after your departure.



"



Sorry, I should've been a little more detailed! So I will be bringing camping gear but I don't plan on kayaking/portaging from campsite to campsite on different lakes. I want to drive up to a single lake and spend my week at a single campsite. I've seen photos of people on trips up there where they've got their car actually parked directly on the campsite with their tent setup next to it. That's how I want to get setup. "


In that case, I don't think there are any lakes that meet your criteria of A) Non-motorized; B) drive-up; and C) on or near the border.

Trail's End campground ticks boxes B and C.
06/14/2021 03:36PM  
Fall Lake Campground has many non-reservable sites with access to the lake.
06/14/2021 03:36PM  
Fall Lake Campground has many non-reservable sites with access to the lake.
Lawrence
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06/14/2021 03:50PM  
thegildedgopher: "Lawrence: "Spartan2: "Off the top of my head, Duncan and Daniels seem to be possibilities. You could go up to Rose Lake and that is on the border. The waterfall by the stairway portage is scenic, too.



But you need to understand that the BWCAW isn't a place where you go car-camping. There are very few actual campsites that you can drive to and they are all in campgrounds with other campers nearby. The idea of the BW is that you put in at an entry point, load up your gear into your canoe (kayak?) and paddle out to find a campsite.



Again off the top of my head, all of the campgrounds that I can think of where you stay right on an entry point lake are on motorized lakes. Except maybe Flour Lake off the Gunflint. That might be a possibility: drive to Flour Lake off Clearwater Road (Gunflint Trail area), camp there, and do day trips on Flour, over to Moon and Deer, or even as far as Caribou. But Flour Lake is not a designated entry point, so you could only get a day permit from there. Not border lakes, either.



From your post I can't quite tell if you are wanting access to your car, or if you really are planning a trip of several days. And also, the motor use on the BWCA lakes is really not that prevalent, so even if you choose an entry point like East Bearskin, or Seagull, Clearwater, or Saganaga, it is possible to portage to a quiet all-paddle lake fairly soon after your departure.



"




Sorry, I should've been a little more detailed! So I will be bringing camping gear but I don't plan on kayaking/portaging from campsite to campsite on different lakes. I want to drive up to a single lake and spend my week at a single campsite. I've seen photos of people on trips up there where they've got their car actually parked directly on the campsite with their tent setup next to it. That's how I want to get setup. "



In that case, I don't think there are any lakes that meet your criteria of A) Non-motorized; B) drive-up; and C) on or near the border.

Trail's End campground ticks boxes B and C."


I can definitely live without (A) since everyone seems to be saying the amount of motorized boats is minimal and/or the speed is limited to where if there were an abnormal amount of motorized boats it wouldn't be a bother. But definitely B and C. There's gotta be more than a handful of options for B and C, no?
06/14/2021 04:17PM  
This is interesting. I am glad BillConner corrected me, as I was really shooting from the hip this morning. But in 40+ years of canoe-camping, I have never seen a campsite (except those at campgrounds where there are multiple sites) with a car at the campsite.

The difference between campsite and campground is, perhaps, just semantics, but to me being at a campground is very different from a campsite on a BWCAW lake.

The Clearwater option that thegildedgopher suggested is a good one, but you would have to paddle to the end of the lake and set up. You would not have your car at the campsite.

Anywhere that you will have ready access to your car is a campground, or is not in the BWCAW. There are campgrounds on entry level lakes, but if there is a single campsite on one where you could have your car available, it is a new thing to me. And I do love to learn, so someone will probably tell me I am mistaken. :-)
06/14/2021 04:29PM  
Sounds like requirements of a smuggler... drive up, close to the border, remote.
06/14/2021 04:30PM  
billconner: "Not to disagree with Lynda, but Jeanette is I believe non-motorized and has some walk in campsites away from cars, and Kawishiwi campground is on a non-motorized lake. I think there are others that are on non-motor lakes."

I have never been to Jeanette, so that is something new to me. Still, if it is a walk-in campsite it won’t satisfy his criterion of having the car right at the campsite. There are campgrounds on non-motorized lakes, yes, but I didn’t realize he was looking for a campground when I made my first post.

This is a good discussion and I hope we are, in the end, going to be helpful to Lawrence.
06/14/2021 04:35PM  
Ah gildedgopher thanks for the correction. I thought it was only the beginning they could.... like now I'm questioning if sawbill is the same.
thegildedgopher
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06/14/2021 04:45PM  
x2jmorris: "Ah gildedgopher thanks for the correction. I thought it was only the beginning they could.... like now I'm questioning if sawbill is the same."

Sawbill I think you're spot-on -- the southern portion is out of the BWCA and open to all motors; beyond the BWCA boundary is paddle-only. I think the issue there is the access is not boat/trailer friendly.
cyclones30
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06/14/2021 05:17PM  
There are essentially zero campsites IN the actual Boundary Waters Wilderness where your car is parked next to the campsite. There are places that have been mentioned already that are very near the edge of the "park" but you can't drive right to a lake and have your own solitary campsite with your car at it.

You can drive right to some lakes and put your kayak in and paddle to any number of campsites on that lake. But your car is back at the main landing/parking area. There are also a few campgrounds just outside the BW where you'd have your car at your site along with potentially many others doing the same thing but you're not technically in the BW and you could paddle out from there every day.

I agree with the other comments, and maybe you might be better off at one of the many USFS campgrounds or campsites and lakes that are also near the border.
lindylair
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06/14/2021 07:29PM  
There are a few bwca entry points where you can camp and paddle on non motorized lakes(kawishiwi, baker) but the campgrounds are small and in high demand. You might get a spot, might not.

Thee are some that allow motors for part of the lake but not the rest (Sawbill for example, Saganaga and Seagull) and some that allow motors with restrictions (Clearwater, East Bearskin for example). In any case I don't think the motorboats you encounter are going to ruin your trip, 90% of the time you won't even know they are there.

But for what you are trying to experience from what I can get from your OP is the wilderness like experience with the comforts of car camping and daytrip opportunities. There are numerous Superior National Forest campgrounds that would fit your bill, many are just outside of the BWCA and offer similar quality scenery, fishing and solitude. Check out Crescent Lake, one of my favorites and about a mile from the BWCA as the crow flies. Same with Flour Lake and Jeanette Lake is another good one. The scenery is all BWCA, there will be just as much wildlife, equally good fishing and if you can handle the noise of a few motorboats throughout the day you will be quite happy. Two Island Lake is another good one, especially if you like to fish. Crescent in particular is a favorite of mine, gorgeous island studded lake full of points and bays and fully undeveloped with great scenery and good fishing. Reservations are hard to come by so wherever you decide to go, I would get going on it.


Crescent Lake campground






View from our Crescent Lake campsite
Savage Voyageur
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06/14/2021 09:01PM  
x2jmorris: "Hey there, glad you are starting to plan. I'll give you a few things to consider. You have a good chance of not being able to find a drive to campsite during Sept for starters so be prepared for a plan B on whatever you choose. The BWCA usually requires a portage where you carry everything in...not always but it does make it easier to find what you are looking for if you can incorporate that in.


I like planning random trips so here is an idea that you could look into.


Get a permit for EP 62 Clearwater Lake and get to the far east end of it. This EP you can put right in and go. The first roughly mile is motorized but it stops after that. So you can be on the lake but be like 4 miles away from the motors. There is a west facing campsite, the second to last from the east end of the lake that you could aim for. From here you could base camp and even take a day trip up to Mountain Lake on a short portage that you only need to bring your kayak and some food across to visit for a few hours and that is the Canadian Border.


Another good option is Moose Lake EP 25. Again it starts out as a motor lake but only for a short distance. This one you can paddle in all the way to the border and find lots of campsites...though it is a busier area so I am not sure about ease of finding one of those sites open but I would think in Sept you could.... if you choose this be sure to ask others about that.


Both those options are easy access and though they start off with motors it isn't long before they are out of sight and probably sound too since they are big lakes. .


Good luck planning!"




Moose/New found, and Clearwater are all motorized lakes. I was just on MooseNew Found last week, and there were tow boats and private fishing boats at the portage to Splash lake and to the Prairie Portage.
06/14/2021 09:11PM  
lindylair:
But for what you are trying to experience from what I can get from your OP is the wilderness like experience with the comforts of car camping and daytrip opportunities. There are numerous Superior National Forest campgrounds that would fit your bill, many are just outside of the BWCA and offer similar quality scenery, fishing and solitude.


Agree, you don't need to get hung up on being in or even on the edge of the BWCA. Once you get up the Gunflint it's all beautiful country. Do a little homework on 2 or 3 possible spots, then head north and have some fun.

pswith5
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06/15/2021 07:03AM  
Gunpoint lake itself might work for you. I think there is a campground maybe two. Gunfint pines resort. And maybe Gunflint lodge? The opposite side of the lake is Canada. Kind of big water but if your kayak is like most of them them these days, it's pretty stable.
thegildedgopher
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06/15/2021 08:28AM  
pswith5: "Gunpoint lake itself might work for you. I think there is a campground maybe two. Gunfint pines resort. And maybe Gunflint lodge? The opposite side of the lake is Canada. Kind of big water but if your kayak is like most of them them these days, it's pretty stable. "

I was thinking GF Pines as well. No camping at GFL though.

You would stare across to Canada all day. You can paddle to the eastern end and go
Through gunflint narrows and it’s pretty quiet back there. If you get a calm day you go all the way to North lake and check out the height of land portage. Bridal falls hike from the shores of gunflint. Magnetic lake on the other end is a BWCA entry point and you could pull a day use permit any time. Might be fun to venture up the Granite River route toward Saganaga Falls. Also really close to good hiking like the Kek trail and magnetic rock. Lots of options.
jhb8426
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06/15/2021 01:38PM  
Northwoodsman: "Sawbill is also an option... Each day you would fill out a free day-use permit."

You don't need to fill out a new one each day. You can fill out one for a number of days stating the start and end dates.

thegildedgopher: "Sawbill I think you're spot-on -- the southern portion is out of the BWCA and open to all motors; beyond the BWCA boundary is paddle-only. I think the issue there is the access is not boat/trailer friendly."

Nope, Sawbill is paddle only for the whole lake.
Sawbill is within the paddle only entry point list.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) - Entry Points

billconner
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06/15/2021 01:50PM  

"You don't need to fill out a new one each day. You can fill out one for a number of days stating the start and end dates."

Never knew that. Does seem at odds with the general rule that "the permit and stubs become invalid once the trip leader exits the
wilderness"

I don't trust the report of what a ranger said. I have emails from rangers in their official capacity that state opposite interpretations of the regs.

Just read here that you can't carry blank day paddle permit for entering BWCAW from other than an entry point and deposit or mail slip when you exit at an entry point. I know I was told that was OK.

All I know is if your interpretation is based on what a ranger said you, you might want to be cautious telling someone else they are wrong.

jhb8426
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06/15/2021 02:50PM  
billconner: "Never knew that. Does seem at odds with the general rule that "the permit and stubs become invalid once the trip leader exits the
wilderness"

All I know is if your interpretation is based on what a ranger said you, you might want to be cautious telling someone else they are wrong. "


It says that right on the permit.
jhb8426
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06/15/2021 03:02PM  
billconner
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06/16/2021 07:04AM  
Different from my last day permit. But it does say you can mail it so seems you could carry a blank for entering from Canada or a non-entry point.
schweady
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06/16/2021 08:31AM  
jhb8426: "You don't need to fill out a new one each day. You can fill out one for a number of days stating the start and end dates."
For those visits May 1st-September 30th, you are not allowed to stay in the wilderness overnight on a Self-Issued Permit. Nor may you use it to launch out on the day(s) before an overnight permit becomes valid. Overnight trips using these permits are only for October 1st-April 30th, hence, those start and end dates to fill out.

These "Self-Issued Permits," are used for both day-use (non-overnight) and for overnight trips in the off-season. Read #1-3 on the Self-Issued Permit image above.
06/16/2021 10:16AM  
Consecutive days and same entry point are the key words. (for in season day tripping)
schweady
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06/16/2021 10:20AM  
cowdoc: "Consecutive days and same entry point are the key words. (for in season day tripping)"
Correct. As long as you also exit each night and spend overnight outside the wilderness you can re-use the same Self-Issued Permit (for in season day tripping).
(Saves paper...)
06/16/2021 10:20AM  
Is there a reason you would like to be close to the Canadian border? Is there a reason the car needs to be close by? As others have said, it sounds like you are more looking for a campground type of set up.

If you're looking to spend a week, knowing what sort of activities you're interested in doing would help as well. One week at one site is a long time, but if you have day trip plans, you would stay busy. Or maybe just chilling at the site is exactly what you want to do! and that's fine too.
mjmkjun
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06/17/2021 08:14AM  
Hello, Lawrence. Are you still with us? Hope you've got a good lead out of the many responses.
Once you venture into the BWCA or surroundings you may get hooked. It's a special area.
pswith5
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06/17/2021 07:18PM  
thegildedgopher: "pswith5: "Gunpoint lake itself might work for you. I think there is a campground maybe two. Gunfint pines resort. And maybe Gunflint lodge? The opposite side of the lake is Canada. Kind of big water but if your kayak is like most of them them these days, it's pretty stable. "


I was thinking GF Pines as well. No camping at GFL though.


You would stare across to Canada all day. You can paddle to the eastern end and go
Through gunflint narrows and it’s pretty quiet back there. If you get a calm day you go all the way to North lake and check out the height of land portage. Bridal falls hike from the shores of gunflint. Magnetic lake on the other end is a BWCA entry point and you could pull a day use permit any time. Might be fun to venture up the Granite River route toward Saganaga Falls. Also really close to good hiking like the Kek trail and magnetic rock. Lots of options."
I meant Gunflint of course, (auto correct) changed that.
larrymarket
member (6)member
 
08/04/2021 05:15PM  
Hi, all!!!

Sorry I went MIA for such a long time!!! For a while I was starting to doubt whether or not I was really prepared to take this trip, but happy to say I've decided to head up to Saganaga Lake from Wednesday 9/29 to Saturday 10/2!!! I'll be entering at EP55 and hopefully paddling up to an empty campsite on Horseshoe Island. I was also really confused on permits but now I know I only need overnight paddle permits for the 29th and 30th (permits aren't required after 9/30). I'm super excited to head up there!!!

I'm in the gear-buying phase now so if you guys could offer some advice on really just the essential camping gear, that'd be very much appreciated! I ordered an Alps Mountaineering Meramac 5 (it's a huge tent, and probably too much tent for one person, but I'm a little claustrophobic and I wanted the extra room to stand up in). I've also got my sleeping bag and pad on the way so that'll be here soon. I'll be bringing my own kayak and fishing gear.

Could anyone offer insight on the smallmouth fishing up there in late September? I'm hoping the topwater bite will still be on, but I will bring some finesse gear as well.

Thanks again all of you for your advice!!!
Northwoodsman
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08/04/2021 05:33PM  
You only need a permit to enter on the 29th. Once you enter on a permit it is valid until you leave the BWCA (up to 365 days I believe). When you apply for one it will ask you for an approximate exit date so they have an idea how many people are visiting at a given time or should a situation occur where they may need to evacuate or account for people.

As far as equipment goes by taking a kayak you will be fairly limited by it's capacity. You're going during a fairly slow time of the year so it would be very easy to rent equipment from an outfitter. Not a bad idea for your first trip to see if you like it or not and to get an idea of what works and doesn't work before you spend a lot of cash on useless items. Days will be short, nights will be long. It will most likely be cool to cold. Don't bring/wear cotton. You need to stay warm and dry. Based on your experience I highly recommend renting a PLB or satellite device. Last fall they saved at least two lives about the same time of the year, with the same level of BWCA experience that you have. In relatively a short time span two soloists nearly died of hypothermia because they over-estimated their abilities and under-estimated the environment. Do NOT count on cell phone coverage. There is a very good chance that the entire SNF and BWCA will still have a fire ban - NO fires allowed of any kind!! It will be harder to stay warm and next to impossible to dry anything that may get wet.

mmrocker13
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08/05/2021 03:56PM  
mmrocker13
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08/05/2021 04:27PM  
Hi Larry :-)
Some thoughts...
A five-person tent is a BIG tent (even a 5-person backpacking one). That may be one thing to consider... especially since it's almost Labor Day, and REI does its big labor day sale, you may be able to snag a smaller/lighter tent at a great price. Depending on the tent, you could do a 3-person and have PLENTY of room/be not claustrophobic as a solo...and it would still be big enough that if you eventually want to go with someone else, there's room for the both of you and all your gear. And if you decide you like the BWCA, having a tent that is lighterweight and portageable will be a good investment. We currently have a Marmot Limelight 3 and it's quite spacious--it's built like a box, so while the peak of it isn't as high as some, the area along the sides has basically the same headroom as the middle--effectively giving you more usable space. As much as I still miss our Taj 3, this has been an awesome replacement (we did a stint with the Big Agnes Copper Spur in between and HATED it).
You'll need to find something to treat your water--pump, gravity filter, tablets, etc. After many years with a pump, I'm a gravity filter convert. Super convenient, always allows us to have a couple full nalgenes on hand and then the bag filling/filled and waiting.
Stove, if you are planning on warm food. This wouldn't have been a necessity if there weren't a fire ban (but I don't care to cook at the grates for a variety of reasons, the mess and inaccuracy and time being the main three), but as of right onow there is, so...
Stuff sacks. Get yourself a few and smoosh everything you can down small. Some bags come with a stuff sack, some don't. We use them for all of our soft stuff in addition to the bag.
First aid kit...garden variety stuff, but toss in super glue, needle and thread, and if you can rent it or buy one, a PLB or similar (We just started using an inReach, and are quite fond of it)
PFD... if you are a kayaker, you most likely have that covered. But don't forget to pack it (which we have done before :D And I will tell you, 10 days with rental life jackets (actually, we just bought them off an outfitter for like 10 bucks each :D) when you are used to your own...we've never forgotten them since))
Like Northwoodsman said, you might consider renting some or all of yoru gear (or seeing if you can borrow), that way you can experiment. I'm a "I'm just buying it" sort of person, but we also use all of our gear a lot, and if we don't like something, we get rid of it and try something new...but for the most part, we use stuff for a very very long time.
larrymarket
member (6)member
 
08/05/2021 10:00PM  
mmrocker13: "Hi Larry :-)
Some thoughts...
A five-person tent is a BIG tent (even a 5-person backpacking one). That may be one thing to consider... especially since it's almost Labor Day, and REI does its big labor day sale, you may be able to snag a smaller/lighter tent at a great price. Depending on the tent, you could do a 3-person and have PLENTY of room/be not claustrophobic as a solo...and it would still be big enough that if you eventually want to go with someone else, there's room for the both of you and all your gear. And if you decide you like the BWCA, having a tent that is lighterweight and portageable will be a good investment. We currently have a Marmot Limelight 3 and it's quite spacious--it's built like a box, so while the peak of it isn't as high as some, the area along the sides has basically the same headroom as the middle--effectively giving you more usable space. As much as I still miss our Taj 3, this has been an awesome replacement (we did a stint with the Big Agnes Copper Spur in between and HATED it).
You'll need to find something to treat your water--pump, gravity filter, tablets, etc. After many years with a pump, I'm a gravity filter convert. Super convenient, always allows us to have a couple full nalgenes on hand and then the bag filling/filled and waiting.
Stove, if you are planning on warm food. This wouldn't have been a necessity if there weren't a fire ban (but I don't care to cook at the grates for a variety of reasons, the mess and inaccuracy and time being the main three), but as of right onow there is, so...
Stuff sacks. Get yourself a few and smoosh everything you can down small. Some bags come with a stuff sack, some don't. We use them for all of our soft stuff in addition to the bag.
First aid kit...garden variety stuff, but toss in super glue, needle and thread, and if you can rent it or buy one, a PLB or similar (We just started using an inReach, and are quite fond of it)
PFD... if you are a kayaker, you most likely have that covered. But don't forget to pack it (which we have done before :D And I will tell you, 10 days with rental life jackets (actually, we just bought them off an outfitter for like 10 bucks each :D) when you are used to your own...we've never forgotten them since))
Like Northwoodsman said, you might consider renting some or all of yoru gear (or seeing if you can borrow), that way you can experiment. I'm a "I'm just buying it" sort of person, but we also use all of our gear a lot, and if we don't like something, we get rid of it and try something new...but for the most part, we use stuff for a very very long time. "


This is awesome information!!! Thank you!!!

In regards to the tent: Yup exactly...I had a gut feeling when I hit the order button for the Meramac 5 it would be too much tent. What I actually wanted was a Kelty Tallboy 4 cause it has 70" of ceiling height, which I've been finding that a lot of 4-person tents don't have. I actually ordered one from Campsaver.com back on 7/24, but they screwed me on the shipping timeframe of sometime later this month and pushed it all the way back to next Spring. So I ended up cancelling that, AND I'm planning to return the Meramac 5 because today I ordered...the Meramac 4 LOL!!! I actually got the Outfitter version this time instead of the regular Meramac 4, which is supposed to be a lot more durable, so I am giving a up a little bit in ceiling height, but it won't be as needlessly cavernous as the 5 I think.

For the Gravity Filter: is there one you'd recommend that won't break the bank? I'm hoping to not have to spend more than $30 on this purchase.

Stove: I just ordered a Soto Windmaster today. Will pick up a couple 8oz butane canisters from REI eventually.

Stuff Sacks: I'll get some of those on Amazon soon!

PFD: I've got my Onyx one which is solid so I'm good there.

Below is my checklist so far. Please feel free to comment on anything else you'd recommend I bring (or leave at home!):

Camp
- [x] Footprint
- [x] Tent (10lb)
- [x] Sleeping pad (6lb)
- [x] Sleeping bag (3lb)
- [ ] Pillows

Cooking/Eating
- [ ] Cooking Utensils
- [ ] Lightweight Cookware
- [ ] Butane canisters
- [x] Camp stove

Tools
- [ ] Multi-tool
- [ ] Lantern(s)
- [ ] Extra batteries for lantern and headlamp
- [x] Headlamp

Personal Care Stuff
- [x] Medium towel
- [x] Toothpaste
- [x] Toothbrush
- [x] Toilet paper
- [x] Personal Wipes
larrymarket
member (6)member
 
08/05/2021 10:13PM  
Northwoodsman: "You only need a permit to enter on the 29th. Once you enter on a permit it is valid until you leave the BWCA (up to 365 days I believe). When you apply for one it will ask you for an approximate exit date so they have an idea how many people are visiting at a given time or should a situation occur where they may need to evacuate or account for people.


As far as equipment goes by taking a kayak you will be fairly limited by it's capacity. You're going during a fairly slow time of the year so it would be very easy to rent equipment from an outfitter. Not a bad idea for your first trip to see if you like it or not and to get an idea of what works and doesn't work before you spend a lot of cash on useless items. Days will be short, nights will be long. It will most likely be cool to cold. Don't bring/wear cotton. You need to stay warm and dry. Based on your experience I highly recommend renting a PLB or satellite device. Last fall they saved at least two lives about the same time of the year, with the same level of BWCA experience that you have. In relatively a short time span two soloists nearly died of hypothermia because they over-estimated their abilities and under-estimated the environment. Do NOT count on cell phone coverage. There is a very good chance that the entire SNF and BWCA will still have a fire ban - NO fires allowed of any kind!! It will be harder to stay warm and next to impossible to dry anything that may get wet.


"


Thanks for the advice! And correcting me on the permits! I called Rec dot gov and they actually let me change my permit reservation from the 29th to the 27th, so I'll be there for a whole 5 days.

I have a big fishing kayak that has a weight capacity of about 450lbs (Wilderness Systems ATAK120), and it's got ample storage space in front and back! So I think I'll be good on that avenue. The only thing that's in the back of my mind is if it ends up being overly windy on the day I get there, I may want to take advantage of their tow service (if they are willing to tow my big kayak).

Great recommendation on the PLB! I will definitely see if I can get one of those. Do the Outfitters loan them out to your knowledge?
Northwoodsman
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08/06/2021 07:49AM  
Delete.
Northwoodsman
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08/06/2021 07:49AM  
Larry - some outfitters rent communication devices like the InReach. The time of year that you are going, especially being solo, it is at the top of the list of things to have. Last fall two guys were saved because they had them. If I recall one soloist had to be rescued the first night because he was wet, cold, and hypothermic. I don't think the other guy even made it to his first campsite before he had to be rescued because he was wet and cold. The water is cold, the air is cold, and daylight is shortened. Like I stated earlier I wouldn't be surprised if the fire ban is still in place. Make sure you have a map and compass and know how to use them. Sag is a big lake with a lot of islands and it's very easy to get lost. If you have GPS bring that along also.

From EP55 to Horseshoe Island is 4.3 miles and about 90 minutes of paddling.
08/06/2021 09:49AM  
Larry,

I just want to reiterate much of what has just been said and add a few thoughts. We've all done quite a few trips and learned a lot from our experience. We've also learned a lot from others experience. I've done about 20 trips to the BW and most have been solo and most in the second half of Sept. for reference.

The weather is highly variable that time of year. You may have some really nice sunny fall days (2014). Or you may have gray days, the high temp not quite making it to 40, with heavy wind-driven rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail, snow (2018). You may have both of those in the short time you are there. You'll need a sleeping bag and pad good to 20 degrees. You'll need enough layers of clothes for the weather too. Good rain gear is essential. Keeping that stuff dry is essential. I always take 3 pair of socks - one to wear traveling during the day, a dry pair of socks and camp shoes. The dedicated sleep socks, sleep base layer, sleep beanie, and the sleeping bag all go in a Sea-to-Summit eVent compression sack to reduce bulk and keep dry. That goes in a waterproof or waterproofed (with a liner) pack. The extra clothing layers are done the same.

Another issue related to weight is just the sheer bulk of gear. I'm not familiar with kayaks, so don't know how big the storage hatches are, but everything has to fit. I'd suggest a test pack well ahead of time so any necessary adjustments can be made. The tent I took on my first trip was probably 10lbs. too. Now my tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and a 10'x12' tarp combined weigh less than that including all stakes, guylines, cordage, etc. and probably pack smaller.

I expect the fire ban to still be in effect as well as the

Food Storage Order . You need to know about that so you can prepare ahead of time. People have reported shortages of fuel canisters so I'd get them as soon as possible. On a related note I test all canisters I'm taking and my stove before leaving home. I inflate my pad and leave overnight to make sure it doesn't leak, set up my tent, etc. All that leads to the checklist - you've already got that started and it's a lot like my first one. But I've learned some things and it's a lot more detailed now - tent has morphed into tent body, fly, groundsheet, poles, guylines, stakes (count them).

I take a lot less "stuff" now. I took more than I needed on the first few trips and that's the #1 lesson people learn from their first trip ;).

For water filter in that price range, I suggest you look into the Sawyer Squeeze or the new Platypus Quick-Draw.

mmrocker13
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08/06/2021 12:30PM  
For the tow, I am sure you can tow a kayak, but not sure how it works with the gear. We generally do one tow every year, and it has always been all our gear in the tow boat, and then canoe on the rack.

Depending on who you use/where they drop you, could could be having to load your boat and then get into it in the water (as in out in the middle of the water). But if the whole area is motorized, then maybe not. (We usually do a fall>basswood tow, and it is literally drive all the way to the motor border, and out you go :D The first time I did it it scared the bejesus out of me. I thought for sure I'd biff it :D)

For five days, you don't need a ton of clothes, but making sure you have a dry set of everything is important. As others have said, once you get soaked, getting warm can be a bitch...especially if there's no fire. As with a lot of sports, wicking fabrics are yoru friend. I live in my baselayers and when it's warm am in a skirt/sportbra or skirt/tech tee. Rain gear is your friend. Occasionally we never even unpack it, but that is rare (and most of our trips are September trips). Lighter weight rain gear is an even better friend :D I have all-weather bibs for fishing, but they are bulky and heavy for BWCA, so I also have a pair of lightweight REI gortex pants that I use up there and they're great. (Again...REI Labor Day sale is a great place to pick up stuff on sale)

Towel: you can get a quick dry towel for cheap at AMazon. We replaced our old REI pack towels with these a couple of years ago, and like them a lot. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FB33VJ9/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

As for pillows...lots of folks use their clothing or their towels, but I have a compressable Therma Rest one. And in my old age, I have migrated all the way up to the biggest one. Still stuffs down pretty dang small (goes in by sleeping bag). My husband made a brief foray into an inflatable pillow (sea to summit) but after a couple of trips switched back to the thermarest pillows bc he didn't find the inflatable comfortable (and it was squeaky/loud).

I do use an inflatable sleeping pad which saves weight and space...used the old school thin thermarests for long time, then switched to a Big Agnes, which I like...but the valve went to crap EVERY TIME after a couple years (we went through 4 of them). I switched to a Nemo tensor and love it. Sleeping pads are pricy, yes... but 100% worth it, IMO.

4keys
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08/07/2021 09:14AM  
If you're short on space /weight you could leave the lantern at home. A much lighter option if you feel you need a lantern is a Luci light. No batteries, solar powered, and it deflates to about the size of a piece in of bread. We find that we only use it for maybe 30 minutes a night, as long as we eat while it's still light out.

You should consider adding a tarp. It provides shelter to cook and eat under in bad weather. You can also set up the tarp so it provides a wind break.
mjmkjun
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08/08/2021 12:50PM  
billconner: "Not to disagree with Lynda, but Jeanette is I believe non-motorized and has some walk in campsites away from cars, and Kawishiwi campground is on a non-motorized lake. I think there are others that are on non-motor lakes."
Just so you know--Jeanette allows motors/limited speed. Has a boat landing off to the west side. Campers are allowed one vehicle per site if space allows. The small parking lot outside of sites loop to handle extra vehicles. It has (5?) boat/canoe-in only dispersed campsites but for those, park your car at the boat landing.
mjmkjun
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08/08/2021 12:56PM  
Lawrence, I think you'd be happy with Sawbill Campground right on Sawbill Lake w/day trips to Alton, Kelso, Smoke, and the north end of Sawbill. Pretty good options for a first-time, starter trip. That is, If you don't mind being around people since the campground is popular. Sawbill Lake & Cresent lake campgrounds are both managed by Sawbill Outfitters for the FS. The parking lot adjacent is free parking at the sawbill location.
You can park your car at your campsite and easy walk to the landing.
You can cable/lock your kayak/canoe to a tree down by the boat storage section (near landing) so you don't have to lug it anywhere each time you put-in.
Showerhouse available, but check with Sawbill to confirm it's open to the public. ($5 per use/ $6 w/towel rental.)
Cresent Lake & campground is in the vicinity should you want to explore there too.
If you want to go someplace for eats ->>> 50 miles rt.
Grab a bunch of day trip tickets, bring them to the campsite then fill them out for each day you're going to be there. Deposite in box each morning before you paddle away. Pack a lunch.
Outfitter store has a limited selection of groceries/beer/ice cream, etc.

Those pictures you've seen likely have been taken in those smaller dispersed campsites of SNF which means there are others around. Don't know how 'remote' you want to be. Remote seems hard to come by these days.
Best months: Early to mid-June & September. Probably late May, too, if you tolerate the nippy AM temps well.
jillpine
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08/08/2021 05:05PM  
mjmkjun: "Lawrence, I think you'd be happy with Sawbill Campground right on Sawbill Lake w/day trips to Alton, Kelso, Smoke, and the north end of Sawbill. Pretty good options for a first-time, starter trip. That is, If you don't mind being around people since the campground is popular. Sawbill Lake & Cresent lake campgrounds are both managed by Sawbill Outfitters for the FS. The parking lot adjacent is free parking at the sawbill location.
You can park your car at your campsite and easy walk to the landing.
You can cable/lock your kayak/canoe to a tree down by the boat storage section (near landing) so you don't have to lug it anywhere each time you put-in.
Showerhouse available, but check with Sawbill to confirm it's open to the public. ($5 per use/ $6 w/towel rental.)
Cresent Lake & campground is in the vicinity should you want to explore there too.
If you want to go someplace for eats ->>> 50 miles rt.
Grab a bunch of day trip tickets, bring them to the campsite then fill them out for each day you're going to be there. Deposite in box each morning before you paddle away. Pack a lunch.
Outfitter store has a limited selection of groceries/beer/ice cream, etc.


Those pictures you've seen likely have been taken in those smaller dispersed campsites of SNF which means there are others around. Don't know how 'remote' you want to be. Remote seems hard to come by these days.
Best months: Early to mid-June & September. Probably late May, too, if you tolerate the nippy AM temps well. "

+1
Lawrence, I'm assuming you know the scale of Saganaga, right? It's a really big lake.
I've been "rabbit under the bush" about as long as I can here, trying to hold my tongue. But I think a first-time trip out into Sag, with a fire ban, in late Sept.... Well, let's just say that a lot could not really go the way you had hoped, and you are so invested in this trip. Sawbill will have cooled down (in terms of the circus) by those dates, maybe not with leaf-peepers but certainly with paddlers. It is remote. There is no cell phone coverage, Alton is the "real deal" as far as wind (and fishing!) and the area is so beautiful.
larrymarket
member (6)member
 
09/29/2021 07:42AM  
Hi all!

I don’t know how I’m getting signal up here at Saganaga, but I am!! I’m currently on day 3 of my trip and it’s been AMAZING!!! Still haven’t gotten quite the full fall color transition here but you can see it in some spots around the lake. I’m camping on an island to the northwest of Horseshoe island. Fishing for smallies has been a little slow (have only caught 2 since yesterday). The water temps are in the upper 50-mid 60’s so I figured they’d still be biting topwater but I haven’t gotten anything to hit my topwater lures yet. Any advice for smallies (and walleye) would be appreciated!!

My Meramac 4 tent has been comfy and cozy. I brought both my sleeping bag and a fleece throw that my employer gave me for this trip. The nights have been pretty cold but I’m staying warm. Also helps that they lifted the fire ban so I’ve been building fires in the grate for the last couple days.

I’m hoping the fishing will get a lot better. I’m here til Saturday so trying to make more memories while I’m here!!!
straighthairedcurly
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09/29/2021 03:32PM  
Glad you are having a great trip!
billconner
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09/29/2021 06:28PM  
Probably from the Fernberg Rd tower. ATT or T-Mobile?
larrymarket
member (6)member
 
09/29/2021 08:00PM  
billconner: "Probably from the Fernberg Rd tower. ATT or T-Mobile?"

ATT
Northwoodsman
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09/29/2021 08:19PM  
I'm happy to hear that you are having a good time and enjoying yourself. I'm glad that you pulled the trip together and made it happen.
 
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