BWCA Can we go wrong? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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member (19)member
07/08/2021 02:52PM  
Hey all,
I posted on here five years ago when my wife and I were trying to plan a trip and recall getting a lot of useful feedback. Unfortunately, I can't figure out a way to find my old posts... so here we go again.

My wife and I are considering taking a trip in the Sept-Oct time frame and thinking of doing a 3-day/2-night trip (open to extending if that is recommended). I understand that available permits will limit where to launch, but we are wide open as to where that will be.

Is it possible to go wrong in the BWCA? I will say that if there is one thing we are looking for is to see as few people as possible, if that is possible in this new flood of COVID-induced outdoor adventurers:). Any suggestions as to any areas to focus on would be greatly appreciated. The more solitude and scenic the better!

I understand that the solitude part may require a longer trip, but would like to hear your thoughts.

Thanks in advance!
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distinguished member (293)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/08/2021 03:12PM  
Here's a link to your Aug 2016 post. I'll let others give more current suggestions as I haven't tripped since the influx of visitors.

August 2016 Posts
07/08/2021 03:27PM  
For starters, your Sept/Oct time frame should open up the permit availabilities. Should be lots of open entry points. That said, I haven't been on lately to see just what is available. And, after Oct 1st, it's self permitting.
distinguished member(3899)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/08/2021 05:56PM  
I agree on the permits being more available by then...and yes of course you should extend it a day or two least.
distinguished member(8158)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
07/08/2021 07:08PM  
Enter Oct 1 or later and no reservations or quotas.
distinguished member(2872)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/09/2021 05:53AM  
Seems like mid-Sept. more EP options available. It's considerably chillier in the mornings as September progresses into October. That's a plus.
Suggest Mudro Restricted entry. The first three portages are ankle turners but beyond that it's pretty, fishing decent, and lots of quiet options for campsites. (...but maybe not on Fourtown Lake) within a day of paddling. Do a counterclockwise loop to Moosecamp lake and follow Moosecamp River back to Fourtown. Start your trip Monday thru Thursday to avoid weekend warriors.
Everything is changed now, as you mentioned. So I think no matter where you go there will be fellow trippers but not in such abundant numbers.
Note: Children back to classrooms affect numbers--excepting weekends.
I think some people have discovered a wonderful way to enjoy their vacations but I feel many will go back to whatever they favored prior to the pandemic. (Airline Travel/Cruises/Concerts etc.)
07/09/2021 09:22AM  
I looked at the posts from 5 years ago and am assuming certain things haven't changed. You have a long drive to get there like me and are probably driving on weekends and tripping between them with a Monday entry. I did several of those. A really short trip can be blown out of the water by bad weather - if you spend a day or two sitting under a tarp or windbound, you'll appreciate having the extra time. All my trips have been in Sept. and I'll assume for the moment that you'll enter Monday, 9/13, for purposes of permit availability. You will rent a lightweight kevlar canoe and plan on double portaging. You will have relatively light packs. You will take an outfitter tow to the EP. You will take as many days and nights as possible

Reserve a permit for a Crab Lake entry. Just do it now - if you cancel at least 2 days before entry date, you'll lose the $6 fee. Take the tow across Burntside Lake. Portage to Crab Lake. It's about 1 1/4 miles one way, but not difficult - easy landings, good trail. Once there you have options to continue on or for daytrips - you can go SW to Clark, Saca, Boulder, Lunetta, etc. Or you can head to Cummings, Korb, Silaca, Coxey.

The weather in northern MN can be highly variable as you move further into Sept/Oct., so you need to be aware and prepared for it. Days become considerably shorter. Bugs will mostly be gone by then. You can email me for more particulars if you want.

07/09/2021 12:25PM  
I am not an expert and haven't any information about how crowded things are out in the BW in this new age. But I still have a few ideas and opinions. Seems like I always do. :-)

However, to answer your question, No. I don't think you can go wrong with any entry point as long as you are willing to go with the flow. I would always suggest (I am like a broken record on here) that you plan for at least four nights because then if the weather is bad for a couple days you still have a chance of trip-redemption. Also, since I am not a fan of base-camping, I would suggest planning on two to three campsites in those four nights. Personally, I cannot imagine traveling hundreds of miles for a three-day trip; we also live a ways away from the canoe country, but not as far as you.

Don't know if you took the advice given in 2016 about renting a tandem kevlar canoe, but it was good advice.

Plan for all sorts of weather, especially in September and October. We have been up there when it was freezing cold in September, and our Celebration trip in early September of '09 was six days of warm sunshine and clear skies. Our only October trip started in warm sunshine and ended in snow, with ten beautiful days in between. By late September/early October the days are very short and stopping early at the campsite, even if it isn't crowded, is still a good plan. Take layers to wear, wool socks (including a designated pair for sleeping) and good rain gear. We always found our Woolrich heavy-weight wool shirt jackets indispensable in the shoulder seasons, but I know many people prefer fleece.

Whatever you decide to do, have a great time and post a trip report so that we can enjoy your experience, too.

member (19)member
07/09/2021 04:47PM  
Thank for all of the tips and suggestions!! Very much appreciated! I think I will plan on getting a permit soon as I think we decided on September. We plan on being in the area for about 1.5 weeks, so I suppose we could always shift (or extend) our paddle trip if a stretch of bad weather comes in. I look forward to checking into the suggested areas! And yes, we are planning on renting a tandem Kevlar canoe and likely will take advantage of a tow of possible!
07/09/2021 06:22PM  
Being in the area probably negates my input, but in planning a trip I consider other things in addition to the BWCA. A north shore drive can add some time, but is a must IMHO. Ely is the canoe capital, after all...and there are the Sudan mines.
member (19)member
09/03/2021 11:22AM  
Hey all. Circling back on this post. With the BWCA opening back up it looks like our trip is still on! Looking at availability of permits, there aren't as many as I thought would be availability. I did call a local outfitter and told them our plans (Tuesday 14th entry: 3 or 4 night) and it was suggested to go with either Farm lake or Little Indian Sioux North based on availability. Any suggestions on which of these? With scenic beauty being top priority (was solitude but I've backed off that;))?
distinguished member(840)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/03/2021 11:43AM  
I would just pick one. At first, you don't know what you don't know. Once you have your first experience, then you have something to compare. I don't think you can go wrong. Check out 'Maps & Entry Points' and look at the maps for the entry you select. Review the comments on the portages and camp sites and plan a route. Farm lake has some good options for small loops. Have fun.
09/03/2021 11:54AM  
Go in on a Monday on a weekend lake, I went in on a Monday in the middle of August on the numbers chain and only 1/4 to 1/2 the campsite were taken and saw only about 2 groups on the water. We were on the water about 7 AM.
Came out on Thursday and it was a zoo. More people then on the Upper Iowa on a weekend!
distinguished member(1265)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/03/2021 01:42PM  
I will point you far west and far east.

Far West - Little Indian Sioux North (#14) would be a great spot. I would stay on the smaller lakes to avoid wind problems in the fall. Head to the Pauness Lakes and turn east to Shell, Little Shell or Lynx Lake. There are some nice day trips or hiking trails in the area.

OR if you can get a shuttle, Put in at LIS North and take out at Moose River (#16). For an end to end. 3 days/2 night should be perfect for that route.

Far East - Gunflint Trail - Entry #47 - Lizz & Swamp Lake - Nice little loop would be - Poplar, Lizz, Caribou, Horseshoe or Gaskin. Take a day trip to Winchell to climb the trail to the top of the cliffs and find the waterfall on the south shore. Or day trip to Vista looking for moose. Beware the wind on these long narrow lakes. Especially Winchell.

Hope you have a great trip.
member (19)member
09/03/2021 03:11PM  
Michwall2: "I will point you far west and far east.

OR if you can get a shuttle, Put in at LIS North and take out at Moose River (#16). For an end to end. 3 days/2 night should be perfect for that route.

Hope you have a great trip.

Thanks for the suggestions..this is what we ended up selecting!! Can't wait to get up there and explore.
distinguished member (225)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/03/2021 05:48PM  
I will add that what 'could go wrong' is low water levels due to drought. You may want to get a read on water levels, especially if you plan to do some rivers, such as Moosecamp, Horse, etc. It could end up being a long slog.
distinguished member (219)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/04/2021 09:41AM  
Really "going wrong" is up to the individuals' interpretation. Water levels are still insanely low even with our recent rains. Some of the rivers are down over 2 ft and the Brule was down 3 ft from the high watermark. Some of the standard river routes maybe a little closer to hiking trails at the moment. Other than that, pick a permit that fits what style of trip you dream about. The BW has this incredible ability to have a route for just about everybody. And yes, everyone on this forum has their favorite EP's ( I know I have mine), but choose the one that fits your tripping style. The current John Ek closures have majorly changed the game in terms of routes. Certain areas that are usually some of the busiest in the Boundary Waters are now about as far as one can possibly get from an EP thanks to Upper Gunflint closures.

With 2-3 days, the first question is what is your primary goal for yourselves?

The scenery is a given, but if your idea of scenery involves huge rock faces and clear water maybe East of the Gunflint is right for you. There's also some nice opportunities for some of that off of Little Indian Sioux North.

If your primary goal is to get a good trip without lots of portaging, find one of the big lake routes. Trout/Basswood/Brule or many of the options east of the gunflint will have what you want (though East Gunflint introduces some tough portaging in between long paddles.) The other big paddle options of Seagull and Sag are both still closed.

Do you want to see a lot of different lakes and are willing to portage for the variety? Nina Moose/Little Indian Sioux North/ any of the Poplar EPs will get you that.

Do you want a classic "easier" route that still gives a wide grasp of the "BW experience" Lake One, Gabbro, Moose, Lizz, or E Bearskin can get you there.

If you want solitude well, you're in luck. Late september and into october make that goal easier. In the heart of summer, one gets solitude by going where others don't want to either because of tough access, tough travel, or tough portaging (LIS South, the stuff west of Crab/Cummings, Slim, Angleworm, the Lima Grade (Ram,Bower Trout, Morgan)) and so on. Depending on the weather, you may even get solitude at some of the busier entry points as the season winds down but I feel like the BW closure has pushed some people back a little later than usual.

Anyways, that wasn't all-inclusive, but it's a start. Truly I believe you can have an incredible trip from ANY BW entry point if you go into it with the correct mentality. Yes, you can go wrong, but the wrong is totally in our perceptions of the trips we take and make for better stories afterward! Best of luck. This is my favorite time of year for canoe trips.

PS: I just read your old post. I don't know if the goals still stand, but I should make a brief footnote. For fishing, people definitely have their preferences and getting off the motorized routes helps, but honestly there are fish to be found just about anywhere. For wildlife, it's hit or miss. The majority of my guided trips saw moose this year, but that's no guarantee. I have always counted wildlife as one of those special bonuses that you cannot count for but really make a trip special.
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