BWCA EP 37 Route and Cap to Boulder Portage Questions Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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MattyT
member (16)member
 
07/30/2021 08:56AM  
Hi folks!

With the closure for EP14-16 area still in effect and our trip coming up in just a few weeks, I'm shifting our route to a loop from EP37 (and praying the Ima/Beth fires get contained and avoid closures in the area since there are no more EPs open for the dates were going...). Tentative plan is to head north out of Kawashiwi Lake, up thru Malberg, taking Kawashiwi River west to Fishdance/Alice, then up through Thomas and Fraser, East to Cap, then south thru Boulder and Adams, eventually taking the river back to Malberg and back south to EP 37 again. Trip length is 8 days, travelling with a group of 4 in-shape dudes in our late 20's.

Is this route feasible for that amount of time? Any suggestions for cool stops/sites along the route other than the pictos on fishdance?

And finally, the main question for this thread - can someone describe the actual portage situation from Cap to Boulder? Between 2 different maps and the BWCA interactive map, its a bit confusing to tell what kind of portaging you can actually do. Map 1 and the interactive Map both seem to suggest you can take a short portage off the south of Cap to get to a stream that eventually connects with the second south portage that connects boulder to the Cap-Ledge portage. Map 2 only has the T shaped portage intersection between Cap-Ledge-Boulder. Can anyone describe the right route to take there? Anyone been up there recently and can speak to the water levels?

As always, all help is appreciated!


 
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07/30/2021 10:54AM  
A number of years ago, we took, by accident, the south portage out of Cap. I’m looking at the attached map where the portages are marked in yellow. That was tough. Maybe the east portage is in better shape.
07/30/2021 10:57AM  
Matty-

I did this trip in 2016 and may have posted a trip report. I was 65 and solo at the time, so it's certainly feasible in your time frame. I had a few more days, but essentially completed it in that time frame. It was about 65-70 miles double portage IIRC. It sounds like water levels are currently quite a bit lower than they were then. I did some [also confusing] research on that portage and just decided to take the Cap-Ledge portage to the Boulder portage. That was straightforward and clear, long but not otherwise difficult. The drop down to the creek is steep. There was a muddy section to deal with at the low spot, but not bad at that time.
TuscaroraBorealis
distinguished member(4890)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
07/30/2021 11:49AM  
I came at it from a different EP but, covered alot of the same area you propose in this trip report .

Mocha
distinguished member(7515)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
07/30/2021 12:37PM  
Is there any travel closures due to the fire near Ima lake?
MattyT
member (16)member
 
07/30/2021 12:48PM  
Not that I've seen so far.. been checking up on the progress reports on inciweb obsessively
MattyT
member (16)member
 
07/30/2021 12:52PM  
Boonie - thanks for the info! I actually read your trip report, which was super helpful, but wanted to make sure of timing for my group since your trip was 12 days vs our 7 of paddling. Seems like we should be fine with only taking one or two layover days though.

Tuscarora - That trip report was a great read, youre a talented writer. Loved the imagery you include. Makes me all the more excited to get back up there and see it all first hand again.
07/30/2021 02:51PM  
Matty-

I only used 11 of the 12 days and 2-3 were layovers, and 2-3 others were very short travel days, so no problem I think - you'll probably travel faster than I did solo too. I went in Kawishiwi last fall and a couple of notes on the way to Polly: I skipped both portages on the river, just floated over the beaver dams. That may not be true this year, but worth a peek around the canoe before portaging. There was a new beaver dam and bushwhack portage, but I just pulled over that one. There is a very large beaver just before Kawasachong - I found the far west side easier to go over it. It's a really nice trip - one of my favorites. Enjoy it.
MattyT
member (16)member
 
07/30/2021 05:18PM  
Boonie - Thanks, I appreciate the advice! I've been up to BWCAW the past couple years, but this is the first year I'll be leading the trip with a few first-timers, so the guidance from more experienced folks has been awesome, especially when trying to plan with everything going on this year. I'm looking forward to the trip, though it'll be a bit different than years past with the campfire ban. Just crossing my fingers that this area doesnt get closed too.
MattyT
member (16)member
 
07/30/2021 05:18PM  
Boonie - Thanks, I appreciate the advice! I've been up to BWCAW the past couple years, but this is the first year I'll be leading the trip with a few first-timers, so the guidance from more experienced folks has been awesome, especially when trying to plan with everything going on this year. I'm looking forward to the trip, though it'll be a bit different than years past with the campfire ban. Just crossing my fingers that this area doesnt get closed too.
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1123)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/30/2021 07:07PM  
Your middle picture (showing the McKenzie map) is the most accurate. The 2021 Voyageur map 6 also shows the portage from Cap area to Boulder as being midway along the Cap to Ledge portage. And it has a note "Older maps show a portage on the south side of Cap Lake. That portage is no longer maintained."

In terms of water level, my biggest suggestion is when you take the portage from the west end of Malberg to the Kawishiwi R. (64 rods on my map), do not put your canoe down at the first landing on the river end. Look for a continuation of the path to the right of the landing that will take you to a more useable landing in the low water. The mud is DEEP.

Also, as you go from Alice to Cacabic, the lead up to the short portage takes you through a stream that is getting very low. Our tandem canoe with light packs made it most of the way before we had to hop out along the left side of the bog and portage from there. The Scout group that was ahead of us had 3-person canoes that were more heavily loaded and got stuck right at the entrance to the stream. The mud was hip deep. We ended up towing their canoes up the stream while the people picked their way along the side.

Based on my various travels through many of those areas, I think you have a reasonable trip planned. Just keep your eyes open for low water landings. Have fun.
07/31/2021 06:51PM  
We just came out...did part of the portage you are asking about 3 days ago. We came from the east, from Ledge, to the 3-way intersection between Cap-Boulder-Ledge. Agree with straighthairedcurly that the middle map is the most accurate; the intersection was quite obvious.

So I cannot tell you about the Cap end. But the southern leg from the intersection to Boulder is hard. The good news (sort of) is that it was dry in the bottom. Did not even get mud on our shoes. But there is some serious up-and-down. That said, I timed it and we were through from Ledge to Boulder in 25 minutes, single-portaging. But we agreed it was the second hardest portage on the trip (we were also on a EP 37 permit).

The hardest for us was the Boulder-to-Adams extravaganza. Our map showed that as a port-paddle-port. There is actually a couple rod portage at the edge of Boulder not shown on the maps, then a very short paddle. But the southern pond was completely dry, and people have been bushwacking through the grass/willows...making the next two portages into one long one, likely in the 120-150 rod range. Hard walking, confusing... The Adams put-in (stay East of the "creek"!!; Woe be to those who try the creek itself!) was a mudfest (like the NW Malberg put-in referenced again by straighthairedcurly. And BTW, thank-you to straighthairedcurly: your instructions on that bypass on the Malberg-Kawishiwi River portage saved our bacon. Much appreciated!).

But all-in-all, I think your route should pose no issues in the time you have allotted. We did EP37>Malberg, then a loop through Pan, Makwa, Fee, Vee, Boulder, Adams, Beaver, K. River, Fishdance, K. River, Malberg and back...4 days of travel (but we were singling.)
Fearlessleader
distinguished member (149)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/31/2021 10:17PM  
I’ve done the Cap to Boulder portage a couple times and each time it was very different. The second map will work no matter what. That’s what we did the first time. The second time we were able to use the south portage shown on map three.

It was obvious the beavers had done their job because on trip one there was no meaningful water there so there was no option. It’s been quite a long time so I can’t speculate on the current situation. I would recommend checking the south portage just in case…if the water is high enough to paddle it makes it much shorter. It should only take a few minutes to scout it out and see if it’s worth the portage.
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1123)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/01/2021 12:41AM  
sns: "And BTW, thank-you to straighthairedcurly: your instructions on that bypass on the Malberg-Kawishiwi River portage saved our bacon. Much appreciated!)."

Glad that helped!
08/01/2021 12:05PM  
So many different experiences and impressions over the years . . .

My trip was five years ago and was partly different from other reports before and after.

The Malberg-Kawishiwi portage has been like that every time I've been there. One year there was a wade through calf-deep water in the middle (before the creek). But the portage extension has always been there and I've always taken it. It's quite obvious.

If you take the Cap-Ledge portage, the turnoff should be quite obvious about halfway near the top of the climb. What I remember about the Boulder section is that it seemed longer and the steep drop to the water, which was a challenge solo, then wading across to the other side. I think this section was mostly downhill going south.

The surprise was the Boulder-Adams section which people had said was bad. When I went through I found it quite easy and very beautiful. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip and I wished it was longer.

Here is a link to more pictures from my trip for reference Matty. Most have been labeled below the picture.

MattyT
member (16)member
 
08/01/2021 03:07PM  
Thanks all for the info and tips! The notes about the Malberg-Kawashiwi, Adams-Boulder and Cap-Boulder portages were super helpful!
Jasonf
senior member (63)senior membersenior member
 
08/01/2021 05:50PM  
boonie: "So many different experiences and impressions over the years . . .




Here is a link to more pictures from my trip for reference Matty. Most have been labeled below the picture.


"


Thanks for sharing the photos of your trip and the portages! We're headed to the same area in a couple weeks.
Curious to what the dimensions are for your yellow tarp?
08/01/2021 10:42PM  
It's a 10'x12' CCS (Cooke Custom Sewing) tarp.

Another note - I don't remember if I put it in the report or not - but the portage from Roe to Cap is quite a ways in the creek - several hundred feet and is shorter than listed.

I'll be interested to hear after your trip what conditions you find in these places.
 
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