BWCA Tow boat services - is there a listing somewhere? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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schweady
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08/26/2021 04:20PM  
Like many of you, I keep getting older. The subject of utilizing a tow boat service as part of a trip comes up more often lately.

I'm actually not entirely sure how I feel about it. I just know that there are spots deeper into the interior that I want to see (or see again), and this body isn't getting there by paddle alone. So, please, no quibbling about whether this is the "right" way to explore a wilderness. I'd just like to sketch out a list of possibilities.

I know that many outfitters and resorts will provide the service, but can we compile here a listing of the ones folks know of/have used? -- Including: who's providing the service/tow start point, drop-off point, paddling route/destinations, costs, pointers...
 
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08/26/2021 04:46PM  
I've never used him as our permit just got cancelled but had planned to use Lonnie to get into EP1 Trout. Price was somewhere around $100 for round trip to first portage, $140 to ride the portage. Number is 218-780-3610. Pretty sure he goes out of Moccasin Point Marine.
mmrocker13
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08/26/2021 08:36PM  
I used to feel like tows were a cheat...but now? A) the older i get, the nicer they are (we single portage, so not averse to hard work, in any way...but if I can get an edge, I will take it.) and B) sometimes they don'treally save you time...but they DO allow you to get an entry point that gets you close to where you want to go when others are closed. Mudro is hard to get, but it's easy to get a last minute permit to Fall, for example, and then a tow into Basswood.

Depending on where we are going and who is doing the going we've used LaTourells's (Moose toward knife); Packsack (Fall headed to crooked); and Anderson (Crane lake up either toward LLC or up to Quetico)
cyclones30
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08/26/2021 09:00PM  
Yeah...previous post had some of the main ones. Williams and Hall, LaTourell's and others are on Moose and can get to Basswood or drop you off toward Ensign or Knife.

Andersons and others do the looooong big boat run from Crane area to Loon or LLC via a few boat portages. Pricey but a hell of a fun ride. They also go to Bottle portage and other Canadian drops when the border is open.

Clearwater will do one right on Clearwater.

Seagull and Tuscarora? and maybe others can do Sag that can drop at a variety of locations.

I believe you can get a tow on Burntside to get to the portage towards Crab/Cummings.
08/27/2021 06:22AM  
It's been a long time ago, but Voyageur North gave us a tow across Burntside. I don't know of a list.
08/27/2021 08:07AM  
schweady: "...I'm actually not entirely sure how I feel about it...
"


I've had a tow-in or a fly-in for 38 of my 39 canoe trips so far (French Lake Quetico 2006 was the exception). I don't know what you would be having feelings about? It's part of the trip.
08/27/2021 08:22AM  
Check the outfitters websites. Most list their tow service....where to and prices. Just about all on Moose Lake tow to PP, Basswood/truck portage, Birch, Splash. Seagull, Tuscarora, Voyageur will take you to American Point, Red Rock, Sag Falls and Hook Island. Many Ely outfitters will get you across Burnside to Crab portage. I talked with tow boat driver there last Sept just after I made the paddle back....solo.....into a stiff headwind.
Personally, I've used Williams & Hall and CCO on Moose and Seagull on Sag to get to Hook Island.
If you are getting the tow to Quetico entries (from the BW side), you ride on the outfitters/tow boat BWCA day permit so you don't have to mess with that.



08/27/2021 08:31AM  
Voyageurs on Gull River (Saganaga EP)
Sea Gull Outfitters(Sea Gull, Sag, etc)

Those are just two towards the end of the Gunflint.

Spirit of the Wilderness, sits on Gull Lake also offers tows now that I think about it.
Gaidin53
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08/27/2021 10:33AM  
Willy Vosburgh’s Tow Boat Service is on Moose Lake. I’ve used him twice now. Nice since you park at his place. Load and unload right near the boat and dock.

Packsack Outfitters also does tows on Fall Lake and can get you deeper into Basswood.

Ryan
cmanimal
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08/27/2021 11:00AM  
I've used Voyageur North in the past. they list their routes, fees, and conditions on their web site. Good experience both times so I haven't looked else where.
08/27/2021 09:57PM  
I think based on the responses so far its apparent that there is a need for a list for these services. I think Op has a good idea.
08/27/2021 10:58PM  
Come to think of it, we could build a list and then note whether they are site sponsors or not. Might encourage others to jump in and sponsor.
billconner
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08/28/2021 07:01AM  
Compiling the list may be simpler then maintaining it current.
schweady
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08/28/2021 09:06PM  
okinaw55: "I think based on the responses so far its apparent that there is a need for a list for these services. I think Op has a good idea."
Here's a rough a crib sheet with contributions made here so far. I'll need to comb through the outfitter websites here for additions/better data/more detail. Thanks to all who have replied.

-- first draft, deleted --
Gaidin53
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08/28/2021 10:52PM  
Vosburgh will do Prairie Portage/Basswood truck portage/Basswood Deep Bay, other Basswoods options/Birch/Splash

Pretty sure Latourrells does all the same options.

Just to be clear no one does Ensign closest they can get you is Splash. No one does Knife closest they can get you is Birch.

Ryan
08/29/2021 07:05AM  
Add Zup's on Crane Lake as well. They formed a US company during COVID-19 to serve the BWCA last summer. I'm not sure but I'd guess they'd continue that service into the future.
schweady
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08/29/2021 11:05AM  
After adding information from the websites of sponsor outfitters... still a lot of clean-up and sorting to do. (And, are there some destinations with different names that refer to the same spot?):

Lonnie - Moccasin Point, Lake Vermilion --> Trout Lake
LaTourell’s Outfitters - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake-Washington Island and Back Bay
Anderson’s - Crane Lake --> Loon Lake/Lac La Croix/Bottle Portage/Quetico
Williams & Hall - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake truck portage, Back Bay, Lincoln Island
Clearwater Lodge - Clearwater Lake --> Clearwater Lake east
Seagull Outfitters - Saganaga Lake --> Hook Island/American Point/Canadian Customs/Red Rock Portage/Saganaga Falls/Devil’s Walk Bay/Northern Light Rail Portage/Northern Light Rapids
Seagull Outfitters - Seagull Lake --> Western tip of Three-Mile Island/North Bay
Tuscarora - Saganaga Lake --> Hook Island/American Point/Red Rock/Saganaga Falls
Voyageur North Outfitters - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake-Washington Island and Back Bay, Burntside Lake --> Crab Lake Portage, Moccasin Point, Vermilion Lake --> Trout Lake, Crane Lake --> Lac La Croix Area/McAree/Maligne/Bottle Lakes/Snow Bay
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters - Saganaga Lake --> Hook Island/American Point/Red Rock/Saganaga Falls/Powell's (Old Portage)/Northern Light Rail/Northern Light Rapids/Powell's Portage
Canoe Country Outfitters - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake-Washington Island and Back Bay
Spirit of the Wilderness - See website
Willy Vosburgh’s - Moose Lake -->
Packsack Outfitters - Fall Lake --> Newton Lake Portage/Four Mile Portage/Top of Jackfish Bay
Vosburgh - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Basswood Lake truck portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)
Zup's - Crane Lake --> Loon Lake/Lac La Croix/Bottle Portage/Quetico
Cliff Wold's - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake-Washington Island and Back Bay
Ely Outfitting - Moose --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake-Washington Island, Burntside --> Crab Lake Portage, Fall Lake --> Basswood Lake
Piragis - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake-Washington Island and Back Bay, Burntside Lake--> Crab Lake Portage, Crane Lake --> Lac La Croix, Fall Lake --> Jackfish Bay
Spirit of the Wilderness - Moose Lake --> Prairie Portage/Birch Lake (Indian Portage)/Splash Lake (Ensign Portage)/Basswood Lake-Washington Island and Back Bay, Snowbank Lake --> Boot Lake Portage, Burntside Lake --> Crab Lake Portage
08/29/2021 04:22PM  
Dang dude. You're running with this one. I like it but concerned now after Bill's comment, it can change. I wonder how we can stay on top of this?
08/29/2021 04:48PM  
This question is for Adam. If I create an html table with the information above will it get html tags striped? If so whats site friendly formatting for posting a table.

Before I retired I was a C#, vb, html, asp.net programmer so I know a thing or two if you're worried I'll mess something up.
schweady
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08/30/2021 08:59AM  
okinaw55: "Dang dude. You're running with this one. I like it but concerned now after Bill's comment, it can change. I wonder how we can stay on top of this?"
For myself, doing this has almost completely answered all of my questions about the standard routes. For sure, the multiple destinations out of Moose and Saganaga Lakes were always a mystery, never having looked all that closely at maps of those spots. Making this information a bit more readable? A work in progress. Keeping up with the changes offered year to year? Probably what the various outfitter websites are for.
cyclones30
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09/02/2021 05:23PM  
You've got Packsack on there twice among others. One is correct and other one says they go Fall > Crooked which isn't possible.
schweady
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09/02/2021 07:26PM  
cyclones30: "You've got Packsack on there twice among others. One is correct and other one says they go Fall > Crooked which isn't possible. "
Gotcha. Yet another edit made (above). Some copy-paste with some user info must have been going on there.
Savage Voyageur
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09/03/2021 07:59AM  
Awesome job compiling this list Schweady. In the past I just look if the entry point has an outfitter and call them, but this is a great resource you made. It should be a pinned on the trip planning page. You just need to ask Adam to make it a pinned post. One suggestion I would make if you make this a pinned post is to have the current Outfitter name, tow destination, price for that destination, and phone number. Might be a tad more work for you but as I remember you like this kind of work. Thanks for helping us all here on this.

Your original post asked for pointers on tows, so here is a few.
1) Collect tip money for the tow guy before hand when everyone has easy access to their wallets. You don’t want to rummage in the bottom of your pack at the drop off for tip money. Give the money to one guy in your group to give to the tow operator. If you have a big group you will have two tow guys so split the tip money. Suggestion would be 15-20% on the tip to tow cost.
2) Have your gear stowed and not a lot of loose stuff.
3) Keep your seat pad or crazy creek chair with you to sit on for the ride. Those John boats are bumpy and you will feel every wave.
4) Protect your fishing rods with some kind of rod holder. Gear moves around in those boats during the ride. I lost a rod guide this way one trip.
5) Remember to ask your tow operator for a cell phone number so you can contact him with a InReach unit if needed a pickup time change.
Gaidin53
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09/03/2021 11:19AM  
Totally good tips.

I generally put the return tow tip money in with my fishing license and permit into a ziploc bags(actually 2 one inside the other). I then put that ziploc into my map case. That way it’s easy to get to at the end of the trip and not at the bottom of the bag.

I left my rods bungee dealee bobbed under the canoe seats for the ride back in this year. The cap for the opposite side of the reel handles vibrated off during the ride back in. Luckily my son found it so nothing was lost. The other one was really loose.

Definitely be organized and try to reduce the amount of small loose items. Challenge then is slowing down enough at the beginning of the trip on the drop off to get everything out and organized how it now needs to be for the trip.

Definitely put on your raincoat and any other warm gear for the ride out in the early mornings. It gets cold in the wind on the ride out. Shed gear once you hit the drop off and are setting up to paddle.

Ryan
cmanimal
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09/03/2021 02:37PM  
schweady thanks for pulling all that information together.
 
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