BWCA Report: Beartrap and Horse River water levels Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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senior member (57)senior membersenior member
09/20/2021 11:44AM  
We traveled down the Beartrap River 9/12 and 13 and up the Horse River 9/17. Both were passable but difficult. I’d only recommend them for seasoned paddlers traveling light and not worried about time or boat wear and tear.

Beartrap: We traveled from Gun to Sunday Lake on 9/12 and stayed at Sunday. The portage from Beartrap Lake to river was in good shape. The river was a slog. There were 3 or 4 new low-rise beaver dams in addition to the expected dams. It appeared the beaver were making smaller low dams to protect their lodge entrances and travel. These were soft with less wood and more mud. They had low water and deep mud with bad takeouts and put-ins on both sides. The standard portages were lengthened by longer rock gardens and more scouting/route finding. The last section into Sunday Lake was almost impassable with horrible mud and difficulty keeping any sense of a channel. I’d estimate Beartrap Lake to Sunday took us 7 hours. On 12/13 we traveled the Beartrap from Sunday Lake to Iron. This was also extended by longer and bigger rock gardens and more scouting. The worst stretch was Peterson Bay. We thought we’d be done with portaging but needed several carry-overs through large rock fields in Peterson that would normally be float-overs. Sunday Lake to open water on Iron took us maybe 6 hours. This was our first time on the Beartrap with no reference point but I’m guessing that 13 total hours from Beartrap Lake to the main body of Iron was at least double our normal travel time.

Both Iron Lake and Crooked Lake levels are way down. We thought Iron to be down something like 4 feet (!) and Crooked to be down at least 3 feet. Both Curtain and Lower Basswood Falls were running extremely low, even for fall. Lower Basswood had only a single 5 or 6 foot wide channel of water going around the Canada side of the big boulder. The rest of the Canada channel and the entire American side were dry.

Horse River: There was moderate rain overnight 12/13 and significant rain the nights of 12/14 and 15; maybe 2” or more total. Nevertheless, going up the Horse from Lower Basswood to Horse Lake was rough on 9/17. We had heard people were out of their boats in deep mud from Lower Basswood to the first big portage. We could see boat drag and boot marks in the mud confirming this the whole way. We were able to stay in the boat except for a short stretch, but it was literally just a couple inches of water over mud for more than a mile. We floated a little but mostly poled through the mud. The regular portages were longer and required lots more carry-overs through rock fields. Lower Basswood to Horse Lake took us about 7 hours despite good rain in the preceding days.

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distinguished member(3895)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/20/2021 12:39PM  
Thanks for sharing. You had a PMA permit for Sunday? Sounds like a slog
senior member (57)senior membersenior member
09/20/2021 01:24PM  
It was a slog but is already being remembered more fondly than painfully! We did have the PMA permit for Sundial zone 5. First time doing the PMA camp permit and look forward to exploring others.
distinguished member(832)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/20/2021 02:22PM  
Thank you for the detailed report. I'm guessing all the 12/ dates are meant to be 9/ right?
09/20/2021 05:03PM  
Wow - Beartrap Lake to Sunday last September was two, maybe two-and-a-half hours (single-portaging) for me, paddling solo. Sounds like an adventure!
senior member (57)senior membersenior member
09/20/2021 08:54PM  
Yes. Not sure how I went from Sept to Dec but it was all last week.
09/21/2021 11:53AM  
Let's hope for a lot of snow up there this winter to raise the water levels. It sounds like you endured an epic slog!
09/21/2021 01:14PM  
Just a quick report from some other areas affected by low water from last week. Adam's to Boulder is essentially one long portage.....shore to shore. We paddled maybe 20 yards of it. On Adam's side, look for muddy path on east side to get from lake up to channel to bypass mud and beaver bog. Kawishiwi River up to Trapline. We drug our canoes in 3 inches of water for 100 yards up to the rarely used portage. After portage, a beaver dam is holding water back for paddling. Alice to Fishdance along the "river". The river is a trickle. Portages are very rocky on the ends and of course longer. The little creek from Cacabic into the long arm bay of Alice is a trickle and pure mud. You have to portage out through the sweet gale flat for about 200 yards to get out to water. Those were the most memorable. We did get decent rain later in the week but I doubt it changed these.
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