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member (16)member
01/16/2022 12:24PM  
I am looking on guidance to pick a loop route for my group. Several of us are scouts so are very familiar with backpacking and canoeing (myself included) but several are new to it.

We don't have canoes and would need them delivered to the drop in point. I have plenty of experience plotting routes and planning the logistics, but due to the vastness of this area and experiences that can be had, I need help narrowing down.

Looking to stay mostly away from people, I understand portages and 1 day of range will eliminate this more
Looking to go around June-late August
There will be about 5-7 of us plus 1 dog
Would prefer a loop
looking to be out there 5-6 days
fishing some walleye would be nice (mainly to eat)
seeing some native american pictographs would also be cool but not a must

I have been looking in the Brule drop in area but my concern is being able to get canoes out there. I know there were some wild fires last year and I was monitoring those. I know they are marked on paddle planner. I think it would be neat to swing by one of those to take a look but not a must.

My thought is to get away from Ely to beat some crowds that way by going to Brule, but I am not super married to it. I also don't want to cross into Canada. Thank you for the help in advance.
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distinguished member(5058)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/16/2022 12:54PM  
Welcome to!

This trip offers what you request( Paddling with Padres - A spiritual Exodus adventure ) however, it is actually out of the Ely side but, does offer good walleye fishing, pictographs and while there will be other people, Crooked Lake is big/spread out enough as to give a greater sense of solitude.

Most outfitters will be happy to transport canoes & gear to the entry point or, help set you up to do so. Here is a list. They can also help you find a suitable route and answer other questions. I would contact Sawtooth or Sawbill Outfitters if you think Brule is where you'd like to go.

Brule Lake trip report
01/16/2022 12:55PM  
You're gonna get lots of recommendations from people based on their experience so I won't do that. What I would recommend is that you get the books by Robert Beymer (BWCA-Western and Eastern volumes) if you don't already have them. They have lots of suggested routes out of each entry point, loops in particular. He gives many details and about the routes, including pictographs and other sights, overall level of difficulty, possible itineraries, basic info on lakes/fish, etc. And if you look for used copies online (e.g. you can fund them for a few bucks each. I prefer the 2000 and earlier editions of these books. The newer editions have left out some info I find useful.
01/16/2022 01:26PM  
As TB suggested, contact Sawtooth or Sawbill Outfitters if you want to enter at Brule Lake. They can provide canoes, other gear, and shuttles.

You can look at fish surveys for various lakes by searching on the Minnesota DNR Lake Finder . For instance, the listing for Brule includes walleye, SM bass, pike, etc.

The only pictographs I know of are either on Fishdance Lake or N. Hegman Lake.
distinguished member(1265)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/17/2022 07:35AM  
This one will cover most of your objectives:

Entry #37 Kawishiwi Lake. Day 1 Kawishiwi Lake, Kawishiwi River, Square Lake, Kawishiwi River, Kawasachong Lake, Townline Lake, Polly Lake. (You will pass through the Pagami Creek Fire area today from Square Lake to the south end of Polly Lake) Day 2 - Polly Lake to Malberg Lake. Day 3 - Day-trip southwest out of Malberg to Fishdance Lake to visit pictographs. Day 4 Malberg to LIttle Saganaga Lake (you will pass through the John Ek fire area at Elton Lake today). Once north of Malberg you will see many fewer people. Day 4 Little Sag, Mora Lake, Whipped Lake, Fente Lake, Hub Lake, Mesaba Lake, (Most remote part of the trip). Day 5 Mesaba Lake, Duck Lake, Hug Lake, Zenith Lake, Lujenida Lake, Kelso Lake to Sawbill Lake Entry #38 (Very long day - Start early). Add one or two days of layover/day-tripping as you have time.

There are long and hard portages guarding the Hub Lake/Measaba Lake area. Those are what keep it remote. Fente to Hub Lake portage is 300 rds and goes up steeply for about 1/4 of a mile. The Zenith to Lujenida portage is 480 rd. and has a little up and down in it. There is a middle section of about 200 yards where you likely will have to get wet to your knees through a beaver pond. It mostly just takes time. Fill your water bottles before you start.

We stay the night before in the campground at Sawbill Lake (make a reservation). Then get a shuttle from Sawbill Outfitters (at Sawbill Lake) to our start point at Kawishiwi Lake. Sawbill Canoe Outfitters has all the gear you might need to rent as well as full outfitting (with food) available. When you arrive back at Sawbill Outfitters after your trip your car is waiting in the FS parking lot and they have showers available for you.

You can do this as a full loop by starting at Sawbill and heading west over the Lady Lakes chain (Alton. Beth, Grace, Phoebe, Knight, Hazel, & Polly) to Polly Lake, but it will significantly lessen your time to fish, day-trip, or take a day in case of wind. I would plan the full 7 days for the full loop.

A shorter trip in the same area starts at Kawishiwi Lake and heads north to Malberg. Day-trip to Fishdance for the Pictographs and then head south again to Polly where you turn east and go to Hazel for a night. Then go to Grace Lake and spend as many nights as you have left fishing Grace and Phoebe for walleye. Then go from Grace to Sawbill your last day. You will still pass through the Pagami Creek Fire area and you will get a chance to see Pictographs. While Hazel through to Grace will likely have fewer people, it will not be as remote as the Hub and Mesaba Lakes area. You can do this in 5 days, 6 days is the sweet spot and 7 will allow for more fishing time. There are walleye in Polly, Malberg, Phoebe, and Grace.

Have a great trip!
distinguished member(850)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/17/2022 12:58PM  
If you are thinking about Brule for an entry Brule to Sawbill is a nice trip, though not a paddling loop. You could leave your vehicles at Sawbill and get the outfitter to shuttle you to Brule and paddle back to Sawbill. There is a variety of forest conditions on the route including areas recovering from recent fire, last decade at least. I'm not a fisherman, but I am sure a few of the lakes have walleye.

Brule north through the Cones, Cliff and Wahnigan to Winchell, Omega then west through Kiskadina and Muskeg to Long Island then south to Gordon, Cherokee and out through Sawbill.

There are some portages along the way with mighty climbs, but they are really not that bad.
member (16)member
01/17/2022 06:19PM  
Do you think a trip out of Ely would be easier to plan a loop that meets more criteria? I am not sure if I am still determined to go out of Brule.
distinguished member(2673)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/17/2022 06:27PM  
Lots of good ideas...I am not trying to talk you out of Brule entry but it is one of the bigger lakes in the BWCA and thus subject to potential wind issues. If a big wind whips up you could very easily be windbound for a day or more. Even if that doesn't happen I don't see that it has anything particularly special to offer compared to the myriad other routes/lakes that are available. It can be good fishing but from what I have read it is one of those lakes where 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water and if you don't find that 10% well...

Still, nothing wrong with that entry if you go that route. But here are a couple other thoughts:

Enter at Kawishiwi Lake and head up towards Malberg Lake, 6.5 to 7 hours on the way up...or stop at Polly which is a beautiful lake but can be busy. Once you get to Malberg you get to enjoy a nice lake with lots of islands, points, channels and bays to explore , good fishing and some very nice campsites including sand beach sites. From there head north to the Beaver, Boulder, Adams area for one of the more remote areas of the BWCA and putz around there for a day or two. Head back south to River Lake for some nice campsites, good fishing and a pretty lake. Daytrip down to Fishdance Lake for pictographs if you want to. Retrace your steps on the way out from River to Kawishiwi - it would be a long day out from there but can be done, or stop at Polly or Koma for the sights and fishing. Burn area from just north of Kawishiwi to the south shore of Polly so you will get to see it but not camp in it.

Option 2 is the Baker Lake entry up to South or North Temperance Lakes, can be done in one long day, or stop on the way at Jack or Weird. From there up to Cherokee and back down via Ada creek to Sawbill Lake - many folks say Cherokee is one of the prettiest lakes in the BWCA - big lake but lots of campsites. From Sawbill head over through the fire lakes(Burnt, Smoke and Flame for more nice scenery and good fishing. This will bring you out on Kelly and a very short jaunt to the exit point. The area north of Baker, especially Kelly and Jack offer good walleye fishing and are known for moose sightings, more often than most areas. Also long stretches of river like paddling which is scenic and a nice change of pace. At the north end of the Kelly to Jack portage there is a short side trail that leads to an old abandoned gold mine you can actually walk in part ways. Lots of artifacts lying around, kinda cool. This is a great route, one of my favorites and I think the Temperance Lakes are about as pretty as they get.

There aren't many bad routes in the BWCA, these are a couple tried and true ones that I think you would enjoy but you really can't go wrong in most cases.

Ask questions, read trip reports of areas you are interested in and pick one out. Hopefully you will return many times to explore more areas.

BTW, your planned trip dates are pretty wide open, you should think about narrowing that down sometime soon and get a permit booked - they go fast. Each time of year has advantages and disadvantages so figure out your priorities and ask away.
Another note, sounds like you need canoes. Outfitter will transport them to your entry point for a fee. But they will also strap them on your vehicle(s) for free and they know what they are doing. That way you pay the rental but not the delivery fee. Save a few bucks for bait!!
Good Luck.
member (16)member
01/21/2022 06:22PM  
I will look into these, thank you very much. The big thing is that I'd like to spend the day canoeing and the evening hanging out and fishing. I'd like to camp at a new site every night. My interest isn't too much in the day hiking while I am out here.

I think I might look into route 2.
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