BWCA Isabella vs Little Indian Sioux Entry Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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member (15)member
01/18/2022 04:25PM  
Hello all!

Family of four planning our annual trip a little earlier in the year than usual to hopefully avoid any fires, closures, or bans if we end up in a third year drought this summer. Planning the first couple weeks of June. Us two adults are healthy and strong, but prefer to enjoy our time in BWCA in camp and fishing so we generally don't travel past the third day of our trip. Instead we find a nice site and set up camp for the remainder of the week.

Our trips are usually 9 or 10 days long. Kids are 12 and 14 this year and it will be their 5th annual trip this year. We all have to double portage because our gear mentality is durability over lightweight so we prefer smaller numbers of and fewer portages where possible.

We are needing to decide between going in at little indian Sioux (north) and camping at upper or lower pauness lakes, or going in at Isabella lake and either going up into the little Isabella river or staying on the lake itself. I would love to see the Cascade falls, so my vote is for LIS, but hubby thinks the fishing will be better in little Isabella river.

The only reason I hesitate about Isabella is because of the fire damage from a few years back. I've read through all the trip reports since the fire and can't find any specific information about whether it's feasible to hang two hammock setups at any of the open sites in this area. Both of us hang a hammock and a tarp for our sleeping area, kids each have small single person tents. It's not always easy to find bigger trees that work for hammocks and with the fire damage I'm concerned that we might fail to find a suitable campsite with hammock trees and end up on the ground covered in a tarp. Yes I know that setup is doable but we really prefer the comfort of the hammocks for such long trips and both of us struggle with occasional back issues the way it is.

Any insight into the state of campsites on the Isabella lake or river would be much appreciated. We are definitely planning to make our choice by the 25th so we can snag our permit first thing on the 26th!

Thanks in advance for all your help!
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distinguished member (371)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/18/2022 06:27PM  
LIS EP is a fun area + a few different ways you can travel around from there which is a plus. The river paddle in is really beautiful scenery. We had a good amount of success catching walleyes on Shell Lake, I'd say there are plenty fish to be caught in that area.

Edit: I also didn't care much for the Pauness lakes they were just meh in my opinion.
distinguished member (493)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/18/2022 07:09PM  
LIS all the way. That area is spectacular. It's a longer portage but I would say make the push to Lynx lake. Fishing is phenomenal and it's definitely worth the long portage to get some distance from the weekenders. I have never had luck fishing in the pauness' but my experience is lacking because it's usually just a paddle through for us. Lynx offers a wider variety of fishing with cleaner, clearer water.
distinguished member(4155)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/18/2022 09:48PM  
You will see WAY more people doing LIS North and staying on the Pauness lakes than Isabella. But like you's quieter because it's burned years ago and working its way back. You can find recent trip reports that show pictures of the lake and sites to better understand it.
01/18/2022 11:07PM  
I did an LIS north loop a couple years ago and I paddled the Perent and Isabella rivers last summer. I like both areas for different reasons.

Specifically on the Isabella side, the Pagami Creek fire was 10 years ago. The Jack pines tend to grow back first and average roughly 1 foot per year. The one campsite I stayed at on the Isabella River had a dense ring of Jack pines about 10 feet tall and maybe 3-4 inches diameter - probably big enough to hold up a hammock but I can not say much about how suitable spaced they are. Right now they seem very dense because the have not crowded each other out. Here is a photo of a campsite on Isabella River in 2021.

The LIS North is beautiful and will have more big, older trees and I suspect the fishing would be better, but it will also likely be busier.
distinguished member(848)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/19/2022 12:03PM  
On Isabella we were at a site and hung five hammocks. I'll try and find the site number if you are interested.
distinguished member(848)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/19/2022 12:06PM  
WonderMonkey: "On Isabella we were at a site and hung five hammocks. I'll try and find the site number if you are interested."

Campsite XP is where we were. I didn't particularly like the site to able and sit and take in the splendor of the lake, but it was certainly adequate for an overnight, as is almost every site.
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