BWCA Magnetic Lake to Saganaga Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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HWMinngrl
Guest Paddler
 
02/08/2022 11:06AM  
Hello there! My husband and I are thinking of doing a trip this summer. In the past, we have only done day trips into the BWCA. We are thinking about beginning at Magnetic Lake (EP 57) — from the Gunflint Lodge — and then canoeing up the Granite river all the way to Saganaga, and perhaps getting picked up at EP 55 at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters.

I’ve read a bit about this route, but does anyone have experience with it? I’m somewhat concerned about the “swamp portage” and the many waterfalls that we’d need to avoid and portage around. Maybe not the best place to start for our first trip? Any thoughts?

We also might be in our own kayaks rather than a canoe…so portaging frequently could be an issue. We are just trying to stick with routes we are a bit familiar with, such as Magnetic Lake and Farm Lake closer to Ely.
 
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straighthairedcurly
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02/08/2022 12:42PM  
If you are committed to bring kayaks, I would recommend a route with fewer portages. You could put in a Saganaga and do a loop through Saganaga, Red Rock Lake, Alpine, and Seagull. The portages on this loop are short and flat. We did this loop as a beginner route when we introduced my son's girlfriend to the BWCA. We did short days and made it into a 3 night trip.

Sag to Seagull: Intro Loop
MarshallPrime
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02/08/2022 01:34PM  
Yes, if you want Kayaks, I would do a route with fewer portages. I have done that route three times and getting around the rapids is not an issue, but there are quite a few short, annoying portages.

I have never portaged kayaks but have heard they are heavy and awkward. I would use a canoe for this route. Pretty route for sure.
chessie
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02/08/2022 03:44PM  
This is a lovely route. We did it in reverse to your plan. Stayed in bunkhouse at Gunflint the night prior, got shuttled to Sag, and ended at Gunflint. Two thoughts: your biggest concern is Granite River -- it's a rock garden in low water and can make knowing the where abouts of the actual portage a bit confusing. 2nd - talk to an outfitter and get the scoop on what you can run, what you can line, what you must portage around, and best side to portage. Mark their advice on your map.
MikeinMpls
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02/08/2022 04:31PM  
I've done this route at least a dozen times. I'm not sure if you plan on doing it in one day. It certainly is doable in one day and would make a great one-day challenge.

Like chessie said, so much of this route is dependent on the water level. But if you have kayaks, maybe it won't be as big of a deal. The rapids out of Clove Lake should not be run... I've tried and it didn't end well. Same with Horsetail Falls. Some of the portages are a little difficult to find. I wouldn't worry too much about the Swamp Portage, I can't remember it ever being excessively swampy. And of course be careful across Sag. That water can get big in a hurry and the motorboats really don't much care about the wake they leave and its effect on canoe.

Mike

chessie
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02/08/2022 05:41PM  
MikeinMpls: "I've done this route at least a dozen times. I'm not sure if you plan on doing it in one day. It certainly is doable in one day and would make a great one-day challenge.


Like chessie said, so much of this route is dependent on the water level. But if you have kayaks, maybe it won't be as big of a deal. The rapids out of Clove Lake should not be run... I've tried and it didn't end well. Same with Horsetail Falls. Some of the portages are a little difficult to find. I wouldn't worry too much about the Swamp Portage, I can't remember it ever being excessively swampy. And of course be careful across Sag. That water can get big in a hurry and the motorboats really don't much care about the wake they leave and its effect on canoe.


Mike


"

We did not do it in a day. In fact, as you noted re: Sag, due to high wind we ended up grabbing about the 1st campsite we came to! Also, Clove was full, so we diverted to Larch ... one of those times you have your heart set on a camp, and are fried, so was initially disappointed to push on to Larch. However, from our Larch site, had magnificent viewing of a cow and calf Moose swimming across the lake, and Larch Creek is fun exploring.
cyclones30
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02/08/2022 05:42PM  
You could do it if you're used to portaging w/ your kayaks. I'd recommend just renting a canoe for the two days or three or whatever you're planning on doing the trip in. It'll be far easier to portage vs each of you having a kayak and likely one not made for hauling gear
02/08/2022 08:28PM  
I did this route in August 1976 with a BIL. We went down to Sag then returned. Did in a little less than a week but my BIL was just out of the Marine Corp and he was a portaging machine. Don’t remember much specific about the route other than it was very scenic with a lot of portages. I do remember that we found a lot of beer cans of varying vintage just off the portages near Saganaga. We bagged many of them and some became the start of a beer can collection.
scottiebaldwin
senior member (85)senior membersenior member
 
02/08/2022 09:52PM  
Don't rush this route, live the dream! Rent a canoe, take your time, fish at the base of all the rapids, stare into each other's eyes, relax and enjoy! But for the love of all things holy, WATCH OUT ON SAG! It can unleash a whipping on you if u’re not careful!!!!! But hey, have fun!
Voyager
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02/09/2022 10:15AM  
I do the Sag. to Gunflint portion of your route every Sept. ( with the exception of last year) I've watched the water levels go down, down, down there. You'd have a rough time finding where the portage begins to get you to Clove. That stretch of water is gone! Incidentally, the rapids on the other end of Clove L. has an obscure portage on the Canadian side that is much shorter than the U.S. side. That's the 1 I usually use. There are many more appropriate routes for your skill level in the BW.
02/13/2022 06:14AM  
It's a great route. I've done it twice and had no issues except the first time was one day after the blow down and the second time I pulled a calf muscle. A couple of the portages are difficult to find. It does have a lot of short portages which would be a pain with a kayak especially if you're taking a lot of gear.
You would want to see how low the water is before you go.
CanoeGuru
member (17)member
 
02/13/2022 10:09AM  
The swamp portage isn't as scary as it sounds. In May 2021 I camped at Gunflint -> Clove -> Maraboeuf -> Sag. I double portaged and I think for the first time I enjoyed the walks as much as I did the paddling.
 
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