BWCA Crooked or Iron Lake busier? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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senior member (86)senior membersenior member
02/08/2022 08:57PM  
We're going Mudro entry in mid late August. Up through Sundail PMA then on to Iron and back around Basswood to Horse. We got plenty of time, 10 days, and thinking possible layover days.
Is it more crowded on Iron or Crooked. I was thinking Iron because it seemed more remote. But it sounds like there will be more people there with the proximity to the other entry points and tows.
Was anyone there last year in Aug...... oh never mind.. That is when we had the trip planned last year.
Have you noticed the different numbers on the two lakes for people and campsites in past years?
And I'm determined to catch some fish this time, so which way should I go?
Or should we hunker down on Sunday lake and Sterling Lake for a number of days with our PMA permit? Then is it really worth it to bushwhack to Stuart for fishing over that way and up to Iron. I'm thinking backtrack from Sterling to the Beartrap and on down to Iron. A whole lot less portaging that way.

BTW it's nice to see the activity on the message board. I thought a lot of you had gone into hibernation back there!

Thanks for any and all help

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distinguished member (384)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/08/2022 11:03PM  
I've wanted to make it to Iron on a few trips now, but haven't made it happen. I will say that I went to Crooked via Mudro/Horse River in early June last year and while we saw maybe a half dozen groups across the 2 days it took us to get to Sunday Bay, we saw no more than maybe 3 parties over 5 days while we stayed in Sunday Bay. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. We saw 1 party in Saturday Bay when we made a day trip to fish it and 1 party when we went to check out Curtain Falls (only stayed near the outflow and midway through the portage to fish a pool - I'm sure we would've seen some people fishing the inflow on Iron if we walked that far).

While I think Iron might still be worth a trip, I'd go back to base camp in Sunday Bay in a heartbeat. Such a great area and we basically had it all to ourselves. The fishing was alright too. :)
John Moore
Guest Paddler
02/09/2022 06:22AM  
Bonz, we spent 5 days and 4 nights traveling the same route in the opposite direction late July last year. We camped at site 1861 near Wednesday bay, site 1878 near Saturday bay, site 1838 on Iron lake and the north campsite on Sunday lake.

The route is popular and within easy reach from many entry points. We saw other paddlers everywhere along the route except in the PMA. There is no way to predict campsite availability. We planned our travel so that we located a campsite by early afternoon and this worked well. I didn't feel that Iron was any busier than Crooked. There were several available campsites on both Iron and Crooked.

We didn't fish.

02/09/2022 08:03AM  
I've only been to Crooked once, but I've been to Iron something like 8 times.

Going to Iron no matter how early a start we get we always seem to have difficulty finding a campsite.

I would say Iron is more busier just because of the limited campsites on a very popular destination lake.
distinguished member (333)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/09/2022 08:04AM  
I usually find Iron Lake busier than Crooked. There's always people getting towed to Bottle portage and they portage into Iron with everything but the kitchen sink, and set up housekeeping for several days. ( tows might not be operational again this year all the way to Bottle) Crooked is big so there's more elbow room. As far as your PMA plans. I've only been to Sterling Lake twice. The 1st time solo, and then back with my wife on a later trip. We saw a big bull moose on Sterling, caught a few small walleyes. If I were you, I might be tempted to stay there 2 nights. Be warned, between the Beartrap and Sterling is very rough going. I think it's easier to find your way going west to east through there. From Sterling to Stewart is far more traveled. Stewart is also decent fishing, even for me, the world's worst fisherman.
distinguished member(558)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/09/2022 09:13AM  
Crooked is a huge lake and spread out, with campsites nicely dispersed. We've been there twice during the summer and it has never felt crowded.
member (49)member
02/09/2022 10:28AM  
We are heading towards Crooked in June for the first time. I'd love to fish Iron but also worry about campsite availability. Either way I am hoping to have a good time on Crooked relaxing and catching a few walters.
distinguished member (159)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/09/2022 03:09PM  
It is pretty easy to get away from the crowds on Crooked. Everytime I have been there, which is several, plenty of open sites. In 2020 I stayed 3 nights on Saturday Bay and only saw people when on day trips. I have never stayed on Iron but have passed thru a few times and most sites I passed where occupied.
distinguished member(3895)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/09/2022 09:05PM  
Can't get a tow to bottle portage the last few years. Or still while the border is closed....last I knew. They could get you as far as US boats could go which is just past the Beatty portage.

As for the original question....I'd say Iron is busier since it's smaller. (still a good sized lake) Both lakes have good fishing, not hard to catch stuff in either usually.
member (26)member
02/10/2022 03:11AM  
Never been to Iron so I'm unable to compare the two. Will say that the 4 times I've been to Crooked there has been a limited number of campsites available in the Wednesday to Friday bay area. Last spring I actually got one of the more popular campsites close to Thursday bay. It's a real big site, plenty big for 3+ tents but I was there solo. Ran into a group who couldn't find an open site, and it was getting fairly late in the day, so I allowed them to camp with me. Worked well for us, but cant promise others will be so lucky.
distinguished member(958)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/10/2022 02:14PM  
Iron, for the number of sites it has vs Crooked, it’s way busier. Only 10 sites on Iron, so it fills up quick.
senior member (86)senior membersenior member
02/13/2022 10:29AM  
That's great advice. Thanks for that. Looks like it's best to get an early start for a possible site on Iron. Or just plan staying on Crooked. Either way we'll use our PMA permit as much as possible. Nothing better than a guaranteed campsite on a private lake in the BWCA. We promise to leave some of the walleye in Sunday lake.

senior member (75)senior membersenior member
02/15/2022 12:25PM  
Fewer campsites on Iron, at least perceived busier. Crooked spread out over larger area with more dispersed campsites so perhaps less.

Mudro to Beartrap day 1, Beartrap a nice secluded lake if the 1 campsite is available, had great eater walleye fishing. Trip to Sunday is easy half day, fishing Sunday only ok. Another easy half day to Iron, consider fishing entry to Iron. Iron is great fishing but fewer campsites so could be perceived as busier than Crooked.

Great fishing across Crooked. Depart either Friday Bay or Horse River--advantages to both.

Done this in August 3X. Might recommend spending time on Iron or Crooked instead of a day trip to Stuart. Consider a couple layover days in Iron and Friday Bay.

02/17/2022 09:52AM  
We've done Moose River North to Moose Lake, and Moose RN and out Mudro. Iron lake was one of our favorite lakes both times, but campsites are harder to come by. I've often wondered if anyone has bothered to get a Quetico permit and camp along the Northern banks of those lakes. It's not as remote, but it seems like the campsites might be less overused.
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