BWCA Frost River - Is this the year? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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BigCurrent
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05/11/2022 10:15AM  
Assuming the water levels will be high from the significant snowfall this winters, is this an ideal year for a trip down the Frost River?

It's always been on my BW bucket list but all reports sound like it is more of an adventure than an enjoyable trip. My group of 4 currently has a permit next week and had planned on making a short loop through Cherokee and the Temperance lakes, but yesterday we started tossing around the Frost River loop. The plan would be to camp on Frost and make it to Hub or Mesaba in one shot.

Any thoughts on potential conditions this year or past experiences on the river?
 
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Michwall2
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05/11/2022 10:30AM  
From what we have seen with water levels this spring, I would go for it.

You will definitely work harder on the Frost Loop than the Cherokee Loop. The day on the Frost River is absolutely rewarding. You will probably be able to float over several beaver dams that would be pullovers. I think you will be able to pull over some that otherwise would need a portage. We were able to line our canoes through some rock gardens that were portages at lower water. Very high water could present some dangers that we didn't encounter though. Remember that moving water is powerful.

Getting to Hub at the end of a long day on the Frost could be a bit much. The 300 rd. portage from Fente to Hub starts with a 1/4 mile climb that will make your glutes burn and your heart pound.

Have Fun!
BigCurrent
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05/11/2022 10:58AM  
Michwall2: "From what we have seen with water levels this spring, I would go for it.
Have Fun!"


Thank you for the info. What sections of the river would potentially have strong current with the higher water levels?
Michwall2
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05/11/2022 01:36PM  
BigCurrent: "Michwall2: "From what we have seen with water levels this spring, I would go for it.
Have Fun!"



Thank you for the info. What sections of the river would potentially have strong current with the higher water levels?"


There were at least 2 choke points where we lined canoes through rapids with some current. The high water allowed us to avoid the portage, but with more water flowing through those spots, it could have made it harder to keep our footing or hold the canoes against the current.

Higher water also tends to move objects off shore into the channel and create things like sweepers, etc.

Have a great trip!
TreeBear
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05/11/2022 04:24PM  
BigCurrent: "Michwall2: "From what we have seen with water levels this spring, I would go for it.
Have Fun!"



Thank you for the info. What sections of the river would potentially have strong current with the higher water levels?"


There are a few, but every spot that would have current is marked as a portage and has a portage. There's one rapids after pencil lake that's more of a waterfall than the others and the landing is pretty close to the start of the chute. The other "rapids" on the frost are boulder piles without much of a channel. I got through the Frost twice last year: one personal trip the last weekend of April/first weekend of May. The second was a guided group of high schoolers in early June. The two trips couldn't have been more different from a water level perspective. The first trip was a friends trip so we were trying to paddle past every portage (even if it took more time.) It was fun to see the different rapids though, even in April, there was a fair bit of out-of-the-canoe time. With the high schoolers trip, we had major water level issues. There's a turning point in the river when the water levels become way shallower after the waterfall portage (the first portage after pencil, I believe) where we were beaching mid-river. I have grown to love that route even though it is a slow trip compared to the big open lakes. Enjoy!
dschult2
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05/11/2022 05:54PM  
That's my thinking. Plan on heading down it this Sunday.
BigCurrent
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05/11/2022 07:24PM  
Thanks for the info everyone, I'll report back if we make the trip.
05/11/2022 09:10PM  
I did the Frost about 3 years ago when it was medium to a little low. I think the idea of doing it now with high water would be a real blast, whatever the challenges that might come up. Go, and have fun!
TacoOverland
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05/12/2022 04:56AM  
dschult2: "That's my thinking. Plan on heading down it this Sunday."

Looks like we may be crossing paths. Traveling in a group or solo?
Safe travels.
dschult2
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05/12/2022 11:18AM  
I'll be solo. Look for the guy with a black lab.
TacoOverland
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05/12/2022 11:43AM  
dschult2: "I'll be solo. Look for the guy with a black lab."

Nice, I’ll be solo as well. No dog with me sadly, can’t get him in the canoe and he hates the water ?????. Defective golden.
dschult2
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05/12/2022 01:40PM  
TacoOverland: "dschult2: "I'll be solo. Look for the guy with a black lab."


Nice, I’ll be solo as well. No dog with me sadly, can’t get him in the canoe and he hates the water ?????. Defective golden. "

I'll keep an eye out for you. Travel safe as well. Hopefully we can skip a lot of the beaver dam liftovers.
BigCurrent
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05/21/2022 07:30AM  
Just returned yesterday from a the Frost River loop out of Sawbill. What a trip. It's beautiful country and the river was an absolute blast. We only had to get out of the canoe for 1 beaver damn and I think we floated through two short portage. The portages along this route are no joke but make for a fun adventure. We didn't see anyone days 2 & 3 other than a lone paddler across Frost in the morning. I'm hoping to get a trip report up soon.

Day 1: Sawbill to Frost
Day 2: Layover day on Frost
Day 3: Frost to Mesaba
Day 4: Mesaba to Alton
Day 5: Alton to Sawbill
Michwall2
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05/22/2022 03:35PM  
BigCurrent: "Just returned yesterday from a the Frost River loop out of Sawbill. What a trip. It's beautiful country and the river was an absolute blast. We only had to get out of the canoe for 1 beaver damn and I think we floated through two short portage. The portages along this route are no joke but make for a fun adventure. We didn't see anyone days 2 & 3 other than a lone paddler across Frost in the morning. I'm hoping to get a trip report up soon.


Day 1: Sawbill to Frost
Day 2: Layover day on Frost
Day 3: Frost to Mesaba
Day 4: Mesaba to Alton
Day 5: Alton to Sawbill
"


Look forward to your report! I am glad to hear you did it.
OgimaaBines
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05/23/2022 08:11PM  
BigCurrent: "Just returned yesterday from a the Frost River loop out of Sawbill. What a trip. It's beautiful country and the river was an absolute blast. We only had to get out of the canoe for 1 beaver damn and I think we floated through two short portage. The portages along this route are no joke but make for a fun adventure. We didn't see anyone days 2 & 3 other than a lone paddler across Frost in the morning. I'm hoping to get a trip report up soon.


Day 1: Sawbill to Frost
Day 2: Layover day on Frost
Day 3: Frost to Mesaba
Day 4: Mesaba to Alton
Day 5: Alton to Sawbill
"


Looking forward to it as well. I'm heading in from the north side (Cross River) in a little over a week. Going to try to swing a little wide to Gabi and Gillis on the way out for some lakers.
OgimaaBines
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06/07/2022 08:43PM  
Just got back from the BW's yesterday. I entered at Cross River,to Frost River, Little Sag, Gabe, Gillis, to Round. I didn't have to do a single pullover on the Frost river and no dangerous water levels there. Portages were in pretty good shape as well with the exception of a couple downed trees over the portage from Afton to Fente.
 
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