BWCA Granite River levels too dangerous? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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scotttimm
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05/17/2022 07:51PM  
Hey All - there was a post on the FB group connected to this site, a local who lives on Gunflint Lake - who said anyone thinking of doing the Granite River should reconsider their route. I spoke with him this morning - he said he has lived there for many years and has never seen it this high. Said the portages will be underwater and right now it is totally treacherous.

My son and I are attempting the Border Route Challenge starting Memorial Weekend - he also mentioned he doesn't think the river levels will drop too fast. Wondering if anyone could confirm that info (and his concerns). I've not done this stretch before, so I don't know what to expect on the Granite River.

Also interested in route adjustment ideas...though at this point, it looks like pulling out at Trails End area and portaging 11 miles to Gunflint Lake...or finding our way to the Kekabek or Gunflint Trail (all those options seem a little nuts). Cross River?

Scratching my head.
 
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cyclones30
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05/17/2022 09:24PM  
You'd be going upstream there if you're going west to east on the route as a whole. But yes, I'm sure there are some nasty sections with it running high. It'll drop some by the time you're going if weather stays normal to dry.

But at least if you're going upstream you'll be able to see what you have in front of you and decide plan of attack vs doing downstream and kinda at the mercy of the river at times.
05/17/2022 10:39PM  
Its usually low to very low when I been through the Granite River on previous Kruger Challenges. With this high water it really makes one think---- I would think there are very dangerous sections now-- portages may be tricky (they are with low water) but this high water throws a different deal all together. Will power and smarts I think would get you through but what a difference for my mind to comprehend. The second to last portage (last now probably not needed) before Magnetic Lake will be a serious challenge. Little Rock Falls is what I mean.

More further down on your route is the Pigeon River. English Rapids would likely be Class 2 to maybe 3 in areas with current water levels. A lot of unknowns in this.

I would not say it's too dangerous. But that's up to one's paddling / rapids skills. Likely by Mem Wkend you will fine.
straighthairedcurly
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05/18/2022 05:53PM  
If local knowledge indicates avoiding that area by the time you on that end of the BW, you could drop down south and go to Poplar Lake. From Trail Center, you would only have a 3-4 mile portage down Hungry Jack Road to West Bearskin Lake and then enter back in via Duncan. Not a normally accepted way to transition to the east side of the BW, but if the Granite R. is too dangerous I doubt you would get in trouble if you just keep moving through that area in a day without stopping.
05/20/2022 08:13AM  
I agree with Whitewolf- "will power and smarts will get you through". Oops....I changed his quote, a little.

I've never been through there under these high-water conditions but have a pretty good picture in my head of what it could be like....and I don't see any spots that will stop progress. Progress may just be doing something different and with more caution than what is normally needed.

Pigeon River- yesterday's stream flow at Middle Falls is about 4500 cfs- that's really high! Good news is it's dropping by about 800 cfs per day and could be at better levels by the time you guys arrive there. This river really changes quickly, both up and down, based on recent rainfall. I hate to give you advice on what to do as I don't know you or your abilities. Two spots on the Pigeon to be wary of with high flow- English Rapids (especially the start) and Partridge Falls. My heart is pumping a little fast right now thinking about what the start of the English Rapids would look and sound like right now! WWBD? - get out of my boat and walk the woods at the beginning of the English Rapids to scout and decide to run it or bushwack my gear around the worst of it. And I would get off the river well in advance of Partridge Falls to avoid getting too close to it.

scotttimm
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05/20/2022 09:57AM  
BeaV: "I agree with Whitewolf- "will power and smarts will get you through". Oops....I changed his quote, a little.


I've never been through there under these high-water conditions but have a pretty good picture in my head of what it could be like....and I don't see any spots that will stop progress. Progress may just be doing something different and with more caution than what is normally needed.


Pigeon River- yesterday's stream flow at Middle Falls is about 4500 cfs- that's really high! Good news is it's dropping by about 800 cfs per day and could be at better levels by the time you guys arrive there. This river really changes quickly, both up and down, based on recent rainfall. I hate to give you advice on what to do as I don't know you or your abilities. Two spots on the Pigeon to be wary of with high flow- English Rapids (especially the start) and Partridge Falls. My heart is pumping a little fast right now thinking about what the start of the English Rapids would look and sound like right now! WWBD? - get out of my boat and walk the woods at the beginning of the English Rapids to scout and decide to run it or bushwack my gear around the worst of it. And I would get off the river well in advance of Partridge Falls to avoid getting too close to it.


"


Thanks everyone. Grant and I are pretty experienced - in the BWCA and on rivers as we mostly train on the Upper Iowa. I used to do a lot of whitewater kayaking in my youth, so I am probably just confident enough to be a little dangerous. I've been noticing frequent reports of people capsizing. We'll frequently pull over and scout sections before we attempt anything, and we need to keep each other in check. I'm thinking night paddling is probably not wise. Grant is 18, very experienced in a canoe and is in crazy good shape. I've dropped 27 pounds and have been training hard since January. The contact I found on Gunflint Lake (John Schloot) has offered to be in contact while on our trip (SpotX) and even generously offered to pick us up at Trails End and shuttle us to Gunflint Lake if needed. Grant doesn't like the idea of "cheating" - but as we were on our evening heavy hike last night he agreed that it wouldn't be worth an asterisk next to his Challenge attempt if it meant a life-threatening situation. So we will see. I might have to check out the route that would take us down to Poplar as well. Due to the Zebra Mussel thing and Gold Portage closure, we'll be starting on the northern side of Kab and find a way to add the missed miles somewhere along the way...though our Lodge the night before (Sandy Point) is apparently sandbagging the property with waves hitting buildings, currently, so we may be stealth camping somewhere or sleeping in the parking lot. Last year nerves were high worried about fire...this year strong currents and cold water. Any other specific advice on aspects of the route, strategy, etc is much appreciated.
cyclones30
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05/20/2022 12:56PM  
Night paddling should still be fine if you're on the larger lakes like LLC, Crooked, Basswood, Sag, etc as long as you're really good at navigating. The issues will be at portages and pinch points.

If you haven't check out the earlier topic a few down from me on the Curtain Falls portage. Definitely take the southern landing and don't deal with the current at the base of the falls.
HWMinngrl
member (20)member
 
05/21/2022 04:05PM  
If you could post any updates that you get here, that would be much appreciated. My husband and I are supposed to do part of the Granite River route (away from Gunflint) on May 31, and now I’m thinking the water might still be too high / too dangerous then.
Voyager
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05/21/2022 07:03PM  
If I were in your shoes I'd postpone and if that's not feasible, I'd cancel. I cancelled my Snowbank entry for the 20th because of conditions. There are some bad spots on the Granite River for high water. The 1st portage after the falls portage, I think they call it Horse portage, the trail is low and sure to be under water. There's another portage right at the end of a rapids, canoers going downstream all run it. You will never be able to fight the current there and will have to bushwhack a bit to get there. As mentioned earlier, you could go through Poplar Lake and cross at Trail Center. Be sure to get permission as it's private property. You won't have to walk all the way to Bearskin, you can put in at Hungry Jack. There's a public launch right off the road. There you have 2 choices as to direction. I headed south there, ( many moons ago) quicker would have been more easterly. I don't have my map in front of me. I ran into a ranger the day before and he told me to stop at an outfitter on Poplar and get another entry permit. He finally acquiesced, since it was after Labor Day. Then there's the Pigeon, a mistake could mean a long walk out. About 3 years ago I was running English Rapids on the Challenge, and jumping out when necessary. I wasn't quite fast enough once and my solo got pinned on a rock. It started to crack but then the boulder dislodged, or I'd have been walking.
scotttimm
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05/22/2022 06:39AM  
Voyager: "If I were in your shoes I'd postpone and if that's not feasible, I'd cancel. I cancelled my Snowbank entry for the 20th because of conditions. There are some bad spots on the Granite River for high water. The 1st portage after the falls portage, I think they call it Horse portage, the trail is low and sure to be under water. There's another portage right at the end of a rapids, canoers going downstream all run it. You will never be able to fight the current there and will have to bushwhack a bit to get there. As mentioned earlier, you could go through Poplar Lake and cross at Trail Center. Be sure to get permission as it's private property. You won't have to walk all the way to Bearskin, you can put in at Hungry Jack. There's a public launch right off the road. There you have 2 choices as to direction. I headed south there, ( many moons ago) quicker would have been more easterly. I don't have my map in front of me. I ran into a ranger the day before and he told me to stop at an outfitter on Poplar and get another entry permit. He finally acquiesced, since it was after Labor Day. Then there's the Pigeon, a mistake could mean a long walk out. About 3 years ago I was running English Rapids on the Challenge, and jumping out when necessary. I wasn't quite fast enough once and my solo got pinned on a rock. It started to crack but then the boulder dislodged, or I'd have been walking. "
Hey Voyager - I might want to give you a call soon, Grandma Lori said I should. I'm thinking we're likely going to do the route down to Poplar, then head up to Watap via Daniels. We're monitoring the Pigeon, which is dropping every day and I think in a couple weeks time may be at a level we can do, if not, we'll exit before.
scotttimm
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05/22/2022 06:43AM  
HWMinngrl: "If you could post any updates that you get here, that would be much appreciated. My husband and I are supposed to do part of the Granite River route (away from Gunflint) on May 31, and now I’m thinking the water might still be too high / too dangerous then."

We won't be out by May 31. I've gotten good information from the outfitters at Gunflint Lodge. Right now, sounds dicey, so it may be wise to consider a plan B. Here is a FB message from the guy who lives on Gunflint lake:
HWMinngrl
member (20)member
 
05/22/2022 07:56AM  
scotttimm: "HWMinngrl: "If you could post any updates that you get here, that would be much appreciated. My husband and I are supposed to do part of the Granite River route (away from Gunflint) on May 31, and now I’m thinking the water might still be too high / too dangerous then."


We won't be out by May 31. I've gotten good information from the outfitters at Gunflint Lodge. Right now, sounds dicey, so it may be wise to consider a plan B. Here is a FB message from the guy who lives on Gunflint lake:
"


Thank you for this info!
05/23/2022 12:08AM  
River system lake near Ely I just left today dropped 16" in 4 days. In a week or so, Granite River is about normal for time of year with how fast it's dropping. I would say the high water is nearly 75% the cause of snow melt and that's all but over. Enjoy your trip!!!
ppreston
member (39)member
 
05/23/2022 10:10AM  
Short of an EP closure or outfitter strongly encouraging an audible, our group will be heading out towards the end of next week for a 4 day trip with the intention of running downstream from Gunflint to Sag. The 10 day forecast is promising and water levels continue to drop, so hopeful conditions are at or near 'normal' for time of year. Will be sure to report back on our experience.
scotttimm
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05/24/2022 08:55AM  
We've decided to move back our challenge attempt to after July 4. Seeing how many people have been capsizing, including pretty experienced folks...along with videos from this weekend of raging sections like Crooked...just seems like the smart thing to do is hold off a bit.
HWMinngrl
member (20)member
 
06/01/2022 07:56PM  
If you still need any info, let me know! We did a day trip for part way down theGranite River route from Gunflint Lake and took some videos. It wasn’t bad but the first rapids are really flowing and the portage on the Canada side is flooded. I got out on a rock there and took some videos but then we turned around.
 
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