BWCA Falls Chain dangerous/impassable Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
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distinguished member(865)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/14/2022 09:49AM  
Unfortunately I don't have time for a trip report but I wanted to send out a quick warning.

My wife and I just returned from nine days in Quetico, ending our trip on June 13. We initially planned a loop to include the Falls Chain. Heading north through Silver Falls, the entrance to the portage was fine, but the outflow below the falls was incredibly dangerous as the turbulent flowage extended all the way across the channel with no safe way to pass below the falls. Incredibly high waters with the shoreline extending well into the forest. We had no choice but to turn around. We spent a full day rerouting ourselves through un-named lakes and difficult to locate portages to get to Saganagons in the hopes of resuming the Falls Chain.

Once on Saganagons, we realized there was no hope of resuming the Falls Chain. The water levels were several feet higher than normal. Entire islands were under water. The "Dangerous Waters" marked on the maps out of Saganagons begins almost 1/2 mile prior to the portage as marked in red on the attached photo. No way to line a canoe and no way to bushwhack to the portage. I guess that's why it is nicknamed "Dead Man's Portage". It would have been extremely dangerous and likely impossible to continue on that Falls Chain route.

We still had a great trip and found a different route to safely make it back north to Atikokan. With the south entrances closed, the outfitters and the rangers likely don't have any first hand knowledge of this area as I'm guessing nobody has attempted that route this season.

It should be noted that we are very experienced wilderness paddlers with over 100 wilderness canoe trips over 30+ years. I've never seen waters this high and dangerous. I felt it my duty to issue this warning to prevent someone from getting hurt or worse. It will be weeks and maybe much longer before that water recedes to safe levels on the Falls Chain. Please stay safe in the flooded moving water.

I marked in red where the dangerous rapids begins a 1/2 mile from the portage.

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06/14/2022 11:05AM  
Thanks for taking time to report your experience.
distinguished member (373)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/14/2022 11:23AM  
Thanks for the report! I’ve been planning on going through the Falls Chain accessing through the Man chain prior. My dates going through would be around July 9th or 10th. I’ll have to assess rainfall and gauge water levels prior to trip obviously.

Trying to think of a way to still hit PrairiePortage do the Man Chain and somehow work North back into Kawnipi. I’ll be looking at maps to try to figure that out and PP. I’d love some specific suggestions if you have them since it sound like you did just that.

Will probably look at the option of changing the route and hitting Kashipiwi as a back up plan.

distinguished member (373)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/14/2022 12:30PM  
Doing a Mack Lake section to get into Kawnipi adds 18.3 miles to the trip. Would put me in the 158 mile range for my trip. My round trip going through the falls chain was 140 miles.

I don’t see another bypass with marked portages to get into McEwen. Most warning for the falls chain are for Canyon, and Kennebas the last two. McEwen means you still have to go through Kennebas falls.

distinguished member (132)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/24/2022 10:16AM  
I travelled through most of the Falls Chain on June 9. I entered it from Wet Lake and the route from Louisa into Sig. I went upstream and portaged into the next lake but turned downstream after getting a little spooked by the volume of water coming over the falls. I was originally going to paddle up to Saganagons and spend a night.

My fear was mostly unwarranted though. All portage landings on the upstream side were fine. A couple landings on the downstream side had floating logs. One, Kennebas Falls was quite tricky to launch from. The logs were moving around and I had to push my canoe out and crawl onto the floating mass to get into the canoe. A little risky for sure, but I felt safe enough. Huge wave trains downstream af all the falls but near shore not too bad. It looked to me that a week prior to my trip the water on some of the portages would have been too deep to travel through without swimming. As it was, there were a couple thigh deep spots.

I can’t be certain, but I believe I was the first one through that lower reach except for a black bear. I had to cut out a few tangles of down trees. I was really surprised how un-used all the campsites seemed down there. Some seemed to have been unused for a number of seasons.

The following day I ran into the first canoe I had seen in nine days.

distinguished member (164)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/07/2022 10:36PM  
Finished up a Quetico trip last sunday. We did not get to the falls chain, so I'm not doubting or trying to discredit the OP. But I will say that water levels were dropping rapidly the entire week we were there. The river between Russell and Sturgeon Lake was noticeably tamer after we camped on Russell for four days. Things should be getting better.
distinguished member(1739)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/14/2022 10:44AM  
The area is safe now.
distinguished member(4004)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
07/15/2022 06:52PM  
OldGreyGoose: "The area is safe now."

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