BWCA Saganaga in the late fall Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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06/28/2022 11:03PM  
Hi All,

Thinking of a late September solo trip, mostly just to see the colors and maybe do a little fishing. Any thoughts on the loop from American Point to Red Rocks portage? I would have 6-8 days.

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06/29/2022 09:35AM  
There is a lot more wind in the shoulder seasons. While I am certain the scenery on Saganaga would be great, I would stick to smaller lakes.

Some suggestions:

Cherokee Loop out of Sawbill Lake(38). The intimate paddle up the Temperance River flowage is beautiful anytime. Cherokee Lake has spectacular scenery. A day trip to Frost Lake to try to spot a moose would be fun.

Louse River Loop out of Sawbill Lake. Sawbill Lake is a pretty scenic spot in and of itself. There are some beautiful tamarac lined meadows along the Louse River that would be a marvelous gold color in the fall. The Lady Lakes chain in the fall will be very pretty. Alton Lake would also have great fall scenery. (Alton needs to be respected for wind blown days also.)

Little Saganaga Loop our of Sawbill: Go west on the Lady Lakes Chain to Polly Lake. (Again respect Alton on windy days.) Turn north through Malberg and Makwa on your way to Little Sag. I would love to spend a couple of days on LIttle Sag in the fall. Wow! Head back south through Mora to Whipped and Fente to Hub and Mesaba Lakes. Head back to Sawbill through Zenith, Lujenida, and Kelso Lakes. (Don't want that much paddling? Start this loop on Kawishiwi Lake (37) and finish on Sawbill. You will need a shuttle from Sawbill outfitters to get started.)

Shorter routes?
Enter Lizz Lake (47) Make your way west to Long Island Lake. (Gaskin, Winchell, Ogema would all be scenic.) Again a day trip to Frost Lake would be fun. Long Island has some long fetches so be careful of the wind. Circle back east through Cave, Ross and Sebeka to Banadad Lake. Then out through Skipper.

Enter Lizz Lake. Make your way to Long Island Lake again. But, this time head out through either Cross Bay Lake (50) or Missing Link Lake(51). Its a short shuttle back to where you started on Poplar Lake.

Both LIzz Lake trips can be made in reverse of course.

Enter Kawishiwi Lake (37). First head north to Malberg Lake. Take a day trip to see pictographs on Fishdance Lake. Take a day trip to Boulder/Adams Lakes. Take a day trip along the Louse River to Boze/Frond Lakes. Then head back south to Polly Lake and turn east along the Lady Lakes. Finish again at Sawbill lake. Or just spend your time at Malberg doing day trips and head back to Kawishiwi Lake when you are done. I might go to Amber Lake and enjoy the site with a sand beach and privacy there.

Enter Brandt Lake (52). Brandt Lake to Gillis Lake. Rather medium sized lake. Gillis to Little Sag (again Wow!). LIttle Sag to Owl or Tuscarora Lake. Out through Missing Link Lake. This route has some lakes with longer fetches of wind, but nothing as long as Saganaga does.

Hope this helps. Have a great trip!
06/29/2022 10:49AM  
I love that area! Red Rocks is a nice place to fish and relax. By "loop" I assume you mean enter on Big Sag (or get dropped off via tow boat), paddle Red Rocks, into Alpine, and out on Sea Gull Lake (which can be done in as little as 2-days)?

If you put in yourself at Ep 55 it is not too bad that time of year to paddle over to Gold Island / Long Island / Englishman Island on Bib Sag for the first night camp. Easy access from there to lots of bays for fishing.

The sites on Red Rock are pretty nice. You could easily base camp there for a few days and get a lot of fishing in before heading into Alpine and Sea Gull.

I have done this loop a few times. You can park at End of the Trail, launch from there and paddle up the Sea Gull river to Big Sag. On the way out, via Sea Gull Lake, there is a tiny pass through from Sea Gull Lake to the back side of the End of the Trail campground where there is a little tucked away boat launch that you can retrieve your car from.
06/29/2022 11:35AM  
Thanks, Michwall2, for the various options! I am intrigued by the possibilities for the Kawishiwi option as a great balance between places I've been to and new locations. The smaller lakes would certainly be nice if wind is an issue. I will also spend some time looking at the river options you propose. I spent a dozen days through Lizz/Swamp this spring and hope to return in the future. (By the way, on some maps it says Ogema and others Omega...any idea why?) Sure appreciate the suggestions!

RT - good point, I didn't do a good job of outlining my route. I am considering a tow to American Point, paddling through Ottertrack, South Arm of Knife, and then tripping through Ogishkemuncie to Red Rock and picking up a tow out from there. There are so many options and nuances I was looking for possibilities. Mostly a new area for me. I think I'd enjoy going into the Pitfall PMA for a day only through Link Lake. Other than that, pretty open.

So many options, never enough time...always grateful for experiences in the wilderness.

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06/29/2022 04:18PM  
The original name of the lake was Ogema. The European map makers thought it was a typo and the name was Omega. My understanding is that Ogema is the Ojibwa word for beaver.

That's what was explained to me at one time.
06/29/2022 04:26PM  
Michwall2: "The original name of the lake was Ogema. The European map makers thought it was a typo and the name was Omega. My understanding is that Ogema is the Ojibwa word for beaver.

That's what was explained to me at one time."

Thanks for the background, Michwall. I'm glad I now know.
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06/29/2022 06:47PM  
We have camped on Red Rock the last week of September the last two years. Fall colors were amazing. Very calm lake and not much wind. Sag is another issue. We elected to take the tow vs try to paddle Sag. Most in our group paddled Seagull to Alpine to Red Rock then base camped. Reverse on the way back.
06/30/2022 10:52AM  
The route you are planning is one of my favorite! I love the Ottertrack / Knife/ Ogish loop and have done it multiple times, in both directions.

I think towboats to American Point are around $50 per person now. If you park at End of the Trail and launch yourself, you can save the money. The paddle from there to American Point only takes 2 to 3 hours (its 7 miles). If that matters to you.

Monument Portage, from Swamp into Ottertrack, is the only portage that is annoying. It's not hard, just lots of ups and downs, and usually a lot of people.

Ottertrack has an awesome campsite (#2001) that will be the first one you see just before you get to the portage into Knife. Knife has some great sites near the Eddy Falls portage and the portage area into Hanson. The Pitfall PMA is fun to explore.

If you go this way I think you will enjoy it. Ottertrack and Ogish are major throughways, but even so, there are not a lot of people in September. Hope this info helps!
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