BWCA Knife River route Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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carbon1
senior member (69)senior membersenior member
 
07/06/2022 11:08AM  
I am heading up Moose to Knife. The question is through Birch or Ensign. Pros or cons of each would be nice.

How are the portages on the Knife River? Does one have to use the long Canadian-side portage or the shorter one on the American side.

Any info would help.

Thanks.

 
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cyclones30
distinguished member(3987)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/06/2022 12:14PM  
There is no long Canadian one.

Longest if taking the border route is still well under 100 rods. And all those portages are VERY well used and smooth and wide and flat.

The Vera route has fewer portages but much longer and hilly. You pick.

I think the total is 6 vs 4 portages? Moose to Knife via the 2 routes. But total portage distance is longer on the Vera route by far. A few harder ones or a few more but easy ones?

 
carbon1
senior member (69)senior membersenior member
 
07/06/2022 01:09PM  
My map show a 90 rod Canadian one must be old info.
 
07/06/2022 03:06PM  
The Birch-Carp-Knife route to the Isle of Pine is 6.5 miles single portaging (from the Indian Portage).

The Ensign-Vera-Knife route to the Isla of Pine is 8.5 miles single portaging (from the Splash portage).

The latter route also has nearly double the portaging distance (380 rods vs 205 rods). If your intent is to spend most of your time on Knife and the small lakes close by, then the former route is the way to go.

If it isn't already in your plans, I suggest considering a tow as well. It will save 6 miles of paddling. Definitely worth the $30 pp each way, in my opinion.
 
07/06/2022 03:36PM  
If coming from Vero to Ensign make sure to take the right portage. There is a winter route a little east of the marked portage which is through the swamp.
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1514)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/06/2022 03:46PM  
One other difference. Knife Lake route can be extremely crowded! Last summer, the final portage into Knife had a dozen canoes at the landing when we got there. The Vera route is the road less traveled. We did both ways last summer (Knife on the way east, Vera/Ensign on the way back west). I would choose Ensign/Vera if had to do it again.
 
07/06/2022 05:12PM  
straighthairedcurly: "One other difference. Knife Lake route can be extremely crowded! Last summer, the final portage into Knife had a dozen canoes at the landing when we got there. The Vera route is the road less traveled. We did both ways last summer (Knife on the way east, Vera/Ensign on the way back west). I would choose Ensign/Vera if had to do it again.
"


Interesting. I had the opposite experience in September 2020. Did a loop - entered at Indian Portage, headed to Knife, and exited at the Splash portage (via Vera-Ensign). Entry wasn't at all crowded. Heading out Ensign was like the state fair for crowds, it definitely didn't feel the BWCA that I know, canoes everywhere nearly all the sites were full. Most people I have ever seen on a single BWCA lake in over 20 years of paddling. Also, we encountered several groups day tripping from Ensign into Vera and Knife. It was crazy. Last year (late May) we stuck with the Birch-Knife route in both directions, wasn't crowded at all. Perhaps it's all about timing.
 
907Tundra
member (38)member
 
07/06/2022 10:32PM  
I just got back from a Moose to SAK a few days ago. We took a tow via Piragis/Vosberg to the end of Sucker Lk and did the portages on the Knife River. We booked the first tow of the morning (7am) and only saw one other group on the portages. We had our choice of campsites every day but I will say that we were on the water by 7am and picking a campsite by noon on all travel days. The afternoons were pretty windy so it was nice to be off the lake by noon for that reason too.
On our last day we camped back on Birch and did see crowds of people bunch up near our site on the east end of the lake at the portage later in the afternoon.
I couldn’t help but wonder where all those large groups were going to find an open site when they were only leaving Birch at 3 or 4 in the afternoon.
My advice is to get an early start on travel days especially if your group is large.
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1514)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/07/2022 01:35PM  
Plander, I agree that the one portage between Splash and Ensign can be nuts depending on the timing of tows arriving, but the rest of the way to Knife going that way is quieter in my experience.
 
carbon1
senior member (69)senior membersenior member
 
07/07/2022 01:51PM  
We are through tripping to sea gull.

Just one canoe two people.

I been in a lot of areas of the BWCA just not this route.

My partner was through there in 72 or 73.

Thanks for the info if any one else has something to add please do.
 
cyclones30
distinguished member(3987)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/07/2022 06:47PM  
carbon1: "We are through tripping to sea gull.


Just one canoe two people.


I been in a lot of areas of the BWCA just not this route.


My partner was through there in 72 or 73.


Thanks for the info if any one else has something to add please do."


If you want quicker and easier with super wide and flat trails take the border. You'll portage around rapids on the small stream multiple times which are fun to see. If you want more scenic portages go the other way
 
07/07/2022 10:40PM  
Another option would be to go through Vera, then stay south of knife through the Skoota/ Dix area. You could then go north to knife before crossing back south at Eddy falls (a must see) or stay south of knife completely through Kek. That 178 rod portage from missionary to Skoota is more rugged than some of the others in the area but not that bad. This route is far less traveled and for good reason.
 
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