BWCA First timer - Lady Boot Bay? Mid to late October? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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Whitefly
 
10/04/2022 05:58PM  
Howdy all,

I used to go canoe with my family as a kid; my grandparents would take my cousins and I camping/fishing in the BWCA in the late summer months just before school would kick off. We'd spend a week or so up in the Lady Boot Bay area generally. Sometimes we would stay at a couple different campsites - but generally up in the Lady Boot Bay area was where we found ourselves.

We would stop off at Anderson Canoe Outfitters (Crane Lake) and depending on the year we would fly-in or be boated in and dropped off with our rented canoes.

Fast forward a couple decades and now as an adult, I would like to visit that area again and (hopefully) begin my own family travels to there with my own kids. But first, I'm planning on going with a buddy to see how it works logistically.

I've got questions:

1. Permits: I think I need to get one to stay in the area - yes? If so, best way to get one and/or who do I talk to? From what I've seen online - since it's past October 1st - it seems more 'open anytime' to anyone.

2. I don't have a canoe - who is a good person to rent one from? Anything in particular to look for with regards to canoes? I am planning on a small 4 day trip (somewhere around there). Just myself and a friend and our gear - hopefully in that Lady Boot Bay area. We would have fishing licenses but will be doing just catch/release. If we did eat fish it would probably only be for dinner one evening.

3. Is there a good way to get to Lady Boot Bay? Is being boated in the only/best way to get there? I'm assuming there is additional cost with that - but if there is a reasonable canoe route to get there - I'm game for that, too!

4. Any 'must have' items every first timer should bring along?

5. I have general camping gear as I do some light tent-camping in northern Wisconsin on some property - but do you have any advice for "spend the money and make sure you have a great ___________" type items?

 
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Wolfee
senior member (64)senior membersenior member
 
10/05/2022 06:21AM  
In October you can self issue a permit right at the entry point.

Fastest paddle route into Lady Boot Bay from US would be Moose/Portage -> Nina Moose -> Agnes -> LLC. This will most likely be a two day paddle.

Andersons and Zups both offer tow services into LLC. Call them to find out price and availability.

If you are not sure about your camping kit, do a "fully outfitted" to figure out what you want/need. You will definitely want a good warm sleep system.

Mid/late October is not a great time for inexperienced to explore the BWCA. Fickle weather, cold water and potentially iced over lakes, freezing nights. Please do a lot of research beforehand on the potential pitfalls. There are lots of threads about October trips on this site - do a search.
October trip search

Forgive me if I am mistaken, but it sounds like you don't have a ton of paddling experience. My biggest concerns would be capsizing/hypothermia, and ice-up on smaller bodies of water. Maybe only consider it if you have a really nice 4-day weather window (including low winds). Perhaps pick a different location that isn't so deep into the wilderness so you have a quick out if needed.

Kendis
distinguished member (165)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/05/2022 08:48AM  
After the end of the permit reservation season (September 30), many outfitters close until the start of the next season (the following May) or have reduced hours. They may also be "by appointment only," or offer limited services compared to what they offer during the reservation season. You should contact the outfitter(s) you're considering using to find out what is possible.

You absolutely need:

- A PFD
- Rain gear
- Warm clothes, including a wool or knit cap
- A good attitude and endurance. The weather will be cold both day and night
Whitefly
 
10/07/2022 06:51AM  
Wolfee: "In October you can self issue a permit right at the entry point.


Fastest paddle route into Lady Boot Bay from US would be Moose/Portage -> Nina Moose -> Agnes -> LLC. This will most likely be a two day paddle.


Andersons and Zups both offer tow services into LLC. Call them to find out price and availability.


If you are not sure about your camping kit, do a "fully outfitted" to figure out what you want/need. You will definitely want a good warm sleep system.


Mid/late October is not a great time for inexperienced to explore the BWCA. Fickle weather, cold water and potentially iced over lakes, freezing nights. Please do a lot of research beforehand on the potential pitfalls. There are lots of threads about October trips on this site - do a search.
October trip search


Forgive me if I am mistaken, but it sounds like you don't have a ton of paddling experience. My biggest concerns would be capsizing/hypothermia, and ice-up on smaller bodies of water. Maybe only consider it if you have a really nice 4-day weather window (including low winds). Perhaps pick a different location that isn't so deep into the wilderness so you have a quick out if needed.


"


Good points all around. I certainly am no experienced expert in the paddling department, but I do have a decent chunk of camping experience.

I think seeing as that's such a long paddle, we'll probably stay somewhere considerably closer and use this as just a few days 'trying out the area', maybe hit a few different campsites.

We're aware it will be cold and chilly, but we're excited to get out there in the late fall and enjoy it.
10/07/2022 08:48AM  
There can be a lot of wind in October. It is a transition month. LLC is a big lake. I've seen 5-6 ft waves on LLC when the wind picks up. Combined with cold water, that can be a deadly combination.

As others have said, contact Andersons. If you go rent a sat phone or inReach. Just in case...
ockycamper
distinguished member(1072)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/07/2022 09:32AM  
I would second the comment in this thread. BWCA wildnerness camping is NOT the same as a state of national park campground. People can get into trouble even in good weather. The time you are looking at going can have some severe weather. Three years ago we went the last weekof September and we had freezing rain, sleet and snow. In a capsize at that time of year you can put yourself in severe danger. Finally, many (most?) of the outfitters close up shop in October for a reason.

If this is your first trip, I would offer the suggestion of what our groups did the first time. We went in the summer and used and outfitter that fully equipped us with canoes, gear, food, tents, sleeping bags, etc. All we brought were our clothes. We based camped as well.

Please rethink the mid October idea
10/07/2022 03:42PM  

Good points all around. I certainly am no experienced expert in the paddling department, but I do have a decent chunk of camping experience.


I think seeing as that's such a long paddle, we'll probably stay somewhere considerably closer and use this as just a few days 'trying out the area', maybe hit a few different campsites.


We're aware it will be cold and chilly, but we're excited to get out there in the late fall and enjoy it."


If you take EP 16 there are several good campsites on Agnes, which is about 5 hrs from the parking lot if double portaging and taking it easy. You can get up onto LLC, past Boulder Bay, in an hour from the north end of Agnes on a day trip. Great campsites (in red circle in pic below) just past Boulder Bay. Lots of good fishing between Boulder Bay and Fish Stake Narrows and some great sights to see along the way as well. Lake Trout season is closed for the year.

Renting a canoe this time of year might be tough as the outfitters tend to shut their shops down at the end of Permit season (Oct 1)...that said, Piragis and some of the bigger outfitters in Ely may still be renting boats when you plan to go.

Gear to bring? A decent waterproof tarp if rain is in the forecast and definitely bring an insulated sleeping pad (R-value = 3 or higher). If the ground is cold and you don't have an insulated pad you will be cold, regardless of the temp rating of the sleeping bag. If you use a cot then definitely bring an insulated pad as air temps will likely get below freezing at night.



10/07/2022 05:43PM  
Since you are not a highly experienced and skilled paddler I would avoid the big water. Even then you should familiarize yourself with cold water shock and hypothermia.

Here are a couple:

Link

Link
Ho Ho
distinguished member(2412)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/07/2022 09:13PM  
I will just be direct and say that you should delay this trip to next year. Mid to late October is not the time for a trip in the BWCA for a first-timer (or someone going back for the first time since childhood). Late October is often a beautiful time of year in most of the United States, but in the Boundary Waters it can be brutal. True, there are usually (not always) lots of nice days for a hike, but this is not a time of year for a trip into the Wilderness - especially as far as Lady Boot Bay - if you are not a very experienced Boundary Waters camper.

I also came to canoe country (mostly Quetico in Canada) as a kid and returned for the first time 25 years later on an August trip when I was in my late 40s. It was awesome. You should do it. But not in mid- to late October. Wait for next summer.
10/08/2022 07:36AM  
Hey Whitefly!

I am also going in shortly. I have done many cold fall trips.

1. Permits: Yeah every entry point has slips that you fill out and drop the carbon copy in the box.

2. I don't have a canoe - who is a good person to rent one from? I have no idea where you can rent from. However my preference is 17 foot Alumacrafts. Heavier sure but they seem more stable and more bulletproof. Whether they are or not is not relevant to me. Its my opinion :)

3. Is there a good way to get to Lady Boot Bay? As others have said....going back for your first time I would choose something not so far in especially this time of year. I would suggest hitting up Kawishiwi River or Lake One. Especially the river, not big water, easy access, good fishing, pretty, won't be as busy as summer months, etc.

4. Any 'must have' items every first timer should bring along? Must haves: at least a zero degree sleeping bag, tarp, rope, sleeping pad (the ground will freeze ya...so get off the ground), rain gear, first aid kit, non leaking tent, long underwear, and more than one bag containing matches. I also think an emergency blanket is a good idea for you know emergencies. If you flip and can't get a fire or stay warm. Get dry clothes on and wrap yourself in that thing and then crawl into your sleeping bag and hope for the best.

5. I have general camping gear as I do some light tent-camping in northern Wisconsin on some property - but do you have any advice for "spend the money and make sure you have a great ___________" type items? Get a tent where the fly comes to the ground like the REI Halfdomes (so if you touch the sides you don't get water to fill the tent). Get a good sleeping bag at least down to 0 degrees (the 30 degrees are not exactly comfortable at 30). Get an air mattress that still has cushion if it gets a hole like the thermarest basecamp pad. I would buy one of those nice tarps instead of the menards blue tarps..... however I still use the blue ones lol. They do the job but man they suck. Buy good rain gear too.... that is one area you should not skimp on during cold weather.

Few extra tips from me:

1. Stay near shore in case you flip. Beach the canoe and get a fire going or get dry clothes on or both.

2. Have matches or lighters in more than one area in case you flip and one set gets wet. You will want and potentially need a fire.

3. Don't go into deep/big water if winds are high.

4. If it is raining.... stay dry somehow.

Best of luck and I hope it brings back amazing memories.
lindylair
distinguished member(2696)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/08/2022 12:54PM  
If you are still determined to go in that time frame, you might consider one of several entry points where you can launch and paddle directly to one of several campsites right on that same lake. These are generally not real big lakes and without portaging you would have the option of being close to the entry point if anything goes wrong or the weather turns nasty.

Here are some options:
Sawbill Lake(outfitter right there)
Kawishiwi Lake
John Lake
Clearwater Lake (bigger lake but pretty)

A couple options with one short portage to your destination lake would be Slim Lake near Ely and Crocodile Lake off the Gunflint. Both are very nice lakes with around a 100 rod portage to get there. That time of year both would likely be very secluded. Crocodile lake is a good walleye lake and there are walleyes and smallmouth in Slim.

Still give you the experience with less risk and would be a good "test run" for bigger trips in the future.

Just a thought, these are all really nice places to be at anytime.
Whitefly
 
10/11/2022 02:26PM  
Massive thank you to everyone for your thoughts on the matter!

So much great information in this thread. Upon some discussion with my buddy - we've decided to postpone BWCA until the Spring and/or Summer time. That will give us a more time to prepare and choose a site a bit 'closer to home' for our first venture up into the BWCA.

In the meantime we'll be doing some fall camping on our property in northern WI to help get our gear sorted and have an idea of what setup would work in 'colder temps' should we dare to try late September, early October next year!

I am bummed about it - as I was looking forward to the October views and potentially 'less traffic', but I am going to err on the side of caution as suggested and postpone it until we're a bit better versed on the whole situation from start to finish of a trip.

I was thinking of entering from #16 however - but that small river area looks like it may have it's own set of challenges getting to the open water (shallow areas, beaver dams and the like - of course I'm just looking from Google Maps); what's the situation there? Do you just walk your canoe around them on shore?
Whitefly
 
10/11/2022 02:41PM  
Also, for what it's worth - I made it sound as if I haven't been back since I was a child. That's not entirely accurate. With regards to canoeing/camping we stopped going when I was in my mid to late teens, which I suppose isn't a child in the technical sense.

Additionally, my family still goes yearly the second week of September - but they no longer canoe/camp. They started going again about 5 years ago after a long break - only now they stay at cabins and rent motor boats around the Crane Lake area. I've been enjoying that - but it's not quite the same for me.

I've been itching to return to the canoe/camp lifestyle with my own friends/family during a similar time each year in the BWCA.

I can't wait for the coming year! Just reading these message boards has me amped up and planning.

Thanks again, everyone!
cyclones30
distinguished member(4070)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
10/11/2022 07:43PM  
16 is a nice well-used entry. Yes the narrow river stretch from the EP to the first lake has its minor navigational details. But it's pretty simple, take the portages when there is one marked and where you see a landing, they're pretty obvious since they get a lot of use. There aren't typically random spots where you'd have to get out and like walk the canoes over or around something. It's either paddle-able or there's a short portage on land around it.
Ho Ho
distinguished member(2412)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/11/2022 08:16PM  
I can understand you're being bummed about the delay - I would be too - but I think you made the right decision. When you make your trip next year I think you will have a great time.

I had a 25 year gap between my last trip as a youth when I was 15 and my first trip as an adult at 40. I did lots of camping, including wilderness camping, elsewhere during that time, but was not back in the Boundary Waters/Quetico for 25 years. Coming back was so great for me. So great, in fact, that we moved to Ely when I retired. :)

I don't think before I lived up here I appreciated how quickly conditions get difficult in the fall. Today I went hiking and it was in the 70s - which is way out of normal range for this time of year - and later this week it may snow.

Hope to hear a great trip report after you go in 2023.

golds009
member (26)member
 
11/02/2022 09:16PM  
I have used Anderson's for several years, and have been pleased with their services. Contact them, describing your plan, and Mark will give you helpful comments regarding the feasibility of your plan. I presented a similar plan to him once, and he suggested an alternative (and very acceptable!) route, based on his knowledge of the winds at the time I was going. Good luck!
 
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