BWCA Criteria YOU USE to choose your entry point. Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/20/2022 04:58AM  
Hello all! Rather than ask what you think is the best EP, I would like to ask how do YOU determine a great EP area! I am curious what decisions go into you deciding where do I go next or etc. I will preface this by saying This summer will be our 5th trip to the BWCA so we are not rookies but just thinking about how big the BW is and do we want to explore away from our usual location.

1. Do you like the same EP over and over as you are familiar with the lakes and land? Or do most of you like to explore a new EP each trip?

2. Does portage length factor into your decision or does that not matter?

3. Do you research the all the lakes you will be on for reports or just go knowing that there will be pike, walleye and smallmouth almost everywhere?

Thank you in advance! Jamie
 
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Michwall2
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11/20/2022 10:24AM  
1. It depends on the group. If I am with a group with newbies and don't know how they will react to the wilderness, I will take a route that I am familiar with. (It at least reduces the stress on me as a trip leader.) If I am with more experienced trippers, I will opt for the new route/new territory. We like to explore. Many times it involves both. I like to start and end somewhere familiar, but include a loop of a few new lakes to give me some new territory to add to my lake list.

2. Again depends on the group. Myself, portage length doesn't really matter (over the years I have regularly done the 480 from Lujenida to Zenith. Twice in a couple trips!). For some groups I lead, portage length is becoming much more of a priority.

3. Yes, I research. I don't want to paddle a mile down a lake to find a campsite only has one tent pad when we need at least 2. The other part of this is that there are mistakes in the maps and some portages have been moved. Finding a portage end can be difficult enough in some situations without having to look in the wrong spot for 30-45 minutes (or take a false portage trail). For some people, I think those scenarios would be just a part of the wilderness experience, but, I am no longer tolerant of those types of side trips.

Info is info. Would you turn down information an outfitter would provide about the best campsites, portage conditions, fishing spots, etc. What difference does it make if you get that information online or at your outfitter's trip planning counter?
11/20/2022 12:46PM  
I'm going to give you the pre-old age version. My choice of EP and route has been affected by certain preferences and priorities. I've usually been solo or with one other person. I like solitude and being away from the crowd. I don't fish and prefer to travel/explore new areas. Portage length/difficulty was not a factor. It reduces the herd. I go in mid-to-late Sept. and generally avoid larger lakes where wind can be problematic. I increased the number of days over the years, which allows longer routes and makes some EP's less attractive. I have done a lot of EP's once and others more than once but with different routes.

I got curious - so to give you an idea I've entered 14 different EP's, entered the same EP's 4 times, but done different routes. I've also exited at some EP's that I've never entered.

I don't fish so my research has been about other things - route distances, portages, travel times, campsites, etc. I don't put too much stock in the campsite reviews - needs/preferences vary, conditions change, suitability varies with time of year. Same for portages, but you at least get a general idea.

There's a lot to see out there.
11/20/2022 01:49PM  
We usually visit Quetico. We usually enter through Prairie Portage, but have used a variety of entry lakes (Carp, Sarah, Agnes, etc). We've also entered the park from the Atikokan side (Beaverhouse and Nym) We like to hit new areas of the park, and do lake, portage, and campsite research as part of our winter planning process. Our trips are usually 10 days in late August and early September to avoid bugs and crowds. We don't fish--our focus is distance (usually 110-125 miles in a 10 day trip), pictographs, new lakes, and named portages (if it has a name, it has character!). For most of our trips over the past 40+ years, it's only been the two of us, so we don't have to worry about others' expectations around food, mileage, start/finish times, etc.

TZ
11/20/2022 03:10PM  
There were only two of us, with a few rare exceptions. (Never more than 4 or 5.)

My husband read the Beymer books about routes and portages. We never read anything about campsites--to me that was the fun of it, getting to a campsite and exploring it to see if it was or wasn't acceptable. Sometimes it didn't matter how "acceptable" it looked, if it was late, or if it was the last one on the lake.

We used quite a few different entry points, both Ely area, Gunflint, Sawbill, and a couple times into Quetico from the south. Our first trip was up into the Namakan River in Canada and it was 1971, which I believe is pre-BWCA anyway.

As we got older we planned longer trips, but also planned for layover days. We didn't fish either. Our first trips were "travel every day and see new territory", but things changed for me once I enjoyed the first layover day. From that point on, I wanted to include at least one in the planning. We would look at a route that was supposed to be 6-8 days, and plan to take 11 or 12 to enjoy it. We were not against paddling long days or working hard if we needed to, but we also liked to enjoy our vacation.

After 25 years or so we began repeating some entry points, but never repeated a route exactly. I think, for us, that would have spoiled the fun.

We weren't like so many of you who lived close by and could do multiple trips every year. For us it was a trip every-other-year for the first 20 years, and after that we tried very hard to get one every year. There are still places I wish we had gone, things I know we missed that I would have loved, and a couple of places that we really wanted to return to that didn't happen. But it's all good.
11/20/2022 03:23PM  


First I think all EPs are great :) The thing I look for is, what you can do from the one you choose?

1. I have ventured into the BWCA well over 100 times so yeah I have used the same EP many times but I have tried many others out too. It all depends on who I go with or what kind of trip I am looking for. Some are meant for leisure (easy fishing with plenty of alcohol) while some are meant to see specific things (Makwa rock) and sometimes it is for exploring (my most recent trip report) and sometimes something else.

2. Portage length does not factor into my trips much. My motto is take my time and enjoy. Even if I am going a long distance I like to take my time and almost always double portage and take breaks. If I am going on short portages or only one or two... I will bring in special food like steak and eggs. If I am going farther or longer then its mostly light weight food.

3. I do a lot of research on the lakes I will be on and study the depths and google them through this site onto any tips if there are any. I don't bring a fish finder with me so once I am out there I am going off either memory or sometimes maps I have printed out from the DNR site with depths.
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1600)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/20/2022 07:35PM  
1. Since I have started returning to the BWCA in the last 10 years, I have been trying out a lot of different EPs. In a given summer, I might select the same EP a couple times (I do 3-5 trips per summer), but try out a different route each time. In reality it is more about seeing as many different lakes rather than the actual EP. Motorboat access does influence me. I generally avoid routes where motorboats are, or at least get out of them quickly.

2. Portage length is not a top priority. But I am more likely to select a longer, tougher portage in order to get farther from the crowds more quickly.

3. I don't research lakes much though I will skim reviews of campsites and portages for an area new to me. I don't fish, but if the trip is with my husband I will do a quick review of expected fish just to narrow down which lakes we might camp on.
scotttimm
distinguished member(582)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/21/2022 04:55AM  
For our family, we like to explore new places. When we first started we hit the number lakes a couple times - but realized there was so much to see...and that is definitely part of the fun of it - exploring new places. One year my youngest expressed that she "just wanted an easy trip for once" so we planned a trip to Rose and enjoyed the heck out of it. Last year we wanted a challenge, and had a hell-day going up to Stuart Lake...which may have ruined that EP for most everyone lol.

We just had our first conversation about a potential route last night, and we'll continue that conversation and usually settle on an EP before New Years. Then I'll spend Jan-March researching the route and potential campsites. April and May are food and gear prep. We tend to land on the same week, right before the 4th of July so we can visit our family's cabin on our way out to enjoy the 4th.

Another conversation my wife and I have had is that the trip, at this point in our lives, is less about US and more about the KIDS. Getting in that deep love of adventure while we can, making sure they have fun and feel challenged, a good campsite with decent swimming options and day trips are the priorities. Three years ago they starting bringing friends along. As they are transitioning into college the priorities will likely change and my wife and I can spend more time out there, more time spent painting and fishing, probably hitting some of our "favorites" since we now have seen a lot of the BWCA. But I think priorities shift as we all progress through life with our individual trajectories.
11/21/2022 05:18AM  
Criteria I USE to choose my entry point. I take the one closest to the route I plan to take. Really narrows it down for me.
ockycamper
distinguished member(1068)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/21/2022 10:43AM  
We used to choose a different lake every year in Ely, then off Gunflint. Entry point became. . . which outiftter is located directly on the lake we are entering on.

Now, with most of us in our 60's or late 50's, we put in on Seagull and portage through Alpine in to Red Rock, or take shuttle to Red Rock portage. Personally, our guys (14-18 each year in 3 groups) view portages as work and would rather be fishing or sitting around a campfire. So we base camp for the week with our camps typically all on one lake.

We really like to fish, and there are no fish on portage trails.

Perfect for me personally is arriving at base camp at 9 AM on first day, setting up camp, and spending the rest of the day fishing. Second only to portaging as "not on our fave list" for our groups is setting up and taking down camps every day.
11/21/2022 12:22PM  
Choosing an entry point is driven by how many days, season, what I want to do/see and more important in recent years has been availability. Travel conditions such as portages, lake size and distance per day are limited by the weakest length. A past me would go long and hard to get solitude. Sigh, now I am the weakest link.

I would advocate for visiting different areas. Topography and flora and fauna vary and while lakes can start looking similar paddling through a river area is not the same as the bluffs and a recent burn area has its own touch.

I research as a hobby. Checking maps and trip reports provides a wealth of data. I have planned trips I will never take but feel the rush just imagining I am there. As others have warned, it is addictive.
TreeBear
distinguished member (255)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/21/2022 12:54PM  
1. I am actively trying to visit and use every entry point (either entering at or exiting from) so I tend to move around a lot. I do have favorites so if I am bring a new person I tend to go back to the ones that I know will make the best impression.

2. Portage length is no factor at this life stage, but age will inevitably sour the portaging somewhat. For me, with the motivating factor being seeing as much of the BWCA as possible and experiencing as many different facets as I can, the portages can't get in the way. No, portaging is not always fun, but if it gets me to a new place or gives me or my group a unique experience then I'm all in.

3. Nope, but I do like to aim for camping in places which suit as many group member's interests as possible. If the group loves to fish, then I may bias our route towards it. If the goal is to explore and see cool things than we may camp on a larger lake with lots of side destinations off of it. It totally depends on the group how I plan and prepare.
SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/21/2022 02:16PM  
Would you turn down information an outfitter would provide about the best campsites, portage conditions, fishing spots, etc. What difference does it make if you get that information online or at your outfitter's trip planning counter?

I would need the info before I apply for permits in January, but no of course not I would listen to the outfitters for sure.
SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/21/2022 02:18PM  
Interesting to me how many on this thread don't even fish I guess I assumed the majority of BWCA trips were at least fishing some of the time. Interesting.
SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/21/2022 02:19PM  
Is Quetico on Canada side correct?
SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/21/2022 02:20PM  
wow sounds like some AMAZING memories you guys must have!
SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/21/2022 02:21PM  
great perspective thank you!
SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/21/2022 02:30PM  
lol pretty logical
afromaniac
senior member (79)senior membersenior member
 
11/21/2022 03:49PM  
#1: aside from the easy kids trips, I like to switch it up every time and see different stuff.

#2: i actually look at lakes more than portages, and if I have noobs with me, try to avoid big water to keep us able to move in bad weather situations. a small lake without a lot of room for the waves to get big. but this has sometimes put us in situations where we need to portage more, which has angered my crew :) so it is a mix

like others i barely fish there at all so #3 is really not a factor. we fish when we are bored.

ockycamper
distinguished member(1068)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/21/2022 03:50PM  
SPOTPRES1: "Interesting to me how many on this thread don't even fish I guess I assumed the majority of BWCA trips were at least fishing some of the time. Interesting. "

What always surprised me is the number of trippers that spend all their time portaging, and setting up and taking down camps, to get in the miles. It always seemed kind of like the vacation trips where "Dad" would only stop a few minutes at one place before getting everyone back in the car again. . .to "see" as much of the country as possible.

We have taken the approach what if you simply paddle quickly through multiple lakes you are not really experiencing all the lake has to offer. For example, I believe someone could spend years on a lake like Seagull and never really see it all.

We fish. . . but we also spend a lot of time cooking meals and just hanging around campfires. You finally reach a point where "miles" is not really as important as simply being still and experiencing what is around you
11/21/2022 06:58PM  
SPOTPRES1: "great perspective thank you!"

Try the "Reply with qoute" option... then we'll know what you think is a great perspective.
Michwall2
distinguished member(1305)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/21/2022 07:16PM  
ockycamper: "SPOTPRES1: "Interesting to me how many on this thread don't even fish I guess I assumed the majority of BWCA trips were at least fishing some of the time. Interesting. "


What always surprised me is the number of trippers that spend all their time portaging, and setting up and taking down camps, to get in the miles. It always seemed kind of like the vacation trips where "Dad" would only stop a few minutes at one place before getting everyone back in the car again. . .to "see" as much of the country as possible.


We have taken the approach what if you simply paddle quickly through multiple lakes you are not really experiencing all the lake has to offer. For example, I believe someone could spend years on a lake like Seagull and never really see it all.


We fish. . . but we also spend a lot of time cooking meals and just hanging around campfires. You finally reach a point where "miles" is not really as important as simply being still and experiencing what is around you"


There is a saying among those who hike the Appalachian Trail - Hike Your Own Hike. In this case, Paddle Your Own Canoe would probably work. There are as many different "styles" of tripping as there are trippers. Some like yourselves, fish, others are photographers, some are trippers, some are super trippers (see the Voyagers Route Challenge.), others are fisher-persons, some base camp, etc. I have had magical moments while in camp, paddling the canoe, watching from a portage end and in the middle of both short and long portages. I have taken a few pictures, caught a few fish, experienced the solitude and challenge of the Frost and Louse rivers. I traveled the BWCA for 15 years before seeing my first moose. In the mean time I saw otter, loon, eagle, grouse, spiders, a dragonfly swarm, etc. I have had a pine marten pass within 20 feet of me as I sat stock still watching the sun rise over Cherokee Lake. I have found magical grottos made by trickling streams, climbed cliffs for expansive views. I have had my tent made into a water bed by thunderstorms and watched a noisy flock of mergansers working a shoreline. Each of these have happened in a different time and place in the BW. Every trip has been just right for my style at that moment.
KawnipiKid
senior member (98)senior membersenior member
 
11/21/2022 09:19PM  
1. I frequented the same entries many times in the past, typically in the east half off the Gunflint or Sawbill, Brule, etc. Some years back, I realized I'd only seen a fraction of the BWCA and Quetico. I knew I was missing a lot, even though I could have happily kept going to my long time favorites. Now, I've been going to new entries, especially in the west half. The choice is also affected by who is joining me and their experience and what will make it a good trip for all involved.

2. Portages don't affect my choice of entry, even though I'm older and slower. It's just a balance of where I want to go and the effort to get there. I don't mind taking my time and doing a double on longer portages to make a great route work out. I think that thirty years ago I thought of portages almost as obstacles to the trip. Now, they are just as much part of the great trip as anything else. Like entry points, I also consider portage difficulty based on the group's experience and interest level. With someone I'm unsure of or who is new to this kind of tripping, I'm much more concerned about a six portage day than I am about a single long and tough one.

3. I/we like to fish but are not driven by it. It's an enjoyable bonus but not the reason we go. I research the lakes for fishing opportunities and planning after the general route is set, not before.
11/22/2022 06:49AM  
Michwall2: "There is a saying among those who hike the Appalachian Trail - Hike Your Own Hike. In this case, Paddle Your Own Canoe would probably work. There are as many different "styles" of tripping as there are trippers. Some like yourselves, fish, others are photographers, some are trippers, some are super trippers... "

This is it!

TZ
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1600)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/23/2022 06:28PM  
SPOTPRES1: "Would you turn down information an outfitter would provide about the best campsites, portage conditions, fishing spots, etc. What difference does it make if you get that information online or at your outfitter's trip planning counter?


I would need the info before I apply for permits in January, but no of course not I would listen to the outfitters for sure. "


My taste in campsites is quite different from the typical traveler that the outfitter advises so I never ask for info in sites. However, current water level or changes in portage conditions is helpful.
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1600)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/23/2022 06:31PM  
SPOTPRES1: "Interesting to me how many on this thread don't even fish I guess I assumed the majority of BWCA trips were at least fishing some of the time. Interesting. "

I don't really enjoy eating fish nor sitting in the same place in a canoe though for the sake of my husband I can give up 2 hours of my day. I would much rather hunt for bog plants or tiny wildflowers. I would rather see different lakes, stretch my legs on portages, and experience the delight of paddling a canoe all day long.

Ocky, some of us love packing up camp each day and traveling to new places. Some of us actually love the meditative experience of long portages or long days paddling. That is my happy place. Finding a new spot to pitch my tent each night is why I love to do canoe trips. I'll sit still when I am too old and too weak to travel each day.

That is why the BWCA is so incredible. It has something for every type of traveler.
11/23/2022 09:19PM  
straighthairedcurly: "....That is why the BWCA is so incredible. It has something for every type of traveler."

Good comment!

And I really enjoy when I see people who like to "experience the delight of paddling a canoe all day long." They never stop to bug me while I'm fishing all day long!
SPOTPRES1
member (27)member
 
11/24/2022 06:06AM  
That is why the BWCA is so incredible. It has something for every type of traveler.

You are so correct what a magical place.
ockycamper
distinguished member(1068)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/24/2022 08:03AM  
bobbernumber3: "straighthairedcurly: "....That is why the BWCA is so incredible. It has something for every type of traveler."


Good comment!


And I really enjoy when I see people who like to "experience the delight of paddling a canoe all day long." They never stop to bug me while I'm fishing all day long!"


We love the all day paddlers as well! They don't stay on our lake so we have it to ourselves!
TuscaroraBorealis
distinguished member(5143)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
11/24/2022 08:51AM  
I like to 'poke' around on bwca.com and read the trip reports and other forums. I enjoy hearing of other people's experiences as they relate the things they did & seen along the way, helpful tips or tricks they may have used etc. If something I read 'trips my trigger' I will usually find a way to incorporate those ideas into my adventures. (Often times it's more than just what areas to visit.)

In fact, I did a trip a couple of years ago that was substantially inspired using this method. Homage to the Spartans and other canoeing friends




Wingnite photo...
11/24/2022 08:17PM  
SPOTPRES1: "Is Quetico on Canada side correct? "

That's correct. Quetico is the Canadian park north of and contiguous to the BWCA. Nice place to travel and fish.
11/27/2022 09:03PM  
SPOTPRES1: "Would you turn down information an outfitter would provide about the best campsites, portage conditions, fishing spots, etc. What difference does it make if you get that information online or at your outfitter's trip planning counter?


I would need the info before I apply for permits in January, but no of course not I would listen to the outfitters for sure. "


Some of us never used an outfitter, so for the most part that sort of information wasn't even considered. But if I had to consider this question seriously:

Yes, I would turn down information about campsites. They are just totally subjective IMHO, and I liked to be surprised.

I would listen to information about portage conditions.

And since we didn't fish, I wouldn't even ask about fishing spots. But I guess if I were a fisherman, I would be interested in input about that sort of thing.

 
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