BWCA Youth-friendly permit areas with availability? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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member (5)member
07/24/2023 11:47AM  
I'd like to see if I can arrange an August trip yet this year with my two kids, ages 9 & 12. I went in Seagull Lake this year, which would be great for the kids due to my previous experience there and lack of the need to portage, but there aren't any permits available before the kids need to go back to school.

Would anyone have another recommended site that has permits available, but also wouldn't be a huge paddle for my kids? This would be their first time in the Boundary Waters so I'm hoping to keep it a short paddle for them yet be able to get into some decent fishing. Thanks in advance!
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distinguished member(2980)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/24/2023 12:30PM  
Sawbill is great. Lovely entry point. Drive right up to the water. You can also do a short 200’ portage into Alton.
Kawishiwi entry is no portage.
Lake one is no portage.

With that, a kid will have stories to tell of their portages. Most kids love that stuff. Taking them to the BWCA without a portage is missing an important part of a trip.
07/24/2023 12:59PM  
There are very few permits left in august. Sawbill and Lake One that were suggested above are 100% booked and so are most of the other options I would suggest. Kawishiwi Lake has one permit available in August at the moment. Brule Lake has a few late in the month but it is big water but no portages.

Slim Lake would be an option if you are willing to tackle one portage (as mentioned previously, it is part of the experience). This portage is around 100 rods which is moderate length but a very easy portage overall. Slim Lake is a beautiful lake with 4 good campsites. It is not known as a great fishing lake but there are walleyes in there and the smallie fishing can be quite good. Seems like the best option of what's left at this point.

Another thought...check out Jeanette Lake campground which is a rustic campground at the end of the Echo Trail. Nice place and there are 6 boat in campsites that are very similar to BWCA campsites. On the lake and in camp I think you would feel like you are in the BWCA. Might be some motors but then there probably were on Seagull too. No permit or reservation needed.

Good Luck, hope you find something.
distinguished member (272)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/24/2023 01:14PM  
I would watch the Forest Reservation site when it get close to when you want to go. Permits keep opening up for entry points that have Seldom have open in pass years.
We used to head up there and take what ever permit was available. By the amount of permits that keep opening up it’s looking more and more like those years. It appears people are over booking with wishful think and finding out work or family commitments make them cancel.
Like Lindylair said the forest service campgrounds are a good option. I haven’t been to Lake Jeanette but is one that I will visit, maybe this year. Fall Lake is nice if you can get a site. It’s more like a State Park with showers and electrical sites. Birch Lake has several lake level sites where you can paddle directly from them.

Happy Paddling
distinguished member(1460)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/24/2023 03:07PM  
Maybe this is a year for a stay at a FS campground and take day trips?

Stay at Sawbill Campground and day trip:

1. Up the Kelso River to see the endangered pitcher plants and the Viking dolman.

2. To Beth Lake - to cliff jump the short cliffs to the left of the portage end from Alton Lake. And to catch SMB all over Beth Lake.

3. All the way to the north end of Sawbill and back. (Troll a spoon to see what you can scare up?)

4. Have Sawbill Outfitters shuttle you to the Baker Lake entry and paddle your way back to Sawbill Lake. A lunch bag and a canoe. This can be done in one day. (Start early enough and you might even be able to squeeze in a visit to the abandoned gold mine between Kelly and Jack Lakes.)

5. Visit Wonder Lake, Sunhigh Lake and Sunlow Lake out the south end of Alton Lake. These are seldom visited lakes away from the crowds.

Hope something will work out for you.

07/24/2023 08:21PM  
Although I still think Slim or Jeanette would be good options, Red Lake Paddler's mention of Birch Lake campground made me think. Birch Lake is a big lake but mostly long and narrow, beautiful lake and known for very good fishing. In addition to the nice campground(stayed there in June of this year) there are also 14 remote paddle in or boat in campsites along the shores of Birch Lake. Definitely a very
BWCA like experience with no permits and no restrictions on cans, bottles, etc. (pack it out). Also if I am not mistaken, first come first serve and no cost. There will be motorboats but it was very quiet when we were there for a couple nights, saw but a few every day. I can't vouch for the remote campsites but I am guessing it is much like the BWCA, some 5 star, some 3 star and some 1-2 star. The lake itself is filled with bays, points and islands and has 80 miles of shoreline. No Portages! Launch from one of numerous boat launches depending on what part of the lake you are most interested in. Just another option, something I definitely want to do one of these days.

Birch Lake remote campsite map
07/25/2023 06:37AM  
Do you have a specific date you’re looking at? Or just anytime in August?

Great suggestions by others. Keep checking everyday, or better yet, multiple times a day. Cancelled permits keep popping up. For example, I was just watching Aug 22 and 23 this weekend because I was thinking about doing a quick solo before school and multiple permits became available including LIS North and Mudro which are difficult permits to get.

The campground idea or back country sites would also be great for the kids.
Last week I brought my 4 year old son to Baker Lake campground which only has 5 sites. He caught fish and there was only 1 other group at the campground and it was quieter than some bwca trips I’ve done. We went to Kawishiwi Lake first and all 5 sites were taken and they looked settled in for a while. One day we ventured out and checked out Crecent Lake and many of the first come first sites were open. We also went through Sawbill and there were a ton of open sites.

EPs that have been good trips with my daughters, each starting when they were 5. (They are 18 and 16 now) Lizz, Baker, Crocodile, Sawbill, Cross Bay, Wood, Bower Trout, Homer. Other places that I’ve soloed that would slave good with kids are South Kawishiwi River and Slim.
distinguished member (399)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/25/2023 07:18AM  
Use the permit alert feature available on the permit website. It's a little delayed sometimes but it has helped me snag a permit that I otherwise would have missed.
distinguished member (263)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/25/2023 01:00PM  
I'd also check Isabella.
member (5)member
07/25/2023 04:49PM  
Thanks to everyone for their $.02. Much appreciated! I'm looking over options and most of them are from this thread.
07/25/2023 05:51PM  
Sign up for the permit alerts on cancellations. There are usually several a day.

Another option not mentioned is East Bearskin. There is one portage into Alder from the south bay of East Bearskin but it is so short, flat, and easy that it doesn't count.
member (5)member
08/27/2023 08:04AM  
Well, my kids and I are just wrapping up our trip to Birch Lake. We did a quick 3 night trip and paddled in to a few of the remote camp sites. Fishing was pretty good once we got it dialed in and the kids have been learning a lot and loving it. Again, thanks to everyone who gave their input.
08/27/2023 09:31AM  
That’s awesome.
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