BWCA Oct. Solo - Baker or Horseshoe area Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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senior member (74)senior membersenior member
10/06/2023 04:13PM  
So, this is a last minute request for advice. Headed up north early tomorrow morning to go in for 2, maybe 3 nights. Weather looks OK (a little cold) on Sat/Sun, but then potential for a north wind on Mon/Tues. I hate paddling into the wind and/or getting windbound. With that in mind I am considering switching up my plans last minute. Was originally going to go in and come out on Poplar, headed for Horseshoe/Vista area. Given the wind scenario, considering 2 other options:

1) Still put in at Poplar, paddle down to horseshoe/vista, take out on Morgan.
2) Put in at Baker, head up to Kelly/Jack (maybe Temperances), then head back out same way.

My goals for this trip are to catch some nice walleye/pike, and hopefully see a moose. Given the two options, which area is better for fishing and seeing wildlife? Research suggest both are decent areas to see moose - its not clear to me about the fishing prospects though.

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distinguished member (349)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/06/2023 05:03PM  
You are a lot more likely to see a moose out of Poplar and into Horseshoe, that is a hotspot for moose activity. I saw lots of moose tracks and droppings on portages. Though they are known to hang out along the temperance river between South Temperance and Weird Lake as well, and can confirm this myself as the entire portage was littered with droppings and tracks when I went through there in August.

Can't comment on the fishing anywhere really, I rarely catching anything because I dont take it serious enough, but I was up there on Poplar and Caribou 2 weeks ago and was told the fish are way down deep right now. I did see some guys fishing near the east end of Meeds right in front of the portage landing and they must have been catching something because they were there a while. Maybe Smallmouth?

With heavy East winds, you're probably better off on Baker and just going up the River as far you desire. Nice and narrow and there has been enough rain where the shallow area on Weird lake should be passable. Or you could hop into Burnt Lake too and then you would only have to fight wind for a little bit on your way out.

Knowing what the wind was doing 2 weeks ago (East wind, 20mph+), I entered on Poplar early in the AM, made it over to Lizz portage in like an hour, and was onto Caribou within 2 hours. Camped there, then when the wind picked up, I headed West with a tailwind into Meeds and took the long portage back into Poplar and then only had to battle a headwind briefly through the narrows on the West end of Poplar until I flipped a U-turn back to the landing with a tailwind again.
distinguished member(1445)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/06/2023 05:07PM  
Hi Wolfee,

I'm watching the weather as well and headed to the same area. My perspective below is based on one trip to each so not a lot of evidence to draw from. :)

Advantages to Baker:
1) Smaller water overall
2) Better walleye fishing
3) Less portaging than the other route - if that matters to you

Advantages to Poplar:
1) Saw several moose on several days in this area
2) Probably more likely to see others in case of an emergency...maybe?

Hope you have a great trip, stay warm, and catch some fish!
10/06/2023 06:11PM  
Those are my 2 favorite entry points. Of my 20+ trips they are 2 of the 3 entry points that I’ve used more than once. I’ve also exited at Lizz twice for trips when entering at Morgan and Meeds. I’ve also daytripped to both entry points.

In your situation I would pick Baker. Smaller water if winds are a problem and I’ve had better walleye fishing on Jack and Kelly than on Caribou and Horseshoe. I’ve seen moose more often in the Caribo/Horseshoe area, but I had the best trip of moose sightings entering at Baker. My then 9 yo old daughter and I saw moose on Peterson, Kelly, and Jack. We camped on Jack and there were 2 different sets of cow with calves that we saw multiple times and the guy camped on the other site also saw a bull.

I’m watching the weather for a possible 2 night solo next weekend. Have fun wherever you go.
senior member (74)senior membersenior member
10/06/2023 08:23PM  
Thanks peeps! Definitely got me thinking about Baker now. Shorter portages does sound appealing, especially as I seem to keep adding bulky heavy things to my pack to keep me warm. I guess that is the beauty of post-permit tripping, I can decide when I get there. Off to bed now for an early start tomorrow!
10/06/2023 09:54PM  
Have fun and ride easy.
It can be fun making your decision on the ride up. Last year I did a spur of the moment solo during Halloween weekend because of the beautiful forecast. I had it narrowed down to Slim and South Hegman and made the final decision during the drive to Ely.

Let us know how it goes.
senior member (74)senior membersenior member
10/10/2023 04:21PM  
Decided on Baker on the way up. Never been and wanted to scout out the area for a potential family trip. Only stayed one night - paddled up to Jack on Saturday, and paddled out on Sunday. Weather was great Saturday and sunday. Saturday night was so still and quiet it was a little creepy being solo! My inReach weather report was saying 20 mph winds on Monday, and I didn't want to risk being stuck in camp all day. For consolation, I ventured down to the St. Croix on the way back to the cities and paddled Nelson landing to Soderbeck on Monday - a beautiful stretch of river with a bunch of class I whitewater.

Water levels pretty low, had a slightly difficult time getting through Baker to Kelly and then again in at the southern part of Jack lake. That was mostly because I was trying to dry foot it with my knee high muck boots - lots of shallow big boulders in deeper spots. Hopping boulder to boulder was a bit nervewracking...

Fishing wasn't great, caught a few walleyes on Peterson, nothing on Kelly, and 1 eye, 2 smallmouth, and a jumbo perch on Jack. All of these lakes are super shallow and weedy - I didn't have the right fishing gear as most of my stuff is for deeper water. Floating jointed rapala in gold seemed to be the most effective and in fact I got all of my bites with that one lure (unfortunately lost it on the St. Croix when a northern took off with it.) With that perch catch, I think I've caught every major gamefish in the BWCA except crappie and brook trout - and muskie too if that counts. Guess I got some goals for next year.

The mine was really cool and worth a visit.

Thanks again for the advice!
10/10/2023 06:05PM  
Glad you had fun.

If you go back with the family try the moving water on Kelly where it dumps in from Jack. I camped at that site right next to it with my younger daughter in May a couple years ago and we caught walleye from shore with leeches and slip bobbers. About 9 years ago my older daughter and I killed the walleye on Jack in June right where it gets narrow leading to Weird in June. This last July I camped at the Baker Lake campground with my 4 year old son and the guys next to us day tripped to Peterson and brought back walleye that they shared with us. They were excited to see him have some walleye.

I’m heading up to South Hegman for a 2 night solo this weekend with my dog.
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