BWCA Quetico: Prairie Portage vs Cache Bay Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* BWCA is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Trip Planning Forum
      Quetico: Prairie Portage vs Cache Bay     
 Forum Sponsor



senior member (79)senior membersenior member
11/19/2023 11:27AM  
I'm looking ahead to a Quetico trip next summer in late July.

I've only ever visited BWCA (4 times) and Quetico (3 times) on the east side. When visiting Quetico we've gotten a tow in/out (Hook Island) each time. It's been great, we've enjoyed all our trips.

Questions I have for those who have experienced entering Quetico through Cache Bay and Prairie Portage:

1) How would you say entering Quetico from Ely compares to entering from The Gunflint Trail? Any real differences to note?

2) Is there a route you recommend for a 6 night trip? Two adults, two dogs. Fishing not important. Mainly looking for solitude and to appreciate the beauty of the park, do some swimming. Tough/long portages are ok.

3) Does either feel more busy or heavily travelled? Or about the same?

4) Where do you like to stay the night before entry and the night after you exit? We are self-outfitted, just looking for a place to stay and a convenient tow into the park.

5) Any favorite places to get dinner at the end of the trip?

Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next
11/19/2023 02:32PM  
We've only gone in at Prairie Portage, so I can't speak for the other side. We stayed at CBO (closed) and last time La Tourell's on Moose lake and took a tow up and back to Prairie Portage to get in faster. It makes it easier to get into less crowded areas faster.

We've been through part of the Man Chain twice and up to Sarah. The Man Chain can be fairly busy due to it being a through route. When we went over to Emerald we saw no one both times. Busy is relative in Quetico though.

We didn't see anyone on our trip up to Sarah and back once we got off Basswood. It is kind of a long trip for 6 nights if you are not fast or single portaging if you want to spend time on one lake relaxing and exploring. I feel like the area around Agnes and Louisa is fairly busy, just from the reading the trip reports. Many people go through there from different starting places.
11/19/2023 05:56PM  
While we've entered Quetico from Prairie Portage and Cache Bay, we've only entered via Cache once and had a 1-day BWCA permit by which we paddled up Knife and Ottertrack to get to Cache. From Cache we paddled up the eastern edge of the park to Mack Lake, then took Mack Creek and the Wawiag River to Kawa Bay of Kawnipi Lake. We truly had the park to ourselves until we got to the main body of Kawnipi, and only saw a few people after that.

We usually enter from the south via Prairie Portage, and have also had routes via PP on which we saw very few people. Last summer's trip included Sarah, who's northern end was impacted by the fires of 2021. I'd suggest staying east of Sarah for a couple more years.

You don't say how you portage or how long you paddle for a typical day, but you might consider a Prairie Portage entry, to Sarah, to Kahshapiwi via the Tuck River, to Agnes via Trant and Silence (or via Yum Yum, Grey, and the S Chain), then back to PP. If you get tows between Moose & PP, you're looking at a loop of ~65 miles if you're double-walking portages. We don't get tows because we've been sitting in a car for two days and are more than happy for the two-hour paddle from Moose to PP.

We've stayed in several Ely places and at a couple outfitters' facilities--do what matches your budget. And we've had good end-of-trip meals at several Ely restaurants.

You might consider posting this on the Quetico forum, too.

senior member (79)senior membersenior member
11/19/2023 06:12PM  
Thanks for the info. I was actually eyeing a Sarah Lake route. Would love to have a few more days, but we're a little limited this summer. But we might try to go that way and just see how far we get!
distinguished member(8616)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
11/19/2023 06:15PM  
Like freeleo1, have only entered the Q at PP many times (and once at Beaverhouse - the best!). Used to stay at Canoe Country Outfitters Moose Lake base - tent - and tow with them to PP. (Now enter afternoon, paddle Moose, and camp near PP for early entry.)

I'd suggest heading to Kashapiwi through Isabella (good first night) and cut over to Agnes - I like Trant but McNiece and Yum Yum are good - and poke around Agnes and Louisa.

Another great route - pushes 6 nights for me - is Mann Chain, Falls Chain to Wet, McEwen Chain to Louisa, and out through Meadows and Sunday. Wet to Louisa is fantastic. But move everyday for 6 nights.
distinguished member(999)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/19/2023 07:13PM  
Don’t know nuthin ‘bout Prairie Portage. I’ve done the Falls Chain route to Kawnipi twice and loved it:

Falls Chain to Kawnipi Lake

Trail’s End Campground is an excellent jumping-off point:

Trail’s End Campground
senior member (79)senior membersenior member
11/19/2023 07:39PM  
Great recommendations thank you!
11/19/2023 07:45PM  
1) Differences: Way more action in Ely because you are in town. Things are very quiet on the Gunflint Trail. Outfitters, tows, etc... no difference.

2) Recommendation: North of Deadman's Portage on Saganagons. Head east to the narrows. Not a well traveled route.

3) More busy or heavily travelled? About the same, I think.

4) Where do you like to stay the night before entry and the night after you exit? Seagull Outfitters bunkhouse. And tow.

5) Any favorite places to get dinner at the end of the trip? Trail Center!
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next