BWCA EP 64 - East Bearskin - possible day trip to Johnson Falls? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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HWMinngrl
member (27)member
  
01/18/2024 05:25PM  
Hello all,

I come back here every January to start thinking about our upcoming summer trip. My husband and I have taken things quite slowly in the BWCA because although we love to canoe and kayak, we don't have much experience camping. So far we have done daytrips on both the Gunflint and Ely sides, staying in cabins on border lakes, which makes it very easy to paddle in and out.

This coming summer, we are thinking of trying a new EP (64) on East Bearskin Lake. I read a trip report from 2016 by a couple who managed to do a day trip all the way from that entry point to Johnson Falls and back! I think they said it took them 7 hours.

We are also interested in taking a trip to Johnson Falls, but I am wondering if we should do an overnight camping trip (e.g., camping on Alder), rather than a day trip. We are not very speedy paddlers, especially because we like to pause and take pictures, fish, get out on on islands, etc. I am thinking that perhaps we could make it to a campsite on Alder, spend the night there, and then pack up, day trip to the Falls, and paddle all the way back to the EP on day two. Does anyone have any advice about this plan? Does anyone know/remember approximately how long it takes to paddle from the EP to a campsite on Alder Lake? Lastly, how do you think this route would be in late May / early June? I have had to deal with both mayflies and biting flies in previous years, and I would prefer not to do that again...but that time of the year works best for us these days.

***Edit: I just saw a lot of bear reports on Alder from last summer - yikes! That area might not be a great option for inexperienced campers like my husband and me.
 
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gravelroad
distinguished member(1004)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
01/18/2024 06:01PM  
It's about an hour and a quarter from the EP to the southern portage to Alder Lake, depending on the wind. The portage is a flat 48 or 52 rods (slightly more than an eighth of a mile), depending on who is reporting it. (Do not attempt the northern portage, as it is impassable from downed trees and not maintained.)

This trip report (not mine) from 2010 will help, particularly this conclusion, but the whole thing is worth reading:

"I had two regrets for the day. First I carried my DSLR in an old ammo can to keep it water tight. Didn't take it out at any time to take pictures except at the falls. My son brought his point and shoot in a pelican case and had it out all the time taking pictures. I should have done the same thing. Not push so hard and take more pictures. The second, I should have planned to make this an overnight trip. We were exhausted fighting the wind. If the weather would have cooperated, would have been a bit more enjoyable. But still a long day."



Johnson Falls Day Trip - First time BWCA
OMGitsKa
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01/18/2024 08:36PM  
It's not to bad of a day trip from Clearwater Lake either. If it was a pretty nice day you could take your time getting there with no issue.
01/19/2024 03:43PM  
If you can go in around 15 days of June 23, the days will be at their longest. Get an early start around dawn and take your time for a one day trip. The walk back uphill will tax anyone, but if conditioning is not the way of life for any member of this trip, suggest they not attempt the trip due to the long uphill walk back from Johnson Falls. As you may know, it is not necessary to portage the long zig zag portage.

When I went, I needed several of the scheduled breaks on the walk back. Age the issue.

Quite doable. However, I would do an overnight if permits are available and enjoy the time. You probably have several options when work is not impacted by a 2 day foray. Better yet; take the vacation time and go for a few days and enjoy the are if possible.

Remember to see both falls there by going up past the lower falls to get to the upper falls. Both are impressive, especially if there has been quite a bit of rain ahead of your trip.
RetiredDave
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01/19/2024 05:29PM  
I paddled solo from EP 64 this past September. It took me (old man, triple portage) about 3 hours to get to campsite 706 on Alder. I chose that southern site because, though not bear-proof, of course, it is on a peninsula and not on a bear highway like the ones on the north side of Alder. Anyway, barring a nasty wind, Alder is pretty darn easy to get to from EP 64. Didn't go to Johnson Falls, so I can't add anything useful there.

Good luck and have a wonderful trip!

Dave

01/19/2024 06:30PM  
I would suggest entering at Clearwater Lake, from the outfitter if you need any rental equipment. Take the one portage to Caribou(a long one but not overly difficult) and find a site on gorgeous Caribou Lake. Or if you are feeling lucky try for the 5 star site on Little Caribou and have the lake to yourself. From there it is an easy daytrip to Johnson Falls without the arduous and long trail from Canoe Lake.

Here is a trip report from quite a while ago where the first part of our trip was exactly what I recommended:


Clearwater entry and Johnson Falls

Great area
HWMinngrl
member (27)member
  
01/22/2024 08:58AM  
I tried to respond earlier, but my post did not go through. Thank you all for your tips and ideas!
01/30/2024 08:37PM  
That's an easy day trip. Have fun!
01/30/2024 09:30PM  
lindylair: "I would suggest entering at Clearwater Lake, from the outfitter if you need any rental equipment. Take the one portage to Caribou(a long one but not overly difficult) and find a site on gorgeous Caribou Lake. Or if you are feeling lucky try for the 5 star site on Little Caribou and have the lake to yourself. From there it is an easy daytrip to Johnson Falls without the arduous and long trail from Canoe Lake.


Here is a trip report from quite a while ago where the first part of our trip was exactly what I recommended:

Clearwater entry and Johnson Falls

Great area"



What he said….

I visited Johnson falls in fall 2020 from east bearskin. It’s doable, but a long day. I’d recommend staying a night. Coming from Clearwater you avoid the portage from canoe lake, which even hiking without equipment is still a haul. Although it doesn’t zig zag like some maps show.

The falls is well worth the trip. Beautiful.
schweady
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01/31/2024 06:52PM  
On our first day trip to Johnson Falls, we did it from Clearwater. We were based on site 681, the third one in. We had plenty of time, but it got to be quite a west wind that afternoon that made for a long paddle back to camp. The up-and-down of Portage 57 to Caribou can kick your tail, too.

Our second and third day trips to the falls followed E Bearskin entries, once from a base on Alder Lake, the other from Canoe Lake. These were much easier days, and grateful to not be carrying a full load on Portage 70 to Pine.

It was a 2 hr 15 min trip to our Alder Lake site 706, and a 4 hr 30 min round trip to the falls, with 30 minutes of that due to taking pictures, having lunch, and scrambling up to also view the upper falls. So, your plan to break camp, see the falls, and paddle back to the EP might be a longish 6-6.5 hour day. Maybe come back to camp for one more night after the day trip?
 
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