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ddccaarr
member (13)member
  
02/18/2024 06:09PM  
My family and I are looking for ~5 night trip in Quetico. We are relatively experienced at wilderness travel and have done numerous trips in the BWCA (and backpacking out West, Alaska, etc.). My wife and I are early 50s and my two boys are 17 and 19.

We have never been to Quetico but it is a huge appeal to me. Solitude and good fishing rank highly. (Good views are wonderful too but this is Quetico so I am guessing that is the case everywhere!). We would do the trip in late July/early August.

Thanks!
 
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02/18/2024 07:23PM  
Certainly, do it!

If you are looking for a recommendation - first, are you planning on a southern entry through Prairie Portage, LLC or Cache Bay? Or driving around and coming in from the north?
Second, how much do you want to move? Every day? Or travel on entry/exit days & basecamp?

Fishing is, in my experience, a bit harder at that time of year, though Smallmouth and Pike will still cooperate.
ddccaarr
member (13)member
  
02/18/2024 07:32PM  
sns: "Certainly, do it!


If you are looking for a recommendation - first, are you planning on a southern entry through Prairie Portage, LLC or Cache Bay? Or driving around and coming in from the north?
Second, how much do you want to move? Every day? Or travel on entry/exit days & basecamp?


Fishing is, in my experience, a bit harder at that time of year, though Smallmouth and Pike will still cooperate."


Thanks for the reply! We are open to access location. Are there fewer people if you enter via MN versus Atikokan (or other areas). I think we would be interested in moving with maybe a layover day. We happy to get a tow or shuttle from an outfitter.
02/18/2024 09:44PM  
Some info you may find useful….

Here is a previous thread with older data around various Quetico EPs.

https://bwca.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=forum.thread&threadid=1179210&confid=1&forumid=17#8

It’s older data but I suspect the trends haven’t changed too much. My personal experience is way more PP permits are issued compared to LLC permits. I believe only one time when entering via LLC did I see another party at the Ranger Station while I was picking up my permit. I’ve entered only through PP the last few years - always lots of traffic in my experience.

Another thing to consider is that the big fire of Oct 2021 heavily impacted the SW portion of the park - map of areas impacted by fire below. Not sure how things look around Argo, Darky, Brent, etc now. But in May of 2022 the Quetico side on Crooked between Curtain and the western portage into Argo were badly burned. I haven’t been back since. Prior to the fires my favorite area of the park was around McAree, Wicksteed, Darky, Brent, Argo, Crooked, Iron - a classic Quetico loop.

02/18/2024 11:24PM  
I think you’ll see fewer people if you enter from the Canadian side. In addition, the camping fees are cheaper entering from the north. From your description, I assumed you want six days on the water and five nights camping spread out over four campsites allowing one layover day. I had to take a guess on how far you were willing to travel each day. I had a loop in mind and it is doable for an ambitious paddler. I, myself, would add a couple of extra days to do the loop (I am older and happy to layover if the weather is bad). But if you are happy spending 6-7 hours a day traveling ~16 miles a day for five days this could work.

Day 1
LeRome - Beweg - Lark - Cole - Cirrus - Kasakokwog
14.3 miles, 10 miles paddling, 4.3 miles portaging (portaging miles are for double portaging, walk three times)
Until you get to Cirrus Lake you are outside of Quetico park on Crown land. Americans need a special permit to camp on Crown land and getting one is complicated. So, you should allow enough time to get to Quetico on the first day.

Day 2
Kasakokwog - McAlpine - Batchewaung - Pickerel - Maria
15.8 miles, 13.4 paddling, 2.4 portaging

Day 3
Maria - Jessie - Oriana - Quetico Lake (campsite AM on a popular planning site)
15.1 miles, 11.3 paddling, 3.7 portaging

Day 4
Quetico - Kaskokwog
16 miles, 14.7 paddling, 1.3 portaging
The paddle on Quetico Lake is about 14 miles long. Head west along its south arm and then turn north.

Day 5
Kasakokwog - Cirrus - Cole - Lark - Beweg - LeRome
16.1 miles, 11.8 paddling, 4.3 portaging.

Hope this helps. Unfortunately, it is hard to cut this loop short if you want something shorter.
billconner
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02/19/2024 07:37AM  
Prairie Portage is busier than other Quetico access points but less busy than the average BWCA entry point in my experience.

LarryS48 has a good route, but 80 miles in 5 nights is a lot and beyond me. I tend to think in terms of averaging 10 to 12 miles a day.

Two of my favorite routes from PP:

Man Chain, Falls Chain to Wet, McEwen Chain to Louisa, and back to PP via Meadows, Sunday, and Bayley Bay. It's a tough 5 nights at around 70 miles.

Second is to North Bay, Isabella, Side, Kashapiwi, Trant, S Chain back to North Bay and out. Close to 50 miles.

I do not think you'll see many people once your a portage away from PP. There are great sites on both routes. I find the McEwen chain to be one of the most enchanted spots in the Q. Isabella and Trant rank high also. I told my son's I want my ashes dumped in the stream out of Isabella. But this is a romantic's view, not a fisherperson's or expert paddler's view.
ddccaarr
member (13)member
  
02/19/2024 08:30AM  
Thanks, billconner and LarryS48! These are great suggestions. Yeah, my wife doesn't want to push it too much. We are wrangling timing so might be able to do 80 miles if we can free up some days.

This is such a great site! Thanks so much and happy as always to get more suggestions.
02/19/2024 09:40AM  
You could look at entering Beaverhouse and portaging (2 portages, one noname lake) into Cirrus. You could easily spend a week on Cirrus -- there's alot to see and fish. There are also pretty easy portages into Quetico Lake and Soho. I haven't yet gotten into Kasakokwog, but you could look at that portage as well to give you some variety.
cburton103
distinguished member(567)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/19/2024 02:21PM  
In my opinion, it doesn't really matter what area you go to in terms of crowds in the Quetico. Almost always, within a half day's paddle or so, the crowds thin out to nearly non-existent. Seeing two groups in a day if you're beyond one day's travel is a busy people seeing day in Quetico. Last year, we started at Prairie Portage. We saw a few groups in the first two hours of paddling, and then didn't see anyone else for the next 5.5 days (camped on Agnes, Woodside, northern Kahshahpiwi and North Bay).

With five nights, I think it matters how far you have to travel to the entry point. So I would consider that. Time in the wilderness beats time traveling to the wilderness. And you can reach solitude and good fishing from any entry point. I've started from Ely/PP, LLC, and Atikokan. LLC entry would have been my favorite suggestion for this length trip, but I'm certain the scenery is still pretty marred by fire if you're not into that kind of thing.

With 6 days/five nights, I would probably plan to keep it to 45-60 miles. 70 might get some of the crew seeking mutiny unless you guys don't want to fish and really like traveling moderately hard every day of the trip. Same thing with portages. 5-6/day isn't too bad depending on the portages. Getting closer to 10 will wear you out. So consider that on some of the routes (through McEwen Creek route and the Trant to Silence route).

I think the Man Chain is a great suggestion. You'd book a Carp Lake permit. You can paddle all of the way up the Man Chain in the first two days or so. Then you'll have the option to either: 1) backtrack out 2) head south through Lillypad, Jasper, Ottertrack, Plough/Emerald 3) head up the Falls Chain to Wet/McEwen and out through a series of small lakes heading to Louisa and Agnes. Those are in order of increasing difficulty. All worthy trips, but it gives you the ability to make the call mid trip about how the group is doing.

Another option to consider would be to go through North Bay and spend night one on Shade. Night two on Kahshapiwi - maybe a layover day here, it's one of my favorites. Paddle through Irene (west of southern Kahshapiwi) and camp on Sarah or Tuck. One last night on Kett on the way out. Get a tow from Washington Island in Basswood. You'd skirt the edge of the burn from a couple years ago, mostly lower intensity parts of the burn I believe, so you may barely notice it in most spots.
cburton103
distinguished member(567)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/19/2024 02:43PM  
As an addition, one thing I really like to consider on my trips is lake size. In a canoe, I really like smaller to medium sized lakes. I prefer not spending a big chunk of time on the really big, open lakes. Those bigger open bays can really be a bear to cross or to try to fish on if the wind picks up. Granted, you can usually find some more out of the wind places. But small to medium sized (or narrower) lakes are my favorites, and I try to incorporate as many of those as I can. Both of my suggested routes mostly incorporate small to medium or narrow lakes in the core of the route.
02/19/2024 04:06PM  
ddccaarr: "... Yeah, my wife doesn't want to push it too much. We are wrangling timing so might be able to do 80 miles if we can free up some days. "


This sounds like a traveling trip at the expense of "good fishing ranks high". Layover days are what makes for good fishing. You will have to decide... include your wife in the decision.
02/19/2024 05:59PM  
Earlier in this thread I posted a route for an ambitious traveling trip. Now I'd like to add a less ambitious route that will allow time for fishing. Again, it is five nights camping at four campsites (one layover day). This could easily be modified to include more layover days and less paddling days by increasing the miles covered on the paddling days.

Day 1
Nym - Batchewuang Bay (near where it joins Pickerel)
8.3 miles total, 6.8 paddling and 1.5 portaging (double portage, walk 3 times)

Day 2
Batchewuang Bay - Maria - Jesse
6.9 total, 5 paddling, 1.9 portaging

Day 3
Jesse - Oriana
6.3 total, 4.8 paddling, 1.5 portaging

Day 4
Oriana - Hamburg - Maria - Pickerel (near mosquito point)
10.2 total, 7 paddling, 3.1 portaging

Day 5
Pickerel - Batchewuang - Nym
9.7 total, 8.2 paddling, 1.5 portaging

In an added note, you will notice that I've used northern entry points. If you start paddling in the US and enter Canada by canoe you have to deal with the bureaucracies in both counties for crossing the border in the wilderness. This is being discussed in a recent thread on this site.


Adding Quetico to My Trip
ddccaarr
member (13)member
  
02/19/2024 06:38PM  
bobbernumber3: "
ddccaarr: "... Yeah, my wife doesn't want to push it too much. We are wrangling timing so might be able to do 80 miles if we can free up some days. "



This sounds like a traveling trip at the expense of "good fishing ranks high". Layover days are what makes for good fishing. You will have to decide... include your wife in the decision. "


Ha! Yes I will include my wife in the decision. She is usually the trip planner and does a great job with it. I want a happy trip and another happy 20 years.
02/20/2024 05:04PM  
billconner: "Prairie Portage is busier than other Quetico access points but less busy than the average BWCA entry point in my experience.

Man Chain, Falls Chain to Wet, McEwen Chain to Louisa, and back to PP via Meadows, Sunday, and Bayley Bay. It's a tough 5 nights at around 70 miles.

I do not think you'll see many people once your a portage away from PP. I find the McEwen chain to be one of the most enchanted spots in the Q. ."




Did this exact route on my solo in Sept of last year.

Night 1 was on Bell Lake
Night 2 was on McEwen
Night 3 was on Louisa
Day 4 I was already back to PP by 1 PM

Gorgeous paddle, love the section from McEwen to Louisa.

billconner
distinguished member(8624)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
  
02/20/2024 06:08PM  
ISRO: "
billconner: "Prairie Portage is busier than other Quetico access points but less busy than the average BWCA entry point in my experience.


Man Chain, Falls Chain to Wet, McEwen Chain to Louisa, and back to PP via Meadows, Sunday, and Bayley Bay. It's a tough 5 nights at around 70 miles.


I do not think you'll see many people once your a portage away from PP. I find the McEwen chain to be one of the most enchanted spots in the Q. ."





Did this exact route on my solo in Sept of last year.


Night 1 was on Bell Lake
Night 2 was on McEwen
Night 3 was on Louisa
Day 4 I was already back to PP by 1 PM


Gorgeous paddle, love the section from McEwen to Louisa.


"


You got to Bell from PP the first day? Fast. I did it in 6 nights. One of the Man's, near Deadman Portage, Wet (got distracted by Mountains to Montreal expedition), Glacier (wonderful), Louisa, and Burke. Lazy by your pace.
02/20/2024 08:05PM  
billconner: "
ISRO: "
billconner: "Prairie Portage is busier than other Quetico access points but less busy than the average BWCA entry point in my experience.



Man Chain, Falls Chain to Wet, McEwen Chain to Louisa, and back to PP via Meadows, Sunday, and Bayley Bay. It's a tough 5 nights at around 70 miles.



I do not think you'll see many people once your a portage away from PP. I find the McEwen chain to be one of the most enchanted spots in the Q. ."






Did this exact route on my solo in Sept of last year.



Night 1 was on Bell Lake
Night 2 was on McEwen
Night 3 was on Louisa
Day 4 I was already back to PP by 1 PM




Gorgeous paddle, love the section from McEwen to Louisa.



"



You got to Bell from PP the first day? Fast. I did it in 6 nights. One of the Man's, near Deadman Portage, Wet (got distracted by Mountains to Montreal expedition), Glacier (wonderful), Louisa, and Burke. Lazy by your pace."




Yeh, I kinda like to move along I guess. I limited it to 8 hours of paddling/portaging per day. Your correct about the beauty of the McEwen area. As a side note I saw two separate moose as I traveled thru there.
ddccaarr
member (13)member
  
02/21/2024 06:31AM  
ISRO: "
billconner: "
ISRO: "
billconner: "Prairie Portage is busier than other Quetico access points but less busy than the average BWCA entry point in my experience.



Man Chain, Falls Chain to Wet, McEwen Chain to Louisa, and back to PP via Meadows, Sunday, and Bayley Bay. It's a tough 5 nights at around 70 miles.



I do not think you'll see many people once your a portage away from PP. I find the McEwen chain to be one of the most enchanted spots in the Q. ."






Did this exact route on my solo in Sept of last year.



Night 1 was on Bell Lake
Night 2 was on McEwen
Night 3 was on Louisa
Day 4 I was already back to PP by 1 PM





Gorgeous paddle, love the section from McEwen to Louisa.



"




You got to Bell from PP the first day? Fast. I did it in 6 nights. One of the Man's, near Deadman Portage, Wet (got distracted by Mountains to Montreal expedition), Glacier (wonderful), Louisa, and Burke. Lazy by your pace."





Yeh, I kinda like to move along I guess. I limited it to 8 hours of paddling/portaging per day. Your correct about the beauty of the McEwen area. As a side note I saw two separate moose as I traveled thru there."


This sounds like a great trip. Did you fish at all? I am contemplating PP or Nym as an EP.

LLC sounds amazing but seems like a lot of that area might have been impacted by the burn?
02/21/2024 06:08PM  
No fishing, just wanted to paddle and relax
cburton103
distinguished member(567)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/22/2024 02:09PM  
ISRO: "No fishing, just wanted to paddle and relax"


Well, you certainly accomplished the paddling part! :)

How was the relaxing?

I'm planning on taking the Man Chain this year. We'll have one newbie along with our regular crew. I'm going to play it by ear if we come back via Lillypad/Jasper/Ottertrack/Plough/Emerald (the easier option) vs heading back through the McEwen Chain to Louisa like you did. I'm guessing we'll go for the easier route, but we'll see!
02/22/2024 03:34PM  
I relax when I just paddle and turn off the world. To me the Man chain was OK but not like the McEwen to Louisa section, that was downright gorgeous.

billconner
distinguished member(8624)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
  
02/22/2024 06:22PM  
ISRO: "I relax when I just paddle and turn off the world. To me the Man chain was OK but not like the McEwen to Louisa section, that was downright gorgeous.


"


Agree. I want to go back!
ddccaarr
member (13)member
  
02/23/2024 11:26AM  
cburton103: "
ISRO: "No fishing, just wanted to paddle and relax"



Well, you certainly accomplished the paddling part! :)


How was the relaxing?


I'm planning on taking the Man Chain this year. We'll have one newbie along with our regular crew. I'm going to play it by ear if we come back via Lillypad/Jasper/Ottertrack/Plough/Emerald (the easier option) vs heading back through the McEwen Chain to Louisa like you did. I'm guessing we'll go for the easier route, but we'll see!"


How many days are you planning on?
cburton103
distinguished member(567)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/23/2024 03:23PM  
ddccaarr: "
cburton103: "
ISRO: "No fishing, just wanted to paddle and relax"


Well, you certainly accomplished the paddling part! :)

How was the relaxing?

I'm planning on taking the Man Chain this year. We'll have one newbie along with our regular crew. I'm going to play it by ear if we come back via Lillypad/Jasper/Ottertrack/Plough/Emerald (the easier option) vs heading back through the McEwen Chain to Louisa like you did. I'm guessing we'll go for the easier route, but we'll see!"



How many days are you planning on?"


We'll have eight days on the water, and we're hoping for three layover days spread throughout the trip. We'll be in a three man canoe for the first time in a long time. So we should be reasonably quick on the water, although the longer canoe may be a bit of a bear on portages.
02/24/2024 09:01AM  
With 5 nights I would paddle in on days 1 and 2 then layover night 3. Continue loop and paddle out days 4,5, and 6.

Get an early start at Prairie Portage and go through North Bay to camp on Shade. Day 2 take the longish Yum Yum portage into Kahshapiwi.

Now you can make a big decision to either continue the loop and camp with layover on Irene a few portages to the west, or camp on Kahsh.

By staying on Kahsh you can then come out going south back into North Bay through the small lakes Side and Isabella.

If you push into Irene you layover on a remote lake then continue west into Sarah. From there you can take small lakes back to North Bay through Nest Lake.

Ideally I’d try to add 1 or 2 more nights. For me when I’m rushed and working real hard to make deadlines it takes away from the trip. I now try to slow things down and plan more layovers. I don’t fish on travel days but pack everything up to be efficient on the portages.

So with this route you have 5 decent travel days. If you add 2 nights to make it 7 you can layover at 3 sites. So with this route think of sites on Shade, Irene, southern end of Sarah, and maybe Burke or Basswood for your last night.
 
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