BWCA Minimal portage trip? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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overland
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03/03/2024 01:03PM  
Please forgive the question, which I'm sure is asked endlessly on this site. I just don't know how to find the past threads.

Anyway, I'm in the early stage of planning a trip with old friends from the west. They're used to river paddling, plus, we're not spring chickens. They asked if I might identify some possible week-long trips in the Quetico (my preference) or the BWCA that didn't require a lot of portaging. I've been in the BWCA a few times, but never in the Quetico and the amount of portaging was never a focus of planning.

I'll be grateful for any advice, remonstrance, etc.
 
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YetiJedi
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03/03/2024 02:05PM  
Hey Overland,

Asking a question again certainly isn't a bother to me so you won't hear me protesting. :) I haven't been to Quetico yet but a few entry points come to mind in the BWCA.

A few considerations for very few portages with plenty of permits still available are: Saganaga, Brule, Moose, Baker, and Homer. The first three are much larger lakes with lots of route options.

If you watch for cancellations you might consider Lake One or Lizz Lake.

If you share more about some of your trip goals or other preferences, folks might be able to help with specific recommendations. Specifically, how far do you want to travel? Will you be fishing a lot and what is your targeted species? Are you interested in a base camp or moving to new spots?

Enjoy the planning process!
overland
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03/03/2024 02:21PM  
I hadn't thought of these questions. We're seasoned canoeist, so it doesn't have to be short. We're glad to keep moving. We might fish, but that's not a goal of our trip.
billconner
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03/03/2024 05:51PM  
I've been thinking about low/no portage trip and am drawn to a Basswood trip - either all US - along south shore and deep into bays or a combo BWCAW/Quetico Basswood circumnavigation.
03/03/2024 07:12PM  
Basswood is probably the most expansive and easiest to get to option. Tow to praire portage then you've got as many miles as you want to paddle in the US and Canada.

Another option, with a more pricey tow is Lac La Croix. Andersons and Zups both do tows from Crane lake.
billconner
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03/04/2024 05:19AM  
AceAceAce: "Basswood is probably the most expansive and easiest to get to option. Tow to praire portage then you've got as many miles as you want to paddle in the US and Canada.


Another option, with a more pricey tow is Lac La Croix. Andersons and Zups both do tows from Crane lake."


If it's avoiding portages, paddling to LLC with two mechanical portages might be an option.
03/04/2024 07:41AM  
From the North....

If you are willing to do a few easy portages...you could enter Beaverhouse and have the whole Beaverhouse, Quetico and Cirrus lake complex at your disposal.

For Zero portages, you could enter French lake, and you can access Pickerel, Batch and Rawn without getting your boots dirty.
overland
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03/04/2024 09:01AM  
Thank you. A few easy portages would be fine, I think. Can you suggest any routes from the South? That's where we'd be coming from--we'll be driving up from Chicago.
03/04/2024 10:22AM  
Quetico from the south:

This is very possible without a tow, but a tow gets you to the Canada border & saves a couple hours paddling.

From Ely: Moose Lake > Prairie Portage Quetico Ranger Station
Once there, you have all of Basswood, and the North Bay area is known for good fishing. You could get into Burke and/or the S-Chain (South, Shade, Summer, Sultry) with fairly easy portaging. Jeff & Sunday lakes are also in-play.

From the Gunflint: Saganaga>Hook Island>Cache Bay Quetico Ranger Station.
In addition to Saganaga, one medium portage gets you past Silver Falls and onto Saganagons, which is a huge lake with a billion nooks and crannies. Slate Lake is a very short portage off Saganagons and is a small but spectacular lake to see.

And then there is Lac la Croix, as others mentioned. The tow is much more expensive because it's much longer. Besides LLC itself, you have easy access to McAree & Minn lakes, and possibly Iron on the border.

The last option - as I understand it - allows you to stop at the Sand Point Customs Station to enter Canada with a Passport. The first two require that you apply in advance for a Remote Access Border Crossing (RABC) Permit.
Lawnchair107
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03/04/2024 10:27AM  
Follow the Maligne River in Quetico
03/04/2024 11:41AM  
Lawnchair107: "Follow the Maligne River in Quetico"


Lots of little portages on the Maligne. And quite a few to get there?
Michwall2
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03/04/2024 12:07PM  
A couple of thoughts:

Canada - before getting your hopes up and plans all made, make sure that everyone is eligible to enter Canada. Either on an Remote Area Border Crossing(RABC) or at a customs station. Canada has some rather strict rules regarding entrance for people with what we might consider minor run ins with the law - DUI and other misdemeanor charges of various kinds can make someone ineligible to cross the border.

How many different campsites are you hoping to have over your 7 day trip? 2-3? 5-6? In other words, how many days of travel?

Here is an idea for the BW that is essentially a base camp with lots of day trip options.

Entry #37 - Kawishiwi Lake -
Day 1 - Kaiwishiwi to Polly Lake
Day 2 - Polly Lake to Malberg Lake
Day 3, 4, 5, 6 -
Day trip to Fishdance Lake to see the Pictographs (Southwest)
Day Trip to Frond/Boze Lake (east along the Louse River)
Day Trip to Makwa Lake to see the cliffs. Again, the portages are mostly flat here, but it is a lot of in and out of the boat. With only a day pack, food pack and canoes the portaging should not be onerous.
Day Trip to Boulder/Adams Lakes - There are some tricks to this route that a good outfitter should be able to help you with.
Day 7 (or day 6-7)- Back to Kawishiwi Lake the way you came in.

I think this is as good as it gets for your portaging efforts. The portages from Kawishiwi to Malberg Lake are mostly flat and not very long. You set up 2-3 camps. There is a lot of area you can see with minimal effort in camp set-up and tear-down. The day trips do have portaging, but not under full gear. And there is some good fishing in these waters with very iconic BW scenery. It also keeps you off the very large waters where wind becomes a limiting factor.
Lawnchair107
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03/04/2024 12:16PM  
bobbernumber3: "
Lawnchair107: "Follow the Maligne River in Quetico"



Lots of little portages on the Maligne. And quite a few to get there?"


From the sheer length of miles of the Maligne, a few portages is not bad at all.

Tow of LLC to get there?
03/04/2024 03:31PM  
2 years ago my buddy and I did a boarder loop. We started on Clearwater the went up to Mountain and headed east to Fowl then looped back through the Pikes to get back to Clearwater. The portages weren't incredibly short or easy, but they were spaced out with a lot of paddling in between. Only 10 portages on the whole route, and we did it in 6 days. 2 of the days were layover days, we originally planned only 1 layover day, but we ended up pushing harder on one day to have a second lazy day.

The worst portage was the side trip to Gogebic, not part of the original route. Very steep and lots of twists and turns.
lundojam
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03/12/2024 06:43AM  
Take the tow from Anderson's into Lac La Croix. Super-fun boat ride, for one thing. You can be deep in without portaging AT ALL. Beautiful scenery, lots of bays and islands, big pines. Expensive by BWCA standards, but not by trip-of-a-lifetime standards.
Jackfish
Moderator
  
03/14/2024 10:00AM  
One entry point - three options:

Drive to Atikokan the day before your entry, pick up your permit at the ranger station and stay overnight in town. In the morning, drive 25-30 minutes west on Hwy 11 to the gravel road turnoff. (Can't miss the sign for Beaverhouse Lake / Flanders Road.)

Ten miles of gravel to a left turn (sign clearly marks the turn to Beaverhouse). Four more miles and you're there.

Beaverhouse Lake in Quetico

It's about 100 rods from the parking lot to the water. From there, it's just a short paddle to the two quick portages into Cirrus Lake. You can also paddle into Quetico Lake from Cirrus.

If you choose not to go into Cirrus, you can also paddle about an hour on Beaverhouse, portage around the waterfall from the Quetico River, then have all of Quetico Lake to roam. When on Quetico, you can do the reverse and paddle up into Cirrus, then out. Lots of campsites and good fishing.

The third option is you can just stay on Beaverhouse.
03/27/2024 07:50AM  
If you have your heart set on the Quetico, Saganaga has a lot of permits and you can get a tow to Hook Island and go up into Saganons area. Day trip up the Maligne and see the falls. This would fit you parameters nicely.
Z4K
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03/27/2024 12:58PM  
The International border is where it is because that is the most efficient route through the area. If I was getting my western river buddies to finally come to MN there's no question that's where I'd take them. I would have them fork up the cash for a tow out of Crane Lake to Beatty Portage, Snow Bay or Bottle Portage and a shuttle to get the van to Fall Lake or Moose Lake. 6-9 portages for 50-100+ miles depending on start/finish. If that isn't long enough for those guys you could go all the way to Saganaga for another 8 portages. You can do it on either BWCA or Q permits but I'd want to have both and RABCs.
 
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