BWCA Sundial Lake -- PMA #3 Boundary Waters Group Forum: PMA Paradise
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      Sundial Lake -- PMA #3     

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01/19/2011 10:55PM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
Third in the series...

This one seems pretty popular. It's proximity to PMA #4 would make this a good target if you were "hunting" PMAs.

The Google Earth photo shows that there are still some portages into this one. There are also several trip reports that cover this area.

Looks like a mix of streams and lakes. I included the Voyager Map this time (of a portion of it) because it appears that there is a lot of marshland in this PMA.



Looks like the possible EPs are 22, 23, 24, 26, & 77.

Closest Ranger Station is Ely.
 
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01/20/2011 07:34PM  
the beartrap is a fairly often used route to iron lake. I've canoed it at least a dozen times. as of mid october 2010 all of the portages were in very good to excellent condition. I don't believe that the portage going north out of sunday lake to sunday bay is still there, at one time it was a winter haul road to resorts on crooked lake. i'm not sure why anyone would take that portage anyways. sterling creek and nibin bibon lake route is passable, a friend did it last summer. i took this route thirty eight years ago, (cripes) it was horrible then, i'm sure it is even worse now. for true masochists I would recommend spring creek, accessed via the angleworm portage. the water has to be high, your boat short, and your patience long. it really is a slick little creek, and you are deep into the wilderness after a fairly easy stretch of the long portage to angleworm. as far as i know i am the only person stupid enough to have canoed this creek. so no portages and an amazing number of beaver dams. loved every minute of it.
 
PaddleAway
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01/20/2011 08:20PM  
When researching our first PMA visit, this one seemed the most accessible & the least likely to kill us. So it's the first one we visited.

We traveled east-west, entering from Beartrap Lake & ending at Stuart. The old portages are tougher to find moving in that direction, especially the last one from Nibin to Stuart.

This is a PMA that should be traveled in springtime. I could see Sterling Creek, in particular, becoming impassible in low water, & there were some shallow riffles on the Beartrap that might not be as fun.

As jwartman59 noted, the portages along the Beartrap River into Sunday lake are like bad Quetico portages, overgrown, deadfall, but nothing too awful. Beavers damns are frequent.

Sterling Lake might be the most gorgeous lake I've ever been on. I'll be back before I can't do this trip anymore.

For those of you who stockpile old issues of the Boundary Waters Journal, I did a write-up of our trip in the Winter 2009 issue.
 
01/21/2011 08:39PM  
eglath has a TR through this PMA. Sterling sounds like a real beauty. trip report
 
03/06/2011 06:57PM  
some of pma3
 
PaddleAway
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03/06/2011 09:39PM  
cowdoc, Sterling might be my favorite lake in the BWCA.
 
03/25/2011 03:15AM  
We will be doing the Beartrap river to Iron again this year. Would like to come back out through Dark, Rush lakes to Stuart then head East to Nibin, Bibon into Sterling. Question I have is from Stuart lake to Nibin on my Fisher map there is what looks like a hiking trail to Nibin. Has anyone done this route before? Also after Sterling lake, getting back to the Beartrap river, just wondering what that would be like.
 
PortageKeeper
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03/25/2011 04:56AM  
quote bobbwca: "We will be doing the Beartrap river to Iron again this year. Would like to come back out through Dark, Rush lakes to Stuart then head East to Nibin, Bibon into Sterling. Question I have is from Stuart lake to Nibin on my Fisher map there is what looks like a hiking trail to Nibin. Has anyone done this route before? Also after Sterling lake, getting back to the Beartrap river, just wondering what that would be like."
Bogwalker and I have done this. Search out his trip reports for much info and eat your Wheaties before you go!
 
bogwalker
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03/25/2011 07:47AM  
quote bobbwca: "We will be doing the Beartrap river to Iron again this year. Would like to come back out through Dark, Rush lakes to Stuart then head East to Nibin, Bibon into Sterling. Question I have is from Stuart lake to Nibin on my Fisher map there is what looks like a hiking trail to Nibin. Has anyone done this route before? Also after Sterling lake, getting back to the Beartrap river, just wondering what that would be like."

Calling the trail from Stuart to Nibin a "Hiking Trail" is kind. Portagekeeper and I can tell you it is a bushwhack that can be tough to follow in places. The portage landing at Nibin is a muck bottomed, swampy marsh. I will say this route is probably easier to do going from Stuart then coming from Beartrap.

There is a short liftover portage between Nibin and Bibon that Joe and I were able to pass due to high water. There is a short rock filled and deadfall filled water connection between the two lakes that we were able to paddle slowly through. The portage landing from Bibon to Sterling is a nice large rock shelf.

The portage from Bibon to Sterling is more of the same as the portage from Stuart to Nibin but it will feel easier after you were successful doing the portage to Nibin.

I know of friends who have camped on the island in the north bay of Sterling-Joe and I continued on to Sunday the day we went through.
There is a short portage around some rapids where Sterling Creek leaves Sterling Lake and another longer portage along the creek that is difficult to find let alone follow.

Once back on Sterling Creek it will depend on water levels as to what you will experience. Joe and I were lucky that we had high water. Sterling Creek flows toward the Beartrap river from Sterling Lake so going this way you are going with the current. That said-in high water it was not bad but we had a lot of turns that we had a lot of maneuvering to do because of how narrow the creek was and how tight the turns were. In addition we had more than I can count beaver dams to either paddle hard over as we just cleared or a couple that we had to get out and pull over. In low water this would be a lot more work then it was in high water, plus we had a 16' tandem (Bell Northstar)-so a longer tandem will also make for more work trying to negotiate the turns.

Once you are past Sterling Creek the only other issues are the portages along the Beartrap river as they are numerous as you work to get around rapids and some are rather difficult. The portage into Beartrap Lake is also long and tiring but easier to follow then the portages headed to Sterling.

Good luck-and as Joe said-be sure to eat your Wheaties. This is not an easy route to take, especially if water is low. I would plan at least two days between Stuart Lake and Beartrap Lake. Joe and I did Stuart to Sunday in one day but we had ideal conditions and lots of experience in PMA/bushwack travel.

Read my trip report from that experience

Trip Report
 
PaddleAway
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03/25/2011 04:08PM  
I can't add much to bogwalker's definite description, except to say he's right on, & add a few more addendums. We moved from Sunday to Stuart, east to west, & the portages were difficult to find in this direction.

The 'trail' from to Nibin was bad. One swamp that has swallowed a good 100' feet of trail that completely derailed us. And the famous muck-swamp landing. Bibon to Sterling wasn't quite as bad, & easier to follow.

Sterling to Sunday was rough, too. There is one long portage - I guess - that we stumbled across only after doing a series of short, brutal carries when we couldn't find the 'long' portage. We searched long & hard for that portage for almost an hour & never located it. The Beartrap was easy going north with the current, I'd imagine (& bogwalker says so) it would be less fun going south.

It was a tough trip, but far & away my best BWCA trip to date. We'll be back, someday, when my girls are old enough to carry the canoe for me! Here's my trip report.

Sundial Trip Report
 
PortageKeeper
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03/25/2011 05:05PM  
Added note:

There used to be another way into Nibin, though you may not locate any of the old portages. The first portage started near the 'long portage' landing, that goes from Stuart River to Stuart Lake, at the river. This portage traveled east northeast to a pothole between the river and Nibin (118r). You would then paddle across the pothole and into a creek leading out of the ne end of the pothole and to a second portage that would take you to Nibin (19r).
Someday I will search out this route.

 
03/26/2011 04:19AM  
quote PortageKeeper: "Added note:


There used to be another way into Nibin, though you may not locate any of the old portages. The first portage started near the 'long portage' landing, that goes from Stuart River to Stuart Lake, at the river. This portage traveled east northeast to a pothole between the river and Nibin (118r). You would then paddle across the pothole and into a creek leading out of the ne end of the pothole and to a second portage that would take you to Nibin (19r).
Someday I will search out this route.


"


I just checked out google earth and can see what your describing. looks like it might be easier to take the portage from Stuart lake to Stuart river then across to Nibin. Shorter distance anyways. Going to go over trip ideas with the rest of the group this weekend and hope to talk my daughter into the Bushwacking part of it! Hopefully she's up for it! We've done Mudro to Iron through Sunday and up Bearttrap a couple years ago. Thanks for the info and great trip reports.
 
Vamp1re
 
06/20/2011 08:48PM  
quote jwartman59: I don't believe that the portage going north out of sunday lake to sunday bay is still there, at one time it was a winter haul road to resorts on crooked lake.


"

Has anyone documented that this portage from Sunday Lake to Sunday Bay has disappeared back into the wild? If it is still findable, I'm planning on using it to get to Crooked Lake to do a border run to the Horse river. I could go up to Friday Bay from Gun lake through the Wagosh, Niki, Papoose and Chippewa chain but traveling the Beartrap River and seeing Sunday Lake in the PMA seems just a little more exciting/adventurous!
 
lashmit
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08/07/2011 01:57PM  
Thanks for the info. I've read the TRs by eglath, bogwalker, and PA. We're looking into a trip starting at Stuart EP and heading to Sterling in the middle of Sept. We only have 4 days so probably won't be heading through but just in and back out. If anyone has been through this summer, I'd like to know how the portages are looking (a few downed trees or lots of them). Will the water likely be low to the point that the swamp will make it too tough to get to the lake? Any other advice not already mentioned?

Thanks,
Philip
 
lars54
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08/13/2011 07:07PM  
this june i walked the portage from stuart lake over to nibon
the trail was easy to follow with 3 or 4 blow downs to step over
it did seam like it was a lot longer than the 140 rods listed
 
schaapj
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07/27/2021 06:11PM  
I know this is an old thread but this seems like an appropriate place for the question.

Wondering if anyone here has been to the namesake lake (Sundial) before and if so how did you get there and what was it like?

I've been to Sterling a couple of times and thought it would be fun to try to get to Sundial via south on Sterling creek with a subsequent bushwack to the northeast but not sure how realistic that would be.

Thanks!
 
straighthairedcurly
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08/16/2021 01:01PM  
Anyone else run into people camping without a permit on Sunday Lake? My son's group had a permit for that section/day, but when they reached Sunday Lake, someone was camped there? Was son was on a camp trip so they weren't in a position to engage the other group to find out what was going on. Instead, they ended up backtracking and camping along the river. But it definitely put a damper on their first PMA experience.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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08/16/2021 04:53PM  
As a popular path to Iron I think it happens quite a bit. If I were to have a permit for section 5 I would be mentally prepared for someone to be there and to show them my PMA reservation. I think there are truly people who don't know it is in a PMA, as well as those who don't care. I'm sorry this happened and I hope he had a decent time regardless.
 
08/16/2021 05:33PM  
straighthairedcurly: "Anyone else run into people camping without a permit on Sunday Lake? My son's group had a permit for that section/day, but when they reached Sunday Lake, someone was camped there? Was son was on a camp trip so they weren't in a position to engage the other group to find out what was going on. Instead, they ended up backtracking and camping along the river. But it definitely put a damper on their first PMA experience."

That would make me even more curmudgeonly than normal.

The second site on the lake might fit a tent in pinch, but not a big group.
 
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