Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Snowbank to Lake One
by bdavid1157

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/21/2005
Entry Point: Snowbank Lake (EP 27)
Exit Point: Lake One (EP 30)  
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
This our groups yearly trip. 5 of us had gone before and then we had one newbie.
Day One:

My son Andy, his buddy Dan, my brother in-law Blaine and I left Forest Lake, MN at 6:00 headed for Ely. We arrived at Piragas at 10:00 o’clock. Went in and bought a couple of under the seat storage bags to keep the raingear handy. Great idea as for the next week we would be wearing the rain gear at sometime almost everyday. We then went to the Wolf Center to pick up our permit. While we were there, my other brother in-law Jim and his brother Tom arrived from Thief River. After a quick barbecue sandwich and a stop for bait we headed for the Snowbank Landing. While Jim and Blaine went and dropped a truck off at the Lake One landing, the rest of us arranged all the gear in the canoes. We decided to go into Disappointment Lake through the 140 rod portage and try to set up camp on the north end of the lake. Things went as planned and we had camp set up by suppertime.

Tried a little fishing and only had one northern on for a short time. We decided to head for Ima Lake tomorrow. From what I have read the lake is suppose to have good walleye fishing.

Day Two:

We woke up to cloudy skies.

After a quick breakfast of oatmeal we broke camp and headed out. The first portage brought us to Ahsub Lake. The sun broke out while we paddled across this pretty lake. It just doesn’t get any better. When we got to Jordan we looked for the pictographs. They are on the east end of the lake not the west like Furtman says. We left a gift of tobacco. I should have brought some other gift as it started pouring down rain. It was raining so hard I did not even get out the camera for a picture. Another group caught up to us as we got to the portage so we let them go first. Since it stopped raining, the rest of the group tried a little fishing while we waited. I took a picture of the falls between the lakes

and of Andy and Dan who managed to land this nice one.

After portaging into Ima we started paddling across and noticed that there seemed to be a lot of groups camped on Ima. The campsites on the east end were open but were getting pounded by the wind and waves. So we decided to push onto Hatchet Lake. The DNR says the lake is full of 15-18 walleyes and the lake is small so how hard can it be to catch some? We had a little trouble finding the narrow opening to the portage but after we found it, we portaged across to the lake and paddled across to the campsite. After setting up camp,

We had a nice dinner of steak and potatoes with cheesecake for desert. After dinner the older more tired out of our group sat around the campfire while the boys went out for a little fishing at sunset. They caught two walleyes on their first 2 casts at the base of the rapids from Thomas. We watched them clean the fish and then crawled into the tents and went to sleep with dreams of walleyes dancing in our heads.

Day Three:

We awoke with high hopes. After eating a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes we headed out to catch some walleyes. When we got to where the boys caught them the night before it was plain to see they would not be here, the hole under the rapids was only 3 feet deep and about 10 feet wide and had no fish in it. Figuring that they just moved in at night we backed out into the main lake and worked the mouth of the channel. No fish. So we split up and tried a few more spots. The west side of the lake was full of trees from the blow down and hard to work with out getting hung up. Once again no fish. So we tried a rock bar. No fish. Next we tried where a little water flowed in on the east shore. No fish. Very discouraged we headed in for lunch after about 4 hours of beating the water. The other two groups had the same results. I guess the walleyes could be a little more difficult to find. During lunch it was decided to break camp and hop over a few portages and setup camp on Thomas. Once on Thomas we threw on some spoons and deep running lures in hopes of trolling up a lake trout on the way to a campsite. The boys thought we should skip right thru Thomas and head to Alice where they had caught a few smallies last spring. They didn’t want the 238 rod portage ruining there sleep. So we continued on. We were greeted at the portage by hundreds of butterflies.

The portage is fairly long but it has had some major improvements done to it since I was here last. One of the low areas was built up.

And a boardwalk was added to another.

Much to my surprise the campsite on the point where the Kawishiwi River flows into the main body of Alice Lake was open. So we quickly setup camp. This was the best site we had the whole trip. Nice lake view, good area to land the canoes and ample room.

Day Four:

After we had a nice breakfast we went fishing. A few small male walleyes (15 – 17 inches) were caught. They are nice eaters, but nothing to brag about. Blaine did manage to catch and release one that went about 3 lbs. After lunch we paddled over and did a little more fishing at the base of the rapids for smallmouth. We couldn’t catch any so the boys decided to run the rapids while we watched them in case they had some trouble.

They shot it a few times and had a lot of fun but no trouble. For supper we had a fish fry of fresh walleye. There is nothing better than fresh fish for dinner in the great outdoors.

Day Five:

We tried fishing a few shallow rock piles that dropped off into the main lake. My brother in-law Jim and his brother Tom caught a few 16” fish, but no hogs. After lunch we decided to check out the Fishdance Lake Pictographs. On our way we saw this violet growing out from under a rock.

We continued over the portage and paddled over to the pictographs. The rock face they are painted on is really impressive to see. If you get a chance go and see it. There are 2 groups of pictographs and also a couple of single ones. This is one of the groups.

Then I put a little gift tobacco by it and it promptly started to rain. Both times that we left a little tobacco it started pouring. The boys have banned me from bringing any more tobacco. After putting on our rain gear we paddled back to camp. We sat around and waited for the rain to stop talking about all the neat things we had seen so far. One nice thing about the rain was we had running water in camp.

The rain quit so the boys went out and had some good luck. They brought these back to camp for dinner.

We just wrapped them in tinfoil with butter and some seasoning and threw them over the fire. Tasted great and without the mess of frying them in oil.

Day Six: When we woke up the wind was blowing hard from the west. Alice had whitecaps rolling across the lake. We wanted to paddle across Insula and do the 105 rod portage and set camp up on Hudson. We had some success catching walleyes in the hole right out from the portage in the past. While we had a nice breakfast we must have looked about 100 times at the lake and waves. We decided to pack it up and at least get to Insula figured that paddling down the narrow Kawishiwi River would offer us protection from the wind at least that far. Crossing Alice was no problem. When we got to the main body of Insula it was pretty rough. We worked our way along the north shore to a point where our protection ended. We had a little snack and decided to paddle right in to the wind and get to the west shore. It was hard paddle with no breaks but went better than we thought. We snuck through the narrow point on the big peninsula. As we paddled along we saw 2 moose on the far shore. I took a picture of a couple of black specs. When we started to get close it started to rain. The closer we got the harder it rained. The boys suggested that it was more bad tobacco karma. We did get real close to the moose but it was raining so hard the moose is hard to see.

Especially after it went and hid behind a tree.

Soon after the moose moved off and we started paddling again the rain stopped for the rest of the trip. We made our way over the portage and set up at the closest camp site to the portaged. We fished some and caught a few walleyes, 2 smallmouths and a northern.

Day Seven:

This being the Friday before Memorial Day we decided to move down to Lake Four and get a campsite. We figured that way we could get to Pizza Hut for Pizza and a salad bar by noon on Saturday. So we broke camp, paddled across Hudson, did the 3 little portages and setup camp. After lunch the old guys did a little paddle up through Bridge into Fire and back through Hudson to camp. The boys went exploring through the woods and found this.

After we checked this out we found the remnants of a few more buildings also. While we were making dinner we sent Tom, Andy, and Dan out to get us some firewood. They found a nice piece.

It made the best fire of the trip.

It is always nice to have a good fire to sit around the last night. Talk about what we need to do different next year and all the great things that happened this year.

Day 8: We woke up to a foggy morning. Had breakfast and loaded in a few more campsites in the GPS and headed out in the fog.

This was the first time that a GPS came in handy as you could not see anything. With it we could head for a portage or campsite. But by 9:00 the fog was starting to lift making the GPS unnecessary. We could now make out parts of the shore.

By the time we entered Lake One the sun was starting to come out.

So were the other paddlers. At one time we counted 12 canoes that we could see. Lake One on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend is not a place for me. It was a little to busy. How ever I would rather be at busy spot in the BWCA than at work. The wildlife didn’t seem to mind all the people canoeing by. This deer came down for a drink as we paddled by.

Just before we made it to the landing I told my brother in-law that I better take a picture of the clear sunny sky. That way people will know that it isn’t always cloudy in the BW. So when this bird was circling overhead I snapped this picture.

The Lake One landing was busy place as we loaded up and headed into Ely. After a stop at Pizza Hut, we said goodbye to the Thief River Boys and headed for the Twin Cities.