Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Isabella River, Quadga Lake, to Bald Eagle lake (mentions Fourtown, Hegman as well)
by OregonDave

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/15/2014
Entry Point: Isabella Lake (EP 35)
Exit Point: South Kawishiwi River (EP 32)  
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
This report complements my YouTube video trip report: Video titled "Isabella River, Quadga Lake, Isabella Lake, canoe trip Sept. 2014"

Our 2nd trip this season.

The portages were well marked. We saw no one for three days. Quadga Lake is a gem. This route goes through the Pagami burn area of three years ago. Many campsites are apparently closed for restoration. From Isabella Lake the next open campsite was shortly before the portage into Quadga Lake. (don’t know if the Rice Lake sites are open) Two of the campsites on Quadga were closed. The first site to the East and then the Northwest (also has access to the Powwow trail) were the open ones. We had good fishing for northern and bass on Quadga, a delightful encounter with three otters, who next morning were off our campsite point, giving us a look see.

On one portage, up the steep bank, there was deadfall over the entrance, initially leading us to think someone was trying to tell us something; so we bushwhacked around it, up and over a rise. On the 2nd pass though we just cleared it off and carried the canoe over the portage.

For those who like canoeing the rivers, this is must if you haven’t done it. We should have stayed a third night at Quadga, but we thought there was more bad weather in the offing. We enjoyed the beavers swimming by our campsite, the trumpeter swan honking by, the low flying formation of noisy geese, and the loveliest sunsets with the rays of light. We enjoyed our smoked Zup’s sausages on our first night & fish on the 2nd. The wind blew hard enough on our layover day there, so we didn’t try for walleyes, on the receiving end of that. Our family favorite is fish cakes for breakfast; the leftover northern deboned & flaked into mashed potato cakes, fried in oil, tasty indeed!

The Pagami burn presents an interesting landscape, with the lush regeneration underway, and lots of down trees for easy firewood. This would have been more shocking if I hadn’t canoed in the Cavity fire burn in past years. No hanging packs in this environment.

No moose seen, but one foot print. The bass and northern seem to like crayfish.

This was our 2nd trip this year, having ten days earlier canoed Fourtown Lake up to Gun Lake. Fourtown had lots wind and waves, and cold weather. We liked Fairy Lake the best and stayed there two nights. We got close to two trumpeter swans and two beavers who slapped their tails for us. Caught one fat walleye & a bass for otherwise mediocre fishing. The long Mudro portage is challenging, especially for the smooth wet rock faces, where I almost slipped…

We’ve developed a preference for smaller lakes and rivers, over the big ones, so I’m looking for future routes of that variety. I am interested to know more about the Little Isabella River that comes in from the south; and best small river routes with moderate portages (maybe asking too much :)

Did two really nice day trips as well (Hegman Lakes & Homer Lake with the mini-loop at the far end). A review of best days trips is good topic for a future discussion.

Naomi and I left Oregon for Minnesota on August 25th, along the way hiked in the Grand Tetons & Theodore Roosevelt National Parks. We made our mandatory excursion (lovely fall colors hike in the George Crosby State Park on the way) to Grand Marais for two dinners at the legendary Angry Trout Café for fresh Lake Superior whitefish & lake trout.

Thanks to Steve Nelson at the Spirit of the Wilderness outfitters for our new (used) Bell Northwinds canoe and the shuttle to Isabella Lake. This canoe is the best!

Driving home across North Dakota experienced the effects of blowing wind sideways on our car with the canoe on top, wow. And gas mileage on our Prius dropped from 44 mph to 34 mph, which surprised me, shows the effects of wind resistance.

For more information about Isabella River portages:, Canoe Routes (and Portage Database in lower right), great summary of these portages., Go to “Entry Points”, Isabella Lake, Portage Comments, scroll down to Beaver’s comments on Isabella Lake, click on View point, his info opens in a pop up, which you can then print.

We'll be back next year.