Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Tuscarora - Little Sag - Gillis Loop
by BigCurrent

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/27/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Missing Link Lake (EP 51)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
After tripping on the West side for the majority of our trips and fishing for Walleye we decided to switch it up and head to Lake Trout country. MAY 26 Left MPLS around 12:00. One stop in Hinkley for gas and onto Duluth for our annual stop at Northern Waters Smokehaus, only this time we settled for curbside contactless pickup for some sandwiches to eat later for dinner at the bunkhouse. Arrived at Tuscarora Outfitters around 6:30, packed up gear, drank some beers and into bed around 11:00. Rain started just before 10 and rained most of the night. A good sign and also much needed for the surrounding dry forests.
Day 1 of 6
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Up at 6 AM sharp, prepped our gear and loaded the cars with everything being left behind. Boxed breakfast (in place of their standard French toast breakfast) was delivered just before 7 AM. Very well done and they even accommodated the vegetarian in our crew. Really good coffee and they left more coffee on the Dining Hall deck for refills.

Departed Tuscarora outfitters at 7:30 under overcast skies with a breezy NW wind. Across Round Lake and across the 137 rod portage to Missing Link Lake. This portage is pretty tough considering the length. Rocky, hilly and wet. Just enough to get the blood pumping at the beginning of the day.

Missing link Lake is a weird little lake with a couple decent looking campsites. We make our way through Missing Link and land at the portage to Tuscarora. We load up and start the long slog across the portage. Just as the first; it’s rocky, hilly and wet. We stop twice for a break and welcome the sight of the blue lake through the trees, one last steep decline to Tuscarora and we have completed the beast. At this point the sun is getting brighter, the humidity increasing and rapidly getting warmer. We take a brief water break and continue on across Tuscarora. The paddle across is very quiet, I think all of us were thinking about the tragedy that occurred on that very lake just a few days prior. Tuscarora is a beautiful lake and I understand why it is a destination for a lot of people. We have our sights set on Little Sag this particular trip. Quick portage into Owl and we quickly get to the Crooked Portage. At the landing their are 10-15 Lake Trout hunting baitfish in the shallows leading to the creek. Not something I have seen before. This got us excited about the potential Lake Trout fishing that awaits us over the next 6 days.

We quickly made our way through Crooked, Tarry, Mora and into Little Saganaga. Since it was still early in the afternoon (1:30) we checked out five different campsites and ultimately decided on Site 814. It’s a beautiful sight. It was perched up on an East facing rocky point and had several nice tent pads and a good landing. We could also fish from shore, swim and see the sunset from the top of the site through the trees. After spending three windy days on this site we were glad this is where we were staying. Sheltered from the West winds but enough of a breeze to keep the bugs at bay.

After eating lunch and getting camp set up we headed out to do some fishing. Picked up one 2 lb Lake Trout trolling the nearby islands and released it. Saving our fish dinner for another night. Retired back to camp for dinner and a nice fire to cap off a hearty day 1.

Dinner - Zatarain's Jambalaya with Brats

~Round Lake, Missing Link Lake, Tuscarora Lake, Owl Lake, Crooked Lake, Tarry Lake, Mora Lake, Little Saganaga Lake

A few notes about campsites we checked out.

#531 - Tough landing, beautiful West facing view but tent pads aren't great and with a strong westerly wind this site would not be fun to camp on.

#813 - Again, not a great landing, perched above lake level, very protected from the wind but was buggy when we stopped to check it out. Overlooking a cool part of lake. Didn't even explore for tent pads.

#820 - Very exposed to the west wind when we were there, didn't get out of the boat to check it out.

#821 - Very nice site facing the East. Well protected from the wind. Like the others it was elevated off the lake.