Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

The Camps Return to the BWCA
by TagNCo

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/03/2020
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north) (EP 14)
Exit Point: Moose/Portage River (north) (EP 16)  
Number of Days: 14
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
This trip was planned to enjoy all the solitude the BWCA has to offer. We spent the vast majority of our time between North/South Lakes and Finger Lake with nights spent at Devil’s Cascade, Slim, Eugene, Gun, Beartrack, Finger, Ge-be-on-e-quet, Oyster and Agnus.
All portages throughout this trip were counted as there/back/there since we carried two loads. We had a total of 6,674 rods portaged with 4,449 rods or 13.90 miles completed with either packs/gear or our canoe. We paddled approx. 37miles.

I only fished for bass and caught a total of 30 fish on this trip only keeping and consuming 10 over two weeks which were used to feed myself, my wife and our pup on occasion when we had left overs. We saw a plethora of wildlife on this route including a fox, deer, 3 rabbits, 7 bald eagles, 5 beavers (including one baby), 15 loons, 4 mallards, 2 red headed ducks with white on its wings, 12 swans with 4 babies, 4 river otters, 3 turkey vultures. From start to finish we saw a total of 65 beaver dams/houses and what we believe were 28 groups with a total of 96 people and 1 dog.

6/3/20: EP14 to Devils Cascade Campsite - The paddling was easy. Starting today a common theme across the entire trip was wind! Little Indian Sioux River is beautiful and well worth seeing. The only portage of note between these two places is the Devils Cascade one. Coming from Lower Pauness you will be traveling uphill until you reach the campsite at which point you will start down. It is a quick down but graded well. It would be much easier to travel from Little Indian Sioux River south to Lower Pauness. The cascades were beautiful. I waded in the water a bit so I could see back up in to the canyon some and pictures. If you're a photographer, bring an ND filter and a tripod. Great shots here! The fishing was non-existent at the campsite which sites almost in the middle of the portage. The view is worth it and we didn't have many people pass by. The site is fairly far back off the portage trail and if fishing is not your priority... its worth it!

6/4/20: Devils Cascade Campsite to Slim Lake: Second campsite heading north - Again, very windy all day. We paddled in to the wind on all sections of this paddle except Little Loon Lake. We didn't have an issue with motor boats. Only saw two on the lake. The wind made this crossing difficulty and required us to ferry across before turning the point and pointing towards the point we were heading for in order to make our turn in to east loon bay. At this point we started not seeing people anymore. We had I believe 6 days where we only saw one person. The northern campsite on slim lake was fantastic. Plenty of space to spread out! Lastly, I wouldn't do this trip report justice if I didn't mention the portage from Little Loon to Slim... its 173 rods and when traveling from Little Loon to Slim its all uphill and a pain in the neck. It wasn't muddy the day we traveled it but the consistent uphill with 13 days worth of food and all our gear was a lot. We were very tired after this portage.

6/5/20: Slim Lake to Eugene Lake: Campsite just south from Steep Lake portage - Slim and Section 3 Pond were all very pretty. North/South Lake was better and honestly I wish we would have stopped on Steep Lake for the night. Not because we were tired but because it was gorgeous! We only saw the northern most campsite and it looked great from the water. This was probably our biggest regret on this trip. I wish could go back and have had a zero day on this lake. Instead, we paddled on to Eugene which was underwhelming. In terms of portages, they could use a bit of work. We are earlier in the season since there was a closure before we put on but all portages today were a bit overgrown. Didn't have any issues finding them, but could tell not many folks had been up that way.

6/6/20: Eugene Lake to Gun Lake: Campsite, middle of lake - I am glad we decided paddle up to Gun Lake from Eugene and make the 85 rod portage. The portage was a bit overgrown but still easily followed. Gun was a favorite and the campsite located across from the peninsula, eastern most site. Is huge, well maintained and spectacular. One of our top campsites this trip. Good fishing! Had the lake to ourselves! Did I mention how amazing and huge the campsite was? We loved our zero day on this lake! All the portages were fairly easy and straight forward.

6/7/20: Gun Lake: Zero Day - We relaxed and fished. Such a deserved zero day and well worth it on Gun Lake. I would place Gun Lake and Steep Lake in the same category for beauty and solitude. Few campsites but with amazing views!

6/8/20: Gun Lake to Beartrack Lake: Middle campsite - The portage to Little Beartrack from Gun wasn't bad... both little and beartrack lakes were pretty. We got a weird vibe from Beartrack Lake and only spent one night on it. The campsite we were on had a beaver passing around in the water just off the site. It kept slamming its tail onto the water when we arrived.It stopped for awhile but started back up at 2am. I'm kinda glad it did... there was a storm in the distance and I grabbed my DSLR and snapped some photos.

6/9/20: Beartrack Lake to Finger Lake: Campsite on large island, western side - The paddling was great but like the rest of our trip so far it was windy the entire way and we battled in to the wind on all three lakes. Thumb lake had some great cliffs on the south side. We picked the western most campsite on the large island on Finger Lake. I loved the boulder!! So cool! We camped near it but not next to it. The temps were cold and rainy both days on Finger. We setup our tarp/bug house but the only place where the water wouldn't pool was on a slope so the tent was flat but to avoid pooling under our tarp we went with a more slanted space. In all honesty, there weren't many other flat spots at this site... maybe two more for smaller tents? This spot may not be good for larger groups.

6/10/20: Finger Lake: Zero Day: Great zero day, spent it fishing in the morning and at night between the rain storms that came in.

6/11/20: Finger Lake to Ge - be - on - e - quet Lake: Chairs Campsite - The first portage from Finger Lake to Finger Creek was very pretty! One of our favorite portages. We didn't see much of Pocket but decided to keep on going when we saw group of 6 at one of the sites. Again, we battled wind all day on all lakes. Ge - be - on - e - quet Creek was pretty shallow in parts but nothing major in terms of beaver dams. We camped at the site next to the chairs. This was our second or maybe third favorite site. Its small and could probably accommodate two tents. The fireplace was beautiful and the proximity to the chairs made for lots of room for bass fishing. The walleye can be found off the main point about 50 yards or so?

6/12/20: Ge - be - on - e - quet Lake: Zero Day - Loved our zero here. Mostly hammock and fished some. The wind kept me off the water in the canoe.

6/13/20: Ge - be - on - e - quet Lake to Oyster Lake: Campsite on peninsula (where you cans both sides) - Nothing major to report on these portages or rivers. Lots of blown down trees on Green Lake. We couldn't find the portage to Pekan Lake... I imagine it was in all the blown down trees somewhere. It showed up on one map we had but not on the other. Not sure if the portage doesn't exist anymore or what? All other portages were clear and well maintained. We loved Rocky Lake and wish there was a better option for a campsite on this lake. We camped on Oyster Lake in the first spot just south of the Rocky Lake portage. Probably the best spot on the lake in my opinion. Again, it was windy all day. At the campsite the wind would whip through the site from south to north. It kept the bugs at bay, that was a bug plus. On hot days we noticed the bugs were bad, including the ticks! Between the three of us we had 73 ticks throughout the entire trip. That being said, when it was colder we didn't have an issue with either ticks or bugs.

6/14/20: Oyster Lake: Zero Day - Relaxed and did a bit of fishing on the north side. Couldn't fish on the south side, their were white caps all day! We did hike the portage trail over to Hustler Lake and can report that it is in good condition. Mostly flat too. The one section that goes through a marshy area had some standing water but the bog logs helped with keeping you out of it for the most part.

6/15/20: Oyster Lake to Lake Agnes: Last campsite before re-entering Oyster River - The paddle across Oyster was really windy! We made it just fine but got up early before it really started blowing. All portages were in good condition. The 160 from Oyster River to Lake Agnes has a bit of uphill initially but levels out before dropping in to Lake Agnes. Still relatively easy. We picked the campsite located farthest south and on the west side of the lake. This site was beautiful and allowed for a full view of the lake. There are four nice chairs and a table someone built from stones at this campsite with a great little fire pit facing with seating so you are facing the water. We really enjoyed this site. I'd add it to top 3 list. That being said, the walleye fishing is a ways away from here. The site is big enough for probably 2 - 3 tents.

6/16/20: Lake Agnes to EP16 - Oh boy! Where to start...ok, the wind. Yes, we had more wind today... go figure. The biggest issue we had today were all the beaver dams. I believe I counted 13 today with the vast majority of those being between Nina Moose Lake and EP16. They shouldn't be a problem for those going out, you'll have the current. That being said, if you're coming back the same way to EP16 you will have to deal with them. Many of them required either one or both of us to get out of the boat and pull the boat up it. Thankfully we didn't have to unload the boat. It was a bit annoying to be honest. The temperature was around 88 - 90f this day and with the rain the night before and that morning it made things a bit humid. The southern side of the 25 rod portage was nasty muddy! If we weren't so exhausted I would have grabbed the other planks that were up off the trail a bit and laid them down. All other portages on this section were great. I was surprised when we paddled through Nina Moose Lake we didn't see a single soul in any of the campsites but Lake Agnes was looking really busy!

Some final thoughts for others going in this long. We didn't plan on fish for meals. Any fish we caught were all bonuses. We primarily did dehydrated meals for dinners and brought ramen with veggies we dehydrated and soy sauce packets/spices in them as well as bagels and tortillas with cheese/pepperoni and summer sausage for lunches. Breakfasts consisted of either bagels with a nut butter spread, granola with dehydrated blueberries and powdered milk (just add water), oat meal or bars. We did bring dehydrated apples and added them with cinnamon to the oatmeal. It was a delicious treat! We brought 5 dehydrated desserts, enough popcorn and oil packets for 4 days of popcorn that we turned in to 5 days I believe and a few chocolate bars. It would have been easier if we didn't bring the dog... her food weighed like 15 - 16 pounds for the 14 days we were in the BWCA. That being said, our pup loves canoeing and is so well behaved that she doesn't get in or out of the boat unless given a command to do so. I couldn't imagine not taking her with us! Our focus was solitude and I believe we achieved this for the vast majority of the days we were in the north western sections of the BWCA just below Lac La Croix. If you don't mind a lot of work this trip is worth it. My wife and I are both experienced backpackers and canoe trippers. I would rate this trip as hard for us and on the lower side of difficulty/strenuous for people not use to backpacking with weighted packs. This concludes my trip report for our 14 day expedition in the BWCA.