Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Crooked Lake Loop for BWCA First Timers
by seekadventure

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/14/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Mudro Lake (EP 23)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
I have always been an outdoorsman and fisherman and the ultimate thrill has always been to experience the BWCA. Up to this point it was all a dream until I overheard a coworker talking about planning a trip. I quickly leached on the the planning and from there the dream was made a reality. No matter how much planning, researching, map gazing, and preparation we did we had no idea what to expect. The trip was filled with lows, such as discovering that portaging was no hike in the woods, to the highest of highs of witnessing spectacular sunsets featuring the BWCA beauty at its finest. Between the highs and lows there was plenty of fun to be had catching fish, swimming, and taking in the beauty with wonderful friends.
The Crew. Dan, Val, Bri, and Anthony (myself) all from Madison WI. Christian and Abby from St. Paul MN. 3 couples exploring the BWCA together.

Day 0 (13-Jun) Dan, Val, Bri, and myself all packed our gear in my truck and we started our 8 hour drive to our boundary waters outfitter. Along the way we made pit stops in Superior and Duluth for lunch, a Dairy Queen snack, and some exploring. From Duluth it was time to make our way to Ely MN where our outfitter was located. Once outside Duluth it already felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, and this feeling only got more pronounced with each passing minute on the road. We finally made it to our outfitter in Ely at around 4 pm. we were shown our bunkhouse for the night. We explored briefly and left for the city of Ely to meet up with Christian and Abby (the other voyagers on our trip) and to get dinner. After a dinner of steak and getting the canoe's on the vehicles we decided to call it a night and try to get some sleep.

Day1 (14-Jun) Sleep was hard to come by as I was excited to start our journey. Dan and myself were up by 5:00 ready to start the day. After a warm shower and packing the truck we were on our way by 7.00. We had a short drive to our entry point where we had our first portage, from the parking lot to the Mudro creek, about half a mile. Water appeared low and we had portage through a marshy bog to get to a launch point. we hit the water at 8.00. the first true portage was a dozy up and over a ridge and destroyed all hopes of single portaging. For the next 6 portages we had to double and sometimes triple portage. This greatly increased our time to reach our end goal for the day. We hit the horse river, excited to get some current to help us make up some time. However, the river was about 2ft low and we had to pull over many obstacles in addition to the 3 rapid portages the river has. This stretch of river nearly broke all our spirits. With moral low we finally exited the Horse river in to the Basswood river. Dan raced ahead around a point in search of a camp and soon radioed back that there was an unoccupied site, which we gladly took. We were finally off the water at 18:00. We were so focused on making good distance that we neglected to drink water, we all only had about 1/2 liter of water. No fishing today, but we were greeted by swans, turtles, and loons at the campsite. Lakes traveled: Mudro river, Mudro Lake, Tin Can Mike Lake, Horse Lake, and Horse river.

Day 2 (15-Jun) After a rough night sleep due to a sleeping pad valve malfunction (I'll be sleeping on the ground the rest of the trip) we all got up and out of the tent at 7:00. I made a breakfast of oatmeal and then we started to pack up, next destination Crooked lake. We set off at around 10:00. In no time we were at our one and only portage of the day to portage lower Basswood falls. We portaged around the falls and all took some time to admire the torrent of water. This portage was on Canadian and for some in the group it was their first time in Canada. we took some group pictures and then we were on our way. We had a steady SE wind at our back that made paddling much easier. During our paddle up the Basswood river in to Crooked lake, we saw a front roll through and we thought for sure we'd get wet, but the rain held off. We passed the pictographs but didn't stay for too long before pressing on. We made it to Wednesday bay of Crooked lake where we stopped for lunch. We then set off for Thursday and mazed through all the islands, it was a beautiful part of the lake. We soon found ourselves at the head of Thursday bay a large daunting bay. The SE winds that helped us all morning were now not in our favor. The 15-20 mph winds caused large waves on the large N to S facing bay. We gingerly paddled across the bay with several waves breaking over the bow of my kayak but we all successfully traversed the bay and the waves. At this time it was 15:00, so campsite hunting we went. The first three sites we checked all were occupied. Now we were getting nervous. Made worse was this armada of 4 canoes closing in behind us. We weren't sure if they too were looking for a site. So the race was on. Christian and Abby were the fastest paddlers so they went ahead. Finally they radioed back they had found a site, and what a marvelous site it was. The site was on a small island on the north end of Friday bay of Crooked lake. We set up camp and I was able to go out fishing for ~1.5hrs. caught 2 walleyes which we fried up and 2 small northerns. Lakes Traveled: Basswood river, Crooked lake (Wednesday and Thursday bays) Total distance traveled 8.6 miles.

Day 3 (16-Jun) We awoke to claps of thunder at 4:30 it rained with intense thunder until about 5:30 and I fell back to sleep until about 7:00. After two long days of travel this morning was going to be for relaxing, however, i had the urge to fish. I set out to fish around the island. I had 2 smallmouth ~12-13 inches in a small little cove on the N side of the island. This cove would provide me with smallmouth every time I fished it throughout the week. After relaxing a bit we all set out to do some fishing. water temps were higher than normal and water levels were ~2ft low. The smallmouth has finished their spawn, so I knew fishing could be difficult. Bri and myself set off for a small bay in Friday bay, only several hundred yards from camp. We weren't having much luck using inline spinners or jerk stick so I tied on a floating minnow. Instantly hooked in to a nice smallie ~3.5 lbs. I broke off on several rally nice northerns and caught another ~15 inch samlllie. Bri caught her first fish ever, ~22 inch northern. We headed back to camp at ~14:00. We cooked a really nice walley that Abbey had caught for a late lunch. After relaxing the rest of the afternoon Christian and I set off to catch walleye for dinner at ~18:30. I caught a nice ~24 inch walleye that we cooked up and a ~24 inch northern. We then played some cards and cleaned up for the day. We never ventured too far from camp today.

Day 4 (17-Jun) Woke up to a hot morning. Sun was already high and no clouds in sight. This would be the theme of the day, as it was a scorcher. Most of the morning was spent playing cards and relaxing. I fished around camp and caught a couple smallies, one legal, from my cove honey hole. The wind was fairly strong out of the SW making Friday bay very choppy and treacherous , we would not be traveling far today. We set off to the small bay I had luck at the previous day. The group wanted to swim at the sand bar in the bay and elected to fish. I caught 3 legal smallies, one of which was 3.5 to 4 lbs. After about an hour it was time to go back to camp where we all swam some more. The water was still pretty chilly for us . after some cards we cooked dinner. I set out to fish around the island at ~20:00. Caught two smallies, one around 3-3.5 lbs, two small northerns, and two small walleye. I also ran in to our resident beaver, he was not thrilled with my presence and gave me a tail slap on the water. Returned to camp at 21:00. Forecast overnight called for rain so we made sure everything was covered and battened down the hatches.

Day 5 (18-Jun) It rained pretty steady early in the night and during periods throughout the night. When we woke it was a dreary overcast day. It seemed most people in the camp were fine just staying around camp but I wanted to go explore Thursday bay and fish. Bri and I set off for Thursday bay at ~8:00. it was a fairly calm morning so the paddle was pleasant. In total we traveled about 2 miles from camp in to Thursday. even though it was overcast the scenery was stunning on this calm day. The fishing didn't turn out to be as good as we hoped. Bri caught her first smallies ever using the floating minnow. I had several more smallies and a walleye on the floating minnow. Overall we caught around 10 fish. We made it back to camp around 13:00 having traveled a total of 4 miles. We ate lunch and hung around camp a bit before I got the itch to fish again. I returned to my honey hole cove and like clockwork caught a couple smallies and a northern, nothing of any size. I caught another nice smallie about 15-16 inches on the west side of the island. I then started back towards camp. I caught a small walleye that I through back. The wind was blowing right down the shoot between our island and the mainland ~75 yards away. I figured there was some decent current going through this pinch point so i decided to drift a gold inline spinner with a chartreuse trailer. I could feel the blade just ticking off the rocks in about 15-20 ft of water. I was quickly rewarded with a 20 inch walleye. I paddled up and did the drift again, and behold, another 20 inch walleye. I drifted yet one more time and caught the biggest of the trip at ~25inches. I would have continued to drift, but it was time to clean the fish and get dinner started. We ate well this night. We started packing up camp so we could get an early start on our voyage tomorrow, then called it a night.

Day 6 (19-Jun) Today was going to be a big travel day for us so we were up and ready by 7 and all packed up and on the water before 9. The weather was absolutely perfect, partly cloudy, light breeze, all made for a picturesque day. We hit our first portage and it was a start of a reoccurring theme of difficult portages. We likely exerted too much energy trying to portage this first one too quickly. however we were now on our way to travel down a wandering Papoose creek. We enjoyed all the incredible scenery this land has to offer. Our spirits were quite high. We stopped for lunch on Wagoosh lake at a campsite about 50ft above the lake. We fueled up before our next daunting 1 mile portage. As we had to do the whole trip, we double portaged, so in reality we portaged a total of 3 miles. We had great teamwork and we survived the gruelingly long portage with high spirits intact. This portage took us over an hour and a half to complete. We soon learned that traveling on a Friday has its drawbacks. At our next portage we ran in to a father with his sons. He asked if there was any available sites on Fairy or Gun lake (lakes we were coming from). From what we saw all sites were full. He informed us that all sites on Boot (lake we were portaging to were full and that we would likely need to get to the far end of Fourtown lake (two portages from where we were) to find a site. This soured our mood a bit and the race was on to try to find a site. We rushed to Fourtown and were able to find a site. We landed at about 1930 and swiftly set up camp and had dinner. It was a long day of traveling with many miles put on, but our reward was worth every paddle stroke. We were given the best sunset I have ever seen, it seemed to last for an hour. Lakes Traveled: Crooked (Friday Bay), Papoose creek, Papoose lake, Chippewa Lake, Niki Lake, Wagoosh Lake, Gun lake, Fairy lake, Boot lake, Fourtown lake

Day 7 (20-Jun) This would be our last morning in this beautiful land. We awoke to a calm morning. The lake was as smooth as glass. We ate a quick breakfast and packed up camp and shipped off before 9. We only had 3 portages to go today, but I'd classify these portages as the hardest of the trip. Climing up ridges on slick rock and traversing gorges where one small slip in footing could be tragic. We also ran in to a bunch of traffic on the portages slowing us down. We made it through the portages but we were exhausted and tensions were thin. We arrived at the mouth of Mudro creek. We could tell it was easily down two feet from just 6 days earlier. We could barely traverse the waters with the canoes and kayaks hitting bottom frequently. We had to drag the vessels the last 100 yards to reach the portage landing. We were finally back at the parking lot where it all began. We later found out that beavers had built a dam in a waterway that feeds Mudro creek, choking off its water and subsequently choking off water down the entire system we traveled throughout our trip. It is really amazing how beavers can affect an entire ecosystem . It was sad to say goodbye, but we had to hit the road for our 8 hour drive ahead. Lakes Traveled: Fourtown, Mudro lake, Mudro creek