Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Knife Lake Loop
by Sandstorm30

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/30/2021
Entry Point: Saganaga Lake (EP J)
Exit Point: Saganaga Lake Only (EP 55A)  
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
We got a tow from the lovely people at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters up to American Point and then our journey began! This was my 4th BWCA trip and the first one I did a half day of navigating on my own with my dad in my boat and our other two paddlers back at camp. It was his first trip and although he's a pilot, navigating is quite different in a canoe. Enjoy!
5/30: We entered via entry point 55 and got a tow to American Point from the lovely people at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters then headed on up toward Knife Lake. Early on during paddling, we came around a bend and saw a female moose (still on Sag) standing in the water enjoying a snack. She headed towards shore and went up into the woods upon seeing us but it was still a magnificent sight nonetheless. We stayed one night on Ottertrack Lake after getting caught in a brief thunderstorm. Thankfully we managed to pull off the water and hide out under some trees while we planned our next move. We backtracked to a campsite we had seen but passed up and started setting up camp. Thankfully the rain had stopped so we were able to set up without getting drenched. We opted for a dinner of grazing as opposed to starting a wet fire and attempting to cook. The rain was off and on and we had thankfully opted to set up the tarp to have a place to hang out while we listened to it pitter-patter on the tarp above us. Through the trees, it appeared that we were going to be treated to an amazing sunset. The rain had stopped and I walked out to bluff to see if it was worth it. Once I got there, I called back to the three guys I was traveling with and said, “You guys may want to come out here for this!” It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen.

5/31: The next day we pushed on to Knife Lake after a steak breakfast and found a 5-star campsite we stayed at for two nights. After setting up camp, we spent the majority of the day relaxing, enjoying the shade and taking in the beauty of Knife Lake. We made burgers with caramelized onions and spicy brown mustard for dinner. To die for!

6/1: While there, I took my dad on a day trip to Robbins Island. This was my first experience navigating the BWCA on my own and while it was a little unnerving, I was glad to have gotten the opportunity to gain experience with it. And am I ever glad that Tom R. is my main navigator! The intention was to see Dorothy’s Island as I was in the middle of reading Root Beer Lady but the map we had didn’t show Isles of Pine and I was slightly too novice to feel comfortable going off map in search of it. Looking back now, it was just the next island over from Robbins but not having researched enough I was glad to error on the side of caution. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and relaxing at our site. I finished Root Beer Lady which was fitting considering we were on Knife! Tom and Tom went trolling for fish in the canoe but turned up empty-handed. We taught my dad spades that night with Tom R. as my partner and Tom C. as his. Tom and I won the first match then we played half a game that we never finished.

6/2: We continued through the South Arm of Knife through Eddy, Jenny, Annie, Ogishkemuncie, Kingfisher and Jasper lakes. The first portage was along Eddy Falls which was probably the largest waterfall I’ve seen in the BWCA. The rushing water was peaceful to listen to along the portage and we all took the side trail down to admire the view and cool off briefly. This was a long day of portaging and paddling, especially after all of the sites on Ogish were taken and we had to push forward. After the portage at the end of Ogish, we stopped for a ~30 minute break for some food and water. We got the hand pump out and started cranking. I drank my entire bottle and filled it up again before moving on. It’s amazing what a break like that can do for morale. We just had a short paddle on Kingfisher and opted to take the first site we found on Jasper Lake. It was up on a bluff with a decent amount of wind to keep the bugs at bay. We watched a thunderstorm go by us which was interesting to see and you have to just be grateful you’re not getting hammered by it!

6/3: The next day, we paddled over to Alpine Lake with our sights set on camping on Seagull for our last night. We opted to skip the last portage and run the small narrow current that went from Alpine to Seagull which was quite the rush! We found a decent site on Seagull in the early afternoon and Tom R. and I swam (very briefly due to the frigid water temperatures). We spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the shade. It was the perfect last full day in terms of breaking camp to move but also getting time to relax in the afternoon. Our last night was peaceful with loons calling in the distance and watching a beaver swim by as we were fishing off the point. We all lamented about it being our last night but also became eager for that first shower and meal once we were back in Grand Marais.

6/4: Our last day. We paddled Seagull which was a beautiful lake with some high cliffs we passed by and saw people having a picnic high up on the bluff. The water level changes were really interesting as we made our way to Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. It was a very hot, sunny day and that last portage was a beast. With the East part of Seagull allowing motor boats, there was a road by the portage that we opted to take in lieu of awkward footing and a big ledge you had to climb up or go around. Oddly enough, we happened upon an RV with an outdoor rug outside of it. Tom R. was ahead of me with his boat and although I didn’t hear him, he called out “Sorry!” as we walked through their setup. It didn’t seem like anybody was there but the RV door was open. I had the canoe on my shoulders with my dad and Tom C. behind me and I was hesitant to walk through but Tom C. said we really didn’t have any choice. I can’t recall what name was on the mailbox but I thank whomever was set up there and allowed us to take the easy route! The rest of the portage had massive roots that were tricky to manage but we were at the finish line. Again, Tom R. and his navigation skills never cease to amaze me as we hadn’t exactly asked The Outfitter their exact location before our tow. We paddled up and there the docks were to the right of us where he thought they’d be. We had a few clear nights that allowed us to stargaze, though it does take a long time for the sky to reach peak darkness in the North Woods but I was grateful nonetheless as it’s not always a guarantee. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better week in one of my favorite places!