Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Wabakimi-Southwest Loop 2022
by wyopaddler

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/15/2022
Entry Point: Wabakimi
Exit Point: Other  
Number of Days: 18
Group Size: 2
Part 2 of 6
Day 4 Thursday, August 18th

•Mileage- 12 miles

•Portages- 1) 650m 2) 66m 3) 180m 4)125m 5) 115m

We woke up to a heavy mist and a drenched camp BUT the waning moon was setting in a very blue sky, so we packed up the bags and pads determined to push on. We popped out of the tent to discover hundreds of little webs in all the trees and bushes. “What’s up with that?”

We had hotdrinks and bagels with an eagle perched in the tree across from camp. Then packed up wet and launched around 900am toward the first portage. At 930am, about 20 yards away distant, we spotted a lynx swimming in the shallows! We floated quietly and watched it clamber up onto a rock, then peer at us curiously before it wandered into the forest. So special.

We crossed the first portage (650m)-a nice walk in the woods with millions of blueberries-then on down the Flindt nearing the 66m portage toward Wilkie.
We caught a few walleye in all the likely spots. Though it was obvious someone had done some recent clearing, the next 180m portage had about 32 down trees, all step overs. Totally doable but it’s definitely in need of some additional maintenance. We lunched on Wilkie watching a motorboat putter in the distance and decided to move on. It was a clear warm day with puffy clouds and a light headwind. We paddled down the narrow Smye Creek with some duckie birds for company and crossed the boggy 125m portage through a muddy put-in back onto the Flindt. Paddling around the corner we spotted a cow moose crossing the river just ahead of us.
We spent about 20 minutes watching her graze for greens, so close we could hear the munching. Moving on, we waded a swift, and then caught a few walleye in the subsequent hole before the day’s last portage (115m). It was a rocky, mucky landing that required navigating boulders to unload followed by a short easy jaunt in the forest to a yet another muddy launch.
Soon we were off looking for a rumored GREAT campsite that was said to be in the area but in the end we never found it. We have been traveling in a burn area most of the day, so we speculated that maybe a fire took it? But we were tired, and the light was growing short, and we packed up a very wet camp, so we chose to “bivy” on a little rocky knob that actually served us quite well. (Frankly, it was better than our first camp.) We set up our tent in a little lichen nest with our tarp back in the trees. Then tied up a line and dried all our gear while we took a quick swim and cooked up some Mexican Chicken and Rice “on the knob.”. After dinner I caught a couple of small pike in the little nearby bay and then just as the sun was setting, I caught a LARGE pike off the point. Nope, I don’t have a picture but I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest pike I have ever landed. Yup, it was another great day in Wabakimi. The hum of the mosquitoes soon lulled us to sleep.

Day 5 Friday, August 19th "The Day of the Walleye"

•10.2 miles

•Portage 1) 85m 2) 238m 3) 89m 4) 125m

We got up early and dried the tarp over hotdrinks and oatmeal. We pushed off at 900am and headed north toward the first portage (85m). We noted a couple of camps on the right as the river narrows but nobody was home. The first portage was straight forward. Tony pulled a few walleye out of the hole beneath the rapid.
We navigated the next three portages right (238m), left (90m), and right (125m). All were easy blueberry walks around rapids and swifts with varying degrees of challenges with the put-in and take outs.
Unloading and loading around boulders, mud, and down trees are the norm on this route and it’s definitely slowing us down.
Interestingly the last portage had a portage sign nailed to the tree. “Weird, not sure what that’s about?”
Great fun was head below each drop pulling a handful of walleye out of each hole. The bottom of the 125m was especially lucrative.

Then about a ½ mile below the last portage while having lunch I realized I left my water bottle behind so I had to undertake the “paddle of shame” and return to find it. Yup, there it was tucked safely under a bush near that silly sign. What a numbskull, good thing we stopped for lunch when we did. So off we went retracing our steps toward “Big Island. “ We discovered a boat cached on shore near a “maybe camp” as we turned east toward Big Island and at 200pm spotted a moose grazing nonchalantly on river right not too concerned with us at all. With the headwind growing we paddled up to the next portage (103m) then through a couple of swifts and set up camp at 330pm on a little riverside ledge in the trees. We paddled under low gray skies all day, but it never did rain.

THEN between 400-500pm we went on a walleye catching extravaganza unlike any before or after. I bet we caught a couple of dozen walleye of a variety of sizes! I caught the largest walleye of my life which maybe isn’t saying much given my fishing abilities, but it sure was fun. “Best day of walleye fishing EVAH!” We saved one for dinner and served it up with garlic mashed potatoes and Blueberry Brule for dessert. A few cards entertained us before a well-earned sleep.

Day 6 Saturday, August 20th

•8.26 miles

•Portages- 1) 103m 2) 182M 3) 284m 4) 259m 5) 55m 6) 123m 7) 335m 8) 180m 9) 30m

“Wow, that’s a lot of portages”

We shoved off from “MG’s Fish Camp” at 1000am after a “proper breakfast” of bacon, scrambled Ova eggs, and bagels with jelly. We caught a couple of farewell walleye and crossed the 103m portage north to the 182m portage. Both portages are in good shape with a few down trees of the stepover variety and more muddy, rocky landings.
At 1100am we passed an eagle hanging out at a nearby island camp and then onto the next 284m portage that surprise, has a nice ledge landing and a beautiful 4* camp among the boulders, very scenic.
Just so no one gets complacent the landing on the other end was crappy :) Same with the next 259m portage-nice ledge landing with a BIG cairn making the spot.

The portage meanders along the ledge by a nice sprawling camp with an open pretty view, then along a nice path to a crappy put-in that requires balancing on rocks in the current. (Geez.) Next you paddle though a swift, navigating a boulder field of scrapers while your paddling partner reminds you to “watch out for rocks” before navigating a short “popover” (55m) with a bad landing. After that we paddled toward the next set of rapids looking for a fabled camp on river right but only found a very old partial fire ring with ancient mossy wood- not really a camp anymore.
So onward to the 335m portage where we also found an old, deserted fire ring that the forest has claimed. From here we headed across a rare portage with both ends sporting easy load-unload zones, and we were grateful as we were starting to get really tired. This crossing was a longish but nice walk along a blueberry highway with several LARGE bear poops on the trail and a wolf scat to boot. “Yo Bear!” Fueled by antelope jerky and perseverance we pushed on to the 179m portage to discover another nice blueberry stroll culminating in a sandy/pebbly landing a short distance from the “hop over” into Tew Lake with the requisite challenging landing. Phew, we paddled onto Tew in the still quiet of evening past a narrow sandy beach to a rocky knob camp-small but serviceable.
I guess the fishing slowed us down today. We did catch walleye in all the holes below the falls but not as many as yesterday. For some reason the rocks gave us fits today with snags. Anyway, feeling glad the weather appeared stable we set up the tent, made a quick freeze-dried meal (Chile Mac), went for a dip to rinse off the sweat while the dinner hydrated, set off the Spot, ate as the sun set, and hit the tent at 900pm. “Phew, what a glorious day!” We drifted off to sleep with the loons calling a crazy warning to all that strangers are in the neighborhood. Zzzzzzz.