Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Saganaga-Mack-Kawnipi-Falls Chain and Deep Thoughts
by pcallies

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/20/2023
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My wife accommodated my desire to see some new territory on this trip. I pushed us a little too hard the first three days and I appreciate her tenacity and patience with me. Some deep thoughts and overall impressions from the trip: First, I play golf. Like golf, canoeing can teach you some important life lessons if you're willing to listen. Primarily, there are things out of your control that you need to deal with as they come. You can't control them, you can only respond to them in the best way possible. There's no need to fret about the things you can't control. The weather will be what it will be. Some portages will present challenges, both expected and unexpected. Second, I read The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey on this trip. It's a fictional story about a haphazard ecoterrorist group, set in the desert southwest in the 1970s. It got me thinking a lot about how to balance the demands of the environment, technology, and industrial progress. Abbey has an engaging writing style, the book is humorous, and the characters are offbeat. I highly recommend it. Third, the evidence of Spruce Budworm ( is overwhelming. There are many, many dead and dying spruce trees. The next forest fire in these areas seems likely to be a conflagration.
Day 1 of 8
Tuesday, June 20, 2023

* Our alarm went off at 6:31 this morning at our Voyageur Canoe Outfitters bunkhouse at the end of the Gunflint Trail. We packed up, brought our gear to the dock, and had breakfast. Breakfast was pancakes, sausage, Oj, and coffee - not bad.

* Our 25-minute tow to Hook Island left at 8:05. With the light wind out of the south, we wouldn’t have had to paddle into the wind, but we would have had to counteract a cross-wind so I was happy for the tow.

* We strapped in our fishing rods and spare paddle, loaded our gear, and put the paddles in the water about 8:45. Stopped at the Cache Bay ranger station to get our permit and had a nice visit with the ranger. Based on some posts, I’d been concerned about water/current at a few points along our path as well as one of the portages we’d encounter. Sounds like water levels have been dropping rapidly so current shouldn’t be much of an issue. A portage maintenance crew has been to the portage of concern between Munro and Mack; they noted nothing about the portage so hopefully it’s not just a bog for the last 50 meters. The ranger and his fiancé live/work at the station. They’re getting married in Hamilton on July 9.

* Silver Falls portage was in great condition as expected. Dropped the canoe pretty early in the portage at the steep slope down. When we finished the first trip across, we walked back to look at the falls before collecting the canoe. An impressive volume of water flows through there!

* We made excellent time up Saganagons with the ~10 mph tailwind. Stopped for lunch about 1:30. (48.27451, -91.01281) Didn’t start fishing until after lunch.

* Our Wally divers yielded nothing except a few smallies before we arrived at our preferred campsite about 3:30.

* Went back out fishing for an hour at 5:00. Caught a few more smallies, but no walleye or northern. Had mashed potatoes and summer sausage for dinner - easy prep and cleanup. * Saw many loons (no babies yet) and several eagles today. Three pairs of loons and a couple solo. I was struck by the number of dead and dying spruce trees along our route. I assume this is caused by the Spruce Budworm.

* Saw six people and three dogs having lunch at the campsite just past Silver Falls. Saw a soloist in the same area. Those were the only people we saw after leaving the ranger station.