Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Snow Bay + Fat Lake- August 2023
by naturboy12

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/19/2023
Entry & Exit Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north) (EP 14)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My youngest son and I decided that after last year's trip, we could plan a bit more aggressive route, cover some water and see some places I had always wanted to go. The night before the trip was spent at Echo Lake Campground after a dinner at Echo Lake Tavern. Wildfire smoke made the sky a bit hazy, but temps in the high 70's were certainly in line with what we were hoping for an August trip. The weather the rest of the trip was anything but "normal".
Day 1 of 7
Saturday, August 19, 2023

Saturday mornings in August are generally meant for sleeping in and hopefully fishing or exploring from our land in northern WI, but this was no ordinary Saturday morning. We woke at 5:00 AM just a couple miles off the Echo Trail, eagerly anticipating this year's foray into the BWCAW. We wanted to get on the water and to our first destination as early as possible as the forecast was calling for temps close to 90 and increasing winds throughout the day. Thankfully the winds were light in the morning and out of the south which provided the always welcome tailwind as we paddled north along the Little Indian Sioux River, through Upper and Lower Pauness and into Loon Lake.

Water levels were on the low side but this section of the river is easily navigable. Our first challenge was pushing through the thick wild rice on the south end of Upper Pauness. Once we broke free we headed to the 40 rod portage between Upper and Lower Pauness. The trail was full of poison ivy, so we picked our way carefully along it to avoid starting a trip on a negative note (I'm highly allergic and get terrible rashes that need steroid creams to clear). Next up was Devil's Cascade, a portage I have done a couple times in the past, but with the warmer than normal temps it took a bit out of us. We were happy to have that last portage of the day behind us. From Devil's Cascade all the way to the main body of Loon Lake the river was very low with lots of wild rice, which along with a fairly decent sized beaver dam added some unplanned pullovers and slowed us down.
We reached our campsite of choice (#25), an elevated site just east of the big island as you enter the main body of Loon Lake, a little over 4 hours after arriving at the EP parking lot. Throughout the afternoon the winds switched from S to NW and increased in strength, becoming fairly strong by late afternoon. While looking over the map and noting where Canadian waters were in relation to our site and discussing the NW wind, Jaden made one of his infamous comments, which have only grown deeper with age (he is now 15). "Maybe the campsite will smell like maple syrup and Tim Horton's". I got a good laugh out of that one for quite a while that evening.
We fished during the mid-afternoon and did well, boating 9 fish and losing several others in a couple hours, taking advantage of a reef and weedy area near a drop-off that I had fished in previous visits to Loon. None of the fish were large, but a good combination of bass, pike and walleye only an hour or so after setting up camp is always welcome! We had a small fire that night and like magic the wind settled down around 8:30 PM, only to be followed by the normal August BW mosquito invasion. We put out the fire and made it an early bedtime after a well fought first day.