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MAKWA!  
#1 Posted : Saturday, January 16, 2021 7:33:48 PM(UTC)


I have been on close to 50 trips including some long ones, and I'm getting older. My brother and I are discussing the possibility of doing a trip that includes:

*Starting at Kawishiwi Lake

*Working east across the BWCAW

*Crossing the Gunflint Trail (somehow)

*Working east to the far eastern edge of the BWCA

*Camping just before Grand Portage on the last night, then tackling it in one day

Has anyone done a trip like this? Biggest questions: 1. Is there a good way to cross the Gunflint Trail? 2. Once a paddler gets to the eastern edge of the BWCA, how does he get to Grand Portage (because it's outside of the BWCA)? 3. What are the most important things to know about Grand Portage?

Any insights would be appreciated. Thank you!

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eagle98mn  
#2 Posted : Saturday, January 16, 2021 11:31:50 PM(UTC)


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Hey Makwa!,

I have started at the  Kawishiwi Lake EP before, and ended with the GP too. But never in the same trip. Your plan sounds fun! I can't speak to crossing the Gunflint, but I would bet some of the outfitters in the mid Gunflint Trail can give you an idea if you don't get the answers you need here. However, I think I can offer some advice on the GP, having done it in 2018.

1. Getting to the GP is actually pretty straightfoward. You will technically leave the BWCA at South Fowl Lake. From there, you can use the Fowl Portage to get to the Pigeon River. It is on the Canadian side, and it wasn't bad when I was there. Most reports indicate it is awful, so I think I just got lucky with really dry weather. Expect a challenge but nothing that can't be overcome. The Pigeon River is a beautiful, lazy, paddle with the exception of the English Rapids area. There is no portage there anymore, so expect to stay in your boat if the water is high, and to wade in the river if it is low (which was my experience, see below). After the English Rapids, you have an unmarked portage on the McKenzie Map (it is marked accurately here on paddle planner) around Partridge Falls on the US side of the river, and then an easy paddle down to Fort Charlotte. You'll likely camp at Fort Charlotte (free but required a reservation) and then tackle the GP the next day.

2. The GP itself is just long. We tried to walk for 10 minutes at a time, take a breather, repeat. Find a rhythm that works for you, but don't be she about taking a break. The GP itself was well maintained when I went through, so the challenge wasn't mud or overgrowth, it was just length. At the end, be sure to drop your canoe in the big lake just to say you did!

What follows is a write-up I did at BWCA.com after my trip. I'm happy to answer any other questions to the best of my ability. Have fun! I'm so glad I did it, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again if I find myself in the area.

-------------------------------------------- 

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of checking an item off my bucket list when I did the Grand Portage with a friend. Prior to the trip, we were concerned because the Pigeon River was reported to be quite low. The Grand Portage National monument webpage says:

"After examining the current hydrogaph (be sure to select the right year) you should note that very difficult paddling conditions can be expected at 100 cfs (cubic feet per second) and below."

The Hydrograph said we were lined up to paddle it below 100 CFS, but I couldn't find a lot of information on what to expect. Were we foolish to even attempt it? After emailing BeaV for advice (thanks BeaV!), he said we should be fine, but expect to walk the canoe for a while around the English Rapids.

So felt like I should just add a quick note to the forum with our experience. At 83.6 CFS, the river was mostly an easy paddle, but we did experience a 2 mile stretch through the English Rapids where we were in and out of the canoe, mostly walking it down the stream. Anything less, and we probably couldn't have even floated the canoe while walking. That said, I don't regret going at this level. It took us about 6 hours to go from South Fowl to Fort Charlotte.

I hope this information helps someone in the future, feel free to contact me with questions and I'll be happy to give my two cents.

PS The McKenzie Map 98 does not show the portage around Partridge Falls, which would likely mean death if you skipped it. Watch for the portage on the US side at the end of the long straight-away prior to the falls.

MAKWA!  
#3 Posted : Sunday, January 17, 2021 6:53:51 AM(UTC)


With 4 guys, 2 canoes, and gear, approximately how long is the Grand Portage trek?
Thanks for your help!
eagle98mn  
#4 Posted : Sunday, January 17, 2021 7:32:37 AM(UTC)


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It took us four hours and 40 minutes but we were lightly packed. We only had a weekend so we started at John lake and brought one canoe and one pack. There was one other group that camped at Fort Charlotte the same night as us. They started the grand portage before us, but we passed them after about an hour and a half. They looked like they were geared for a longer trip. Expect to dedicate one day to the grand portage and you should be fine. It is the classic marathon, not sprint scenario. Take your time and enjoy walking history’s trail, don’t kill yourself and wonder why you bothered. :)
Ben Strege  
#5 Posted : Sunday, January 17, 2021 8:26:40 AM(UTC)


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If you go through Saganaga, it would be very easy to "cross" the Gunflint Trail. Work your way up to Saganaga and then go down through Maraboeuf, Gneiss, Granite, etc., to Gunflint Lake, North Lake, and South Lake. You are technically leaving the BWCA at Gunflint and reentering at South Lake, but this is allowed as long as you are not making any stops along the way. Here is a map of the way around the Gunflint Trail.

MAKWA!  
#6 Posted : Sunday, January 17, 2021 8:34:58 AM(UTC)


Thank you--very helpful.
We were discussing the options of going north through Sag or going straight "through" the Gunflint Trail somehow, and I was just interested in that and wondering if that was common. I have only done one Gunfint Trip--usually in Quetico, or out of Ely or Tofte, but I have stayed in Grand Marais the past 5 summers as well so I got to wondering if the Gunflint was pretty much a barrier and whether or not people stayed east or west of it during a trip.
Ben Strege  
#7 Posted : Sunday, January 17, 2021 8:57:49 AM(UTC)


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I have not heard of it, but there appears to be some places you could cross, especially around Poplar Lake. I would contact an outfitter in the area (such as Hungry Jack or Rockwood) and also the Forest Service to make sure you do not need another permit.

BillConner  
#8 Posted : Monday, January 18, 2021 6:15:35 AM(UTC)


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After a lot of discussion with several USFS officers, I'm quite sure its permitted to cross the "corridors" - Gunflint and Echo trails - without invalidating your permit as long as no resupply, no other purchases, no assistance, no overnight outside BWCAW, and generally abiding by the rules of being in the BWCAW.

Looks like you could find a route but no experience. Someone here or outfitters there will know.
MAKWA!  
#9 Posted : Monday, March 1, 2021 10:27:16 AM(UTC)


I contacted the Gunflint District of the U. S. Forest Service and it is confirmed that you are correct--it is permissible to cross the corridor of the Gunflint Trail, but it is not permissible to either camp outside of the BWCAW or resupply, etc.

That being known, is anyone familiar enough with the area of the Gunflint Trail around Poplar Lake to give me specific guidance?

When looking at the map, it appears that if a group travels to the eastern end of Poplar Lake and goes up the road toward Hungry Jack Lake, it would be about a mile. I'm just wondering if there are public areas to enter and exit the lakes.

Any information would be appreciated.
BillConner  
#10 Posted : Monday, March 1, 2021 10:56:44 AM(UTC)


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Don't know from experience but the road i see on maps here crosses a portage from Moss to Hungry Jack, so most likely.

Mot sure where you exit Portage ann not cross private property. Id guess try to get permission from Trail Center Lodge to take out and cross their land to Hungry Jack Road. But no stopping for a burger and beer! :)
Voyager  
#11 Posted : Monday, March 1, 2021 11:08:04 AM(UTC)


You've gotten some good accurate advise here so far. I crossed the Gunflint Trail at Trail Center on Poplar Lake years ago. I have since learned that I probably should have gotten permission from them first. I just grabbed my pack and canoe and walked up the road to Hungry Jack. There's a public launch right there on the road. From Hungry Jack you can portage to Flour Lake and be on your way. The port. from S. Fowl to the Pigeon has a lot of downed trees ( most all you can step over) and a notorious boot sucking mudhole very near the end. One important word of caution on that portage: when you make that first initial steep climb be sure to turn right. If you continue straight you will go to the overlook.  Someone put 2 birch logs across the wrong trail years ago, but they kind of blend in and look natural now. I've completed the border route for the last 4 years as part of the Watertribe gang. There's a possibility for you, IF you want to challenge yourself to an 8 day time frame. There are 3 options as to where to start: Rainy Lake, Little Indian Sioux North, or Moose L  Shuttles will be available to the start ( excluding Moose L. you're on your own to get there) and from Grand Portage Casino back to Piagis in Ely. The price will be divided by the riders. There's more info on the Watertribe events page, and on the BWCA forum, including some past trip reports on the challenge. Grandma L., on the BW forum is the director, she'll be happy to answer questions. 

MAKWA!  
#12 Posted : Monday, March 1, 2021 11:22:53 AM(UTC)


Awesome information!

I already purchased the permit for Kawishiwi Lake, so that's where we plan to start and why we would like the option of going over instead of around the Gunflint Trail.
MAKWA!  
#13 Posted : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 8:31:50 AM(UTC)


We have solidified the trip from Kawishiwi to Lake Superior. We bought all of the McKenzie Maps and have our group. 

Two of us will be making a weekend trip to the Gunflint area a month before we travel, so we can investigate the crossing ahead of time. The Poplar to Hungry Jack option looks good. I also saw on the McKenzie map that there's a hiking trail that we could take into Moss. This is on the north end of Poplar. Is anyone familiar with it? It might be a better option than the road to Hungry Jack because it's a trail. It looks like the path runs north and there is an eastern path off it that leads to Moss.

To exit South Fowl, there are two paths--one is a hiking path, and one is a direct portage. On the McKenzie Map it appears that the portage is clearly in Canada. Does anyone know if it is permissible to use the portage? 

On the Grand Portage, is there anyplace to access water?

Thanks!

eagle98mn  
#14 Posted : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 8:36:01 AM(UTC)


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Originally Posted by: MAKWA! Go to Quoted Post

To exit South Fowl, there are two paths--one is a hiking path, and one is a direct portage. On the McKenzie Map it appears that the portage is clearly in Canada. Does anyone know if it is permissible to use the portage? 

On the Grand Portage, is there anyplace to access water?



I can't speak to your Gunflint Trail crossing. However, the exit out of South Fowl is definitely on the Canadian side and is permissable under the treaties that allow citizens of both countries to use the border portages without any special permits.

There isn't water on the Grand Portage after you leave Fort Charlotte.

I'm excited to hear about your trip when it is done!

eagle98mn  
#15 Posted : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 8:41:24 AM(UTC)


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Originally Posted by: MAKWA! Go to Quoted Post

On the McKenzie Map...

Just a reminder, the last I saw, McKenzie showed a portage at the English Rapids on the Pigeon River. There isn't one here anymore. Expect to float it if the water is high enough or wade in the current if it is low (that was my experience).

Even more importantly, McKenzie omitted a portage around Partridge Falls. DO NOT skip this portage - it is marked on Paddle Planner correctly with my notes in the comments. I informed McKenzie of this error after my trip and they told me they would update the maps, I'm not sure if that is done yet or not? The ommission is egregious because to go over that waterfall would certainly be to flirt with death. I'm curious if your newly purchased map shows that portage?

MAKWA!  
#16 Posted : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 9:06:27 AM(UTC)


Good to know. Thank you.

Do I need a permit to camp at Fort Charolette?

 

MagicPaddler  
#17 Posted : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 9:21:32 AM(UTC)


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You do need a permit to camp at Fort Charlotte. There is no place to get water after you leave the Pigeon and the Pigeon needs lots of filtering.
eagle98mn  
#18 Posted : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 9:42:00 AM(UTC)


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Originally Posted by: MAKWA! Go to Quoted Post

Good to know. Thank you.

Do I need a permit to camp at Fort Charolette?

 



Yes. See my reply above on January 16th for the link to the reservation you need. It is free!

MAKWA!  
#19 Posted : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 2:48:41 PM(UTC)


Got it--thanks.

Is the Partridge Falls portage that you are referring to the 78 rod portage going north with campsite 2217 at the north end?

 

 

eagle98mn  
#20 Posted : Tuesday, March 30, 2021 8:36:42 AM(UTC)


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Originally Posted by: MAKWA! Go to Quoted Post

Is the Partridge Falls portage that you are referring to the 78 rod portage going north with campsite 2217 at the north end?



Sorry for the delayed reply. I thought I already responded! Yes, that is the portage as marked here on Paddle Planner. Is it on your new McKenzie Map?

MAKWA!  
#21 Posted : Tuesday, March 30, 2021 8:45:49 AM(UTC)


It's not on the McKenzie Map. There is a little paragraph written in red that seems to be a disclaimer explaining it, but the actual portage is not marked.
eagle98mn  
#22 Posted : Tuesday, March 30, 2021 10:28:59 AM(UTC)


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That is dissapointing. Of all portages to omit, this one is egregious considering the size of the waterfall and virtual guarantee of injury or death.

After my trip, I sent feedback to McKenzie, along with my GPS data to make it easy for them to add it to their map. They thanked me and told me they would update it, adding that nobody had ever let them know of the missing portage. Thankfully, Ben is getting his data for Paddle Planner from a more reliable source! :)

BillConner  
#23 Posted : Tuesday, March 30, 2021 7:04:00 PM(UTC)


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My outfitter told me Bob Mckenzie had some heart issues that had nit allowed him to focus on the business as much as he would like to, so be aware and forgiving.
eagle98mn  
#24 Posted : Tuesday, March 30, 2021 9:09:46 PM(UTC)


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That is good to know, and I sincerely pray that he is doing well and improving. They are still my preferred mapping company. I like almost everything about them and outside of this one instance they haven't led me astray. In fact, I just received a few maps I needed for the upcoming season - they were shipped to me in just a couple days time. Hopefully that is a sign that Bob's health is getting better. I would wish nothing but the best for him and hope he can still get around to correcting this issue. It is a safety concern for those of us that rely on his data to travel through unfamiliar territory.

BillConner  
#25 Posted : Tuesday, March 30, 2021 9:59:15 PM(UTC)


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Im a Mackenzie map fan too. I have all of BWCAW and Quetico.
MAKWA!  
#26 Posted : Wednesday, March 31, 2021 9:12:57 PM(UTC)


On the Paddle Planner map is shows a campsite at the north end of the Partridge Falls portage. Is that really a campsite, and is it actually open?

MagicPaddler  
#27 Posted : Thursday, April 1, 2021 7:07:17 AM(UTC)


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Don’t remember a campsite but I was not looking for one.  There is a lot of flat ground and a road there.

Ben Strege  
#28 Posted : Thursday, April 1, 2021 8:45:37 AM(UTC)


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I have not personally been there. According to the campsite review, "It is extremely flat with multiple tent pads and hammock hanging trees. It has some impromptu fire pits, but nothing established. Obviously has been used by numerous campers."

It is not an official campsite. In fact, it is not in the Superior National Forest, so the "dispersed camping" rules do not apply. I'm not sure if it is technically allowed, but people obviously camp there.

eagle98mn  
#29 Posted : Thursday, April 1, 2021 8:36:28 PM(UTC)


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That is my understanding as well Ben. People have definitely camped there. That said, to get from the falls to fort Charlotte is a lazy 10-15 minute paddle at most if I recall. There are 2 sites at Fort Charlotte, and one of them is really nice and near the river with easy access for soaking in the shallows. Partridge Falls is awesome to see, but I am glad we camped at Fort Charlotte. It was nice to pack up camp and simply begin the Grand Portage without having to load the canoe.

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