Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places
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#1 Posted : Friday, June 3, 2022 11:43:08 PM(UTC)

Hello everyone, I'm planning on using the July 4th weekend to get a taste of bwca. I have not canoed before, although I have kayaked a few times in CA. I'm not really into fishing. Things that I'm looking forward to take away are good views, wildlife, peace and solitude, experiencing something new. I'm 29 and in decent shape.

So far I have a reservation at Falls Lake campground between July 1-4 (3 nights). From what I've read, this would be not really be that quiet and secluded due to motorboats and it being a large campground, but since I'm going solo and a newbie, maybe that's a good thing?

I would really appreciate some information on things to do around it - hikes, short canoeing loops, other activities of exploration. Also would I need to book paddling permits in advance? I'm open to canoeing to another place and setting camp there although having a reserved place like at the Falls campground gives me some peace of mind.

Thank you.

#2 Posted : Saturday, June 4, 2022 6:44:21 AM(UTC)

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I'm guessing you mean Fall Lake campground near Winton. And it sounds like you are base camping there, and day paddling. Day paddling permits are unrestricted and free. Just pick up several on first day at any entry point so you have them.

Use the map planner on this site to see how far you can get towards Basswood Falls for one long day trip. And a day down to Farm and across the north leg of the Kawishiwi triangle. I'd recommend the MacKenzie maps for this area, but Fisher or Voyageur also good options.

Ultimately, if you want to return, should consider overnight paddles, which requires a quota permit, so best to plan way ahead. I find less than 4 or 5 nights a little unsatisfactory but any time is good. You might still camp first and last night at a campground like Fall Lake, but travelling days and new back country camp sites each night, or at least my style.

Keep asking questions.
#3 Posted : Sunday, June 5, 2022 5:16:53 AM(UTC)

Thanks for your suggestions Bill! I played around with the planning tool a little bit to get familiar with the area around fall lake.

Since this would be my first time canoeing and portaging at all, I feel like I do not want to push myself too much on day 1. For this, if I go from Fall lake to the middle of the Newton lake, and back - that will roughly be a little over 5 miles of canoeing and 80 rod portage. Considering that I’m not going to be carrying my camping gear and it would mostly be the weight of the canoe, this should be doable by myself, right? Also if I feel like I have little more time, is it possible/advisable to explore area around Newton on foot after leaving my canoe on a landing if there is one?

On the second day I could go south like you suggested - into garden lake and then possibly even farm lake and finally back to base camp at fall lake. However the map on this website shows no information about the portage between fall lake and garden lake. I googled the maps that you recommended and looks like I'd need to purchase one of them which I can - But do you happen to know how long the portage is between fall lake and green lake and is it something the people often do?

Is reading a physical paper map something that can be learnt quickly? I suppose I should have a fair grasp on this before embarking upon a journey on water so I don't get lost. Any general advice on this is welcome.

Thanks a lot!

Edited by user Sunday, June 5, 2022 3:52:34 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

#4 Posted : Sunday, June 5, 2022 5:21:22 AM(UTC)

Just to be sure, by fall lake campground, this is the one I mean -
#5 Posted : Sunday, June 5, 2022 6:23:17 AM(UTC)

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Appreciate playing it safe, especially with this year's high water.

Just for perspective, I'm 70 and like to travel 10-12 miles a day, 4-6 hours, probably with an aggregate of several 100 rods of double portaging with 60 to 70 pounds of gear.

I also don't focus much on a route plan - just entry point and general direction for the day, and make next days plans that night or next morning.

I don't know the portage around Kawishiwi Falls (a good visit) but pretty confident there is one.

And I get s 404 from your link but think we are thinking same site.
#6 Posted : Sunday, June 5, 2022 3:52:12 PM(UTC)

Wow, that's pretty awesome. Thanks for the perspective!

Also, I just called one of the outfitters in that area and they told me that due to some water activity the portage to garden lake might not be possible.
If that's the case, I was thinking on the first day (July 2), I could maybe do Fall lake -> Newton -> Pipestone Bay, and if its a good day, even Pipestone -> Jackfish thorugh the middle area between them. Stay the night on Pipestone/Jackfish (there are permits still available for Fall lake EP).
On day two (July 3), I could simply paddle back the same route from Pipestone to Fall, or if I've made it to Jackfish, then make a loop through the northern end of Jackfish back into Pipestone and towards Fall lake. Sleep on my reserved site at Fall lake.
On day three (July 4), start driving back the morning, reach Minneapolis around 2PM and catch my flight out of Minneapolis around 7PM. This way I would have at least have some taste of being away from the edge and into the backcountry. Does this sound easily doable?

Edit - It would be something along the lines of this route ( minus the eastward journey into back bay.

Edited by user Sunday, June 5, 2022 3:58:53 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

#7 Posted : Monday, June 6, 2022 5:57:17 AM(UTC)

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I think that's a good plan.

If you're flying in, I'm assuming you are using an outfitter? Rely on their advice.

Lots of things different now between the covid surge and this year's high water then my last trip.
#8 Posted : Monday, June 6, 2022 6:34:37 AM(UTC)

Awesome, thanks for helping me think it through :)

Yep, I’m planning on getting the canoe and associated gear from an outfitter and also going reach out to them for general guidance closer to the dates of my trip.
Ben Strege  
#9 Posted : Monday, June 6, 2022 10:52:32 PM(UTC)

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Bill has some good advice. I throw in my two cents. 

I really like Basswood Lake. I spent a week on it last year. There are some things you should know, though.

Motorboats are allowed in Pipestone Bay, Jackfish Bay and Back Bay. And you will see them. There will probably be lots with it being a July 4th weekend. If that bothers you, you will have to get north of Jackfish Bay. You can see the motor areas by going to the maps, clicking on Settings, and turning on the motor areas. (They are off by default.)

Wind can be a problem, especially in the more open areas of Basswood, such as Jackfish Bay. When I went last year, Jackfish Bay was glass. A miracle! The miracle did not last the entire week, though. I ended up fighting the wind, sometimes desperately, for a couple of days.

You mentioned getting out on Newton and exploring by foot. I would not advise that unless you are talking about exploring the portages. These woods are THICK. You will not be able to "take a hike in the woods" unless it is on an actual trail.

Paper maps are a learned skill, but it is one that you can pick up. Pay attention to the map, try to match up features on the map and on the lake (islands, peninsulas, campsites, etc.). I think you will get the hang of it quickly. You are not going to a remote area, so if in doubt, follow the crowd. Unless the crowd is also lost . I also bring a compass with me, but I rarely need to use it. Compass skills are another learned skill. I think there are YouTube videos out there showing you how to do it. (Maybe I should make one...)

The Boundary Waters will most likely be very busy that weekend, but that is a relative term. Even at its busiest, it is nothing like a state park campground. As long as you are not expecting complete solitude, you will have a great time!

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