Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places
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#1 Posted : Tuesday, December 14, 2021 12:38:34 PM(UTC)

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Looking at the map, it looks like if you took the easternmost portage directly from Pine to East Pike, you'd be momentarily leaving the BWCA and re-entering. Is that right, so this would not be legal if you went in on, say, a Clearwater permit?

#2 Posted : Wednesday, December 15, 2021 7:10:30 AM(UTC)

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Technically, my understanding is this would make your permit invalid. I would guess this is never enforced for this passage. I suggest calling - the district office if possible - and ask. It's probably one of those issues that different rangers will answer differently.

I guess I wouldn't hesitate to do it.

If you do call, please post!
Ben Strege  
#3 Posted : Wednesday, December 15, 2021 7:42:46 AM(UTC)

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If you are not resupplying or stopping anywhere, you can temporarily leave and reenter on the same permit. For example, it is legal to take the border route from Saganaga over to South Fowl even though for much of the time you are not in the BWCA. I know this has been discussed before, but I am having trouble right now finding the conversations.

Ben Strege  
#4 Posted : Wednesday, December 15, 2021 8:03:46 AM(UTC)

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I found one of the discussions about leaving and re-entering. BillConner, it was you that said it is possible to cross the corridors. This is not technically a corridor, but I would guess it is permissible as long as you do not stop anywhere. You can call the ranger office to make sure.

#5 Posted : Thursday, December 16, 2021 5:59:40 AM(UTC)

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As I understand it, corridors are the separation from the three separate non-contiguous parts of the Wilderness, basically the Gunflint Trail and Echo Trail. When I talked to the rangers, they specifically cited instances like this - though larger - as NOT being corridor crossings; South Hegman to EP22 iirc.

But I think the rangers would not bother you for the proposed paddle across McFarland. Call.
thanks 1 user thanked BillConner for this useful post.
Ben Strege on 12/16/2021(UTC)
#6 Posted : Sunday, December 19, 2021 9:00:12 PM(UTC)

In 2016 two of us paddled the border route from Crane Lake on the west to North/South Fowl and then down the Pigeon River to the Grand Portage with the long portage to Lake Superior. At the time, we wondered if our permit for Entry Point at Little Vermillion Lake (EP #12, I think) was good for the passage where we exited the BWCA at Magnetic Lake to cross Gunflint Lake and North Lake (both outside BWCA) to get to "Height of Land" portage to South Lake and back into BWCA. As is noted above, we were told by Forest Service/Rangers that if we stuck to border route and did not stop to exit border route (go into town, eat at a resort along Gunflint Lake as examples) we would be legal/OK.
Related question that often comes up re: Border Route: Is it legal to use portages on the north side (Canadian soil) along the border? Answer is "YES". But exploring or getting off portages on Canadian soil may result in fine/ticket. Old US-Canada treaty allows use of portage trails on either side of the border along Border Route as I understand it.

On a subsequent trip, we did a loop from Clearwater to Caribou to Little Caribou, across Pine and then out of BWCA on McFarland to get back to BWCA at portage to John Lake/East Pike. Then returned to Clearwater via West Pike. I suspect this is the trip you are considering. Again, technically we were outside the BWCA, but we did not stop or get out of canoes except to portage. That time, I don't think we called the Rangers, but we did discuss our plans while picking up permit as I recall. Answer was one permit is fine (don't need to get a second permit for re-entry at John/East Pike).
Unless rules have changed, I think you'll be OK if you don't stop/re-supply or go into town during your short transit when outside the BWCA.
But, I would still call the Forest Service/Ranger Station where you plan to pick up permit just to be sure.

That loop from Clearwater to Pine and back on E & W Pike is really pretty. Campsite on Little Caribou is nice/elevated (but often occupied). Johnson Falls worth the hike up. Pine can be AWFUL if there is even a little wind straight out of the west or east. Nice campsite on the north shore near the end of W Pike.
There are a few nice YouTube videos of this loop/trips in this area too, FYI.

Have a great trip!
#7 Posted : Monday, December 20, 2021 5:56:17 AM(UTC)

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I worry a little that the pandemic surge and is impact might result in stricter interpretations. I could see that no ranger would have raised an eyebrow about cutting across the tip of McFarland pre pandemic, and they might now.
#8 Posted : Thursday, December 23, 2021 4:52:52 PM(UTC)

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In my travels, over the years I've ran across a few USFS rangers and have asked them about this type of thing.  The 'general' response I've gotten is this:  Typically they are not going to get too concerned, save for those who are almost certainly trying to avoid tough portages to get to a destination much quicker/easier than if they had used the EP on their permit.

For example, someone with a Daniels permit going to Stairway Portage waterfall area by entering at Duncan and avoid undertaking the Long Portage (Daniels ~ Rose).

In the case that is proposed here - having a Clearwater permit....  Since there are a couple of other portages that provide direct access to Pine lake from that EP; and the portage you suggest entering from is perhaps the most challenging.  (If, by some miracle, they even actually see you making the incredibly brief exit) I don't believe you would raise their hackles by doing so.  But, that is just my opinion and not official policy.

Edited by user Thursday, December 23, 2021 4:56:55 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

#9 Posted : Thursday, December 23, 2021 5:23:25 PM(UTC)

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I agree with Tuscarora. I just don't know how the pressures of last two years might impact rangers' dispositions.
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