Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places

Saganaga Lake to Round Lake

By Mike Monahan Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:September 19-25, 2015
Entry Point:55 - Saganaga Lake (BWCA)

Day 1

This years trip for our group is not only the longest in amount of time in the wilderness but also the most miles we have traveled. After many hours reviewing maps and we finally decided on a route, set our date and made the reservations with Tuscarora Lodge off the Gunflint Trail. We will be using entry point #55 Saganaga lake. Tuscarora Lodge provided a motor boat shuttle to the Red Rock lake portage. The weather was perfect with light winds. The boat ride took about 45 minutes. After waving good bye to our friendly chauffeur we loaded our canoes and started our trip. Red Rock and Alpine lake are beautiful lakes but the recent fire has certainly changed the look and feel of this now open and rolling hills landscape. Paddling through this area imagining the size of the fire is hard to fathom. As we paddle through and around the scattered islands and bays of Alpine we quickly realize that we have been taking in the scenery vs. reading the map and we are aimlessly going in the wrong direction of our next portage. After about 20 minutes of paddle and several different opinions as to which way to go, we find the portage and are back on track. We take a quick break for lunch at the nearest campsite on Jasper. After lunch the wind really picks up and is now blowing 15-20 from the Southwest with strong gust. Once we enter Ogishkemuncie lake the white caps are breaking directly into us and it doesn't take long to change our plans and set up camp at the nearest site (closest to the King Fisher lake portage on the North side of the lake). Deciding to pull out of the wind and making camp turned out to be a wonderful idea. The campsite was one of my favorite, with a great log seating area, flat tent pads and easy access. Tonights New York strip steaks, mashed potatoes, carrots and red wine are a great start to the trip.

Ogish campsiteOgish campBWCA steak

Day 2

We wake up to a light breeze but strong winds are once again in the forecast, so we pack up and start traveling by 8:00 am. Today our plan is to make it to the Southern most part of Kekekabic lake. As we travel across Ogish the wind picks up to about the same speed as the day before and the lake becomes very choppy. At the Jenny lake portage we decide that because the wind on Kek is more than likely going to be coming straight at us, we will slow down and take a side trip to view Eddy Falls and take the first campsite on Kek rather than one on the opposite side of the lake. Eddy Falls turns out to be well worth the extra time. As we enjoy the falls we have lunch and try our luck fishing on Knife below the falls. After a nice break we head back to the Kek ponds portage and make our way into Kekekabic lake. Even in the bay the waves are rolling and as we turn the corner the white caps are moving fast and we have to really dig deep to make any progress what so ever. Even with the howling winds, we pass on the first campsite and make it the second most eastern campsite located in the back bay between two very high bluffs. This was another great campsite. The site around the fire pit is very open and would be hard to set up a rain fly but the views of Kek lake and the bluff across the bay make this a truly beautiful boundary waters canoe campsite. From the camp you can make your way around and hike to the top of the adjacent cliff. Coos coos and falafel for dinner tonight.

Kek bluffEddy fallKek camp

Day 3

Morning of the our 3rd day brings more wind. We are on the water by 7:30 and hoping to paddle across Kekekebic lake before the strong wind gust start. As we approach the east part of Kek lake the wind picks up, thus our paddle strokes rapidly increase as the portage is now in site. Once we arrive to the portage we talk to a man out on a solo trip. He ended up having to set up camp on the portage trail because of the high winds the day before. With smaller lakes ahead, we shouldn't have much trouble with the wind and the reports call for the high winds to reside later this evening. We travel across Strup lake, Wisini lake, Akmakose lake, Gerund lake, Fraser lake, Shepo lake and finish the day at Sagus lake. These are all very gorgeous lake and I would love to spend more time in this area. Sagus lake is very quiet with large old growth pines towering high amongst the trees. We first check out the campsite located west of the island on the southern part of the lake. This site is very dark, it would be a great site in bad weather as you could easily tie up a rain fly and are very protected from the winds, but we decide to set up camp on the site in the south east side of the lake. It's a great site with soft pine needles to sleep on and a wonderful fire pit that looks straight west for spectator sunsets. Tonight we made campfire flat bread pizzas and garlic bread. After dinner we tie up our bear bag and head to our tents for the night. As the night goes by we are awaken to the sounds of foot steps cracking branches as it approaches our site. As I lie on my back listening for any type of clue as to what may be out there I hear a deep sniff and low grunt. I quickly realize it's a bear and make some fake coughs to see if he moves on or if I should wake up my wife. After a few more coughs I finally hear him continue his foot steps away from our site. It pays to keep a clean site.

Sagus campSagus fishing

Day 4 and 5

The morning brings sun with variable wind, perfect canoe country weather with the temps in the mid 60's. Today we plan on traveling through some the most remote parts of the BWCA that we as a group have been through. We travel out of Sagus lake into Roe than continue on to Cap, Ledge, Vee, Fee, Hoe, Makwa, Elton and eventually end at Little Saganaga lake. Traveling through these areas you really feel alone in the wild and the lakes are immaculate and pristine. The beaver dam portages filled with mud certainly could be troublesome in wet weather but luckily for us it's been dry for several days and it's only muddy close to the water. We walk along large moose foot prints as we portage to Ledge lake. As we portage into Elton lake a large Belted Kingfisher flies across the lake and lands on a dead tree near the portage. This bird would fly ahead land on a branch, wait for us to pass, than fly ahead to the next branch. The bird ended up traveling along side us the entire length of this ghostly feeling lake. The portage from Elton to the ponds was very muddy and wet deep bogs certainly made us watch each step we took. As we entered Little Saganaga lake the wind picked up once again and go figure it is now coming straight out of the east instead of the Southwest which it was just a day ago. As we paddle straight into the wind once again we pass several campsites that didn't look to pleasing for a 2 night camp so we kept paddling on and eventually settle on a very nice island site near the Mora portage. As we paddle towards this site we spot 3 moose (1 large bull and 2 cows). As soon as we spotted them the bull was gone but the 2 cows stayed just long enough to snap a few pictures. Shortly after (1-2 minutes later) as the moose moved back into the woods a pack of wolves howled so loud that it sent a chill down my spine. As we approached the campsite we quickly decided that this was a 5-star campsite in our minds. It had everything I look for in a campsite, close to the water, nice fire pit area with a great log set up, tree's to hang a rain fly, level sleeping pads and fishing from shore. It is possible during peak season that it may have traffic passing by often due to the portage near by, but during our September trip we didn't see a single person the entire 2 days we spent at this site. As we sit around the campfire the wolf pack would howl from time to time making us wonder how the moose held up. This was the site for wildlife, on top of the moose and wolves. A large family of Merganser ducks swam near us and started to hunt as group. They would circle the fish rapidly as they took turns diving under the water into the center of their circle. Just as we thought it couldn't get any better a large Raven landed in the tree above us and made some of the most amazing sounds I have ever heard. The woods were alive and we felt as if we were one with nature. After a great day we took to our sleeping bags and as we lied there, the wildlife decided to put on one last show. A group of owls flew down to the trees branches and ground around our tent, at times it felt and sounded like they were inside our tent, they put on one of the greatest sounding concerts I have ever heard. How we wished we could have recorded the sounds of their hoots, the sounds of them dancing around on the ground and the sounds of their quiet wings as they flew from tree to tree was truly amazing.

The next day brought clouds and a light mist which was just fine for a rest and relax day. We all took naps, played cards under the tarp and laughed over memories from the first several days. It's been a great trip and the complete relaxation feeling has now finally hit us. In between the misting showers we take to the canoe and explore Little Saganaga. This island filled lake is a true gem. The evening sets in and we study the map one more time as we eat dinner.

Elton Lake pondsLil Sag MooseMerganser ducksLittle Sag campsite

Day 6

The light rain has stopped but the clouds still loom low, so we gear up in preperation for rain as we load the canoes and head for our final campsite. We portage to Mora lake, travel through Tarry, Crooked, Owl, and Tuscarora until we arrive to the 428 rod portage to Missing Link lake. We decide to have lunch and rest a bit on the Tuscarora side before loading up and pushing across the portage. As we reach Missing Link lake we are ready to find camp and enjoy our last night in the BWCA. The sites on Missing Link are not the best, we paddled to every site and ended up staying at the site closest to the Tuscarora portage.

With 2 young kids waiting for us at home, one only 8 months old, we are ready and happy to finish this wonderful trip and return home to Madison, WI.

All and all this was a great trip and we are anxiously counting down the days to our Fall 2016 trip.

Missing Link CampsiteMissing Link campsite

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