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

Sag Loop

By matt13 Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:May 14-21, 2016
Entry Point:55 - Saganaga Lake (BWCA)
Lakes:Amoeber, Cherry, Ester, Hanson, Little Knife, Ottertrack, Saganaga, Swamp, Topaz


It didn’t take much convincing to get our dad’s to agree to come along on our fishing opener BW trip in early spring of 2016. The plan was a loop from Saganaga through Ottertrack, Knife, Amoeber, Topaz, Cherry, Hanson, and Ester. My bud Zach would be coming along on this adventure along with both of our fathers (Roger and Gary). Zach and I promised to carry the canoes, the majority of the load, and would guarantee good quality meals (which required a cooler) vs dehydrated. This trip would be designated as a “fishing trip” and would entail heavy portage loads.

Friday Night Arrival (Seagull Outfitters) (5/13/16)

As we travelled North heading up the Gunflint Trail, mother nature would treat us to her first surprise of the year… SNOW!!! We booked a night with the Seagull Lodge Outfitters and reserved rooms in their bunkhouse for the night since we’d be arriving close to 8PM. With only screens on the windows of the bunkhouse, we’d get our first taste of sleeping in freezing temperatures and testing our gear.


Day 1 – Saganaga (5/14/16)

We woke up to a frigid windy morning and shortly after 7AM we made our way to the outfitters to pick up our permits and arrangements for the tow service. Our drop-off location would be American Point on Sag with a scheduled pick-up the following Saturday at 10AM. As we left the channel and approached the wider expanse of the lake, we were greeted with large rolling 3-4 foot waves from the north. The splashing waves and the freezing temps made for an ice covered crew and set of gear within minutes (I wish I would’ve put my raingear on). Before long we arrived on a little island just east of American Point dubbed “Honeymoon Island”. We said our goodbyes to our tow driver and decided to eat a quick snack on the island while we figured out a game plan for the remainder of day one.

We were hoping to paddle into Ottertrack today; however, the strong winds would prevent that from happening. The westernmost point of the island near American Point proved to be a nice looking site, so we decided to make that our home for the night. We arrived at the camp without a disaster, so although we didn’t travel far, we called day one a success. We unpacked our gear, set up camp, and fished for a bit that afternoon. The only thing notable was that I broke my new rod on a small northern. For dinner, we cooked up some venison brats and potatoes. After some stories around the campfire we all bundled up for another frigid night.

Day 2 – Saganaga to Ottertrack (5/15/16)

We woke up on Sunday morning to a thin layer of snow on the ground and a wonderful glimmer of newly created ice along the trees on the shoreline from the rising sun. It was a calm morning, so we all agreed to pack up camp and eat breakfast on the move before the wind picked up. Luckily, we got to the far end of Sag’s main body of water before the western wind started to hit us in the face. Monument portage was cleared prior to our arrival and was in great shape despite a few small downed tree branches we had to step over.


After coming around the first point on the northern end of Ottertrack, we were pleased to find the campsite open. There was a pre-cut stack of wood at this site, which sweetened the deal. Shortly after setting up camp, we got our first dose of rain. We decided to brave the elements and head out fishing. Zach caught a nice laker, so for dinner we had fire baked lake trout in tin foil, boiled potatoes, and biscuits.



Day 3 – Layover on Ottertrack (5/16/16)

Today would be our first layover fishing day of the trip. We’d start the morning off right with sausage and pancakes. We headed out fishing soon after breakfast and paddled most of the American side of the lake and back. It was a slow day fishing, so we kept ourselves busy by exploring the area . We had fried walleye, onion rings, and iced brandy waters for dinner that evening. After another scenic sunset and a few games of cards, we slept well.



Day 4 – Ottertrack to Knife (5/17/16)

On day 4, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise over Ottertrack. After packing up camp, we headed towards Knife Lake through the narrows of Ottertrack. The portage into Knife was easy to find, and just as easy to cross. I remember spotting deer footprints walking down the trail and hearing something running through the brush, but never caught a glimpse of what it was.



Upon arriving on Knife Lake, the wind had calmed and the sun began to shine, which made the next few miles paddle very enjoyable. We took the site on the rocky point nearest to the eastern entrance of Knife. Before setting up camp, we had a trout lunch (thanks to Zach) and after an afternoon of fishing we followed it up with a walleye dinner. After supper (and a few drinks) that night, Zach, Gary, and I gazed for satellites.



Day 5 – Knife to Ester (5/18/16)

We woke up early on Wednesday and were delighted to see another beautiful sunny day. That morning we had a quick breakfast and packed up early (knowing today would be our most rigorous travel day) . After a short paddle we found ourselves unloading on the portage to Amoeber Lake. From Knife it was a rocky, slightly uphill, and relatively short portage. Travelling across Amoeber we were surprised to see that both sites were occupied. We travelled on through Topaz and Cherry and admired the scenery and took a few photos. We trolled while we travelled across all of these lakes, but unfortunately had no luck. The 94 rod portage from Cherry to Hanson is a monster to say the least. Until you experience it for yourself the only word I can think of to accurately describe it would be “steep”. Zach and I each did a triple portage on this one to help ease the load on our fathers. As we finished our last trip down the trail towards Hansen, our fathers greeted us with the last two cold beers that we had packed along. It was a welcomed sight and they didn’t last long.


We paddled on through Hanson into Ester and were delighted to find the northern island site to be open. As we were coming around the front of the camp Dad caught a nice laker. We setup camp and headed back out fishing and caught a couple more. We released all fish as tonight’s dinner would be ribeye steaks and baked potatoes. After a couple brandy waters and a game of cribbage we hit the hay.



Day 6 – Layover on Ester (5/19/16)

Today would be our second layover day which we’d dedicate to fishing on Ester. Once again the weather stayed in our favor and allowed for shorts and tshirts. We caught and released a few fish (nothing spectacular) throughout the day, as we still had leftover meat to finish up in the cooler. That evening, for dinner we had hamburger/potato/onion tinfoil packets.


Day 7 – Back to Sag (5/20/16)

We woke up early on Friday to travel our way back to American Point. We had two portages and several miles of paddling ahead of us before we reached Sag. Once again it was a shorts and t-shirt type of day. I saw a ruffed grouse on the trail between Ester and Ottertrack and we took a few photos on our journey across monument portage. When we got to the opening of Saganaga the wind was calm and we got to paddle a flat lake all the way to American Point. We found the campsite from day 1 to be open and made up camp for our final night in the wilderness. That night we had two bears wander into our camp. Luckily, they took off into the cold lake when we started making some noise.



Day 8 – Journey Home (5/21/16)

We arrived at the pickup spot about 30 minutes early and were delighted to see our tow driver was already waiting for us. We loaded up our gear and enjoyed the calm ride back to the outfitters. After picking up some last minute souvenirs and a quick shower at Seagull Outfitters we started our journey back to Wisconsin. Overall we had a successful first trip with our fathers. Although the fishing was slow, and the weather started off a bit cold, no one got hurt and everyone had fun.


New Messages