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

Fly-in 110 mile trip NW to SE through Quetico

By laxarcher Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (3)
Dates:May 19-27, 2017
Entry Point:32 - Quetico Lake (Quetico)
Lakes:Beaverhouse, Burntside, Chatterton, Conk, Gull, Jean, Kawnipi, Keats, Keewatin, Kenny, Quetico, Rouge, Russell, Saganaga, Saganagons, Shelley, Sidney, Sturgeon

This 110 mile trip that we took was the longest that my son-in-law, Anthony, and I have taken. Many thanks to him as he was the pack mule for the largest packs on the portages. A special thanks to Seagull Outfitters who run a class company and pays close attention to details and customer service.

May 18

Left Onalaska, WI. Drove 400 miles to Seagull Outfitters at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Had a very good supper at the Gunflint Lodge, which is a short drive back on the Gunflint Trail. After supper we returned to Seagull Outfitters and stayed the night in their bunkhouse.

May 19

Travel distance: 12.6 miles (not including boat tow or flight)

Conditions: Light winds from the east, no rain and temps mid 40F’s during the day

Route: Beaverhouse Ranger station -> portage #5678 (30 rods) -> Quetico Lake.

Elevation change: Uphill 16’

Camp: BR (3-1/2 star)

Ate the “Quick Start” breakfast and at 8:30a we were driven a short distance to the boat landing where we met the boat tow (motor boat). Boat tow took us 5.2 miles to Government Island on Saganaga Lake where our gear and we were dropped off at the pier of a private residence. 20 minutes later the float plane arrived and tied off at the pier and our gear was loaded onto the plane; canoe tightly tied to the float. Flight took us 58 miles to the west side of Quetico, Beaverhouse Lake where we landed and tied off at the pier to the ranger house there. We paid our park fees and began our trip in earnest at 11:00a.

Notes: We felt the 12.6 miles canoed was good progress given the boat tow, flight and registration at the ranger station. Lunch consisted of tuna fish sandwiches which we make from pitas, packets of tuna fish, packets of mayonnaise (thank you Kwik-Trip!) and rehydrated dried onion. Camp BR was a good site with a nice overlook of Quetico Lake. Temps that night reached into the low 30F’s but our zero degree sleeping bags, merino wool underwear and balaclavas kept us warm.

May 20

Travel distance: 9.2 miles

Conditions: 10 mph winds from the east in our face, periodic light rain showers and temps min 30F and max 54F

Route: Quetico Lake -> portage #5151 (19 rods) -> Conk Lake -> portage #5165 (31 rods) -> Jean Lake -> portage #5178 (80 rods) -> Burntside Lake

Elevation change: Uphill 30’

Camp: FA (5 star)

Notes: Made a rookie mistake at portage #5151 and dumped the canoe. Fortunately, I was the only one in the canoe and all that got wet was my leather boots and me. I switched to my wet-shoes and dry clothes and we continued. This portage bypasses an old logging chute (it is that or #5165). Note the iron rings wedged into the rock on the south end of the portage. We were particularly concerned about the winds as we crossed Jean Lake. Fortunately the waves were just manageable and we made it across OK. Portage #5185 presented some challenges as I lost my wet-shoe in the mud and it took a while to retrieve it. Then when I got to the end of the portage I found a bear looking over our pack. I shooed it away and continued with the trip.

May 21

Travel distance: 16.9 miles

Conditions: 12 mph winds from the east in our face, regular short rain showers and temps min 43F and max 48F

Route: Burntside Lake -> Rouge Lake -> portage #5125 (22 rods) -> Jean Creek -> portage #5212 (11 rods) -> Jean Creek -> portage #5214 (17 rods) -> Jean Creek -> portage #5225 (68 rods) -> Sturgeon Lake -> Sturgeon Narrows (Cutty Creek) -> Maligne River -> Russell Lake

Elevation change: Downhill 26’ to Sturgeon Lake and then uphill 4’ to Russell Lake

Camp: 12A (4-1/2 star)

Notes: This was a long day especially given that the wind and rain were again in our face. Sturgeon Lake is a long lake and we had to paddle hard the entire time to fight the wind and waves. As we neared the northeast part of the lake, I made another rookie mistake that anyone reading this should take heed. We made our way through the Sturgeon Narrows and hugged the shore to our right. Ahead we could see that the Maligne River current was flowing swiftly into the Sturgeon Narrows from our right to our left (this should not have been a surprise to us as we have been here before). As the bow of the canoe cut into the current, we nearly flipped and a last minute course change down river saved the day. We made a wide circle and re-approached the Maligne, this time coming straight into it. Anyone going through this section will need to paddle very hard. Were very happy to end the trip at camp 12A.

May 22

Conditions: Light winds from the east, periodic light rain showers and temps min 44F and max 53F

Notes: Day of rest. Took the day to dry out our boots in-between rain showers. We tried our hand at fishing from shore but were not rewarded.

May 23

Travel distance: 15.1 miles

Conditions: 10 mph winds from the east in our face, regular short rain showers and temps min 43F and max 58F (starting to warm up).

Route: Russell Lake -> portage #5216 (78 rods) -> Chatterton Lake -> portage #5237 Split Rock Falls (80 rods) -> Keats Lake -> portage #5239 Snake Falls (59 rods) -> Maligne River -> Shelley Lake -> portage #5238 (18 rods) -> Kawnipi Lake -> portage #5250 (15 rods) -> Kawnipi Lake

Elevation change: Uphill 79’

Camp: 1LN (3 star)

Notes: We’ve done this chain before and it’s always very pretty. Fell on the rocks on the east end of Split Rock Falls portage and was lucky the canoe wasn’t damaged or I was injured in any way. Made another rookie mistake at coordinates 48.43586, -91.31796. This is in a narrow channel area of Kawnipi and again we found ourselves going from eddy out into the current, and again we nearly flipped the canoe. Word of warning! Keep your speed up to carry yourself over these parts. Saw a moose swimming over to Rose Island which was pretty cool. Once we got onto Kawnipi we trolled and caught a few smallmouth bass which all exceeded 20”.

May 24

Travel distance: 7.2 miles

Conditions: light winds from the east, brief rain showers and temps min 34F and max 67F (warming up again).

Route: Kawnipi Lake -> portage #5360 (57 rods) -> Keewatin Lake -> portage #5360 (57 rods) -> Kawnipi and back to camp

Elevation change: 46’ up to Keewatin and then back down again

Notes: This was a fishing day off. Keewatin has some good fishing if you’re willing to portage into the lake. Suggest packing some deep diving plugs with you.

May 25

Travel distance: 7.2 miles to Keewatin (fished this in the morning) and then 10.0 miles the rest of the day

Conditions: 9 mph winds from the south east, brief rain showers and temps min 33F and max 69F.

Route: Kawnipi Lake -> portage #5360 (57 rods) -> Keewatin Lake (for a morning of fishing) -> portage #5360 (57 rods) -> Kawnipi and back to camp. Packed up and then Kawnipi -> portage #5352 Kennebas Falls (31 rods) -> Kenny Lake

Elevation change: 4’ although it looks more than this at Kennebas Falls

Camp: 614

Notes: Once again, wind and rain was in our face which made travel down Kawnipi a chore but manageable. We got to Kennebas Falls and found that getting to the portage was a bit treacherous. We had to paddle hard into the current to get to our portage and nearly flipped when a small log, which jutted out into the current, caught the side of our canoe. This falls should not be taken lightly as evidenced by the Kevlar canoe wedged sideways on the top of the falls.

May 26

Travel distance: 12.9 miles

Conditions: 7 mph winds from the south east, brief rain showers and temps min 51F and max 70F.

Route: Falls Chain…Kenny Lake -> portage #5360 Canyon Falls (57 rods) -> Maligne River -> portage #5364 Koko Falls / Little Falls (115 rods) -> Maligne River -> portage #5366 (62 rods) -> Sidney Lake -> Maligne River -> portage #5370 (9 rods) -> portage #5669 (16 rods) -> Maligne River -> portage #5379 (66 rods) -> Maligne River -> Saganagons Lake -> portage #5413 (49 rods) -> Saganagons Lake -> Portage #5487 Silver Falls (123 rods) -> Cache Bay

Elevation change: Uphill 115’

Camp: 214 (2-1/2 stars)

Note: The Falls Chain is beautiful but watch your step on the portages! As we ended the day we could see a storm brewing from the west and were fortunate to get camp made just in the nick of time to get into our tent for a pretty fierce blow. Happy we weren’t out on the lake during this storm for sure!

May 27

Travel distance: 11.1 miles

Conditions: 9 mph winds from the south east, no rain and temps min 42F and max 73F.

Route: Cache Bay -> Saganaga Lake -> American Point -> Seagull River -> Gull Lake

Elevation change: 0’

Camp: Ended the trip at Trails End Campground

Note: We were on the lake by 7:00a as we wanted to avoid as much wind as possible while crossing Saganaga. This strategy worked well and we paddled back to Gull Lake. We were picked up by Seagull Outfitters and were taken back to camp. After we had a hot shower and purchased some reminders we headed back home. We had a meal of Chinese in Superior and were home in the early evening.

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