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

Four short BWCA Solos (and trip video)

By OregonDave Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:September 6, 2017 - October 18, 2017
Entry Point:31 - Farm Lake (BWCA)
Lakes:Alder, Canoe, Clear, East Bearskin, Farm, Kawishiwi River, Little Rice, North Branch Kawishiwi, Paddle, Pauline, Slim

Oregon Dave Goes Solo, a canoe country meditation

YouTube video report:

In September 2017, I drove to Northern Minnesota for a month of wilderness canoeing. I did four routes solo, then my daughter joined me for a trip in northern Quetico. In this video report I canoed I four areas of the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness (BWCA), going east to west.

1. Hunting Shack River canoe route. I stayed at the Jeannette Lake campground nearby (where my family camped in my youth in the 1960’s). This is between two sections of the BWCA, but outside the wilderness. I paddled from the Echo Trail down to Pauline Lake. My excursion was cut short by a torrential downpour and a few thunderclaps. Astrid Lake is nice, but the two campsites were already taken.

2. Slim Lake to Hook Lake. This short route is a few miles north of Ely, off of Burntside Lake. A great route for beginners or for short trips. I rented a Wenonah Encounter solo canoe to try it out. This is the largest the Wenonah solo canoes…it was OK, but I liked canoeing my own canoe (Bell Northwind 17 using drop in seat) for the added stability. In the future I'll likely buy/rent a Souris Quetico 16 for solo trips. Had a pine marten chase a rabbit back and forth through my camp. The rabbit met its end with a loud shriek and I could see the pine marten shaking it around, and then carrying it off up the bank in the distance.

3. Kawishiwi Triangle. This is a classic BWCA route SE of Ely. I entered at Farm Lake, which means canoeing past a lot of cabins and boats initially. The Triangle is beautiful route with only two longish portages (that aren’t too bad). The Kawishiwi River splits on the east end and rejoins later outside the BWCA, with portages in and out of Clear Lake providing the western edge of the Triangle. There’s good fishing, especially below the rapids. I took my time and explored Conchu Lake as well. Just off the islands near the Conchu Lake portage/my campsite in the North Kawishiwi River were a series of log pilings in the river. I think they're a remnant of the logging era 1899 to 1920, in this area, maybe a holding area for rafts of logs? There's good info about this logging in Miron Heinselman's book, "The Boundary Waters Wilderness Ecosystem."

4. East Bearskin Lake to Alder Lake. Just off the Gunflint Trail, north of Grand Marais. These are longish East West lakes. I camped on a nice site on Alder Lake, just past the little island, where I was entertained by a family of otters. I also explored Canoe and Paddle Lakes.

This was my first solo canoe outing, after many canoe trips. Yeah, I took it easy, and didn't push it too much on the portaging. But I've gained more confidence to do it again, if need be. Next year canoe plans include two early weeks with the Wabakimi Project; doing Woodland Caribou with my wife--Leano Lake entry; August: a possible BWCA (or Missouri Breaks) trip with my brother's family; and another solo outing. I'd love to do interior late season Wabakimi trip if I find a willing partner. But maybe I'll stick around again for September, beautiful time in the boundary waters.

Lastly, I addressed the threats to the BWCA in this video. I encourage all those who love this wilderness to support the fight against sulfide ore mining. There’s groups, like Save The Boundary Waters

And Friends of the Boundary Waters,

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