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

Shell Lake 2021

By McGecker Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:June 10-13, 2021
Entry Point:14 - Little Indian Sioux River North (BWCA)

Day 1 and 2 - Ely

We did a lot of things differently on this trip. I have been doing BWCA trips out of Ely since 2005. In the excitement to get into the wilderness and the need to get home, I had never taken the time to visit any of the Ely attractions. This year we went up two days before our entry date to leave time to experience Ely. We enjoyed a comfortable two nights at Adventure Inn. The two bedroom kitchen suite worked perfectly for our family. While in Ely we visited Kawishiwi Falls, the International Wolf Center, and the Dorothy Molter Museum. Each is definitely worth planning some extra time in Ely to experience.

Day 3

We got an early start from Ely on our entry day, June 10, and made it to the EP14 parking lot by 7. With all the reports of how busy it has been I wanted to ensure an early start. The summer of 2021 has turned out to be brutally dry in the BWCA and we were concerned about the dry conditions. Fortunately, in the three days before our entry, the area got two separate storms that delivered more than 1” of rain each. The overnight rain made the rocks on the first portage very slick! We met several groups coming out but only saw one other group going in. Coincidentally, we would travel out with that same father daughter couple. Travel was smooth with calm, clear weather and we made it to an open campsite on Shell by lunchtime. We got the second campsite to the right, #48. Not the best campsite I have used but we wanted to make sure we had a place and we were tired. If you have more than two tents I would not recommend this site.

Day 4

The story of days 4 and 5 was wind. We had a 15-20 mph wind blowing right onto our campsite for both days. Day four was the only day it wasn’t in the mid 80’s, instead I don’t think it got to 70 and it rained occasionally for much of the morning. We mostly stayed in camp or explored the lake nearby. It was a year for wildlife visitors to camp. Fortunately NOT the bears that became a problem later in the year. Shell has a pair of Trumpeter Swans that often flew past our campsite. We had a Mayfly hatch every evening, probably contributed to the very slow fishing… We had many Dragonfly larva come into camp to molt. There was a very persistent Snapping turtle that kept coming into camp to lay eggs. My wife had quite an encounter with her while we were out fishing early on day 5. Very fortunately, the wildlife we did not have in camp was skeeters or biting flies.

Day 5

My son and I got up at 4:30 to go fishing. Beautiful sunrise, light fog over the water, lots of birds singing - a perfect BWCA morning. We could only get a couple Walleye and one Northern to bite. We actually caught more fish from shore at our campsite than we did from the canoe. Mid-morning we all headed out on a day trip to Devil’s Cascade. Take the time to visit here if you are in the area. The campsite on the portage has an incredible view down into the gorge cut by the Little Indian Sioux River. We brought along a lunch for the trail and enjoyed the day. By our return mid-afternoon the wind had really picked up making the paddle back across Lower Pauness was very challenging. Back in camp we all enjoyed some time in the hammock’s, sitting on the shoreline, and generally relaxing. Some of the few positives of this campsite included nice afternoon shade and a shoreline with nice places to sit.

Day 6

We broke camp pretty early, getting back on the water by 8:30 after a delicious breakfast. On Shell side of the beaver pond that cuts the portage in half we found an iPhone. We had seen one group head out before us and no one come in so we brought it along. We planned to leave it with our outfitter and post online when we got home. We met the same father daughter group we travelled in with on paddling toward us on Lower Pauness, they paddled over to ask if we had seen a phone. We were glad to save them the return trip back across the portage. While paddling out we had one of the more scary moments I’ve had on my BWCA travels. We were about halfway between portages on the LIS river when we heard the first roll of thunder. A few minutes later there was lightning overhead! I know what to do when this happens on the lake, but where do you go when you are on a river?! With no place to reach shore there was nothing to do but dig in and keep moving forward. That was a tense half an hour that fortunately didn’t have an unhappy ending.

I have been inspired by reading The Boundary Waters Journal to bring real food for the past several trips. Breakfasts included scrambled eggs and pancakes. Lunches were sandwiches with mashed taters, fish and fry bread, and chicken tacos. Suppers were chicken and veggie kabobs with fry bread, jambalaya with fry bread, and brats with red beans and rice. Good food, comfortable camp accommodations, mostly great weather, and few bugs made this a great trip and an ideal return to the BWCA for my wife.

New Messages