It has been many years since I have paddled the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I paddled Quetico in 2011 and 2013, but this year would be the first Boundary Waters Minnesota canoe trip in decades. Quetico and Canada are closed due to Covid, so it made a perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with the American side of this amazing wilderness in northern Minnesota.
Five night Boundary Waters Minnesota Canoe Trip solo adventure
My parents have a cabin on Gull Lake at the edge of the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters. I stayed the night there and effectively said goodbye to the place as we are in the process of selling it. I got my forest service entry permit from Voyager Canoe Outfitters the next morning and loaded up for departure. My entry point was Saganaga Lake.
My goal was to paddle out into Saganaga Lake and camp for a couple of days. In fact, I pondered just staying all five nights on Horseshoe Island, but I was going to play it by ear. The other option was to paddle in a couple of portages to Maraboef Lake. Another option was a few day trips into Maraboef and/or surrounding lakes.
Saganaga Lake and Horseshoe Island
Horseshoe Island is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was fortunate enough to grab the best campsite on it. The rock face campsite looking south is one of the best in the BWCA in my opinion. When I saw this site open, I speculated about a five night stay here.
I used to come out to this area of a million acres of wilderness for weeks at a time and sometimes months in the summer and did many Boundary Water trips as well as Quetico on the Canadian side. We almost always came through Grand Marais, but once did a Quetico trip through Ely, Minnesota.
As my parents grew older, we sometimes just settled on camping on Horseshoe for the week. That was a distinct possibility for this trip. Unfortunately, the Boundary Waters fishing around Horshoe Island was pretty slow, so I decided to pack it up and paddle on. I did catch a few small northern pike and smallmouth bass, but I really had to work it.
It was crazy seeing the cabins, customs, and ranger station just across the lake in Canada and know that we were not welcome there this year. Hope things change and the border opens up next year to Quetico.
Portaging to Maraboef Lake
I packed up and paddled east and then portaged Saganaga Falls and Horsetail Rapids and entered Maraboef Lake. Many people do their trip routing so they enter Maraboef from the Granite River, which is one of the more popular canoe routes.
I was not particularly ready for portaging, but these portages are quite short, so it was not too bad. I looked forward to canoe camping in Maraboef, and I was not disappointed. An amazing campsite awaited me on the first bay that allows camping. The fishing was absolutely amazing. I will write about this in a separate post.
After two memorable nights on Maraboef complete with amazing shore lunches of fresh fish, it was time to return to my exit point. This was also through Saganaga Lake as I just did an out and back Boundary Waters canoe trip.
Boundary Waters wildlife
Unfortunately, this year marked another year of no moose. I used to see 4-5 moose every time I went up here whether it was driving up the Gunflint Trail, swimming across the lake, or browsing in a marshy bay. It has now been 3-4 trips that I have not seen one. It is unfortunate that their numbers have so drastically plummeted.
I did see the staples of loons and bald eagles. I was also pleased to see so many beavers, although they were not so pleased to see me. I had many a perturbed beaver splash their tail at me while fishing in Maraboef as I trespassed in their waters.
I also saw both ruffed and spruce grouse, pigeon hawk, some warblers, red squirrels, a garter snake, and many toads and frogs. I also saw and heard a few pileated woodpeckers. One of my favorites.
Embark on your own Boundary Waters Minnesota canoe trip
If you would like to canoe the Boundary Waters yourself. I highly recommend Voyager Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Gunflint Trail. The are so laid back and easy to work with. They always hire the nicest staff. Check them out and canoe it dot com.