Our canoe country is world famous for its 1000 lakes, 2200 campsites and 1500 miles of canoe routes. But if you just have time for a quick taste, many lovely day trip options exist. Here are 6 options:
Lake One/Paradise Pond Circle RouteAccess:
This great 4-hour route with lake, pond, & river paddling variety 20 miles east of Ely where Hwy 169 (aka Fernberg Road) dead ends at the Boundary Waters. Paddle east through two ponds and channels into Lake One's south bay. Continue past Kawishiwi Lodge and south into main body of Lake One. Numerous campsites there allow for campfire lunches and biffy break. Look towards the south shore and you'll see charred trunks from the 2011 Pagami Creek forest fire extending above the new growth. A small bay in the lake's northwest corner takes you to a 44-rod portage around scenic rapids into more ponds. These end at a 32-rod portage around another rapids that will bring you into a lovely bay of the Kawishiwi River. Paddle east around the top of the island to the cove where a 15-rod portage returns you to the pond where you began your trip.
Fenske Lake to GrassyPaddle:
Into this 5-lake chain as short or far as you like. The lakes get wilder (and the portages get woolier!) the farther in you go. Though not officially in the BWCAW, these lakes have a 'deep in the wilderness' look and feel, although they're close to town. Just drive 8 miles up the EchoTrail to the USFS campground at Fenske Lake (with picnic area, swimming beach & fishing dock and rental canoes are available at the resort just across the narrow bay). Canoe down narrow Fenske Lake to short portages into Little Sletten & then Sletten Lake. Want more adventure? Longer portages take you into Tee & Grassy. This last & largest lake offers excellent bass & northern fishing and all five lakes have obvious shoreline sites for scenic rest stops.
Bass Lake to Fenske:
Want to go for the gusto on a full day destination trip? If you rent canoes, you can leave your car at Fenske and have your outfitter pick you up there and drop you off at Bass Lake on Cloquet Line. This 6-hour trip takes you into Grassy and reverses the route outlined above. 3 long & 2 shortportages with plenty of berry picking & fishing fun along the way.
This 2-lake, half day paddle features a haunting, historical highlight: the best preserved ancient native American cliff painting in canoe country.Drive 15 miles up the Echo to the Hegman Lake parking lot with its interpretive kiosk, route map and permit box (be sure to fill one out -- nofee needed). The route begins with a 120-rod portage (through magnificent and towering pines) to South Hegman Lake. A short paddle brings you to an easy 15-rod portage along a picturesque creek. At North Hegman's far end you'll find the large cliffs with pictographs. While most rock paintings are thought to represent mythical figures and dream visions, these images reflect the physical world. Extensive studies have determined this panel to be a sky map of a winter night. The large "X" at top is the North Star. The man with outstretched arms is the constellation Orion and lies just above depictions of the Moose & Dog star groupings of Ojibwa lore. The canoes images carry paddlers on the "Path of Souls" or Milky Way. Continue your contemplation of this precious on North Hegman's island, a perfect site for a picnic and a refreshing swim.
Devil's Cascade Waterfalls:
This all-day adventure that is well worth the effort. 28 miles up the EchoTrail, the Little Indian Sioux River (notice its verdant beds of wild rice) takes you to Upper and Lower Pauness Lakes. At the lower lake's northbound portage, stash your canoe in the woods out of the way and hike up to the saddle and scenic overlook (about 60 rods). From the picnic area there, peer down deep into the gorge and its lovely cascade. Look north down the river channel below and the most distant tree tops you see are Canada -- just 2miles away! This trip takes you into the Boundary Waters, so fill out a self-issuing permit at the trailhead (and bring no cans or bottles).
Low Lake to High Drive:
10 miles up the Cloquet Line to the Low Lake trailhead. Paddle east and take the short portage into Bass Lake. There you'll cross a sandy flat with a dramatic history: It was once the site of a natural dam of glacial till between the two lakes but a logging sluice way built there a century back weakened the dam. One night in 1925, the dam blew out and come morning the loggers were astonished to find that Bass Lake had dropped 55 feet resulting in a waterfall at the lake's east end. Paddle to that falls and leave your canoe at one of the take outs along the lake so you can stretch your legs on portions of Bass Lake's 6-miles shoreline trail, the most popular hiking spot nearly Ely. Prefer to continue canoeing? Portages will take you from Bass to Dry to High, but best plan for a full-day outing to accommodate that out and back 10-mile trip from Low Lake.
Short - One Lake Day Trips:
Consider spending the day on one of these other nearby lakes for a day of fishing and sightseeing. Slim Lake and Mudro Lake are in the BWCA and are reached by short simple portages. Nels and Ed Shave Lakes are small walleye lakes that you can drive right up to. Though they're outside the BWCAW, they have no homes or cabin and motors are allowed but rarely seen on them.
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