The Ottertail, Ogoki, Kapikotongwa, Little Current, and Esnagami Rivers


This year our annual trip to the Canadian Wilderness took us back to Nakina Ontario.  Nakina is a paddling (and fishing) paradise with many wilderness route options ranging from whitewater rivers to huge scenic lakes.  Despite this, it is rarely paddled.

Our last trip in the region had been filled with rain and moose.  This year we had very little of either.  Our route took us down 3 of the major waterways in the area (the Ogoki, Kap, and Little Current).  After all that downriver, we had to somehow return to the road.  The usual method involves a float plane.  We choose to travel up the Esnagami River, and then crash through the woods to a logging cut which then accessed a road.  For the entire trip there was a bit of uncertainty about this last stretch.

We set off on Aug. 28th.  Our starting point required a somewhat lengthy shuttle from Nakina.  Kate once again was a good sport and crammed in the back “seat” of my Tacoma to make room for our shuttle driver.

The Ottertail was a small river surrounded by low marshes.  Our sky was overcast, and now and then we would feel a light drizzle.

Starting out on the Ootortail

Starting out on the Ottortail

Around lunch time we made it to the Ogoki River.  The Ogoki at this point was similar to the Ottertail, but much wider.  We stopped for lunch on a rare rock outcropping.


Lunch on the Ogoki

Lunch on the Ogoki

As we made our way down the Ogoki, the shoreline alternated between low marshes and rocky ridges.  There was little to break up the day, and we made good time.

Our tentative plan was to shoot for Amy falls before making camp.  The falls were spectacular.  We landed on the shore opposite the portage to crawl around on the rocks and view the falls.

Amy Falls on the Ogoki

Amy Falls on the Ogoki

Portraits at Amy Falls

Portraits at Amy Falls

When we paddled across to the portage we met a group of three people.  They were camped on the downstream side of the portage, and had come up the entire river over the last 40 days.  In a motor boat!  They were conducting a survey of river sturgeon, and were in the processes of preparing the portage to drag their boat across.

We talked to them for awhile, and then continued on our way.  After another 5 miles, we found a flat rock next to a rapids to make camp on.  We enjoyed a clear night, and had possibly my favorite animal encounter to date.

Ogoki Camp

Ogoki Camp

The next day the Ogoki started to speed up.  For much of the day we paddled easy but constant ripples and small rapids.  The fast sections were separated by wide slow areas.  The banks were mostly sandy, but the river was full of boulders.

Ogoki River

Ogoki River

We made it to Ogoki Lake by around 3:30.  Ogoki is a large lake, and a wind had come up.  The terrain had changed to more typical Canadian Shield bedrock.  We made camp on an island about a third of the way across the lake.  It took a little work to make a tent pad, but we were able to find a flat area sheltered from the wind.  During the night the wind picked up, and in the morning it had shifted.  It was now coming out of the NW, which made for a confused crosswind for much of the remaining lake crossing.

Ogoki Lake

Ogoki Lake

Ogoki Campsite

Ogoki Campsite

We set off in the wind, bobbing around in the large waves.  About half way to the narrow section leading to Kayedon lake it started to rain.  It was a fairly unpleasant crossing.  Once we were on Kayedon we stopped to bundle up a bit more, and then paddled the lake.  A float plane landed in front of us, and taxied over to the fly-in camp on the lake.

Kayedon Lake

Kayedon Lake

A small stream runs into Kayedon on the southern shore.  We poked our way up it towards the long portage to Kapikotongwa Lake.  Eventually the stream became shallow, and it was easier just to line up it.

Creek out of Kayedon

Creek out of Kayedon

Towing the canoe

Towing the canoe

At the end of the creek we paddled a small lake and then found the portage.  The portage was in good shape, and fairly dry.  Areas of the trail were full of cranberries.  Up to this point in the trip we had done very little portaging, and my legs needed a wake up call as we made our way up the first hill.  We took a couple of breaks, but made it across.  We ate lunch on Kapikotongwa lake.

Kapikotongwa lake after a hearty lake

Kapikotongwa lake after a hearty lunch

The next run of lakes on the way to Briarcliffe were stunning examples of Canadian Shield.  We found the portage to Briarcliffe, complete with a portage sign (thanks Rob!).  We set up camp on a rock point on the west end of the lake.  There was an on and off light drizzle, and a strong wind.  As the sun went down, it was downright chilly.

Briarcliffe camp

Briarcliffe camp

The next morning the clouds cleared after breakfast, and we had what might have been our best day of the trip.  The remaining lakes where my favorite of the trip, especially Saga Lake.  The narrow waterways connecting them often had high rocky sides and small swifts.

We had some fun easy white water once we were on the main river section, as well as some small swifts.  We made it to the first marked rapids at lunch.  The rapids/falls was much larger than I expected.  We ate our lunch on a rock island with the rapids roaring on either side of us.

Small rapids on the Kapikotongwa

Small rapids on the Kapikotongwa

Rapids on the Kapikotongwa

Rapids on the Kapikotongwa

At this point, I realized that I had accidentally left our camera on in my pocket, draining most of the batteries.  I became very judicious with its use in order to save batteries for the Little Current.  Unfortunately that meant not documenting much of our most scenic day.  Anyone wishing to see the lower Kapikotongwa will just have to paddle it themselves.

We did not find portages on the Kapikotongwa.  I may have had wrong information, or they may have been covered with trees from a blowdown.  We made our way down the first two large rapids through a combination of lining, carrying through the woods, and some paddling.  It was slow going, but I was grateful to be at the rivers edge with the scenery, not back in the woods walking around it.

After scouting the third marked rapids, we determined we could run it.  It was a little more ledgeish than we usually paddle, but we ran it without incident (because we are a lone canoe, in remote areas we are pretty conservative about what we run).

After a long section of swift water we made it to Percy lake.  We camped on a small island with a high rock overlooking both the lake and river.  That night we watched swirling northern lights.

Pecry Lake camp

Percy Lake camp

We paddled Percy lake the next morning, and hit the Little Current River.  The river was wide to start.  After a couple miles the current picked up and the shore became lined with gravel bars.  We ate lunch on one in the middle of a swift section of water.

Little Current lunch

Little Current lunch

We paddled on, and came to Betty Falls.  What a scenic area!  We found a good portage around the falls, and then lined the rapids at the bottom.  I took the last photo of the trip  We carried on to Canyon Falls, which was spectacular.  I had the portage marked on the left.  After much searching we came up empty handed, and decided to paddle back up to Betty falls and camp rather than start the long process of lining down the river.  We had a great campsite and swam and relaxed.

Betty Falls

Betty Falls

Last photo of the trip

Last photo of the trip

The next day we paddled back down to Canyon falls, and while preparing to line found a portage on the opposite side of the river.  From here on we found good portages.  Often they were short, and involved brief paddles to connect them.  The river was full of constant current between the larger rapids and falls.

We made it to Louella Falls at lunch time and ate at the top of the portage.  We were about to conclude our downstream potion of the trip.

The Esnagami was fast and shallow where it hit the Little Current.  After paddling and wading for awhile, it became apparent that it was not going to slow down.  I cut a 12′ spruce pole, and we started pushing upstream.  We were able to make decent progress poling, every now and again needing to get out and wade very shallow parts.  Kate kept the bow in the right direction while I poled.

We traveled about 5 hard miles in 3 hours, and made camp at the first (last) marked rapids.  It was a lovely campsite.  We swam and read, and both easily fell asleep.

The next day it was back to poling.  In spots the river was deeper, and travel easier.  For brief sections we could both paddle (for anyone interested, I had a gps on for this section.  When paddling we moved at about 3.5 mph, poling 2.5mph, and wading 1.5mph.  Roughly).  We also had a few larger rapids to negotiate.  At around 11 we made it to our take out point.  Our take out involved a short bushwack to a logging cut where we would eventually hit a winter trail that would take us to the road.  It worked, but not without a lot of wandering around in an overgrown cut.  We eventually found our trail, and made it to the road.  We found the truck another mile or so down the road and drove it as close as we could to the winter trail.  We were very thankful that our shuttle driver had left a bottle of water in the cab.

We backtracked to the river, figuring out our best path on the way.  We ate one more lunch on the river, and then started the long carry to the truck.  We took a couple of breaks, but all in all it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.  We loaded up and made our way back to Nakina.  On the drive we saw our only two moose of the trip.

Overall it was a great trip.  We saw a very varied landscape, and the Kapikotongwa and Little Current where probably the most scenic days of paddling I’ve experienced.  Our last two days where by far the hardest I’ve worked on a canoe trip, but allowed us to see some beautiful remote country without needing a float plane pick up.

As a final thought: Would I recommend coming up the Esnagami, and exiting through the logging cut?  Probably not.  It worked for us, and I’m glad we did it, but even with perfect weather it took almost everything we had.




An amateur canoeist takes on Seagull Lake

Wilderness has a way of being at once both adventurous and serene, quiet and yet buzzing with a symphony of life. Living on the edge of the BWCAW, I experience these beautiful juxtapositions almost daily, but they were recently more amplified to me during my first time paddling on Seagull Lake.seagull 3

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been much of a paddler; hiking has always been my thing. But, as the signs of late summer have been whipping by fast and furiously, I decided I should expand my exploration repertoire with some lake adventures before summer’s end. I decided on Seagull Lake for my first solo outing, a decision driven primarily by the adventure it seemed to offer because of its size and abundance of islands to explore. As I informed one coworker of my intention to paddle Seagull, she reacted with both excitement and wariness, cautioning me to have the utmost diligence in navigating the many, often confusing series of islands. With map in hand and a sense of adventure in my heart, I headed up the Gunflint.

I put in at the public access, delighting in the feeling of fine beach sand before my departure. I hopped in the canoe and glided out over calm waters under happy, puffy clouds sailing through the liquid blue sky.

seagull 1

I had decided that I would paddle to the palisades, a popular area on Seagull for climbing and general sight-seeing. I tried orienting myself by looking at the map, an then at the scene around me, trying to distinguish the waterway through which I was to pass. But at first glance, the shorelines looked just like one big evergreen blur, with no opening immediately detectable. I studied the map a little more and just started paddling in the general direction of where I thought the waterway would be. I was soon able to distinguish a break in the shoreline, and felt relieved. But I also felt a stirring sense that this journey may be harder than I had thought. Nevertheless, I pressed on, trusting that if I remained diligent about checking my map and noting distinctions in the landscape along the way, I would be okay.

One of the first gifts of the trip was an encounter with a pair of loons, who surfaced near my canoe. I quickly stopped paddling, so as not to frighten or disturb them. After studying me curiously for about 30 seconds, they successively made their signature graceful dive, flying into the deep water below.

seagull 2

I continued on, paddling around points, past the burned (and eerily beautiful) trees of the northeastern shore, between islands, and eventually made it to the first set of palisades. You have to get close to these rock faces to really appreciate their size and beauty. I wanted to press on to see if I could find more, but as I looked to the south and west of me, it seemed I was hedged in by a complex series of islands, more numerous and concentrated than I’d yet come across. I decided this might be a good place to turn around, lest my sense of adventure turn into recklessness. Before heading back, I pulled into an inviting island nearby, went for a swim (to the tune of loon calls echoing across the water–an experience I highly recommend), and had some lunch.

As a staff member here at Bearskin, I feel so lucky to be living on the edge of some of the most beautiful, pristine wilderness in the country, and this summer has proved to be one of the most fun, inspiring, and adventurous of my life. It has been in experiences like my paddle on Seagull, in which I’ve explored new wildernesses (with a reliable map, of course), that I’ve built confidence in myself, and a deeper sense of connection to the land. It has been in places like Seagull that you sense the Earth’s aliveness, both in the quiet and the calm, and in the buzzing of flies, the calling of loons, and the lapping of water on rock. The small sampling I got of Seagull Lake was not enough, and I’m sure I’ll return again someday, hopefully next time with someone more experienced!

Justine A.

Isle Royale

Growing up I had oftentimes heard stories of friends and family having incredible adventures at Isle Royale National Park. I have always desired to experience the island for myself and return with my own stories to share, and working at Bearskin this summer has allowed me to do so.

My aunt, a Grand Marais local and wonderful backpacking companion, agreed to join me on my Isle Royale adventure. On one of my days off, she and I packed our bags and headed to Grand Portage early in the morning to catch the ferry to Isle Royale. The weather for the ride was perfect; the water was like glass and the rising sun quickly warmed up the cold Superior air. The calm condition of the water allowed us to see the famous sunken steam ship “America” very clearly as we pulled into the Windigo port. My aunt and I quickly got our park permits and settled into a campsite, eager to hit the hiking trails.

We decided on hiking part of the Huginnin Cove Loop, a nice wooded trail where we were hoping to see some beautiful sights and maybe even a moose. The views on the hike were lovely and though we didn’t see a moose, it was very enjoyable to find hundreds of their tracks along the trail.


By the time we got back to our campsite we were looking forward to a big meal, and we soon found out that we weren’t the only ones. As I was cooking over the camp-stove, I heard some splashing coming from the little stream behind me. To my surprise, there was a moose coming down to the water right across from our site to join us for dinner. We watched her munch on plants along the shoreline for a good 15 minutes before she swam right over to our campsite and trotted off into the woods just a few yards away from us! It was the most amazing moose experience either of us had ever had.

The next morning we were ready to take on more hiking adventures. We chose to do the Grace Creek Overlook trail along the lake because it got hotter and buggier the further inland we went. Walking along the water allowed us to watch boats and sea planes come into and out of the Windigo harbor and it also provided the perfect habitat for Lady Slippers–we must have counted over 50 of them along the trail!


After we finished our hike, we packed up our bags and headed to the boat for our journey back. The weather was very overcast, creating an eerie sight as we passed by the Rock of Ages Lighthouse which was barely visible through the fog.



Before we knew it, we were back at Grand Portage and on our way home, excited to share our own new stories about Isle Royale. It was an amazing experience and I would definitely recommend the trip to anyone looking for a unique adventure.



Round Lake to Gabi and Back


This week Kate and I took a quick overnight trip starting at Round lake, and looping through Gabimichigami.  We had great weather, and shockingly, saw very few people.   Our route had us portage into W.Round lake, and head towards Brandt lake from Brandt we portaged to Flying, and then Fay lake.  Water is very high in this area, and the portage to Fay involved long stretches of knee to waist deep water.  I had been over that portage in June, and it was much drier.  I suspect there is a beaver to blame somewhere.  From Fay it was on to the Chub river and Warclub lake.  I was eager for this section, since neither of us had paddled the area between the Chub River and Peter lake.  We ate lunch on Warclub, and had our fill of blueberries.  Next was Seahorse lake, one of my favorite lakes of the trip, with high rocks and sprawling bays.

Once we portaged into French lake, and then Peter, we were done with the small lake portion of the trip.  Like all of the lakes so far, Peter was burned, and didn’t look like it offered great camping.  From Peter we portaged to Gabi, our destination for the day.

Gabi is a large expanse of water, and with the exception of the south bay, unbroken by islands or peninsulas.  We found a nice campsite and made our home for the night.  We swam and looked for berries, before eating dinner and going to bed.


The next morning it was a treat to have fresh blueberries in our granola!  We were on the water by 8:30, and made our way through Rattle lake to Little Sag.  Little Sag is a pleasure to paddle, and we wove between its islands as we made our way towards Mora lake.  We’ve always enjoyed the portage to Mora, with its great views of the last drop of the Frost River.


From Mora we paddled Tarry, Crooked and Owl lakes.  On Crooked we watched a Loon feeding its young.  We portaged to Tuscarora lake, and paddled to an island to swim and eat lunch.  The day had become very warm, and it was nice to find some refuge in the shade.

We finished lunch, and made our way to the long portage out of Tusc.  Despite my love of the Howl Swamp portage, we choose the more direct route to Missing Link lake.  The portage was long and hot.  There was an abundance of frogs on the Missing Link side, many still with tales.  We paddled Missing Link and returned to Round Lake.  On the drive home we bemoaned the lack of a functioning air conditioner in my truck.

It felt so great to get out over night in the middle of the season.  We were very lucky in regards to the weather and the solitude.


Nighthawk lake through Poplar Creek

I have, on a few occasions, tried to access Nighthawk lake from the small flowage to the east of the lake.  I have always enjoyed overlooking the lake in the winter from the Poplar Creek ski trail.  As the planted white pines surrounding the ski trail grow larger it’s possible that in a few years the view of the lake will be diminished, and without a reminder every time I ski or groom by, my curiosity about the lake will wane as well.


My previous attempts at getting to Nighthawk have failed due to lack of time, lack of water, or lack of heart.  Most of the marsh between the creek and lake sits firmly in the middle ground between land and water, where neither paddling or walking is possible.  It is impossible to not become covered in mud, and the bugs are ferocious.


This time I gave myself plenty of time.  Our water is fairly high.  After a few hours of pushing and dragging through through the swamp, I was able to crash through the woods to the small beaver pond down stream of the lake.  One more climb over a beaver dam, and I had done it!  A paddle around Nighthawk revealed it to be a small nondescript lake.


I determined that it would be much easier to simply portage back to my truck on the ski trail.  In around twenty minutes I was loading up my canoe.

nighthawk swamp3

Poplar creek is on the right, Nighthawk the left.

The yellow is the "paddling" portion, the orange the walk on the ski trail.

The yellow is the “paddling” portion, the orange the walk on the ski trail.

Leaving the main creek

Leaving the main creek

Less water already

Less water already


The Swamp

At the other side of the Swamp.

At the other side of the Swamp.

Almost to the beaver pond

Almost to the beaver pond

Nighthawk at last

Nighthawk at last


In summary:  Is it possible to get to Nighthawk lake from Poplar Creek? Sort off.  Should you try it? No.

Before There Was Snow

There is a period of time between fall and winter that gets a lot of people antsy. It’s that time after the leaves fall off the trees and the temperature drops, but the snow has yet to come. It was during this time when most of the staff decided to take a trip to the big city of Duluth for some indoor rock climbing.

Matthew has been rock climbing for at least 11 years and MandJintroduced me to the sport a little over two years ago. Although I was incredibly scared most of the time while climbing, I strangely fell in love with fear. I loved the challenge of facing my anxiety and the mental stories that came along with it. I love the adrenaline, the physical, mental and even the emotional challenges of climbing. It is an amazingly beautiful and powerful sport in so many ways.

When Matthew and I lived in Minneapolis we hit the (null)_3climbing gym at least once a week and spent as much time in the spring, summer and fall climbing outdoors in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Living on the Gunflint Trail means the closest gym is a lengthy 2 ½ hour drive to Duluth. The conditions, however, were finally right for the trip: cold, slow, and antsy. So on our next day off, Kate, Jordan, Tammi, Matthew and I all managed to get a day off together and decided to make the trek to Duluth for a day of climbing at Vertical Endeavors.lindsey2


It was somewhat difficult for both Matthew and I to shift from outdoor to indoor climbing after not being in a gym for months and spending most of the summer climbing outdoors. It is surprising how different indoor and outdoor climbing can be. It is always mesmerizing to watch Matthew climb. He moves up the wall with gra(null)_4ce and attempts some pretty unique moves, which is always entertaining. Tammi, Jordan and Kate all have climbing experience but had not climbed in quite some time so it was fun watching them transitionTammi2 (2) back into climbing mode and find their strengths. Tammi is one of the most determined climbers I have ever seen! She seemed to love the mental stimulation of projecting and trying a problem over and over again in order to complete a climb. Jordan admits to not enjoying heights so it was awesome to see him push himself both mentally and physically to finish some of the hiKate4ghest routes in the gym.


Kate is an intuitive climber with natural technique and was attempting and completing some pretty challenging routes.




Climbing is often considered an individualistic sport; however if you take a closer look it is a highly relational experience.  It builds trust and is based on solid communication with your belayer (the other person holding the rope). The opportunity for encouragement, mental and emotional support, and swapping tips is all a part of it. This was our staff experience.  Climbing is really just like winter on the Gunflint Trail: you can’t do it alone.


Visiting friends up the trail

Last Tuesday I headed up to Round lake to visit with a couple friends up the trail. Round Lake is the home of Tuscarora Outfitters, now owned by former Bearskin mainstay Andy.  Andy has more spare time in the winter these days and is making the most of it.

From Round I strapped on the skis and headed a few miles into the BWCA to find Bear from Northstar Canoes.  He’s made the BWCA his winter home since the New Year, and it was great catching up and seeing his setup.

It was a beautiful day, and I was blown away by the difference in these lakes in the winter season.  Gotter Lake is beautiful?  Who knew.  Skiing with only a pack on my back, instead of a canoe and gear, made the rapid succession of portages enjoyable.  The contrast of dark rock and white snow exposed cliff faces that would go unnoticed in the summer.





I didn’t get any photos of Bear’s camp, because I forgot.  And I didn’t get any of Andy, because I didn’t want to risk breaking an expensive camera.


Return to the Wilderness

My father’s love for the BWCA area is apparent by the frequent stories he tells of adventures in the northern wilderness. I can repeat these tales word-for-word.

My father took me on my first Boundary Waters trip during the summer I turned 16. I remember the trip as being hard work, yet simple and relaxing. Spending our days setting up camp, fishing, gathering firewood, exploring, sitting around evening bonfires and sharing stories was a stark contrast from life in a small house in the big city with 5 siblings. This first trip with my father was exhausting at times and it rained a ton, but after a week immersed in this beautiful place I had fallen in love.

My father and I returned to the Boundary Waters together again after almost 15 years, when he excitedly decided to come for a visit this summer. The trip was all he could talk about for a few weeks before his arrival. This would be my father’s first trip without my brothers and he expressed how different it would be having to rely on Matthew and me for support.


Jeff and Matthew on E. Bearskin Lake

Matthew and I planned our trip from East Bearskin, through Moon, to Deer and to either Caribou or Little Caribou Lake, then back to East Bearskin in four days. We thought we would have plenty of time to fish, explore Johnson Falls, and possibly add a day trip to Clearwater.

Little did we know that our trip would not go as planned. With Matthew and my father in a tandem and me in a solo canoe, this would be my first solo paddle trip.  We set a goal to make it to at least Caribou.


Lindsey showing off her skills

After paddling East Bearskin and Moon we were loading our canoes at the end of the Moon portage to Deer, when we heard a large crash through the woods and into the water. We looked up, surprised to see a mama moose and her two calves. Mama moose waded into the water, then dove down to eat water vegetation off the bottom of the lake while her babes stayed nervously on the edge of the lake. After silently watching her for quite some time we eventually paddled slowly around mama and listened as she and the calves communicated about our presence.

We paddled on, passing our destination on Caribou and Little Caribou due to campsite shortages. Exhausted and ready to be done paddling for the day, we forced ourselves to keep going. We were relieved when we discovered the first campsite on Pine Lake was open. It was an elevated campsite with what seemed like a short uphill portage just to get to the fire ring. We set up camp and cooked dinner in the dark.


Matthew and Jeff examining wolf droppings

The next morning we woke up to high winds and sore bodies. We had planned on a day trip to Johnson falls, but after assessing the wind conditions we decided it would be a lot of work due to the white caps on the water, or as Matthew says “we have sheep in the pasture.” We spent the day reading, fishing and relaxing. On day three my wise father suggested that we break camp and paddle half way back to East Bearskin to a site on Caribou so we would not spend our last day paddling so far. On our way to Caribou we stopped for a quick trip to Johnson Falls and hiked to the end of the trail that overlooked a beautiful lake.


The Three Amigos

After Johnson Falls we continued on. We paddled into strong headwinds and again, due to campsite shortages, we had to paddle through Caribou and Deer and end on Moon. Again we were exhausted, but happy with our campsite. Our campsite had a lovely view with a homemade picnic table. That evening we heard owls hooting and active beavers in the water right next to our tents.


Lindsey’s cocoon of warmth on Moon Lake

On the fourth day we took our time before we broke camp and slowly made our way back to Bearskin.  Although our trip did not go as planned, it was wonderful. Being away from our daily routines, the stress of life, as well as being surrounded by nothing but beauty and good company does something special to those experiencing the BWCA. Our trip allowed us to have time to slow down, have meaningful conversation, lots of laughter and overall much needed time to connect as father-daughter, as family, and as friends. It also allowed for my father to have another story to share over and over again.

– Lindsey

The Boundary Waters Expo recap

As the planning begins for the 2016 Boundary Waters Expo, I thought I’d give a recap of this year’s inaugural event.

The Boundary Waters Expo was held at the Seagull Public Landing in mid June.  It was highlighted by expert speakers, knowledgeable exhibitors, beautiful canoes, good friends, and perfect weather.  We had a nice turnout of around 200-300 people, enough to fill the presentations but not so many that you couldn’t get one-on-one time with the speakers.  While the event took a lot of time and effort to get together, in the end I thought it was a great success.

For info on the 2016 show, go to The Boundary Waters Expo or find us on Facebook.

Our 2015 Sponsors:

Camp Chow

Duluth Pack

Enlightened Equipment

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Frost River

St. Croix Canoes

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Stewart River Boatworks

Nemo Equipment

Seattle Sports


Cooke Custom Sewing

Sanborn Canoe Company

Northstar Canoes

Nova Craft Canoe

Souris River Canoes

Radiant Spirit Gallery

The Gunflint Trail booth was front and center in the big tent.

The Gunflint Trail booth was front and center in the big tent.

Tom from Loon Lake will talk your ear off!

Tom from Loon Lake will talk your ear off!

We had boats to demo from Nova Craft

We had boats to demo from Nova Craft

Northstar Canoes

Northstar Canoes

Stewart River Boatworks

Stewart River Boatworks

St.Croix Canoes

St.Croix Canoes and (not pictured) Souris River.

Nemo Equipment brought a variety of tents and other innovative equipment

Nemo Equipment brought a variety of tents and other innovative equipment

The Gunflint Trails own Camp Chow was at the show with their wonderful camping meals.

The Gunflint Trail’s own Camp Chow was at the show with their wonderful camping meals.

Eric Simula, Bearskins Musher, presented about bark canoes.

Eric Simula, Bearskin’s musher, presented about building bark canoes.

A highlight was personal paddling instruction for canoe legend Cliff Jacobson. Cliff has agreed to be available for lessons through out the entire expo next year.

A highlight was personal paddling instruction from canoe legend Cliff Jacobson.
Cliff has agreed to be available for lessons throughout the entire expo next year.

Cliff also demonstrated portaging, and gave a few tips.

Cliff also demonstrated portaging and gave a few tips.

Dan Cooke showed everyone how to rig a tarp. Watch out Dan, someone is sneaking up behind you!

Dan Cooke showed everyone how to rig a tarp. Watch out Dan, someone is sneaking up behind you!

The landing was full of great places for speakers to give there presentations.

The landing was full of great places for speakers to give their presentations.

Patti Johnson of the USFS arrived in style in a Forest Service Beaver. The Pilot happily gave spectators a tour of his plane.

Patti Johnson of the USFS arrived in style in a Forest Service Beaver. The pilot happily gave spectators a tour of his plane.

Voyageur Brewing Company stopped by and gave out free samples

Voyageur Brewing Company stopped by and gave out free samples


A brief history of Bearskin Staff visitation to Trap Lake (2009-2015)

trap lake

Trap lake is a small, very shallow lake located south or Crocodile Lake.  From the water there is no sign of the marked 73 rod portage, and many people assume that it doesn’t exist.  After all, there is really no reason to go there, the lake has no campsites and can’t be much for fishing.  When I’ve been asked if I’ve been there, the question is usually followed by a chuckle.

72 rods of the portage from Crocodile to Trap are fairly obvious and easy to follow, it’s the first rod that makes it hard.  The portage starts up what is essentially a small cliff.  From the water one would never assume that it was the start of a trail, and because it seems so little used, there is minimal evidence that it is one.

In the winter of 2009 I set out to camp on Trap Lake.  During the winter you are free to camp away from designated campsites in the BWCA, meaning it is the only time of year where camping on Trap is possible.  I had been up on Crocodile earlier in the winter, and thought I had located the portage.  Bob skied with me to portage to Trap, and then left me to haul my sled up the steep portion of trail.  Once on top I was greeted with a clear trail, covered in a couple feet of untouched snow.  The following snowshoe was challenging, but beautiful.

I made camp on the small island in the middle of the lake.  I built a small fire at the base of a large rock, and packed a flat space to set up my tarp above.  The next morning it was easy traveling on my packed trail back to Bearskin.  The next summer I returned to Trap Lake twice by canoe, once with Bob and once with Kate.


Looking back at Trap Lake in 2009

Trap Lake in 2009

My visit to trap lake in August of 2015 was inspired by my co-worker/explorer, Jordan, who after spotting it on a map, became curious.  Having spent a fair amount of time paddling and portaging in Canada’s wilderness, Jordan had a special place in his heart for the overgrown and unmanageable terrain that this trip offered.  Jordan and I collected info from Bob and Quinn and set out after work one evening.  It was a lovely night and smooth paddling down E. Bearskin Lake and the portage to Crocodile.

It was only after wandering back and forth down the south shore of Crocodile that we finally found the sheer cliff we were told marked the beginning of this portage.  I must admit that with two strong men, minimal gear, and some teamwork, we were able to easily ascend this first challenge.  What followed proved to be just as adventurous.  The “trail” was evident, yet overgrown from an obvious lack of use.  I wondered out loud to Jordan whether the last visitors were Quinn and Kate in 2009.  Feeling inspired, Jordan heaved the 60 lb Aluminum Canoe over his head and began his bush-wack adventure.  I could tell he was in his element when he dropped to his knees and steadily portaged the canoe under a fallen ash that blocked the non-existent trail.  This was only bested by his scrambling over boulders while barely hesitating to maintain perfect balance.  We eventually arrived at Trap Lake, and Jordan introduced me to the concept of a “portage high,” informing me of this natural state of euphoria following a grueling feat of physical endurance.



Trap Lake was worth the trip.  The value, however was both in the destination and the journey.  The shallow, lily-pad infested lake felt fantastically otherworldly and was a just reward for our efforts. I took my turn to portage the canoe on the return trip, while only managing to fall once.  The experience of a “portage high” was everything Jordan talked it up to be.