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Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota

Trip Overview

Day 1: Left home in southern WI later than planned (6:15am). We made good time, the kids traveled extremely well, one stop near Tomah, and lunch at Mc Dee's in Superior- does everyone from the south stop here? This place is always busy. We decided to stop and buy a Duluth Pack, the extra clothes and diapers (50 total) for the kids took up to much space for our other 3 packs. It started to rain off and on just north of Duluth, finally arrived at the Gunflint Ranger station around 4:30pm. After getting fishing licenses and a few odds and ends in town, we pulled in at the Iron Lake campground around 6:30pm, in a steady rain. Quick dinner, set up the tent, and turned in early.

Day 2: Up around 7am, made breakfast, and repacked and rearranged everything to fit better into 4 packs, it was a tight squeeze in our Swift Winisk, the kneeling thwart takes up some space, finally launched on Poplar Lake after a quick lunch. Our son (Dakota, 2 �) rides in the stern just in front of me on the floor, and our daughter (Paige, almost 1) rides in front of my wife, sitting, laying down, or standing up looking out ahead. We make slow progress as we are following the shoreline pretty closely, take the first portage into Lizz, we can do it with a double portage, my wife takes Paige in a front mounted child carrier and the lighter packs, and I get the canoe and the other two, also had a daypack for immediate needs (diapers, water, lunch/snacks, etc.). Our progress is a little slower than usual, we have to keep pace with Dakota, he walks all the trips back and forth. Down Lizz, we are finally in the BW! I've waited 2 years to get back while the children were smaller. Cross the second portage and into Caribou, light rain/mist still coming down, we find a site and set up, it's been a little longer first day than we were planning for, the kids are ready for dinner. Rig a tarp, eat, set up the tent, and its time to sleep.

Day 3: We get up around 7 again (this stays pretty constant the whole trip), relax, make the kids some milk (powdered), finally get up and have breakfast, pack, etc.. We actually get on the water around 11-11:30 each day. Packing up takes longer than usual, Paige wants to walk (trys to) and move around continuously, and keeping her occupied and off the wet soggy ground takes constant attention from one of us. On to the portage into Horseshoe, we pass a group of guys coming out who were camped on Poplar and in fishing for the morning, said they were marking fish all over and did pretty well. Lunch at the end, back onto the water, we head down to the bottom of Horseshoe towards Vista Lake, we spot a moose eating in the water we get to less than 100 yards, I got some great pictures! This is a treat for Dakota, his first moose, and only my second. Take the portage into Vista, it's a little rocky, but short enough. Again slow going, Dakota needs to have his hand held because of the uneven footing. We get onto Vista, cruise around a bit sight seeing, and take the site on the southern end, the other is occupied, and it looks pretty steep anyway. It's a nice big site, I'm a bit disappointed to find some partially burned garbage in the fire pit, and it looks like the birch trees have taken quite a beating (stripped bark). A little buggy, but they pretty much go away towards sunset. We have a nice fire and finish up the garbage; we've got enough garbage to carry (we go through 4-6 diapers/day total).

Day 4: Up as usual, on the water by 11:30, we decide to head over to Gaskin Lake and stay there for a few days, we had initially planned to head down to Winchell, go west, north, and come back across, making a loop, but scrap that in favor of base camping for a few days, and relaxing. Back through to Horseshoe, and over to the portage into Gaskin, this one takes us a while. It's got a little elevation gain, and some rocks, Dakota decides he is "to heavy" and can't / won't walk any farther after the first trip, return, and half the second trip. He has probably walked � mile, some of it uphill and rocky, so I'm pretty pleased anyway. I set the canoe down, and put him on my shoulders with the pack, and then return for the canoe. We wanted the island site in Gaskin as I had heard on this board it was nice, but it is already taken, we head on down the northern shore and get a pretty nice elevated site. Set up, eat, have a nice fire, and turn in.

Day 5-6: Everyone sleeps in, even the kids don't wake up until 8-8:30. Lounge around camp, I wash a few lures from shore, do a little sight seeing on Gaskin, nothing much, feels nice to not have to do anything or go anywhere. The kids get baths in a collapsible bucket; we get some pictures sure to embarrass them later in life. Had some nice evening campfires.

Day 7: Time to go back home. We actually get on the water fairly early, around 10:00am, and head back towards Poplar Lake. Dakota does the entire portage routine this time. We spot 2 more moose in Horseshoe, and have lunch at the portage going into Caribou. Continue on, through Lizz and back to Poplar, we get back to the truck around 6:00pm. Back to Iron Lake campground, eat dinner, set up, and have one last campfire before heading home in the morning. Overall the weather was good, the light rain stopped sometime in the evening on the second day, after that temps were 65-70 degrees and mostly sunny, lows in the forties allowed very comfortable sleeping. The bugs weren't bad, they seldom seem bother me, we used Natrapel (citronella and lemon oil) for the kids, it seemed to work well for the mosquitos, not so well on flies. Does anything?

I always hate to leave, and this trip was no exception. I really didn't get much fishing done, and we may have set some records for slow travel, but this inaugural trip with our children will always be memorable, there will be many more to come.

Dakota had a great time; he is still talking about the "moosee's". Paige is too young to express herself verbally, but the smiles on her face make me believe that she to will grow up to share our love for this place.


BWCA permit required, additional $10 per person fee.


From Southeastern WI: Take hwy 94 west, to Hwy 90, towards Eau Claire, get on 53 north, to Superior, cross over to Duluth, get on 35 north to 61 north towards Grand Marais. Follow the Gunflint trail up to the forest Rd. 92 (Poplar Lake, Iron Lake Campgrounds).


Fischer Maps, F-13.
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip