Paddling Out-of-Bounds

Full steam ahead: a portage-free peak at the Boundary Waters    

Full steam ahead: a portage-free peak at the Boundary Waters

Q: I'm planning a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in late June. All the trips that I have read about discuss canoes; I've find nothing about kayak trips. I have two sea kayaks and plan on kayaking the BWCAW for about nine days. Do you know of any good routes that do not require extremely long portages (these kayaks are not the lightest of creatures)? Thanks a lot.
— Eric Wagner, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Adventure Advisor:

A: You're not going to find many sea kayaks in Canoe Country. You won't find a portage-free, multi-day route either, unless you're content to paddle in circles. What I'd recommend is starting out on the north end of Seagull Lake and heading into Canada's Quetico Provincial Park from there. You'll still come across some cumbersome carries, but not nearly as many as you'd suffer through on other long routes.

Your access point is the Trail's End Campground, just off the Gunflint Trail. Be sure to reserve your permit early—this is a popular spot in June. From the island-dotted Seagull you'll paddle north through massive Saganaga Lake, which forms the border between the U.S. and Canada. Here you can paddle for hours without hitting land. Unfortunately you'll be one of many.
At the west end of the lake, you'll leave the crowds (and motor boats) behind as you turn north into Cache Bay or continue west to enter the Falls Chain, named for the many waterfalls that line the long, skinny border lakes all the way to Kawnipi. If you choose Cache Bay, turn west at Slate Lake to paddle through a series of calm, clear green lakes. Maneuvering those heavy kayaks might be tricky in spots, but the scenery here is worth the struggle. For more info call the Gunflint Ranger Station in Grand Marais at (218) 387-1750.

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