BWCA - Gunflint Lake to North Fowl Lake

Will be making my first trip to the BWCA in mid-July. Entering at PT.#58 South Lake via Gunflint Lake. I plan to follow the border lakes to North Fowl Lake and return thru John Lake - East Pike - West Pike and Clearwater Lake. I’ll have 8 full paddling days. I like long paddling days with great scenery. I selected my route from reading Robert Beymer’s book. Can anyone familiar with this area help with the following question or just offer general advise?

  1. What is the water level and current typical like on the Royal river in mid-July?
  2. Are East Pike and West Pike more scenic than Pine Lake? I like high cliffs and rock formations.
  3. Any great campsites or interesting side trips recommended?
  4. Where is a good place to stay the night before the trip? Near Gunflint Lake.


Haven’t been to Royal River, so can’t help you there. You might start in NW corner of Gunflint so you can paddle to Little Rock Falls, well worth it. Then, about 2/3 of the way down the South shore of Gunflint is a trail to another beautiful waterfall, Bridal Veill Falls. Well worth the hike. Rose Lake has another waterfall and hike to the top of the Palisades for a beautifull view of the border. And I wouldn’t miss Pine Lake. There’s ANOTHER must-see falls in the western corner called Johnson’s Falls. A bit of a hike, again, but worth it. There was a pic of Johnson’s Falls in a recent Wenonah catalogue. As for places to stay the night before, most cabin rentals are weekly during summer, but there’s a place called Moosehorn Lodge (used to be Borderland Lodge) in the NW corner of Gunflint close to Magnetic Lake and a short paddle to Little Rock Falls. They have a few rooms with nightly rates. Also, about an hour back toward Grand Marais some friends of ours have a place called Poplar Creek Guesthouse. Excellent accomadations, Friendly folks, and Ted and Barbara will make you the best breakfast you could ever eat! You’re going to a beautiful area of the BWCAW. Hope that helps.

big lakes
Also, many of those are pretty big lakes and could get some serious waves by afternoon (weterly winds). Get an early start. And, some are popular so make camp by mid afternoon. If going from Rose to Rove via portage allow enough time. That is a long one. Not bad (as in hilly, does have a wet area a bit after Rose), but long.

Where to stay
Spend the night before your trip at Gunflint Lodge. It’s on the south shore of Gunflint Lake. They have a wide range of lodging choices from campercabins to deluxe cabins. I’ve stayed in both. Very clean and well maintained. You can paddle out right from their dock in the morning. Their dining room has arguably the best food on the Trail.

royal and pine

– Last Updated: Jun-01-04 12:26 PM EST –

You can paddle the Royal River all summer and fall - but finding the route through Royal Lake after midsummer can be fun.

I wouldn't paddle Pine - go through the Pike lakes. You really don't want to leave the BWCAW and paddle McFarland just to paddle Pine Lake, the Pike Lakes are also very scenic. You can do a day trip to Johnson Falls from Clearwater.

I'd also recommend hiking the Border Route Trail west of the Stairway Portage to an overlook along the border route. It's maybe a mile (??) - look on a topo map and the overlook should be clear.

Thank you All.
Many thanks Wildernesswebb, MarkK, MNJin and Paddlenorth for the tips.