I am in the planning stage of a trip to BWCAW. I have the entry points narrowed to: (32)S.Kawishiwi Rvr. (33)Little Garbo Lk. (34) Island Rvr. (35) Isabella Lk. (36) Hog Crk. (37) Kawishiwi Lk. (77) S.Hegman Lk. Our watercraft are Loon II and 2 Perception Carolinas. Planning at a 5 day trip starting ~july 17. Your thoughts on entry points and watercraft.
I’ve done several BW trips and in my opinion, you will be sorry taking yaks unless the portages are minimal. Sometimes you spend as much time loading,unloading and portaging than you do paddling, and with the a kayak the hassles are much greater than a canoe. With a canoe, you can pile the packs in and grab them easily at the next portage. And with a yoke, the canoes are MUCH easier to portage. Kayaks will have a big speed advantage, and crossing the big lakes in a significant chop, but I believe the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Now if you are using the right entry point, like Brule Lake for example, the yaks would work. Brule is a big, often rough lake with lots of campsites and many other lakes just one portage away. I would take off at Brule, find a nice site and set up a basecamp. Then with the yaks you could explore the whole lake almost regardless of the waves, and also visit the many other lakes just one empty-boat carry away. To try to do a loop trip with many portages I think you need a canoe. IMHO.
What he said
I agree. Kayaks are a hassle in the Boundary Waters CANOE Area Wilderness. Unless you intend to do a short basecamp trip without many portages.
I haven’t been to the BWCAW as many times as kheyashunka, but I’ve used a seakayak in all of my trips there without a problem at all. I daisy-chain my drybags together which makes loading/unloading a breeze. I’ll admit that makes for a little extra work, but it only amounts to about 5 minutes extra per portage. I find carrying my yak on my shoulders is easier than a canoe. To each his own I guess.
I would argue that the pros and cons of kayaks in the BW/Q basically net out to no difference than canoes. I did an ~85 mile, cross-Quetico trip in my Loon 138. At the last minute we found ourselves with an odd-numbered group (5), so I took my 'yak. There were two canoes in the group as well. In the kayak I could easily outpace the canoes, and had the advantage in wind and waves. My speed difference would allow me to arrive at the portages slightly ahead of the others, giving me enough time to snap on my removable portage yoke. The large cockpit of my boat made loading and unloading easy enough. Dry hatches might be another story though.
Can’t help you on EP’s though, I’ve only been to the Q. Although the suggestion to base camp on Brule and day trip from there might not be a bad one. Depends on how experienced you are in portaging your boats.
I did a loop that started at Hog Creek and spent a week traveling west through the Perent - Isabella lakes before heading north through the numbered lakes and then south through Malberg back to Kawishiwi . The early part of this loop featured a lot of short carries, jumping in and out of the boat . I would think it would be a PITA in a kayak . If you start at Little Gabro, you skip most of thesd portages and can head into the numbered lakes with a much reduced portage load - albeit an area that is much more crowded .
All points well taken
Thanks! We are really looking forward to this trip and I wouldn’t want my boat choice to be a bad one.
lots of great advice
There is a lot of great advice posted here and I have a problem thinking of any additional. Except for one thing and that is navagaiton.
I recommend that prior to your departure that you mark your map with the compass destiantion for each lake and set your course at the portage rather than try to find the portage or camp site on the water. Some of the lakes are big and not easy to see landmarks. After a few trips you will be able to see where the camp sites are and the changes in elivaton to help determine where you are and where you are going. I still mark the map with the compass degrees to the next protage or destination and pick a spot on the horizon.
Also I like Mckinzie maps better they are 2"to the mile.
Don’t do Kawishiwi Lake
… if you are using kayaks. To get anywhere from Kawishiwi lake, you have to cross two significant portages one after the other, the first is 95 rods, the second is 189 rods. After you leave Kawishiwi lake, you’ll move on up to another small lake, then your first portage of the trip is the 95 rod… then you cross a tiny lake (I’m thinking it’s called Square lake), then immediately you get the 189 rod portage. After that, you have a TON of options and you can paddle for days with only small portages, in any number of directions. But hauling a kayak over 189 rods sounds totally unappealing. But if you’ve got no problem toting your yaks over those two portages (twice each, going out and coming back) I can’t say enough good stuff about the Kawishiwi area. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about the other areas.