…not too many places better to be…explore a different bay every day of the week in the correct order on the correct days…
Crooked Lake in September?
Me and five of my high school buddies who have never taken more than an over night canoe trip are going on a trip to the BWCA in September. We are all experienced with canoes so I am not too concerned about the portages. We have gotten the permit to enter at the Mudro lake access point. We will leave on the morning of September 11th and return on the evening of the 17th. What would be the best entrance point to Crooked Lake. Should we go through Horse Lake into the Horse River, up the Basswood to Crooked Lake? Or should we go through Fourtown, Moosecamp, Bullet, Wagosh, Niki,Chippewa and Papoose? Any reccomended base camps between the Wednesday to Friday Bay locations? Any reccomended lake trout and walleye fishing locations in these areas? Has anyone been to Jackfish, Sauna or Wabasons Lakes? How are these lakes for fishing? Does anyone know where we can get a topographical map of Crooked Lake?
If you are going to use an outfitter for any part of your trip, have them mark your maps with fishing spots, campgrounds, and bear problem areas. Buy the map from the outfitter, though, and rent something, even if you are pretty much self contained. The fifteen minutes with with an outfitter can turn an ok trip into a great trip. Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely has always provided me with really good advice even though I use them for minimal services. They are an original Ely mainstreet outfitter--not fancy, but good service, expert advice, and reliable equipment. Been using them since 1974.
Through Mudro, I've only gone in and out of Crooked through the Horse River--the first option you mentioned. With just one canoe and strong paddlers we made it to Table Rock in one day. On another trip with six of us we made it to just beyond lower basswood falls in one day. Neither of these were easy first days. I would recommend two days to get to Crooked. Haven't been there for a while, but I love the campsite at Table Rock. Just north of Table Rock (I hope "Table Rock" is located on your map), the lake narrows and you can feel the current. I have had excellent smallmouth fishing in this "current" in August for Smallies as well as walleye fishing off a nearby point. If you can, bring leeches in a leech locker, night crawlers also work in late summer, use both with jig heads, or spinners. Crooked is a very good fishing lake, but I have only fished this one area of it. I'm not a great angler, but did not have a difficult time. For some, it has become a "destination" lake for smallies and walleyes.
The pictographs just north (?) of lower basswood falls are worth seeing. Below Lower Basswood Falls looks like it could be a nice place to swim but the current has "washing machine" effect and can drown swimmers wearing life jackets. It is dangerous water. Stick to the portage and it is no problem. If you can get to the North West end of Crooked Lake, I really like Curtain falls. The are loud and wide, drop a good distance, a nice display of force.
In fact if you have two cars, a good loop would take you out the Nina Moose River to your second car via Crooked-Iron-Bottle-Lac-la Croix, Moose River, Agnes, Nina Moose. Again, I don't have my maps, but that is about right. That is a nice 5 day loop. You could do it in a relaxed 7 day trip. See three waterfalls (Curtain, Lower Basswood, and a side trip to Rebecca), pictographs, small lakes, small rivers, bigger lakes. It is really a nice trip that shows off the BWCA well.
Your question was in regards to Base Camps, however. As I said my favorite is Table Rock, although I haven't been there for a while. I am always afraid they are going to de-list some of these classic sites to allow them to "rest" maybe they have done that to this one. If you can't find it on your map, post me and I'll locate it it for you.
I haven't gone to Crooked by going north out of Fourtown through Moosecamp, but I have gone through those lakes. If you go north out of Fourtown towards Moosecamp, you have to pull over a number of very large beaver dams, (probably have to unload gear too) it is a meandering creek. I have come down from Moosecamp and I enjoyed it, but it would be much more difficult to go up. What looks like a two hour jaunt on the map may turn out to be a full day ordeal. A nicer route (albeit longer) might be to go west from Fourtown to ____(i don't have maps)and to Gun Lake and Fairy Lake (a little gem of a lake), and on north from there (I have only gone as far as Moosecamp). These were all really nice, small, intimate lakes. Maybe once on Crooked you could loop back to Lower Basswood and out through the Horse River. That would be a nice loop. It is a beautiful area and a great entry point, you can hardly go wrong.
Crooked Lake in Mid September
Thank you for the great advice. Forgive us day trip canoers. I am used to going down rivers, without portaging and therefore my estimate of the distance we can go in a day is a little off. It looks like about a 14 mile trip to go in through Fourtown, Boot, Fairy, Gun, Wagosh, Niki, Chippewa and Papoose. The other route through the horse river to he basswood river looks to be about 17 miles. What is a typical speed (miles/ hour) for a trip like this? How are the portages on the horse river?How about from Mudro to Fourtown and then from Fourtown to Horse Lake? Do the outfitters rent out Duluth Packs? How much would these cost for a week? I have heard of Table Rock, but the Mc Kenzie Map I have does not have it marked. Where is it from the Lower Basswood Falls? We are really interested in making it as far as we can the first day, setting up camp in the evening and then staying at the base camp for 4 1/2 to 5 days, then come out. I think if we got started by 5:30 A.M., we should be into Horse Lake by noon. Is this a little too aggresive? From there I was hoping to make it to Lower Basswood falls by 3 P.M. and then up to Wednesday Bay by 6 P.M. Am I that far off on my estimates? Thank you for the advice.
Go 4 it.
“about a 14 mile trip to go in through Fourtown, Boot, Fairy, Gun, Wagosh, Niki, Chippewa and Papoose”. I haven’t done it, but there is a 300 rod portage in there somewhere and lots of creek travel. Creeks don’t run in straight lines. That being said, the editor of the Boundary Waters Journal has done spring trips with one canoe on that route all the way up to Argo in one day, so you could probably make it up to Friday Bay with 6 guys. The key will probably be water level, which you may not know until you get there and talk to the outfitter. Just looks like a tough haul.
“What is a typical speed (miles/ hour) for a trip like this?” The answer to this has to do with portage efficiency and number of portages. My guess is is that you will be double portaging. It is hard to pack for 6 guys and three canoes without double portaging–not impossible, but hard. Good paddlers can do over 25 mile days with no portages, but get knocked down to 10 mile days with 5 or six portages. Hard to tell until you paddle with a group. A 300 rod portage can take 1/2 a day if you have to double. As a group you are only as fast as your slowest person.
“How are the portages on the horse river?” No problem (they don’t stand out in my mind) I think in high water some of the marked portages may not be portages at all.
“How about from Mudro to Fourtown and then from Fourtown to Horse Lake?” The long portage from Mudro up to Fourtown has some steep points. I don’t know if it is more direct, but I have also gone Mudro to Sandpit to Horse (no Fourtown). Mudro to Sandpit is an uphill hell, but well traveled. Once on Sandpit, its easy traveling to Horse and really all the way to Crooked. Doing the Horse River route allows you to see Lower Basswood Falls, and some good pictographs, incidentals you wouldn’t see by going through Niki, Chippewa and Papoose.
“Do the outfitters rent out Duluth Packs? How much would these cost for a week?” Yes, they will partially or fully outfit you. Don’t know the cost of individual items.
“I have heard of Table Rock, but the Mc Kenzie Map I have does not have it marked. Where is it from the Lower Basswood Falls?” I’ll check my map and e-mail you, if I recall it is on the peninsula on the east side of Wednesday bay, or just south of there. Someone reading this should be able to point it out…
“Am I that far off on my estimates?” Nope, completely doable. It is one heck of a long day though. All dependent on wind, water level, portage efficiency, amount of gear and numbers of canoes. I dislike canoeing and fishing 3 per canoe, but it makes portaging easier. Even in bad conditions, 12 1/2 hours on the water, should get you there. I don’t like long days like that anymore, but if you are Class of 95, you are lots younger than me. Days like that can stress relationships because we each have a different idea of what a vacation is. The destination is worth it though. Have a great trip.
A couple of links
Cool interactive site where people have posted portage and lake experiences. This is a neat site:
Canadian Waters has a map on line with a route mapped out in this link: http://www.canoetrip.com/route4.html
a couple more questions??
Thank you very much for the advice. I have been plannin this trip for about a month, but really for 10 years. The 6 of us are a bunch or red necks from Central Wisconsin, who all grew up in the outdoors and have done a good del of canoing, camping and spending time outdoors. Now 10 years later after all of us have started our families and settled down, we have decided it is the right time to take the trip we have talked about since high school. While we all have a lot of experience canoing short trips, none of us have been on a trip this long before.I will definately take the advice and partially use an outfitter. Also, We have all made the commitment that we are willing to bust our butts for one day to get deep into the BWCA area, but after that we are going to set up a base camp and enjoy the next 5 days. We may start to head out mid day on the sixth day, so that we can get out in time on the seventh day. I just ordered two books yesterday related to fishing the boundary waters and the second is a guide to the Eastern portion of the BWCA area. The six of us have discussed the idea that if this trip goes well, we will make this an annual trip.I also picked up the winter edition of theBWCA Journal from Gander Mountain this last weekend. What a magazine!!What is your favorite place in the BWCA and/ or Quetico? Any reccomendations opn fishing techniques? The Table Rock Camp site might be a good base camp location , if not just for the first night. How is the weather/ bugs that time of year up there?
Sounds like a good group
You will have a good time. Bugs should not be a huge factor in September. There will be some mosquitos and black flies, but not bad enough to create a lot of uncomfort.
Favorite spots? If I could be dropped down on a specific spot, it would probably be the north side of Darky Lake. There are just cool day trips all around, and there is a beautiful island campsite there.
I’m not one to ask about fishing. I canoe with some good fisherman. I am not one of them. The walleye fishermen spend a lot of time jigging with live bait, slow and methodical, over very specific bottom structure with specific wind conditions, water temp, etc. I like trolling artifical lures (rapalas, spoons, etc) along drop offs or casting into the shore or off rocks for bass. I lack finesse and patience. I typically paddle an easy pace and do “S” curves down the shoreline hoping my lure will alternate speeds and depths. The fish I catch are by luck. I change lures often because I figure I might as well use everything I can. I let the other guys catch the smart fish. I bring a lightweight spinning rod (8 lb test) and a heavy casting rod (15 lb test, trolling for big Northerns). I bring a lot of extra line, and an exra spool for each reel. BWCA rocks don’t give up snags easily. I lose lures too quickly with line or leader mtl under 6 lb test. I catch a lot of fish, just not the smart ones. Bass seem to really like the salty tube baits.
I have a friend who only uses black jig heads with long white twister tails tipped with a live leech or black pork rind. Been on 4 trips with him, that is all he uses. He outfishes me 2 to 1. On a trip last spring he caught, Lake Trout, Walleye, Northern, Smallmouth and Largmouth without changing his lure set-up.
Live bait is a charm however when everything else fails.
You will have fun.
lures for catching fish
I think we will plan on bringing leeches. Last year a few of us went top Canada to a very good smallmouth lake and we brought some of the “GULP” imitation leeches. These did pretty good, but not as good as the real thing. I have also been told to bring Minnows, but I think these might be a little more difficult to keep alive. I guess we will see. I saw one web site that said one of the campsites on the long narrow bay just before THursday BAy would be an excellent base camp. I think we will try to get to this locaion if we can. How do you keep the leeches alive over that long? JUst change the water regularly?Do you guys use any depthfinders? I have been told that this is a neccessity if you want to catch the walleyes off of the under water humps. How is the water color in this lake and in the bays? My guess is that it would be somewhat stained due to the river system. I also know that a pink jig with a white twister tail is usually a sure bet for walleyes. Have you heard of anyone catching lake trout in this lake? I know they are in this system, but usually they seem to talk about Lac La Croix or Basswood.
I did a solo trip last September doing the route you were considering. My trip was from September 19-23. I was lucky and had some pretty good weather for that time of the year. I went through Mudro and up the Horse to the Basswood the first day. It was a long day mainly due to low water on the Horse river. I traveled through Crooked Lake to Friday Bay, and then out through the Papoose-Chippewa chain, then through Gun, Fairy, etc. to Fourtown, and out through Mudro again. It was a nice trip, and the portages weren’t too bad. The 300 rod portage out of Wagosh wasn’t all that bad, only long. I think it is a nice route with different types of water along the way (small lakes, streams and some bigger water), so it is interesting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Local bait shop should sell “leech lockers”-2 pc plastic contraptions with seive ends, or you can pick a couple up in Ely. I’ve often wished I had a depth finder, but have never brought one. There are some neat portable ones available. Don’t remember water clarity of Crooked–probably has the slight rust/iron/tannin color like basswood and Lac La Croix. When the sun shines through and you can see to the bottom, sort of an orange color.
Regarding route: Check with Outfitter, based on where you want to camp, the route up Fairy, Gun, Popoose, etc. may be more direct.