Crossing Quetico N-to-S; advice needed.

Thinking on crossing Quetico, NW (Beaverhouse?) to SC (Ely).

If it were you, from Sturgeon Lake, would you take the Malign River to Darky River to Darky Lake, or take one of the portages to Conmee Lake, i.e. from Poobah, or the Fred, Camel route ?

The Malign would have to be pretty nice (beauty, campsites, fishing). I don;t mind portaging if the Conmee route is better.

Thanks !!

Cross Quetico

– Last Updated: Aug-06-10 3:11 PM EST –

I've done Prairie Portage, North Bay, Kahshapiwi, Sark, Cairn, Poet Chain, Sturgeon, Jean, Quetico, and Beaverhouse. Nice trip and Quetico doesn't get much better than the Chatterton Falls area. I've also done Prarie Portage, North Bay, S chain, upper Agnes, Kawnipi, Poet Chain, Sturgeon, Lonely, Walter, Batchewaung, and out at Nym. Both these routes actually see occasional paddlers, so the portages are easy to find and are usually well maintained. These are two "beaten path" routes across the park. Your first route you are proposing heading to Darkwater (formerly called Darky) from the Malign River. You would have 2 well traveled routes to choose from then one south into Crooked Lake, then along the border. Very historic route, but lots of big water. You could also head into Brent from Darkwater and route through McIntyre, Sarah, North Bay; much smaller lakes. Your other route is south from Sturgeon into Fred to probably Baird and re-entering the beaten path probably at Cairn. I've been in that area and there aren't many who go this way with the lovely poet chain just to the north. I do remember spending a lot of time in that Baird, Metacryst, Cutty, area just looking for the portages. If I were taking this route, I'd plan for no more than 7 miles in a day's travel in that area.

Great to sample larger area of PPQuetico
I’ve got nothing to add to DuluthMoose’s route comments but those two times we made that trip were special ones to me. Having done many years of 8-10 day loops out of Moose L. and a few 2-3 day trips starting and ending in the northern part, it was good to see different areas encompassing a larger portion of Quetico. Go for it; it’s worth it. IMHO.


– Last Updated: Aug-10-10 2:21 PM EST –

Thanks for the advice guys. I have done just about everything except for extreme East Central, and North West.

Duluth Moose, if you had 10-11 days, and wanted to cross the park from Canada to US, what route would you pick ?

What is the scoop with Darky being renamed ?

Thanks !


– Last Updated: Aug-10-10 11:56 PM EST –

My preference on a route between Beaverhouse to Prairie portage (well traveled route with easier portaging). Named lakes would be where I would end my travel day and camp.
Quetico, Jean or Burntside (both pretty lakes), Sturgeon (long sandy point on south shore where trading post was located is sure inviting), Russell (at Chatterton Falls), Note: portage to Chatterton Lake is around the peninsula about half mile south of the falls, Kawnipi, upper Agnes via Keewatin , Silence, and North Bay via the S chain (Sultry, Shade, South). I would be sitting on 2 extra days in case of being windbound. If you didn’t need one of those days by mid-trip, I’d definitely do an extra day in Kawnipi and maybe a goof off half day at Chatterton Falls or somewhere in the Sturgeon Narrows area. Once you leave Kawnipi, you will need to pay attention to NOAA weather reports and plan accordingly because wind could be a concern on Agnes, North Bay, or Bailey Bay.

For more challenging portaging and a little less paddling, instead of going into Kawnipi, I would head down Kahshahpiwi Creek to Sark via Cairn, Kahshahpiwi, and North Bay. On this route I would layover at beautiful Sark. The portages between Kahshahpiwi and Isabella make for a challenging day’s travel. But my opinion is the memory lane portages between Poohbah and Conmee would even be a harder day. But once you reach Conmee, the going is pretty easy through Suzanette, Brent, McIntyre, and Sarah. You would miss the tough portage leading out of the south end of Kahshahpiwi, but unfortunately hook up with the rest of the tough portages into Isabella anyway. And you need to pay attention to rainfall in the area if you try the Poohbah Creek to Poohbah Lake route. This year wouldn’t be a problem. There’s been fairly consistent rainfall in the area. Two years ago there were areas on that creek that couldn’t be paddled.

As far as the renaming to Darkwater, here is a link to the scoop on that. See pages 6 to 8 (of 12) on this Acrobat reader file.

lots of choices

– Last Updated: Aug-11-10 11:54 AM EST –

just depends on your preferences - you want to be more remote? the so-called "death march" between Conmee and Veron to Camel is nice and quiet, though I saw one other group on it year before last. I was on a loop that included the Malign River to Tanner Lake and then south to Darky River via Andrews Creek - a shortcut, rather than going via Minn - some nice rapis to portage around on Malign R, and Andrews Cr and Darky River were nice,. Saw lots of people in the Darky R and Wicksteed and that area.

As Duluthmoose said, the portages in that Camel L and Cutty Creek area tend to be touger and take more time - I went from Camel to Kawnipi. The only "cross quetico" one way trip I've done was from Beaverhouse to Prairie Portage, via Quetico, Jean Sturgeon, poets chian, Kawnipi and south thru Agnes/Meadows. Its a nice route with fewer portages and bigger lakes - that would work well for you if you want to do less portageing - about 8 days travel time. Going south thru Kashapiwi, as DM suggested would be shorter than Kawnipi/Agnes, on mid-sized lakes.

Its all good. Just zigzag your way thru to see lakes you haven't been on before, assuming you have enough time.


Thanks guys. I will ponder your suggestions. On longer trips it is nice to break things up, which heading through Conmee or Malign would certainly do.

One other question is on time of year. Usually we have targeted late August; but twice tripped in mid September; one trip being hot/humid and the other being constant high winds, rain, and 60 deg for 10 days (still enjoyed it). Is September that much of a crap shoot or was that nasty year unusual?

That nasty year had some pluses, northern pike fishing for one, and dramatic lighting from bizaar cloud formations as fronts were rolling through like freight trains what seamed like every 4 hours; very surreal.

My experience has been by mid September weather patterns are changing, and therefore the warm air/cold air battle with all the associated fronts, rain, and associated wind blowing rain in and fronts out is pretty much right over Quetico at that time. By late September Quetico trippers pretty much need to be prepared for anything including a few inches of snow.