Saganaga Loop

Next week I’m taking my family into the BWCA for a 3-night trip. We’re going into Saganaga and then doing a loop going west through whatever border lake that is, then south and back through Seagull. Is there anything in particular we should see? Any camp sites we should look for?

That Would be Red Rock & Alpine.
Beware of big waves on Sag. Red Rock Bay is confusing, keep closer to the North (right hand) shoreline, or you’ll end up in a dead end bay. Sometimes you can paddle right through into Red Rock Lake, depending on water level. When you get to Alpine, it is shaped kind of like an amoeba. Lots of bays, arms, and points, easy to get lost. There are lots of nice campsites, I like the two just past the portage to your right (north). You HAVE to go past the portage into Seagull and make your way to Jasper Falls, coming from Jasper Lake. The portage from Alpine to Seagull pretty flat and wide, a thoroughfare. BUT, IMHO it’s worth the shorter, rough, rocky portages to go through Rog Lake. Beautiful little lake that has an emerald coloration, and brook trout swimming in it’s depths. Almost got run over (within 15-20 feet) of a BIG bull moose there. Seagull also can have big waves in the afternoon. Better to veer to your left (north) after portaging into Seagull and paddle between the islands, see the palisades, etc. Beautiful area! You WILL NOT be alone, though, it’s popular. Have fun! WW

dealing with the wind
I assume you are going west to Knife and then south to Ogishkemuncie and out through Seagull. A beautiful trip. Saganaga, Knife and Seagull are big lakes and can get really rough and dangerous in the wind. This is especially true of Saganaga. Plan to get a very early start on Saganaga. I spend the night at Way of the Wilderness Outfitters bunkhouse the night before the trip and get on the water as soon as it is light enough to see. I pay up my bill the night before and bring bakery from Grand Marais to eat in the morning as I paddle. You can be on the water by 5AM. There is also a campground at Trails End, but the bunkhouse allows me a hassle free and faster start in the morning. The outfit stays in the packs. The big lake is usually like glass and often foggy/misty. As glassy as it is, the wind can be roaring by mid morning. You can be at the western end of the lake by 9AM if you leave at 5AM.

If you can’t get an early start and you arrive at the lake with the wind howling consider waiting until evening to paddle out. The wind usually dies and it is light until after 9PM. There are many excellent campsites on Saganaga that you can get to in a few hours paddle.

Don’t take chances paddling the big lakes when they are rough. If you are uncomfortable with the situation, get on shore and enjoy the break. The dies down eventually.

more to come
One of the things I need to do today is to go and pick up a map of the area. I haven’t looked at one since my friend suggested the route. Once I get that, I may have a few other questions.

Bays and islands? Great. I love navigating. The family will have to steal my maps if they want to do any navigating. I am a map hog. HA!

About wind and waves. I don’t mind them so much, but I can’t speak for my family. Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to get on the water at dawn like I would like. Circumstances may make it a late morning starting time, which could be rough. Hopefully the wind will cooperate though.

wind and waves
I don’t mind wind and waves either. I find traveling in rough weather stimulating and figuring out how to get from place to place at those times is fun. Saganaga and Knife, however, generate big enough waves to swamp watercraft much bigger than canoes. You can be traveling along just fine in waves you can handle and suddenly find yourself over a reef making those waves twice as high.

If you get a later start and the weather is rough you’ll have lots of island cover with lots of nice camps before you get into the big part of Saganaga.

I don’t mean to make the big lakes sound terrible. They are beautiful and I enjoy the chance to paddle a long ways without a portage. They demand some caution and respect and flexibilty in your schedule.

Didn’t See the Word "Border"
So you are going into Ottertrack? If you are getting a late morning start, I’d reccomend taking a tow to American Point. There are several different ways to do this route, I like to go through Ester. If you go through Ester, there’s a small sandy beach about half way on the east shore. Pretty cliffs and a heron rookery on the west. If you don’t get the tow and have a headwind it will be a long day to get to Ester. WW

Route possibilities
Yes, we’re going in entry 55 on Saganaa, to Knife and then either through Ester and Hanson, or going a bit further to gto the the South arm of Knife then Ogishkmuncie and to Seagull. Our group of 7 turned into a group of 3. I am disappointed about that, but it will make portages easier and quicker I guess with 3 strong guys. It’ll make planning the menu easier too I suppose.

Any further suggestions?

I’ll be there too
I’m heading SE across seagull and coming out where you seem to be entering. I’m getting a little spooked with all the talk about typhoons on the lake and all. Is it reall that bad?