Difficulty Levels: Easy-Moderate Route Times: 3-5 Days Lakes: East Bearskin, Alder, Canoe Entry Points: #64 East Bearskin Lake Route Highlights: Excellent year round fishing for walleye, northern pike and trout, Access to Johnson Falls, great campsites
Base-camping on either Alder or Canoe Lakes will offer you plenty of fishing and hiking opportunities throughout your trip. Though the paddle is a little bit longer than some of the other base-camp trips and there is one short portage into Alder Lake it will give paddlers more of a feeling of accomplishment and more “secluded” feel. Another short portage can be used to access Canoe Lake if need be. The camp site options on Alder and Canoe Lakes are better than average and while the fishing on Canoe is nothing to write home about, Alders lake trout, walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass opportunities more than make up for it. A trip to this area is not complete without a visit and swim in Johnson Falls. The portage from Canoe and Pine Lakes can be used to access Johnson Falls, and without canoes or gear makes for a pleasant hike. Crystal and Pierz Lakes offer even more fishing opportunities with decent lake trout numbers, especially in the spring. Alder can sometimes feel “crowded” in the heat of the summer and if you are looking for a more secluded experience a portage into either Crystal or Pierz is the best option.
Brule Lake Base-Camping Trip
Difficulty Levels: Easy Route Times: 2-5 Days Lakes: Brule Lake Entry Points: #41 Brule Lake Route Highlights: Big beautiful lake, access to multiple day-trip loops, excellent year round fishing, nice campsites, easy access
Brule Lake is one of the largest lakes in the Boundary Waters that does not allow any motorboats and its direct access makes it a great option for quick weekend trip, or for those looking to introduce kids or first timers to the wilderness experience. As soon as you paddle away from the boat launch you are in the BWCA and you could be set up in a campsite within 30 minutes if you really wanted. Paddling a lit bit farther away from the put in point will greatly decrease the number of canoes you see, and get you closer to some of the day trip loops in the area. Day-tripping in the BWCA with just a canoe and day pack is about as good as it gets and there is a nice loop up through the Cone Lakes and back down through Grassy Lake. A day-trip to the falls between Brule and Vernon Lakes on the East end is a great way to cool off in the summer. Walleye, northern pike, lake trout and smallmouth bass are all present in large numbers in this lake and due to its size you could spend a week just fishing. The size of Brule Lake makes for beautiful views but can also make for challenging fishing and paddling conditions. You may want to consider sticking to some of the more secluded bays if there is wind forecast during your trip.
Clearwater Lake Base-camping Trip
Difficulty Levels: Easy Route Times: 2-5 Days Lakes: Camp on Clearwater Lake, day trip to any of the lakes in the area. Entry Points: #62 Clearwater Lake Route Highlights: Very Scenic, good fishing in the spring, Palisades Trail, Mountain Lake Overlook, Johnson Falls, Access to Border Route Trail
Being able to paddle your canoe from right in front of our historic lodge to a BWCA campsite within 2 hours without having to portage makes this one of the best base-camp trips for young families or people with limited time. The three campsites at the far east end of the lake are excellent spots to day trip to some of the many destinations in the area. There are multiple points in the area where one can access the Border Route Trail and it’s many vistas. A trip to Johnson Falls is a must if you are in this area, and being able to portage there without camping gear makes for a much more enjoyable day. The fishing options are excellent during all seasons, fishing Clearwater or Mountain in the spring for lake trout is almost a sure thing, and day tripping into Caribou and Pine Lakes later in the spring and into the summer for walleye and northern pike is always worth it. The only real downside to a base-camping style trip on Clearwater Lake is that 9.9 horsepower motors are allowed on the entire length of the lake. Though the motorboats are small and few and far between if this is a concern you may want to consider taking one portage into Mountain or West Pike Lakes for a quieter camping experience.
Duncan Lake Base-Camping Trip
Difficulty Levels: Easy Route Times: 2-5 Days Lakes: West Bearskin, Duncan, Rose Entry Points: #61 Duncan Lake Route Highlights: Rose Falls, Access to Border Route Trail, Beautiful views of Rose Lake and Canada, excellent lake trout fishing in the spring
Though base-camping on Duncan Lake does require a single portage, it is easy to find, well used and relatively short at 75 rods and can give first timers a taste of what portaging is like without burning them out on the experience. Taking that one portage also gives people more of a feeling of “earning” their campsite and a sense for truly being “out there”. The proximity to Rose Falls and the hiking options on the Border Route Trail make for great day trip destinations, especially on windy days, or if you are just looking to stretch the legs. You could decide to continue on and portage one more time on the Stairway Portage into Rose Lake if you are looking for a little bit more of challenge. The campsites on Rose Lake are little nicer and more secluded than those on Duncan but portaging back up the 75 stairs on the Stairway Portage should be considered when making that decision. In late May and early June the lake trout fishing opportunities on both Duncan and Rose are great, while later in the summer the smallmouth bass fishing picks up and makes for fun shore-fishing. One of the downsides to camping on Duncan is that due to its easy access and proximity to popular day tripping spots it can sometimes feel busy throughout the day. If you are feeling crowded though and wiling to work for a quieter campsite or fishing day-trip you may want to consider the 230 rod portage into Partridge Lake.
Sea Gull Lake Base-Camping Trip
Difficulty Levels: Easy Route Times: 2-5 Days Lakes: Seagull Lake Entry Points: #54 Seagull Lake Route Highlights: Excellent year round fishing, excellent campsites, easy access
If you are looking to spend your time in the Boundary Waters fishing this is the trip for you. Sea Gull Lake is one of the best fishing lakes in the entire BWCA and maybe even the state. Walleye, northern pike, lake trout and smallmouth bass are all present in higher than average numbers and size in this lake, with some truly monstrous walleye and pike being caught in the past. Its lack of portages to access campsites makes this the trip to bring the coolers, chairs and cast iron. Its numerous islands and bays will always allow for picking a campsite that still feels secluded. There are parts of the lake that do allow motorboats and a quick look at the map will show you where these are if you need to avoid them; the majority of the lake is motor free. Although it is a massive lake it can be relatively easy to avoid the wind by utilizing its many islands and bays for protection. Sea Gull lake has been affected by multiple wildfires in the past 10 years and the results of which are still apparent. The area has come back a ton over that time and all of the campsites on the lake have retained their original feel due to efforts to protect them during the fire.