June 18, 2024
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3 Best Boundary Waters Entry Points To Consider

Sunset - Boundary Waters Entry Point

These are my favorite Boundary Waters entry points. I have taken a number of trips from each spot and find that they have worked out great. That being said, here are my 3 favorite BWCA Entry Points with opportunities and obstacles.

Saganaga #55 Gunflint Ranger District

Opportunity: This one has been a go-to over the years. This Boundary Waters entry point starts basically right on the border and has lots of options as to where to go. It is super easy to make a loop for your trip, and if you find out that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, there are lots of ways to cut back on your loop. Grand Marais is the last stop to grab any forgotten items. 

Obstacle: You will need time to make it happen, though it’s a hike to get to. It is at the bitter end of the Gunflint Trail. If you have that extra few hours to make it happen, I would recommend it. Google says it will take you about 3 hours and 15 min from Duluth, plan on adding at least an hour to that. If there are some concerns about big water or navigation, it can be a bit tricky, though.

Map of Location of Saganaga #55

In prevailing winds, there’s a lot of room for the water to kick up and islands to get lost in. If you can, get as early of a start as possible to avoid the typical afternoon winds. Staying in Grand Marais the night before can save you a lot of trouble.

Fall Lake #24 Kawishiwi Ranger District

Opportunity: I feel like this is another go-to. Particularly if you are planning last minute, more often than not, there are a few permits left for Fall Lake. It sets you up nicely to get into Basswood Lake, and if you are planning a bit longer of a trip, you have east or west options. I made an awesome trip with my wife to the West end of Lac Lacroix and back from Fall Lake.  Portaging here is generally easier here, too, because of the motorboat access.

Obstacle: The downside here is that there are usually motorboats every day; maybe this is an upside depending if that is what you’re doing? Another downside is that you will likely need to do a few portages and a few miles to get to a campsite on day one. If you get an early start, it is not an issue, but there are only so many campsites from the entry point.

Map of Location of Fall Lake #24

Sawbill #38 Tofte District

Opportunity: I find this to be a less popular entry point, and I am here to tell you that it is awesome. You can puddle jump to the Kawishiwi River, go straight north to Cherokee Lake, or combine the two and loop around with the Frost River in between! It sets you up to see some of the lesser focused areas of the Boundary Waters. It is a short 2-hour drive from Duluth, which is one of the more attainable drive times, in my opinion. 

Obstacle: To get to any of the fabulous places that I mentioned, there are portages. A lot of portages. Be prepared to get in and out of your canoe a fair number of times. In that loop I mentioned, I think there were 4+ miles of portaging in total. In my opinion, that’s just part of the deal, but it is something to be aware of.

Map of Sawbill Lake Landing #38

Honorable Mentions

Quetico Morning Paddle - Boundary Waters Entry Points
Quetico Morning Paddle

Here I am talking about Mudro Lake #20. Moose River #16, Little Indian Sioux North #9, Stuart River #19. All of these would be awesome Boundary Waters entry points if I ever got permits for them. If you are heading up the Echo trail, trying to get up to Lac Lacroix, be prepared with dates in mind when the first day of permits open; these go Fast. 

Moose Lake #25 has a special place in my heart because the Northern Tier Base is there, and I have taken more trips out from that lake than others. There are many Boundary Waters entry points opportunities from that area, east or west, and there are many permits issued at that lake. However, it’s almost always a zoo. Canoe and Motorboat traffic from here, even for a day or two, is a lot, too much for me if I can avoid it.

Are there Entry points you have on your favorites list that were not on mine? Drop your favorites in the comment section!

Resources for Canoeing

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Related Links and Stories About Boundary Waters Entry Points

  • Trail Stories #1 – Lessons Learned the Hard Way – Sort of like watching the disaster of a full glass of chocolate milk fall in slow motion in a twisting, arching cascade onto a soft white carpet, I watched the canoe hundreds of yards ahead of me sink below the water’s surface. This was my first trip as a backcountry canoe guide.
  • 8 Tips About a Secret Survival Skill Nobody Talks About. – Shelter, water, fire, food are all tools in the ultimate game of survival in the wilderness. However, these survival skills are useless unless you have honed one key skill.
  • 4 Outdoor Gear Items to Upgrade First – Based on Comfort – Have a bunch of outdoor gear but want to step up your experience? Well, this shortlist targets the items I would upgrade first in order to have a more comfortable, enjoyable experience in the woods.
  • 7 Tips for Black Bear Preparedness in the Boundary Waters – BWCA – I love catching a glimpse of wildlife! I really want to keep it that way. In the BWCA, there is lots of wildlife that you might encounter. The rarest of which are moose, wolves, and black bear. Of them, the black bear is the most likely to become…
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