Boundary Waters Blog
Sound like fun to you? How about in the winter?
From Quetico Superior Wilderness-
A young man named Jon White recently spent three months alone in the wilderness, paddling in on November 1 and pulling a handmade toboggan out over frozen lakes at the end of January. He did the whole thing without a food resupply, and went two-and-a-half months without seeing another person.
White camped on Knife Lake and explored the surrounding area on snowshoes, using traditional techniques and gear. He tested his “bushcraft” skills by sleeping outside in -35 degrees F and leaping into the water through a hole in the ice during sub-zero temperatures.
And he recorded all of it. Starting on January 31, White has released a total of five videos.
While I don’t think I’m going to help them fund this device I do think it is a neat idea. It would be great fun to be able to lie in a hammock over the water! It would be nice for car camping since you wouldn’t have to worry about finding enough sturdy trees for everyone in your group to put their hammock up. Check it out-This is Hammocraft.
The Hammocraft has evolved from half a dozen different designs that we tested, tweaked, and tampered with over a period of 10 years. The Hammocraft is designed to sling up to 5 hammocks atop paddle boards, river rafts, kayaks, and even on dry land…essentially wherever or whatever you dream up as a hammock dock.The Specs
The Hammocraft frame comes with:
- High-quality aluminum poles (6061 T6 clear anodized aluminum)
- Stainless steel corners (304 stainless steel corners with black UV resistant powdercoating)
- Quick connecting spring clips (304 stainless steel spring clips) for easy setup and take down
- Four Hammocraft nylon webbing straps with zinc plated cam buckles for attaching the frame to your floatable of choice
- A carrying case for your Hammocraft frame
What an amazing opportunity for these youth to experience the BWCA and winter on the Gunflint Trail. Through Wilderness Inquiry and Camp Menogyn a group of Somali-Minnesotan boys get to experience winter on the edge of the BWCA. Read the full story here.
Here’s an excerpt-
More than 300 miles north of the Twin Cities, a group of 11 Somali-Minnesotan boys, ages 7 to 14 years old, arrives in an expansive forest within the Boundary Waters. Cell phone signals drop, and the boys breathe collective sighs of discontent. The van parks at the edge of Bearskin Lake, one of 1,175 in the Boundary Waters that are now frozen solid, making the area less of a boundary and more of a bridge.
Building bridges is what has brought them up here in the first place. The group includes four guides from Wilderness Inquiry—a nearly 40-year-old, Minneapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to making the outdoors accessible for all, including people with disabilities and underserved youth—and two leaders from Ka Joog, a Somali youth advocacy group.
It will be awhile yet but before long we’ll have open water for paddling again. Get your trip dates on the calendar, I know I’ve got mine!
Any Shakespeare aficionados out there? We’re trying to find out and we’re hosting a Shakespeare Festival at Voyageur Brewing Company this weekend. If you’re looking for a weekend escape, then come on up for a visit!
Thinking about paddling the Granite River this summer? Here’s some information from our website we thought we’d share with you.
The Granite River trip is one of our all-time favorites at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. The route straddles the border between Canada and the US so you’ll find yourself alternating between the two as there is not a line or fence between the two countries.
The Granite River is a section of the larger Voyageurs route traveled years ago. You can picture the Voyageurs paddling among the pines and portaging their gear through the woods as you travel this scenic route.
The word “river” conjures up different things in different people’s mind. If you’re thinking of floating along with the current and barely paddling then get that out of your mind. The Granite River has lakes interconnected by rapids that are for the most part non-navigable. You’ll be portaging around the rapids and paddling to propel yourself onward.
We’ve paddled the entire Granite River in a day but it’s not something we recommend. It’s nice to have a minimum of three or four days to paddle and camp this route. If you plan to fish then you’ll definitely want to spend more days so you can take advantage of the great fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike. Some folks call this an easy beginners route but I have a difficult time calling it that with the number of portages there are.
The trip can be paddled beginning in the south or the north. Because the current is mainly located near the portages it doesn’t require much more effort to paddle against the current. Most people begin the trip by getting dropped off or parking at the public landing on Gunflint Lake. From our location it’s just a quick 15-minute drive to get to Gunflint Lake. From there it’s just a short paddle into Magnetic Lake, the actual entry point into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. You’ll need to paddle, fish and camp in Minnesota unless you obtain proper permits to enter Canada.
Paddling on Magnetic Lake you’ll see a beautiful Swiss Chalet looking house on an island. This is a summer cabin and is known as Gallagher’s Island. The waterway past this is sometimes referred to as the Pine River. The waterway will narrow until you reach the 5-rod portage around Little Rock Falls. This is a photo opportunity for sure.
There’s a 30-rod portage called Wood Horse Portage into the next section of the Pine River where you’ll find the first campsite. If this is taken you’ll need to continue paddling until you reach the 100-rod Pine Portage into Clove Lake where there are three campsites to choose from.
To the west of Clove Lake is a portage into Larch Lake. At one time Larch Lake was a beautiful place to camp especially the island campsite. Unfortunately fire and high winds have eliminated most of the towering pines but you can still camp there and enjoy the solitude of the small lake. You can also spend some time exploring the area during a day trip, just be sure to remember to bring your fishing rod along.
Paddling out of Clove Lake you’ll find a 48-rod portage into Granite Lake and the beginning of the actual Granite River. The majority of Granite Lake is in Canada so you won’t spend much time paddling before you reach the next portage known as Swamp Portage.
The name aptly describes this 72-rod portage as much of the time you’ll find knee-deep muck somewhere along the path. Tighten your footwear prior to this portage because the suction power of the muck is enough to pull a strapped tight Chaco off of a foot and swallow it whole never to be seen again.
This is known as Granite Bay where you’ll paddle to a 25-rod portage known as Granite River Portage. Another quick paddle and you’ll be at the 25-rod Gneiss Lake Portage that takes you into Gneiss Lake. Be sure to keep your fishing rod handy in this section of the river because there can be good fishing at the rapids.
The area of Gneiss Lake and Maraboeuf is sometimes referred to as the “Devil’s Elbow.” Unlike Swamp Portage the name does not come from a man wearing red carrying a pitchfork here. So feel free to camp at any of the campsites, just remember if you have a BWCA permit you need to stay on the US side where there are 15 to choose from in this large area.
There is a 25-rod portage that eliminates paddling past many of the campsites on Maraboeuf if you are looking to avoid a little paddling perhaps in pursuit of a certain fishing area.
After the long stretch of paddling you’ll find the 27-rod portage around Horsetail Rapids. It’s on the Canadian side of the river and can sometimes be tricky due to the water level. Just don’t convince yourself that it would be easier to paddle through the rapids than to portage. Others have thought this and left their canoes wrapped around rocks in the river.
Another quick paddle and you’ll be at Saganaga Falls. Again, don’t be fooled by the looks of the falls. Take the 34-rod portage around the falls. There’s a reason artifacts from the days of the Voyageurs have been found at the bottom of the falls and it isn’t because they were thrown into the water on purpose.
From this point you can decide whether or not you will paddle Saganaga Lake back to our base on the Seagull River or get picked up by a towboat. It’s a beautiful paddle if the wind and waves are cooperative but it does add a few hours onto your trip. But if you’re like me, then you’re never ready for a BWCA trip to end.
The best part about the location of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters is the vast number of Boundary Waters and Quetico Park canoe trips that can be taken leaving right from our dock. One of our favorite said routes is the Saganaga, Knife and Seagull Lakes loop. There are a number of variations of this route depending upon how many days you have but believe me, you’re sure to enjoy this loop no matter what detours you choose to take along the way.
You can read about Saganaga and Seagull Lakes on our other trip route descriptions in full detail. For sake of brevity we’ll keep the information about those two lakes to a minimum on this route description.
This route can be done with either a Saganaga Lake permit or a Seagull Lake Permit. Since we prefer to use a tow boat to get us to American Point on Saganaga we’ll describe this route beginning from there.
American Point is as far north and west as motorboats are allowed to travel into the BWCA. From there it’s paddle power only as you make your way west along the Minnesota Canadian border.
There are a number of great campsites to choose from in this area that require no portaging to access. If you’re getting a late start in the day or want to spend some time fishing then locate one of these jewels.
The paddle from American Point to the first 5-rod portage into Swamp Lake is relatively short but very scenic. After paddling past the opening to Cache Bay of the Quetico Park the waterway begins to narrow. It eventually funnels down to an intimate stream like size as you straddle the narrow waterway with the bow of your canoe in the US and the stern in Canada. The waterway opens up again before the 3rd Bay of Saganaga where you can find a 5-rod portage into Zephyr Lake or continue along the route to Ottertrack Lake.
In high water we’ve paddled through the 5-rod portage into Swamp Lake but that has been a very rare occasion. Most of the time you need to unload your canoe and portage the short expanse of land. The paddle across Swamp Lake is a short one and before you get to the portage to Ottertrack Lake you’ll see the decking of the Monument Portage. This is a relatively easy 80-rod portage as it is quite wide due to the maintenance of the International Border. You’ll see why the portage is called Monument as you make your way to Ottertrack.
The bay of Ottertrack where the portage leads to is shallow and sandy. I love this area because you can see to the bottom and one time I was able to spy a beaver swimming beneath my canoe. The lake begins to open up and this is where you would find the portage into Ester Lake and one campsite before you reach the narrow passageway into the rest of Ottertrack Lake. This section of Ottertrack is lined by high cliffs on the Canadian side of the lake. It’s quite majestic looking and I’m always in awe when I paddle past. It’s a beautiful long and narrow lake with most campsites located at the opposite end of the lake. You’ll find one campsite on a point right after the portage into Gijikiki Lake. Then there are three campsites before the lake funnels around a bend toward the 5-rod portage into Knife Lake.
After the quick lift over you might want to spend some time fishing in the bay above the falls and below the falls. There’s a campsite right around the corner you could enjoy a break at if no one has set up camp there.
Knife Lake is a long, large lake that also straddles Canada and the US. There are islands, fingers and many bays to explore on this expansive and scenic lake. For the least amount of portaging you’ll paddle past a number of bays and campsites until you reach Thunder Point. There is a hiking trail to the top of Thunder Point and you can see down the rest of the expanse of Knife Lake from this vantage point.
The South Arm of Knife is narrower and there are again a large number of campsites to choose from as you paddle east toward the 25-rod portage to Eddy Lake. Eddy Lake is tiny and has just one campsite on the west end of the lake. The next portage is a 15-rod into Jenny Lake that has two campsites to choose from but if you really want seclusion then take the 20-rod portage into Calico Lake where you’ll find a campsite seldom seen by others. A 15-rod portage takes you into and out of tiny but beautiful Annie Lake into Ogishkemuncie Lake.
Ogish is a great place to camp due to the many day trip options it provides. Those who are interested in hiking will find the Kekekabic Trail by taking the 103-rod portage into Mueller then trekking on the 112-rod portage to Agamok. The most photographed bridge in the Boundary Waters is located on this portage thanks to the existence of the Kekekabic Trail that connects the East end of the BWCA(Gunflint Trail) to the West end of the BWCA(Snowbank Lake Area). The water cascades beneath the bridge as it makes its way from Agamok down to Mueller in a picturesque waterfall. The trail provides welcome relief to legs that have been cramped in a canoe for days.
While camping on Ogish one can explore Skindance Lake by taking the 22-rod portage from Ogish or explore Spice Lake to the North by traversing the quick 10-rod portage from Ogish. Both of these lakes have campsites, privacy from paddlers on Ogish and have fishing for northern pike and smallmouth bass.
All four species of fish are available in Ogish including walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and lake trout. The many bays and islands provide great fishing and beautiful scenery just a day’s paddle from Seagull Lake.
At the east end of the lake you’ll find the 38-rod portage into Kingfisher which has no campsites. It’s a fast paddle to the opposite side of the lake where the 25-rod portage into Jasper can be found. Jasper has six campsites to choose from and since the Cavity Lake Fire of 2006 they are usually open. It was one of the hardest hit lakes during this forest fire and regeneration has been slower here than other places in the BWCA. It’s a private lake and tends to be super quiet too.
A 45-rod portage leads into Alpine Lake. Alpine is a favorite lake of many because there are a number of hidden bays and islands where 21 campsites await. A 105-rod portage leads into Seagull Lake where you can either exit or take one more portage into the Seagull River and back to Voyageur Canoe Outfitters.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a cross fox at Voyageur but a neighbor was lucky enough to have one visit. So cute! Thanks for sharing the photos Jim.
I’ve seen quite a few bald eagles on the North Shore lately.
Feed me, feed me!
Update from the nest
Our three eaglets are now focused on the business of growing up, eating plenty and getting strong. They’re a full-time job for the adult eagles, in need of frequent feedings and help staying warm, but these adults have proved their mettle as parents. Fish, pigeons, muskrat and squirrel have all made appearances at meal times, and both adults are taking turns keeping the chicks protected from the March winds of Minnesota.
Competition starts early in the life of a bald eagle. As we’ve seen, bald eagle chicks hatch asynchronously, meaning they don’t all hatch at the same time. A few days difference in age means differences in size and strength for the first weeks of their lives outside the shell, resulting in sibling rivalry. At this young age, one eaglet is unlikely to really hurt another, but that doesn’t keep them from trying! Viewers may see tiny grey heads bashing each other during feeding times. This behavior is a normal and healthy part of early life for an eaglet. Working to get to the best food bits first, to have the most comfy spot in the nest and the most parental attention helps eaglets grow strong and smart. Eagles’ lives don’t get easier once they fledge and join the adult population, so it’s very important they develop a competitive spirit early on.
Parenting human children, someone once said, is like making chili; everyone has their own recipe. That’s true in the animal kingdom, too, where biologists describe two basic approaches to caring for the young. Some species are referred to as precocial – their young are mobile and pretty much able to take care of themselves as soon as they’re born or hatched (what parents of any teenager might occasionally find themselves longing for). Horses, giraffes, domestic chickens, ducks and turkeys – all are precocial. The super-precocial African wildebeest has calves that can stand within six minutes of birth, and outrun their main predator, the hyena, within a day, giving them a significant survival advantage.
Other species are altricial – they need lots of care and feeding for at least a while after being born or hatched. Most backyard songbirds are altricial, as are eagles and other raptors. That’s why we get to be intimate witnesses to all that goes on in our bald eagles’ nest. If eagles were precocial, they’d fly off shortly after being hatched, and there wouldn’t be much to see.
Altricial development may offer benefits to the species, as well as to us spectators. Altricial birds, like eagles, hatch with fairly small brains, but the rich parent-provided diet after hatching lets their brains grow larger and more complex than precocial birds, providing advantages for survival. It certainly seems to work that way for humans. Altricial development also tends to promote greater socialization, as parents may need to work together to provide care for their young. Certainly we see that with our bald eagle pair!
While humans may be at one end of the altricial development scale, taking as much as 18 years for the young to become mature (sometimes more – much more!), such traits are not confined to higher order critters. Some insects such as ants and bees also can be categorized as altricial. One fascinating group of beetles, known as burying beetles, displays a surprising amount of parental care. True to their name, burying beetles chew up and bury the bodies of small animals as food for their larvae. Both parents then guard the larvae and the carcass/food from other intrusions, and they will feed the squiggling larvae a regurgitated liquid protein in response to begging. It is particularly noteworthy that male burying beetles participate in parental care alongside the females. Although the burying beetle larvae are capable of moving about and feeding on their own, the parental care shown by burying beetles is thought to produce fewer but larger and stronger adults.
Warmer temperatures, less snow and more wildfires.What’s The Leading Cause Of Wildfires In The U.S.? Humans February 27, 20173:01 PM ET Christopher Joyce Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.
Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: “intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires.”
But the average for all forests is even higher. The latest research shows that nationwide, humans cause more than 8 in 10 — 84 percent.
“We are playing a really substantial role in shifting fire around,” says fire ecologist Jennifer Balch at the University of Colorado. Balch looked at the big picture, going through records of 1.5 million wildfires over a 21-year period. She says people are starting fires where and when nature normally doesn’t — at times when forests are often too wet to burn easily or at places and times when lightning isn’t common.
As a result, Balch says, not only are people causing the vast majority of wildfires, they’re also extending the normal fire season around the country by three months.“I think acknowledging that fact is really important,” she says, “particularly right now when we have evidence that climate is changing, and climate is warming, and that fires are increasing in size and the fire season is increasing.” You can see evidence of that along Skyline Drive in Virginia. The view offers an Appalachian panorama — rolling mountains carpeted in deep oak and pine forests. But it’s not all green, as Forder points out from the side of the highway at Two-Mile Run Overlook at Shenandoah National Park. Right below stands a grove of blackened trees; a few patches of green needles on surviving pines are the only green.
“We can see where it started,” she says. “That’s Rocky Mount right there.” The mountain is the namesake for the Rocky Mount fire, which burned more than 10,000 acres last year.
The park’s fire manager, Jeff Koenig, ran the firefighting teams that spent almost two weeks stopping it.
“We were probably 10-plus days without rain” before the fire, he says, “so you know it was expected. It was that time of year when you can expect fire activity.”
It was April, and spring and fall are when forests in the east usually burn, explains Forder, who also is with the National Park Service. “To have a fire,” she says, “you need the fuel, which is available each spring and fall with the leaf litter, which is constantly here, and the ignition source, and then weather conditions that would allow the fire to burn.”
That ignition source at Rocky Mount is thought to have been people. There was no lightning at the time; lightning fires happen more during summer storms.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Balch says there is a solution: Ironically, it means starting more fires.
Prescribed fires are intentionally lit — they burn off leaf litter and underbrush that would otherwise fuel bigger wildfires. Controlled fires also help germinate the seeds of many tree species. But people don’t like them nearby; they’re smoky and sometime get loose. “Now the question is, can we live with the amount of prescribed fires that we need in ecosystems?” she says. “Can we live with the smoke that comes off those fires?”
The research, she says, suggests that the alternative is a year-round season of bigger, more damaging fires.
Great news from the MN DNR regarding the hatching of eggs!
All three chicks have successfully hatched!
And then there were three
What an egg-citing week it has been! Saturday, March 4, brought us our first pip (a hole in the egg made by the chick pecking with its “egg tooth”). It took three days for junior to break through the shell, and the chick emerged finally during the night on Wednesday, March 8. Taking that long to break through the shell tells us that the shells are very thick, strong and healthy. By Thursday afternoon, we had a second chick, and both had their first feeding at around 5 p.m. Thursday. Friday during feeding, we got some video of a chick trying to emerge from the third egg. Once again, this eagle pair has three hungry beaks to fill.
What’s for dinner?
For the first several hours after hatching, the chicks are nutritionally sustained by the egg sac that they feed on. Eagles receive all of the nutritional value they need from the fish, birds and mammals they eat. They don’t need to drink water because they also get all of the moisture they need from their food. While the chicks are this young, the parents feed them very small bits of food that is mostly liquid, like fish meat. As the chicks grow, the parents will begin caching lots of food in the nest. At one point last year there were nine full fish in the nest, in addition to a squirrel, some small birds and a duck.
It’s not spring yet
The adults at this nest are sitting very tightly because the weather here in Minnesota has gotten colder again. This morning’s temperature at the nest was 8 degrees F. As long as they are not left alone for too long the young eaglets will survive the cold. They have a huge feathered blanket over them and they are being well fed. We very much appreciate them sharing their intimate world with us!
The snowbirds return
Just like humans, some bald eagles (such as the stars of our eaglecam) stick around Minnesota all winter, while others head south to escape the cold and snow. Many of those “snowbirds” are starting to migrate back from their winter homes, and may be seen in large numbers across parts of the state over the next few weeks. Look up in the sky and you might see one.
The MN-DNR eaglecam is brought to you by the Nongame Wildlife Program, which is supported almost entirely by voluntary donations. Please consider designating a gift on Line 21 of your Minnesota income tax form, or donate online here.
The North Shore is looking more and more barren due to the lack of snow cover. The rivers are even beginning to thaw and waterfalls are starting to flow. While there isn’t enough snow for snowmobiling on the shore there is still enough for cross-country skiing in places. There’s still snow inland and on the Gunflint Trail but it sure would be nice to get some more so we can enjoy a few more weeks of winter fun.
Check late season snowmobile and ski trail conditions before traveling
While there are still areas of good snowmobile trail riding and cross country skiing in far northeastern Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources advises riders and skiers to check online trail condition reports before traveling. Several bouts of warm weather have led to deteriorating ice conditions and halted most trail grooming activity.
Snow depth and grooming conditions for state-maintained trails are updated weekly at www.dnr.state.mn.us/snow_depth/index.html.
As snow recedes, rocks and other obstructions can become a hazard to trail users.
Softening ground has necessitated closing gates on some trails and forest roads to protect them from damage and several private landowners have also closed their gates.
Trail grooming activities could resume if there is adequate snowfall and cold temperatures return.
State snowmobile trails are open annually through March 31 as conditions allow, but may be closed where trails cross private lands when use can cause damage to the land.