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Canoe Trips

Boundary Waters:

Boundary Waters Campsites

Bois Brule River

Flambeau River

Kickapoo and Mecan Rivers

Menonomee River

Sylvania Wilderness

Wisconsin's Flowages

Wolf and Peshtigo Rivers


Boats & Gear

Boundary Waters Gear List

Bell Wildfire (Royalex)

Blackhawk Ariel

Mad River Independence (sold)

Wenonah Prism (sold)
-cane seat installation
-thwart replacement

Custom portage pads

Seat-mounted portage yoke

Outside canoe shelter

Inside canoe storage



Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Lake One to Snowbank Lake

Followed by a trip to Madeline Island

September 8-21, 2009


Page 1: Overview

This trip is my 60th birthday party. My plan is to enter at Lake One (EP30), loop around to the east, north and west, and take out at Snowbank Lake (EP27), allowing time for hiking, resting and loafing along the way. There's also an option to travel down Wilder Creek, if it's passable, for a short stay on North Wilder Lake. After the BWCA I'll spend a few more days at on Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, at the top of Wisconsin in Lake Superior.

The boat

Wenonah Prism (16’6”, Kevlar Flex-Core) with portage yoke, totaling about 50 lbs. Before the trip last May I had installed an adjustable cane seat and located it about eight inches behind the center position in order to balance my weight and my big pack in front of me. Over the summer I crafted an arched thwart to replace the stock aluminum one so I can slide the pack forward to adjust the fore-and-aft trim. I'm delighted that it worked perfectly.

The gear

  • Paddles: Sawyer Kai 10-degree bent (primary); Turtle ottertail (backup, which I hardly used at all).
  • Campmor pop-up tent, Cooke 10x12 tarp, 8x10 lightweight poly tarp.
  • Packs: Knudsen Knu-Pac II (main pack, 55-60 lbs.), NRS frameless pack (with tent, tarps and chair, 22 lbs.)
  • Water filter: Platypus CleanStream with Aqua Mira backup.
  • Two telescoping tarp poles lashed into the boat (3-4 lbs.).
  • Cameras: Olympus 720SW (waterproof) and Canon 40D in Pelican case, 10 lbs. Pictures from the boat and on portages and trails were taken with the Olympus; those from land were taken with the Canon using an 18-200mm zoom lens (effective range 29-320mm due to 1.6 lens crop factor).

Total gear weight is about 100 lbs., including 11 days’ worth of food and cold-weather clothes (which turned out to be unnecessary).

The food

Meals are pretty straightforward:

  • Breakfast:  Quaker granola with raisins, sunflower seeds, and Moos Milk.
  • Lunch:  Bannock and pemmican bars (dried ground buffalo, rolled oats, dried cranberries and blueberries, and a little sugar).
  • Snacks: High-protein chocolate granola bars (South Beach Diet), beef tenderloin jerky, and some form of dark chocolate.
  • Dinner:  Mountain House dehydrated meals, rotating among Lasagna With Meat Sauce, Sweet & Sour Pork With Rice, Pasta Primavera, and Wild Rice Pilaf. The latter two are supplemented with home-dehydrated chicken, which takes a day of soaking to render palatable but provides additional protein. Dessert is usually bannock with orange-cranberry marmalade.

The body

I suffered a separated right shoulder a year ago last fall and it held up well on my trip this past May. It turns out that it's actually stronger now than the left one, and I have no trouble with the physical demands of the trip. Somewhat to my surprise, I lost about five pounds on this trip, leaving me just five more to get down to my ideal weight of 155.

The map

I make my maps with a program called Magical Maps, by Scott Roulo, and modify them in Adobe Illustrator. Magical Maps uses Mackenzie maps, which are great for navigating because they show landforms with clear outlines, and without the distraction of a lot of color. The only drawback - sometimes a significant one - is that the contour lines, campsites and portages are shifted slightly to the west, an error of 3-4% or about 50-75 yards. This is the same problem Fisher maps have. On this trip I also use a Voyageur map, which is more accurate but doesn't always outline landforms clearly; this is a bit of a problem when navigating around islands that show up as little brown blobs or specks, or not at all. Using both maps together works well but it would be nice to have just one. The map case is attached to the front of the big pack so it's always visible when paddling and doesn't have to be handled separately on portages.

The trip plan map can be found here (opens in a new window).

Trip statistics:

  • Distance: 38.5 miles (36 miles on the water)
  • Traveling time: 25:30
  • Paddling time: 15:00 (14:00 net of lunch breaks)
  • Portaging time: 10:30
  • Portages: 19
  • Portage distance: 834 rods (2.6 miles)
  • Portage-walking distance: 3,900 rods (12.2 miles)


Trip reports by day


Days 1-3: Wed.-Fri., Sept. 9-11 - Lake One to Lake Three

Days 4-5: Sat.-Sun., Sept. 12-13 - Lake Three to Lake Insula

Days 6-7: Mon.-Tues., Sept. 14-15 - Lake Insula to Ima Lake

Days 8-9: Wed.-Thurs., Sept. 16-17 - Ima Lake to Disappointment Lake

Day 10: Fri., Sept. 18 - Disappointment Lake to Snowbank Lake

Madeline Island:

Days 10-13: Fri.-Mon., Sept. 18-21

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Comments and suggestions welcome. Feel free to e-mail me.
Last updated January 5, 2012
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