The Gunflint Trail Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘ BWCAW ’

The Gunflint Trail Spring Bucket List

March 27th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

Spring is here, on the calendar at the least, and what better way to celebrate the transitional season than dreaming up all the things you do when the snow starts melting and the world start turning green?  We’re started a list below to get the ideas flowing. Be sure to share your spring “must-dos” for the Gunflint Trail, either in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

  • Listen for spring peepers
  • Spy the first loon to return
  • Hike to a waterfall
  • Paddle a canoe
  • Read a book on the porch
  • Participate in the Ham Run (as a runner, a volunteer, or part of the cheer section)
  • Plant a tree
  • Book your BWCAW permit
  • Visit Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center
  • Look for wildflowers
  • Hike a new trail
  • Jump in a mud puddle
  • Watch eagles gather nest materials
  • Predict ice out dates
  • Put the dock in
  • Fire up the grill
  • Get your 2014 Minnesota and Canadian fishing licenses
  • Do Zumba at the Schaap Community Center

Now . . . what’s on your Gunflint Trail spring bucket list this year?

Got Lake Trout?

March 20th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

Walleye might be king on the Gunflint Trail, but most anglers wouldn’t turn their noses up if they found a lake trout at their end of their line. You might hear the locals refer to it as landlocked salmon, and indeed, the lake trout  (Salvelinus namaycush) is a member of the salmonidae family.  With its beautiful scales and peach colored flesh, it’s a fish that’s considered “good eating” as well as “good looking.”

Although slow growing, these long living fish can reach monster sizes. The biggest lake trout in Minnesota was caught in Lake Superior near Hovland and weighed in at over 43 pounds. This species prefers deep, cool, oxygen rich waters, that can be found on lakes such as Tuscarora, Saganaga, and Gunflint off of the Gunflint Trail. Occasionally lake trout mate with brook trout, to create the (often sterile) hybrid,  splake.

If you want to fish for lake trout, you’ll need a sinker, minnows or cut bait, and some patience. You’ll also need to purchase a trout stamp in addition to a normal MN fishing license. Historically, lake trout populations have been over-fished, so the DNR implements special management policies to sustain healthy lake trout populations around the state. Make sure you check out the official DNR list of MN trout lakes before you pick a fishing hole.

The winter lake trout season ends on Monday, March 31st.  According to the DNR, “Minnesota’s top native lake trout fisheries are in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The best time to catch them is in May or during the winter season.” What are you waiting for?

Plan Your Summer Canoe Trip

March 15th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

The warmer temperatures and longer days have some people scrambling to fit in as much winter fun as possible before the big spring melt. For others, these are reassuring signs that spring is on its way and spark a desire to start planning summertime fun. On the Gunflint Trail, one fixture of summertime fun is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) canoe trip.

Last month we reviewed how to book a BWCAW or Quetico canoe trip permit, this month, we’ll review some considerations you’ll want to ponder when planning your trip’s route.

Base Camp or Expedition?

Do you want to find a campsite on day 1 of your trip and stay there until you “return to civilization?” Base camp trips are a great option for anglers and families with young children.  If you decide you’d prefer to base camp, consider day trips options along with the merits of  your ideal location. Keep in mind that you can’t reserve specific campsites in the BWCAW. Since campsites are occupied on a first-come, first-serve basis, you’ll want a couple alternate plans in your back pocket “just in case,” even after you’ve decided on your entry point and general destination.

If you opt for an expedition style canoe trip where you travel to a new campsite every day, you’ll need to make sure you’ve realistically calculated your group’s capability. Before you decide on your route, ask yourself these questions: How much time do I have? How far can I paddle in a day? How far do I want to paddle in a day? Where do I want to camp each night?

Remember, children can handle about one hour of travel per year of age. Here are some other tips for canoe trips with kids.

Portages, vistas, and other landscape considerations

What do you want to see and do on your trip? Not feeling up for a mile long portage? If you have a specific things you definitely want (or don’t want) to do or see on your trip, you can ask a Gunflint Trail outfitter to direct you to the BWCAW’s sandy beaches, waterfalls, stunning vistas, fishing holes, hiking trails, moose habitats, easy (or difficult!) portages or anything else your little heart desires.

Fishing

Angling is often the driving force behind BWCAW canoe trips. Whether you’re seeking walleye or lake trout or bass, the MN DNR lake finder is an invaluable resource as you plan your route.

Happy paddling!

How To Book at BWCAW or Quetico Canoe Trip

February 6th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

Explore Minnesota Tourism canoeing photo

Dreaming of the calls of loons, and the gentle, rhythmic splash of your canoe paddle dipping into open water? Finally going to take the family on that Boundary Waters canoe trip you’ve been talking about for years this summer? Getting the gang together for a BWCAW reunion trip?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it’s time put some serious thought into the details of this summer’s canoe trip and book that trip!

The Boundary Waters is a big place – over 1.1 million acres of wilderness lakes and forest – and it’s okay if the thought of planning a canoe trip feels daunting. Check out this page of Boundary Waters trip planning FAQs to put your mind at ease.

The BWCAW trip planning guide, published by the U.S. Forest Service, provides invaluable information about how the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness works and how to book a permit. This information is particularly helpful for Boundary Waters first-timers, but is also a good refresher for those planning a return trip after a few years away.

BWCAW permit reservations

If you have a specific route and dates in mind and/or you’re planning to travel sometime between mid-July through August, it behooves you to make a reservation.  You enter the Boundary Waters through an entry point (there are about 80 different BWCAW entry points throughout the entire wilderness, each taking you into a different part of the federally designated wilderness) and there’s a quota for how many parties (a party can be no larger than nine people and/or four watercraft) can begin their canoe trip at each entry point on any day. The quota system spreads out human traffic and helps enhance your wilderness experience and permits are reserved on a first come, first served basis. You can book the permit directly, by calling 1-877-550-6777, or online at recreation.gov.  Or you can opt to have your outfitter book it for you.

Things to think about when booking your permit:

Who is absolutely going on this canoe trip? Only people designated on the permit as the group leader or an alternative leader can pick up the permit, either at a U.S. Forest Service office or designated business.

What is the first night I plan to spend in the Boundary Waters on this trip? You can only enter the Boundary Waters on the day specified on your permit. If you enter a day later or a day earlier, you need a brand new permit. Likewise, as soon as you leave the Boundary Waters, you need a new permit to reenter the wilderness.

Where and when will I pick up my permit? When you reserve the permit, you’ll be asked which issuing station you want to use, that is, what business or Forest Service office you want to pick up the permit at. You can change your issuing station at a later date, but it’s a good idea to check out the hours of operation for the issuing station you plan to use to make sure they jive with your travel plans. Remember, picking up your permit will take about 20 minutes, since you’ll be required to watch a user education video about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. You may pick your permit up either the day of or the day before you enter the Boundary Waters.

Quetico permit reservations

Quetico Provincial Park, the Canadian equivalent of the Boundary Waters, can be accessed off the Gunflint Trail via Saganaga Lake. Because you cross an international border to access the park, you need several documents in addition to your Quetico permit (which you can reserve at 1-888-668-7275):

Because all of the documents you need to visit Canada have 4-8 weeks of processing time, February is a great time to get going on those applications!

If any part of planning a canoe trip feels overwhelming, the Gunflint Trail outfitters can help with planning route, choosing an entry point, making the reservation, and getting you equipped for the trip. You’ll find additional information about permits on the permit portion of this website.

Keeping Cheerful

January 29th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

The more it
SNOWS-tiddely-pom,
The more it
GOES-tiddely-pom
The more it
GOES-tiddely-pom
On
Snowing

And nobody
KNOWS-tiddely-pom,
How cold my
TOES-tiddely-pom
How cold my
TOES-tiddely-pom
Are Growing.

A. A. Milne

As January wraps up, it’s not uncommon to feel a little tinge of cabin fever and the nonsensical poem above from A. A. Milne’s famous bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, starts to make a little sense. It’s been a chilly winter to say the least, but if you bundle up and keep those toes toasty warm, there are plenty of ways to keep cabin fever at bay, especially when you’re on the Gunflint Trail.
Right now, hardy artists are camped at Camp Menogyn on West Bearskin participating in the Grand Marais Art Colony’s Winter Plein Air Event. Yep – painting outdoors . . . in January. We imagine that in these temps, the artists have to work fast to keep their paints from freezing! An open house for the Plein Air Artists will be at the Grand Marais Art Colony this Friday, January 31 from 6-7 pm, which is one of the first events in this year’s Winter Tracks festival. The Plein Air artwork will be displayed at the Art Colony through February 23rd.

Other hardy souls have been participating in the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Mushers started the race in Duluth on Sunday and made it to the Gunflint Trail Monday evening and Tuesday morning, where they turned around to head back to the finish line in Duluth. Congratulations to Nathan Schroeder, winner of the 2014 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon! Nathan finished the 300+ mile race with an adjusted finish time of 13:19:21.

If you’ve been catching yourself daydreaming about spring, reservations for the 2014 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness season are now available. Plan that canoe trip!

Don’t Get Bogged Down

January 20th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

The winter travel season is upon us

The start of the winter lake trout fishing season outside of the Boundary Waters this past Saturday signals an uptick in activity on Gunflint Trail lakes.  By now, all Gunflint Trail lakes should all have a safe, thick layer of ice, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. During these mid-winter days, slush tends to be  a bigger problem than thin ice for ice anglers, winter campers, and others who recreate on Gunflint Trail lakes during winter. Slush conditions change daily, so it’s always worth checking with a local resident about current conditions before you venture out onto a frozen lake.

No one likes slush, those patches of oozing, wet mush that you happen upon when trekking across a frozen lake. Unfortunately, when you mix lake ice with snowfall you have a recipe for slush. According this article from Winter Trekking, “As soon as it snows on top of ice, that creates a force pushing down on the floating ice.  All ice, including perfectly safe thick ice naturally cracks day and night, expanding and contracting with changing air temperatures.   When the ice cracks water can rush up through the crack on top of the ice but under the insulating snow, and form slush pockets.”

In general, the biggest safety concern slush poses is wet feet. Although you can safely navigate through slush, slush should be avoided so you don’t get ice build up on your boots, snowshoes, skis, sleds and anything else you pulled through the slush with you. Cold, wet feet are no joking matter this time of year so if you find yourself in a slush pocket, get out it as quickly as you can.

A spider hole on a thawing Gunflint Trail lake

You should always be on the lookout for spider holes, which do pose a risk of falling through the ice. According to WinterTrekking, “Spider holes are aptly named, as several channels of melting snow form the legs of the spider. Spider holes form along a crack that closes, except for a small hole, which begins to melt out quickly into a bigger hole due to the flowing water. Most spider holes are less than a foot (30 cm) in diameter.”

In general, slush tends to be worse in the early winter and slush conditions have been rapidly improving on Gunflint Trail lakes in recent days. Still, remember to play it safe when it comes to slush.

Gunflint Trail Boundary Waters Entry Points

April 12th, 2013 | News | 0 Comments

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1.1 million acre wilderness in northeastern Minnesota, comprised mainly of lakes and other water ways. This canoeist’s paradise is accessed by entry points – specific lakes or trails from which BWCAW visitors access the wilderness. During the summer season (May 1 – September 30), a quota system restricts the number of parties who are camping overnight in the BWCAW who can access the BWCAW from a particular entry point each day. Overnight parties must obtain a BWCAW permit to enter the Boundary Waters on a particular day. The number of parties allowed in daily varies from entry point to entry point. Once campers have enter the Boundary Waters, they can stay for however many days they choose, but as soon as they leave the Boundary Waters, they must get a new permit to re-enter the wilderness.

The following entry points are all accessible from the Gunflint Trail and offer an option for an overnight canoe trip:

#43 Bower Trout Lake
#44 Ram Lake
#45 Morgan Lake
#47 Lizz and Swamp Lakes
#48 Meeds Lake
#49 Skipper and Portage Lakes
#50 Cross Bay Lake
#51 Missing Link Lake
#52 Brant Lake
#54 Seagull Lake
#55 Saganaga Lake
#57 Magnetic Lake
#58 South Lake
#60 Duncan Lake
#61 Daniels Lake
#62 Clearwater Lake
#64 East Bearskin Lake
#66 Crocodile River

We know the choices can seem overwhelming. Happily, each Gunflint Trail outfitters has their own favorite routes they can recommend.  You can reach at least one BWCAW entry point when you set off from each outfitters’ dock.  (The outfitters will happily transport you to other entry points if you opt for a different route.)

Which entry point you choose and which route you’ll take once you’re inside the Boundary Waters depends on your goals for your trip. If you want to base camp, you might choose an entry point that requires few portages.  Maybe you want a nice loop route that you can do in 4-5 days. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you might opt to travel deep into the BWCAW a multiple week trip. Each entry point has its own unique offering. With a little research and phone call or two the Gunflint Trail outfitter of your choice, you can craft the perfect BWCAW canoe trip for you.

A Gunflint Trail Winter Bucket List

December 3rd, 2012 | News | 0 Comments

Temperatures are feeling a little “un-Decembery” at the moment, but a quick glance at the forecast tells us that winter truly is just around the corner. While we wait, why not make a bucket list for winter 2012 – 2013?

1) Skiing by moonlight. Could anything be more magical than gliding silently through the moonlit woods, the wind rustling softly through the tops of pine trees, your breath catching in soft, warm puffs in your wool scarf? If you prefer a little more light than the moon, there are a number of lit ski trails to choose from.

2) Skating. Lake ice is fickle and it’s always a gamble whether or not the lakes will be smooth enough to skate on at freeze up. However, lodges make sure to keep a little patch of ice shoveled off for some skating and a lively game of broomball.

3) Catch the big one – or at least try to. Lake trout season for lakes outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness opens on January 12.

4) Winter Tracks 2013. This great, county-wide celebration of winter will be held February 1-10 this winter. Special events, snow sculptures, skiing, and a whole lot more.

5) Hit the Trails. Whether snowmobiling or skiing is your pleasure, the Gunflint Trail has a seemingly endless network of trails to choose from.

6) Step off the Trails – When the lakes freeze over, the Gunflint Trail region suddenly gets a whole lot easier to traverse. With a pair of snowshoes, you can hike to just about anywhere you can imagine. Just don’t forget to throw in a map.

7 ) Grab a warm beverage at a Gunflint Trail establishment. What better way to warm up than with a mug of hot cocoa or hot apple cider – yum-yum!

8 ) Build a snow fort. Better yet, build a Quinzhee. Seriously, you’re never too old.

9 ) Spend a night under the stars. Okay, so maybe this time of year you’ll want to spend a night under the stars under a winter tent, fully outfitted with a wood burning stove.

10 ) Take a dog sled ride. Many resorts offer dog sledding rides to their guests and the public. It’s a truly unforgettable experience. The Gunflint Trail is also part of two dog sled races this winter: the Gichigami Express and the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

What’s on your Gunflint Trail winter bucket list?

Take A Hike, Wet Your Paddle . . . and more

June 30th, 2012 | News | 0 Comments

The story of the Gunflint Trail is a complicated tale which tells of the intertwining of humans and the natural world, a fire dependent ecosystem at the southern edge of the Boreal forest, and all sorts of interesting critters, plants, rocks, and water. This summer, through a series of public programming put on by the Becoming A Boundary Waters Family program and Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, you’ll find the story of the Gunflint Trail broken into little pieces  you can wrap your arms around. Whether you want to learn to paddle a canoe or find orchids along the Gunflint Trail, or if you’ve always wondered about the Paulson Mine and PAD&W railway of the late 1800s, there’s a program designed with you in mind. Whenever you’re on the Trail this summer, there are plenty of public activities for you to choose from. All are free, family friendly, and promise to be a lot of fun!

Wet Your Paddle – Canoe Instruction Seminars for Families

Canoe camping in the Boundary Waters can seem pretty daunting if you’re not comfortable in canoe. Get acclimated to canoe country with an hour of paddling instruction from local experts at Gunflint Trail canoe outfitters. Learn the ins and outs of BWCAW canoe camping, tricks for camping with kids, cooking tips, and how to prepare for your Boundary Waters adventures.

These seminars run from June 25 – July 13 at the following locations:

  • Mondays – 11 am at Nor’wester Lodge and Outfitters; 1 pm at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters
  • Tuesdays – 11 am at Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters; 1 pm at Tuscarora Lodge and Canoe Outfitters
  • Wednesdays – 11 am at Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters
  • Thursdays – 11 am at Bearskin Wilderness Outfitters; 1 pm at Hungry Jack Outfitters
  • Fridays – 11 am at Clearwater Outfitters and Lodge

U.S. Forest Service Ranger Presentations

U.S. Forest Service rangers with a wide variety of specialties present every Thursday from June 21 – August 23 at 3 p.m. at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.

Next up:

  • July 5: Fire and Archaeology in a Wilderness Setting- Tom Kaffine, Wilderness Ranger, will discuss how fire can be beneficial for archaeologists.
  • July 12: The Amazing Orchids of Northern Minnesota -Presented by Jack Greenlee, Ecologist, and Erin Heep, Botanist. This presentation introduces the audience to these complex and beautiful plants, and then takes a pictorial tour through all the orchid species found in northern Minnesota.

Sunday Walks and Talks at Chik-Wauk

Area naturalists present briefly on a topic each Sunday from June 24 – August 26 on Chik-Wauk’s front porch, then lead participants on an interpretative hike on the Chik-Wauk hiking trails. The talks begin at 2 p.m.

Next up:

  • July 1 -  Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Gunflint Trail with John Silliman.  Learn about the bounty of the boreal biome.
  • July 8 – Lakes of the Arrowhead: Past, Present, &  Future with Bob Carlson

Forest Frenzy: Piecing Together the Boreal Forest

While all activities described above are designed with the family in mind, on July 11, July 25, August 8, and August 22, at 1:30 p.m., Chik-Wauk will put on specific kids’ activities. Through games, crafts, scavenger hunts, and interpretative hikes, kids will learn about the rocks, water, plants, and animals that make the boreal forest a special place. For children ages 5-12; must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

You can view a full schedule of what’s planned on the Gunflint Trail here.

Notes from the Trail

May 19th, 2012 | News | 0 Comments

May marks the start of the busy summer season on the Trail. Resorts and canoe outfitters spring into action after the spring lull. Campers start heading out canoe trips, many mammals (such as moose and deer) have their young, wildflowers peep up, and loons and ducks begin sitting on their nests. And that’s not all that’s happening. Here’s a brief run down of what’s happening on the Trail this month:

Trash and Treasure Days

Looking for something to do this weekend or an excuse to head up the Trail?  Itching to find a bargain? The Gunflint Trail Trash and Treasure Days are happening right now! With 60 miles of sales, you never know what you might find. You’ll find the sales by following the signs posted along the Trail. Sales are open today (May 19) and tomorrow (May 20) from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day.

Ham Run recap

A big congratulations to Jay Arrowsmith Decoux and Ashley Lykins, winners of this year’s Ham Run Half Marathon on May 6.  Arrowsmith Decoux finished with a time of 1:22:46; while Lykins clocked in at 1:32:18. Winners of the Ham Run 5K were Jerry Erickson with a time of 22:30 and Michelle Aysta with a time of 26:17. You’ll find the rest of the race results here.

Fire Restrictions in place

It’s been one beautiful month of May so far this year, but unfortunately, we’ve fallen a little short when it comes to rainfall.  The dry conditions paired with windy days prompted U.S. Forest Service officials to restrict campfires in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from 7 p.m. – midnight.   These campfire restrictions went into effect today (May 19).  Gas and propane stoves still may be used at any time in Boundary Waters and  campfires are allowed at any time outside of the Boundary Waters. Extreme caution should be used with your campfires during this dry time and when you extinguish your fire, remember the advice of Smokey Bear and be sure to stir the ashes and dump one more bucket of water on it when you think it’s out.

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