Gillis Lake Voyage
- Skill Level
- Entry Point
- Portage Rods
- Longest Portage
This superb route will take you clear across the BWCAW to its southern boundary and back again. Along the way you will pass through fantastic lakes of every shape and size, including such famous gems and less frequented areas. This trip is more about having enough time to complete it rather than having enough raw power. Great fishing and great wildlife viewing makes this a must-do route for adventurous visitors.
Detailed Route Info
Your journey starts from the landing on the western shore of the Cross River, which will bring you to the northern reaches of Cross Bay Lake, where you officially enter the BWCAW. A great spot to stop for the night is Long Island Lake, which has fifteen designated sites, and great fishing for lake trout and pike.
You’ll head up Long Island River to Cherokee Lake, another great destination for camping and fishing. A wide and clear 180-rod portage leads from Cherokee Creek to Scoop Lake. A few more carries brings you into Sawbill Lake, one of the most popular lakes in the Boundary Waters. To reach Phoebe Lake, you’ll have to make a few long portages, including a 280 rod-haul between Beth and Grace Lake. The Phoebe River is rocky and shallow, so keep an eye out for rocks! From Lake Phoebe, you’ll continue up the Phoebe river, passing through lakes and over portage trails until you reach beautiful, island-dotted Lake Polly.
You’ll pass through a few more lakes before you reach a wide section of the Kawishiwi River, which is among the most beautiful areas in the BWCAW. The next segment of the route, from Malberg Lake to Little Saganaga Lake, is the most remote segment of the BWCAW you will cover on this journey, and it will feel much more isolated than the segment you will have just passed through. In addition, the smaller lakes along this stretch have 10 campsites scattered between them, allowing ample opportunities for a secluded place to spend one or more days with greater isolation than you will get along the rest of this route. Plus, Little Saganaga is a masterpiece of a lake.
The journey from Crooked Lake to the end of the route at Round Lake, continues to be a beautiful reminder of why the Boundary Waters is such a treasure. Once on Round Lake, paddle up to the northwest shore, where a nice landing and large parking lot are located, just down the road from where you parked your car.
*Route information provided courtesy of Dan Pauly, and have been modified from his book, Exploring the Boundary Waters: A Trip Planner and Guide to the BWCAW. University of Minnesota Press, 2004
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