Eastern Loop through
Ensign Lake and Beyond
- Skill Level
- Entry Point
- Portage Rods
- Longest Portage
This route takes you east out of Moose Lake into Ensign Lake and then on to a set of interior lakes that see relatively few visitors. This route combines large lakes and popular areas with smaller, less popular lakes. There are also some nice alternatives side treks in this route.
Detailed Route Info
From Moose Lake, the first leg of this journey takes you up into Ensign Lake, a large lake that has three dozen designated campsites along its spruce and aspen covered shores. From Ensign, you’ll take a 168-rod portage east, into more remote lakes: Vera, Trader and Missionary Lake.
The 200-rod portage from Missionary Lake to Skoota Lake is long and difficult. After this haul, the subsequent portages into Dix and Spoon and then into Sema lake (where a lone campsite on the northeast shore can make a wonderful place to spend a day or two) will be quite easy.
The 131-portage out of Sema Lake will bring you into the South Arm of Knife Lake, where you will begin to head west and cross big, open water, where waves can be an issue, so be careful! The portages from Knife Lake over to Seed, Melon, Carp and finally to Birch are all well-traveled and should be in good condition. You’ll be on border lakes here, so unless you have a Remote Area Border Crossing permit — and a Quetico permit — be sure to camp on the American side. Head south into Sucker, Newfound, and Moose Lakes.
As an alternative, you can head into Frog and Trident Lakes from Birch Lake. This detour is longer and more difficult, but interest people who want to explore areas that most people simply paddle past! The 87-rod portage from Birch into Frog Lake is mostly uphill and can be very muddy. The 72-rod portage from Frog to Trident is up hill and ends with a slog through a marsh. A fun, muddy workout!
*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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