Exploration of Alton Lake
- Skill Level
- Entry Point
- #38 – Sawbill Lake
- Portage Rods
- Longest Portage
This route will appeal to anyone interested in a less physically demanding journey than most trips described in this guide. It is about as easy as BWCAW trips get, having just one short portage, which you will take twice. The ease of this route makes it ideal for someone traveling with limited physical ability or small children, or anyone simply seeking a route with minimal difficulty.
Detailed Route Info
Paddle and portage about 1.5 miles from the Sawbill boat access to central Alton Lake, including a portage of 29 rods (L2). This short trip is confined to travel through Sawbill and Alton Lakes. You won’t be disappointed spending a few days exploring these two lakes. The portage over to Alton is very well maintained and easy to find. It should be in decent shape year round.
Alton Lake is big, relatively low lying, and provides you with a choice of 16 Forest Service designated campsites. Trout, northern pike, walleye, and bass are all located beneath its 1000-plus acres. While 16 campsites are plenty for most areas, the busy Sawbill entry point is just a portage away, and it attracts large numbers of canoeists. You would be well advised to get a good early start into Alton if traveling in July or August.
You can make a nice day trip by paddling a loop north into Kelso Lake, and then around through Sawbill back to Alton again. Also, the portage from Lujenida to Zenith Lake, being well over a mile in length, can make for a pleasant hike to stretch your legs, spot wildflowers, or perhaps cross paths with a grouse or two. Look to Route 38C to learn more about the many fine lakes to the west and north of Alton.
Paddle and portage 1.5 miles back to Sawbill, taking the 29 rod portage from Alton to Sawbill. Simply return to Sawbill Lake the same way you came.
*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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