Horse Lake Loop
- Skill Level
- Entry Point
- Portage Rods
- Longest Portage
This wonderful route (with few portages) takes you into the heart of canoe country, through some of the most storied areas in the Boundary Waters, including world-class fishing grounds, an beautiful waterfalls. This journey passes through areas long inhabited by Native Americans, ventured through by Voyageurs, logged by lumberjacks, and coveted for the dam-building dreams of an early industrialist.
Detailed Route Info
Paddle and take a few mid-sized portages from Fall Lake to central Pipestone Bay of Basswood Lake. Beware that a brisk southwest or northeast wind can stir up rollers that shut down canoe travel, so allow yourself leeway in your schedule in the event your get wind bound.
Continue into the southwest corner of Jackfish Bay and head into the channel just to the southwest of the campsite located there. The channel narrows into an easy 15-rod portage, after which you continue through another narrows until you reach the 28 rod portage over to Sandpit Lake.
Paddle along the eastern shore of Sandpit Lake to the portage landing in the northeast corner of the lake. This will take you right to the shore of Tin Can Mike Lake. From here, take the 85-rod portage up to Horse Lake, where you may want to camp, or alternatively head over to neighboring Fourtown Lake. Horse Lake is very popular, so you should arrive early if you hope to find an open campsite.
Head down the Horse River, where low water levels might mean more portages, so give yourself plenty of time!
You’ll come to a wide bay on the Basswood River, one of the most scenic and popular parts of the Boundary Waters; so don’t assume that you will get one of the campsites in this stretch! The main highlight here is Lower Basswood Falls, which is scenic, but also hazardous. This stretch of the Basswood River to Basswood Lake is scenic, but has probably taken more lives than any other part of the BWCAW.
After the majestic river, you’ll be on big water! Paddle down Basswood Lake south toward Pipestone Bay and return back to Fall Lake retracing the early portions of this route.
*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
Like what you see?
Donate to support this valuable resource and ensure the wilderness you love stays protected from threats and stays wild for future generations.Donate Now
Pests and nice lakes
Scenic views and fun canoeing, unfortunately there were too many Ninjas. Despite prepping for pest control, the sheer volume of those trained in the shadowy arts proved to be a real fun killer. Otherwise, this loop is excellent!
What a stupid plan
The water runs the other direction. Why would you send people up stream?
Is this normal to send people up stream? Do this trip in reverse and paddle with the water.
Leave Your Review
Ready to Reserve Your Permits?
Once you have selected your route it’s time to reserve your permit to ensure your spot for the date you want.