Iron Lake Loop
- Skill Level
- Entry Point
- Portage Rods
- Longest Portage
This spectacular route sends you up to the Canadian border and back down, via the great Moosecamp River. The route permits easy changes along the way because it can be shortened with an early detour to Moosecamp Lake or lengthened with extensions through the Horse River or even Basswood Lake.
Detailed Route Info
Start with the easy portage into the west end of Mudro Lake. The real challenge begins with the journey up to Fourtown Lake, with three portages that follows a deep gorge that has a distinctly mountainous feel to it, and is among the most impressive terrain any BWCAW portages pass through.
Fourtown Lake is a fine place to spend a night and typically a number of the 15 campsites are open. If none are to your liking, take the 43-rod portage over to Boot Lake, where there are five designated campsites. From here you’ll lake hop to Gun to Gull to Thunder and onto Beartrap Lake. Note: After Thunder Lake, camp sites become scarce. You have only one campsite between Thunder and Iron Lake, which is ten miles away, so plan accordingly.
Take a hilly, overgrown, 204-rod portage trail out of Beartrap Lake onto the Beartrap River. After about a mile you will come to a 60 rod portage on the west shore around a set of rapids. You’ll soon be dropped into Sunday Lake, which does not have any designated campsites.
Continue out the west end of Sunday Lake, and take the easy 19 rod portage on the north shore of the Beartrap River. Continue on, paddling and portaging further down the Beartrap River until you reach Peterson Bay of Iron Lake.
Now it’s time for some larger bodies of water: Iron Lake has great camping and fishing. The 140-rod portage around Curtain Falls brings you into Crooked Lake. Here you’ll have a great stretch of portage-free paddling, heading east then south into Friday Bay.
A 120-rod portage curves up from Friday Bay to Papoose Creek which will bring you into Papoose Lake then Chippewa Lake, Niki Lake, and Wagosh Lake. The next stretch will lead you back to where you came from. Noteworthy in this section is the 300-rod portage back to Gun Lake is a long one but is pretty smooth, flat, and relatively dry. Your trip will conclude in the waterways where it began.
*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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