Northern Loop from Snowbank
- Skill Level
- Entry Point
- Portage Rods
- Longest Portage
This stunning loop takes you through Snowbank Lake up to the Canadian border and into the legendary Knife Lake. This route minimizes portages and maximizes long stretches of paddling, and you will have many opportunities to explore remote side lakes that are seldom visited.
Detailed Route Info
Your journey starts on Snowbank Lake, a centerpiece of the BWCA if there ever was one. The two portages you take to Boot Lake are short and in good shape. Paddle to the 223-rod portage leading into Ensign Lake, a beautiful body of water surrounded by nearly forty designated campsites, a great goal for the first night of your journey.
Head out over the 168-rod portage to Vera Lake, and then again over the 198-rod portage to Knife Lake, where you will have dozens of campsites to choose from. Knife Lake provides some of the longest stretches of portage-free paddling in the BWCAW, and you can easily design your own route through Knife. All of Knife Lake is relatively popular with visitors, who can arrive from Moose, Snowbank, and Saganaga with relatively little trouble. If you want to get off the beaten path navigate into the small lakes south of Knife Lake or into cluster of little lakes at the east end before Saganaga. Keep north of Ensign, Kekekabic, and Ogishkemuncie if you want the most isolation.
Head into the South Arm of Knife Lake, then around a set of raging rapids into Eddy Lake. You’ll take a series of portages up through the Kekekabic Ponds to Kekekabic Lake, a fine, deep, and remote lake known for its lake trout population and interesting geology.
A series of moderate portages lead you to Fraser Lake, which connects without a portage to Thomas Lake by a narrow cliff-lined channel. You won’t be disappointed camping along either of these lakes.
The next stage of this trip takes you through great lakes that beg to be explored: Hatchet, Ima, Jordan and Cattyman, all of which are connected by fairly easy trails.
When you leave Cattyman out its south end you will come to an 8 rod portage leads past a shallow stretch of water that is often little more than a pull-over to Adventure Lake. A few more short portages and lakes — including Ahsub, which is a designated trout lake and a worthy camping destination — and you’ll be at Disappointment Lake. From here you’ll take an easy 80-rod portage to Parent Lake then a 140-rod carry back to Snowbank Lake and the parking lot where you left 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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