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One-Way to Nina Moose Lake

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Portage Rods
Longest Portage

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This excellent route takes you through a number of great wilderness lakes. Although some of the portages are long, even a first-time visitor can enjoy this journey if they pack light, — and even the toughest portages are generally good trails. Because of the beautiful setting, many of the lakes on this route are relatively popular, and offer limited isolation. However, a few suggestions are provided on how to break off of the main route and seek greater solitude.

Detailed Route Info

From Lower Pauness Lake, you should have no problem reaching the Pauness Lakes in two or three hours. With luck you will spot a moose feeding along the river, or perhaps a beaver or family of otters. The first portage from the parking lot down to the river is well traveled, and the next portage is an easy 65 rods along a generally good trail, the last quarter of which is over a rock base.

The 216-rod portage over to Shell Lake follows an excellent trail, but is likely to be a bit muddy on either end. A short boardwalk across the middle helps pass a muddy low spot.

Ten designated campsites are located on Shell Lake, including four on islands, making it an excellent location for a first night in the BWCAW.

Once on Shell you have the option of heading up into Heritage Lake by way of a 40-rod portage along a rocky trail that is not well traveled. The two Heritage Lake sites are nice destinations if you want more isolation than you are getting so far along this route. Heritage seems to get relatively few visitors because of the longer portages you must take on its north end.

Head out through the eastern end of Shell Lake over an easy little 15 rod portage to Little Shell Lake. A simple beaver dam pull over is all you are likely to encounter between Little Shell and Lynx lakes. Consider staying on Lynx Lake for a night: the deep waters hold a good population of pike and walleye.

To leave Lynx, you’ll need to haul your gear over the 240-rod trail to Ruby Lake. An easy 7 rod portage leads over to Hustler Lake, which is also a nice place to spend an evening. Another escape off of the main route can be found by dropping south out of Hustler Lake into Emerald Lake, which has two campsites.

Another long portage of 240 rods leads you out of Hustler Lake to Oyster Lake, which is a Boundary Waters jewel, and well worth a night’s stay.

From here, you’ll portage onto the Oyster River, which is marginal for canoeing during dry years, particular in the southern sections, where the channel is narrow, shallow, and easily lost. During these dry periods you may have to take the 160-rod portage over to Agnes Lake.

If water levels are good, take the Oyster River all the way into the Nina Moose River.

The portage ends at the Oyster River, which connects with the Nina Moose River south of Agnes Lake.

Agnes Lake, it is one of the most attractive lakes in this portion of the BWCAW, but it is also a popular destination for travelers so don’t expect to be the only campers here! Otherwise, continue south out of Agnes Lake down toward Nina Moose, another popular lake that may not have available campsites unless you get a very early start in the morning or are visiting during early spring or late fall. The final southern stretch of the Moose River is easy traveling!

*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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