Welcome to the BWCAW blog of Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service!

See our websites at ElyOutfittingCompany.com and BoundaryWatersGuideService.com.

We are a Boundary Waters canoe trip outfitter, Quetico outfitter, and guide service in Ely, Minnesota. This Boundary Waters blog shares photos, stories, humor, skills, and naturalist insights from guiding in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Most entries are from our founder and head guide, Jason Zabokrtsky. He is the Boundary Waters Blogger.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

BWCAW Quota Entry Permits are Available Starting Today at 9AM

As of this morning, all BWCA Quota entry permits are available on a first-come first-served basis.  Call us at 218-343-7951 to reserve your permit!  For best permit availability, plan your 2012 trip now.

Photographer Layne Kennedy shared the above artistically-altered photo.  He took the original photograph on a Boundary Waters Guide Service canoe trip to Lac La Croix in the BWCA.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How Long is the Little Gabbro Lake (BWCAW Entry Point 33) Portage?


View Larger Map

Depending on who manufactured the maps you're looking at, you may find the Little Gabbro Lake portage listed as 104 rods, 200 rods, or 290 rods.  It's the only BWCAW portage I'm aware of that has such wildly different lengths listed on different maps.  It's not unusual for the same portage to be listed with slightly different lengths depending on the map manufacturer, but this one is exceptional.

One of the reasons for this difference is probably that the portage was re-routed at some point.  Which reminds me of when I was paddling the narrows between Little Gabbro and Gabbro Lakes and a perplexed canoeist paddled up for directions.  He had been searching unsuccessfully for the portage.  The reason for the confusion is that his map had the portaged mis-marked by a long distance.  And because the portage landing was near a designated campsite, he felt that it was just the landing for the campsite rather than the actual portage.  He appreciated me marking the correct location for the portage.  

I've portaged this route many times, and had a guess on the actual length.  But, we decided to put the issue to rest and hiked the portage with a GPS unit this week.  The above map shows our track from the entry point sign to the lake.

Based on our GPS, the Little Gabbro Lake (BWCAW Entry Point 33) portage is 208 rods. A rod is 16.5', so this translates to .65 miles.  As portages go, this is a relatively easy one.  It's an old logging road with a good gravel base over much of the distance.  It includes rolling hills and a total elevation change of about 24 feet.  The hike took us about 16 minutes one way.  The lake landing is a great sandy gravel beach at average and higher water levels.  At low water levels, it is boot-sucking mud.  To avoid the mud, resist the temptation to pull your canoe up at the obvious landing at the trailhead.  Instead, go north along the shore toward the nearby campsite, and use the firmer landing there.  You will get home with both of your shoes that way.

At Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service, we do our best to outfit our guests with the best information for a successful Boundary Waters canoe trip.  At our shop in Ely, you'll find our massive write-on map wall covered with specific tips and fresh info for your route.  We also sell all of the specialized navigation maps for your Boundary Waters trip.  We'll even remind you of the actual length of the Little Gabbro Lake portage.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dogsledding Photo Workshop with Layne Kennedy, Jan. 29 - Feb. 3

This is a lot of fun, and there is still space available.  Click here for more details on the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge website.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Inventory of Closed BWCAW Campsites in Area Impacted by Pagami Creek Fire for Start of 2012

The US Forest Service provided the following information on campsite changes for the start of the 2012 paddling season:

Some BWCAW lakes and rivers will have fewer campsites open for use as a result of the Pagami Creek Fire. Forest Service crews will be opening most impacted campsites early in the 2012 season. However, some campsites will remain closed until wilderness crews can address erosion and safety concerns.  And, some campsites may remain closed for several seasons. Please be aware if you plan to camp on the following waterways that some campsites will be closed and you may have to travel further to find an available site. Maps showing the campsites that are currently closed can be found on the Superior National Forest website, and will be updated regularly as campsites are opened.

Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service will also identify impacted campsites on the massive write-on map wall in our outfitting shop so guests can easily determine campsite availability if they choose to travel in the small percentage of the BWCA impacted by the burn.
 
Lake
Campsites Before Pagami
Campsites that will be available for the beginning of the 2012 season
One
12
12
Two
12
12
Three
17
12
Four
16
8
Hudson
12
3
Insula
46
33
Horseshoe
4
1
Brewis
1
0
North Wilder
2
0
South Wilder
2
0
Harbor
2
0
Clearwater
4
4
Gull
5
3
Pietro
4
3
Hudson Pond
1
0
Baskatong
2
0
Bog
4
1
Isabella Lake
11
7
Isabella River
8
2
Island River
3
0
Kawasachong
4
2
Quadga
4
0
Rice
2
0

Changes to BWCAW Entry Permit Quotas for the 2012 Season

The US Forest Service has notified us of the following changes due to the Pagami Creek Fire: 

Forest Service staff evaluated BWCAW campsites within the Pagami Creek Fire burn area and determined that some need to be closed until they can be rehabilitated. Some campsites have safety hazards such as hazard trees and some have resource concerns such as a high potential for erosion. Of the more than 2,100 camp sites in the BWCAW, only 114 were affected by the fire. Of these, roughly 63 received light to moderate fire effects and will be reopened spring 2012 after minor restoration is done. Campsites and trails with more severe fire effects will need additional site work before reopening, and a limited few may need to rest for a few years to allow vegetation to return. Forest Service crews and volunteers will be working diligently to reopen portages and campsites as soon as possible this spring. Because this work will take time, several entry points will have reduced quota for the beginning of the 2012 season. The table below shows the changes to the entry point quotas.

As campsites, portages, and trails are cleared of windfall and are rehabilitated and re-established, the quotas will be adjusted. Updated information will be available on the Superior National Forest website.


Entry Point
Normal Quota
2012 Quota
Rationale
30 - Lake One1814Quota will be 16 after several minimally impacted campsites are rehabilitated.
30F - Lake One Restricted02This is a new entry point for Lake One. Entry point 30F will include restrictions for no camping on Lakes One, Two, Three, Four, or Hudson at any time. This entry point will be eliminated when the quota for Entry Point 30 can be restored to 18.
34 - Island River30Island River is closed to overnight and day use going west towards Isabella River. The river is open to day use going south and east to Comfort Lake.
35 - Isabella Lake31Many campsites were impacted by the fire. The quota will increase after campsites have been rehabilitated in early 2012. Travel is prohibited west of Isabella Lake until we are sure the water route is navigable and portages have been stabilized to address erosion concerns.
67 - Bog Lake20Route is open to day use only.
75 - Little Isabella River10Little Isabella River is currently closed to all use because of trees across the portage and river. When trees have been cleared and resource concerns have been mitigated, the route will be open for day use.
86 - Pow wow TrailUnlimited0Trail will remain closed until further notice.
84 - Snake River11Snake River is open but no travel is allowed east of Bald Eagle Lake on Isabella River until the route has been cleared. When route is cleared, travel and camping will be allowed.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Boundary Waters Photo Workshop with Layne Kennedy set for June 19 - 24, 2012


This unique Photo Workshop trip is a great opportunity to develop your photography skills under the direction of renowned magazine and nature photographer Layne Kennedy.  A Minneapolis-based professional photographer, Layne's newest book on the Boundary Waters, titled "Paddle North," was released in November 2010.  Layne's work is also featured frequently in Smithsonian, Life, Newsweek, Forbes, Outside, Audubon, Backpacker, Sports Illustrated, and National Geographic publications. His students range from photography professionals to point-and-shoot neophytes.

More info:  www.BoundaryWatersGuideService.com/PhotoWorkshop.