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Backpacker Magazine – August 2011

Rip & Go: Rocky Point to Round Lake - Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN

Glide through back-to-back lakes on a classic North Country canoe trip.

by: Kim Phillips

Day Two: Little Saganaga Lake (Kim Phillips)
Day Two: Little Saganaga Lake (Kim Phillips)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.

Do it

Geology lesson: It took two million years of glacial movement to create this vast network of lakes, wooded hills, and granite outcrops. Paddling lesson: Don’t rush this 35-mile point-to-point. Take three days to link its chain of 23 lakes. Start at Entry Point 55 and save half a day’s paddle with a seven-mile tow across the sometimes wave-riddled expanse of Saganaga Lake to Rocky Point (1). Point your bow southwest through Sag’s northwest arm. After two quick portages (“Locals Know," next page), cut southwest across Ottertrack (2), a narrow border lake with walleye and northern pike.

Next, string together the pristine waters of Ester, Hanson, and South Arm Knife Lakes, hedged by granite bluffs and white pines—giant cedars also flourish along the Hanson-to-South Arm Knife portage (3). Near mile 12, camp in one of South Arm Knife’s quiet coves (4).

Next day, paddle 1.4 miles south-southwest to a short, 500-foot portage (5) that parallels Eddy Falls, which cascades 75 feet down mossy boulders. Five lakes (Eddy, Jenny, Annie, Ogishkemuncie, and Mueller) and four portages later, stash your canoe along the Mueller-to-Agamok portage (6). Turn left on the Kekekabic Trail for a .3-mile (round-trip) side hike to a wooden bridge spanning a shallow gorge.

Near mile 20, enter 209-feet-deep Gabimichigami (7), one of the deepest lakes in Minnesota (tip: Gabi has few islands to offer protection on windy days). Steer your boat southeast to Rattle Lake, then to Little Saganaga, and camp on a west-facing, 15-foot bluff with prime sunset views (8).

On the last day, canoe across the eastern fringes of Little Sag before crossing five more lakes and portages. A 1.3-mile portage (9), connecting Tuscarora and Missing Link Lakes, awaits near mile 32. After a .5-mile paddle through Missing Link, portage into Round Lake for the .7-mile stretch north to the take-out (10) on the northern shore. Shuttle back to Saganaga Lake.

Trip Planner

Put-in Take CR 12 north 53 miles from Grand Marais. Go right on CR 11 for .9 mile.

Take-out From Grand Marais, go north on CR 12 for 45 miles. Turn left on CR 47. Park in .7 mile.

Permit $16/person. (877) 444-6777;

Contact (218) 626-4300;

Gear up
Get canoe rentals, maps, fishing license, and arrange towboat rides at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters, 189 Sag Lake Trail, Grand Marais, MN; (218) 388-2224;

Trip data


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Jul 13, 2012

It would be awesome if you guys could do a story about backpacking in the boundary waters. I live in Minnesota and I would love a chance to explore my state's most pristine wilderness, but I don't canoe and its nearly impossible to find any info about hiking the BWCA.

Jul 12, 2012

Chuck McCalment
Jul 12, 2012

Have done this trip, a wonderful change of pace for hikers. Another outfitter I personally have done business with and been very happy is Seagull Outfitters. Good people who have quality service, very adaptable to outdoors people with own gear.


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