Trip Length: 3-5 Days
Permit Required: RABC permit and Man Chain entry permit
This trip starts out much the same as the Saganagons Base Camp route. After your tow ride to Hook Island, you have about a 45 minute paddle to the Ranger Station in Cache Bay. Here the ranger will fill out your camping permit and you’ll pay your Quetico camping fees and also pay for your fishing licenses that they will be able to issue you if you’re planning on fishing.After your stop at the Ranger Station, you’re off to Silver Falls, the largest waterfall in the Park. The portage is a bit tricky with the footings in a couple areas, so use caution as you traverse your way to Saganagons Lake. As you start paddling again beware of the current as you paddle across the mouth of the Silver Falls inflow. During higher water years and early in the spring, this can be more challenging than other times of the season, so be aware of the situation before you go paddling across. Those that are loaded correctly and paddling with good technique will have no problems.
Saganagons is a big lake, but this first section is rather smaller water as you paddle through some narrows and corridors. A camp on Saganagons is often a good place for the first night. Some will opt to take the short 8 rod portage into Slate Lake to get away a little more and enjoy the wonderful walleye, bass and northern pike fishing provided by this natural fishery. Slate is a medium sized lake with a couple campsites on it. The one on the island sees less use than the one on the south shore up on the point.
Slate Lake is fed by Fran Lake just to its southwest. Fran also provides some good fishing potential for bass, walleye and pike. But if you get too much further west from here, you might as well read the Man Chain Loop route. But on this loop, we’re going to head back south through a series of lakes that will provide some good solitude and new scenery instead of going back over the Silver Falls portage on your way back to the pickup point.
After your stay in Slate, you will want to portage back in to Saganagons. You will want to start paddling south toward the portage into Lilypad Lake. This lake is smaller and shallower. It doesn’t hold much for fish, so don’t bother, and the campsite is less than desirable as well. So we recommend that you push on through to Jasper Lake for your next night. Jasper has two campsites, and the one on the south side of the island in the middle of the lake is the prime site. Aim for that one if it’s not already taken. Jasper offers some good lake trout fishing as well as some good bass and pike. Target the islands on the northeast section of the lake as well as the small bay on the north that leads to the portage that you have just come across.
Stay here one or two nights depending on your length of trip if you wish before continuing south into the north arm of Ottertrack Lake. The portage from Jasper to Ottertrack is about 100 rods. And toward the south end of it beware that it might be a bit wet. The portage runs very close to a bit of a stream that connects the two lakes and during higher water years or periods of heavier rainfall, the portage can become somewhat of a “stream” itself. But not to worry, it’s only about the last 20 rods or so that this will affect.
Ottertrack is a lovely lake and generally quiet as well. There are a number of nice campsites in this north arm that are perfect to make your camp before you head further south toward the International border where you’ll run in to some more of the BWCA paddlers. Ottertrack has some great fishing for bass, walleye, pike and lake trout. Focus on the rocky points and reefs toward the north end by the portage. You can also explore your way in to Banta Lake that can be accessed through a couple of smaller lakes connected by lesser used portages off of the far eastern arm of Ottertrack. Banta is primarily a lake trout lake, so put on your jigging spoons and hold on for the 3 and 4 pound lakers.
From Ottertrack, you can make it back to the pickup point at Hook Island in 3 or 4 hours pretty easily. But you may want to allow more time if you’d like to fish along the way and explore the coves on the northern side of the border. You may choose to camp another night along the border, but if you do, remember that the south shore is the United States and your permit will not allow you to camp there, so stick to the campsites on the Canadian side.
You will find that this trip can be done in 3 days if you really want, but allot 4 or 5 to fully enjoy the area. You’ll have more fun that way and won’t feel pressured to be on a time schedule. After all, that’s the reason you came right?