Trip Length: 4-6 Days
Permit Required: Saganaga Lake (BWCAW) entry permit (#55)
Before you start planning your trip, you might want to know how to pronounce your destination lake. So to get you on track, Gijikiki is pronounced (Ghee-jee-kee-kee).
Gijikiki Lake is found just south of Ottertrack Lake near the Little Knife Portage. It can be found on the Fisher maps F-19 or F-32 for reference. The easiest way to access this area is by obtaining a Saganaga Lake permit and utilizing our tow boat launch to American Point which will save you about 3 to 4 hours of paddling across the big lake.
Gijikiki and the surrounding lakes are known for lake trout and for being remote. There are two campsites on the lake, one on the island and one on the north shore. More than likely you will have your pick of the two and as always, take the site that most interests you, but the island site seems to be more popular.
From American Point, Gijikiki is only about an 8 or 9 mile paddle and can be easily done on your first day. There are three portages to traverse. The first portage is hardly a portage at a measly 5 rods and then of course the popular Monument Portage. And lastly, you’re left with the daunting task of climbing nearly 90 feet in elevation over the 50 rods in length. Many have mentioned that the Gijikiki portage is the toughest 50 rod portage they’ve ever encountered in the canoe country. With this reputation, the portage guards this gem of a lake from the weak and will keep you isolated from other people almost regardless of the season. Just take your time; take an extra trip and watch your footing on the steep sections and you’ll have no problem.
Once at your camp, you’ll enjoy solitude and a deep cool lake that harbors some very good lake trout fishing opportunity. With a max depth of nearly 70 feet, and some sharp drop-offs, trout are plentiful. Bring your shiny spoons and jigs and give the west bank a try. You’ll more than likely be rewarded with a few trout on your dinner plate.
There is another very nice trout lake close by that’s worth your effort. Lake of the Clouds has produced some excellent angling to those that are interested. It is a small lake to the south of Gijikiki but it is a very deep lake at nearly 90 feet. From Gijikiki, you’ll travel south to a small lake named Rivalry and then over a 75 rod portage to Lake of the Couds. Watch your step on this portage as it too has some steep sections. Once at Lake of the Clouds, you’ve reached the summit and it’s time for the descent over a short portage to Lunar Lake and then southeast to Cherry Lake via a 45 rod portage. Because the lakes are smaller up in this area, the portaging is more frequent, so by the time you reach Cherry Lake, you’ll probably be ready to set up your next camp. And there’s no better place to do this than at the site on the point at the center of the lake on the west end of the high cliffs that line the north bank of the lake.
Cherry is fabulous lake with some spectacular views and picture opportunities. It too is a ways off the beaten path and doesn’t see as much traffic as the nearby Ester and Hanson Lakes. Cherry’s claim to fame is the 100 foot high cliffs on the north shore. From the campsite at the middle of the lake, you will find a path that leads to the top of the cliffs. That is a must hike when you arrive here. The fishing is decent if you’re up for it. Prepare your tackle box for bass, walleye, northern and lake trout.
You’re faced with a choice now. You can go west through Topaz and Amoeber Lakes to get to Knife Lake. This option has shorter portages and very nice paddling through two less traveled lakes to get to Knife where you can pick up the narrative in our Thunder Point Loop route. Or you can go east out of Cherry via the 110 rod portage to Hanson Lake. This portage is no “gimmee” and you should strap up your boots as you’ll have an ascent at the beginning that flattens out in the middle before descending a bit at the end into Hanson Lake.
Once in Hanson, you’ll find yourself on one of the more popularly traveled lakes depending on the season. You’ll make your way back to Saganaga Lake for your boat pickup by heading northeast to Ester, Ottertrack and back to Sag.
The number of days you spend on this route can be completely up to you. But we would recommend you give it at least 4 days, with 5 being most comfortable. Because the lakes we just talked about fall right between two busier traveled routes in the canoe country you would think they too would be busy, but the opposite is true. The challenging portages in the area weed many people out, but for you that are in shape and looking for that extra isolation, Gijikiki is an excellent destination.