Trip Length: 3-5 Days
Permit Required: Magnetic Lake (BWCAW) entry permit
The majority of the boundary waters consists of lake canoeing, but there are a few rivers spread throughout the wilderness, the Granite River being one of them. This is part of the Voyageurs Route that runs along the US/Canadian border on the far northeast part of the BWCA. Many paddlers who come to the boundary waters are familiar with river canoeing and are comfortable with being able to drift downstream with the current. Bigger lakes sometimes take people out of their comfort zone, so we’re happy to offer a route that will make you river canoers out there feel right at home.
This route starts south of us about 10 miles on Gunflint Lake and flows north until it empties out into Saganaga Lake and to eliminate the paddle across big Saganaga, we can arrange a tow boat to pick you up right from your last portage at Sag Falls. We’ll drive you south to the landing on Gunflint and you’ll begin by paddling north into Magnetic Lake where the BWCA actually begins. Because this is a border route, you’ll have to camp on the west side of the river and lakes along the way in order to stay on the American side. The river actually connects a series of lakes along the way with the occasional waterfall and rapids in which you will portage around. Depending on the water level, you will have between 9 and 11 portages, but the longest is only 100 rods, and most of them are in the 40 rod range.
Four days is a comfortable amount of time to spend on this route that one can actually paddle in a day trip. But you’re looking for some relaxation and good fishing, so 4 or 5 days will best suit you. You’ll want to camp your first night in the Clove Lake area or even portage into Larch Lake. You’ll find bass, walleye and the occasional northern pike all along this route. You may want to stay two nights to have enough time to explore the waterfalls that empty into Clove Lake and try your hand at the fishing that makes this route so popular. When you decide to paddle the river north to Gneiss Lake you will want to tie your boots on tight as you go across Swamp Portage. This portage can be dry during the later summer or dryer years, but it can also be calf to knee deep in swamp if you are here during the wetter periods of the year. But it’s nothing a little river water can’t wash off.
Once you get to Gneiss Lake you’ll be in what is referred to as the Devil’s Elbow which has a number of good campsites and easy access to both Gneiss and Maraboeuf lakes. The fishing is also excellent here, so bring the bait and start the campfire as you’ll probably be having fish for dinner. There’s nothing quite like a meal of fish in the boundary waters; in fact, it gives you the hunter/gatherer feeling. And we guarantee it will leave you feeling satisfied as you sit in your campsite gazing at the stars with a full belly knowing you were the provider on this evening.
On your last day, you can easily paddle north the rest of the way around Horsetail Rapids and Sag Falls to meet the tow boat. This route is fairly easy and a great starting trip if you are new to the experience. It can also be an excellent fishing trip if this is your focus. There are only 3 permits allowed per day for this entry point, so you will want to plan ahead especially if you are coming during the busier months of July and August.