Canoe Trip Length: 4-6 days
Permit Required: Missing Link(BWCAW) entry permit (#51)
A quiet getaway just inside the BWCAW boundary line awaits you on Missing Link Lake. One of the five available #51 permits per day will provide entry into the BWCA and be your ticket to a week’s worth of relaxation and exploration. Missing Link is one portage in off of Round Lake to the southwest. A gradual uphill portage over 142 rods is all it takes to set up camp. You’ll find three campsites to choose from and numbers of options to keep you busy during your stay.
Missing Link has a nice population of brook trout for you trout anglers. There have been recent stockings of over 2000 fingerlings every other year starting in 2001 to 2007. Trout in the 15 to 19 inch range are not uncommon. Spring fly fishing could keep your interest for some time. Another brook trout lake just off of Missing Link, is Mavis Lake. No portage is marked off of the eastern end of the lake, but a minimally used trail does exist to provide access. Mavis has also recently been stocked.
Out of the southwest corner of the lake is the mile long portage into Tuscarora Lake. If you wish to day trip into Tusc, the portage is well cleared and you’ll find a beautiful lake with a number of islands and many campsites to stop for lunch. Tuscarora has a good population of Northern Pike and Lake Trout for you anglers. If you don’t like the idea of portaging your canoe, the Tusc portage is a great hike and exploration option and moose viewing opportunity as the portage skirts around Contest and Wish Lakes on its way to the other side.
BWCA Route – Missing Link – Snipe – Cross Bay Loop From the east side of Missing Link is a 180 rod portage into Snipe Lake. Snipe could potentially be your base camp lake just as well on this trip as there are four campsites available. With its irregular shaped rocky shoreline and numbers of islands, Snipe has great character. The northwest portion of the lake has a maximum depth of 90 feet and holds Lake Trout and Northern. The rest of the lake is guarded off by narrow passageways that open up to other sections of the lake, and you’ll find Northern Pike in the shallower portions of the lake.
From a base camp on Snipe Lake, you can explore the 108 rod portage south into Copper Lake which is a long skinny lake holding a good population of Northern Pike. Chances are you will find great solitude on this lake and wildlife opportunities aplenty. The area south of Copper Lake is what is known as the Hairy Lake Primitive Management Area or PMA. There are no maintained portages or campsites in this series of lakes and is designated by the Forest Service for those who are truly adventurous and like to blaze their own trail. A special permit to camp in the Hairy Lake PMA area can be obtained from the Forest Service free of charge. The area between Copper and Octopus Lakes is hardly traveled and campsites are few and far between, and signs of portage trails are even scarcer, but for the truly adventurous and daring, this area could be an idea for a future trip, as this area will put you in the middle of the wilderness with nothing but silence and solitude.
To the east of Snipe Lake, you’ll find a 50 rod portage downhill into Cross Bay Lake. This connects to a more traveled route from the Cross Bay Lake entry (#50) point. Cross Bay Lake is a pretty lake with many back bays and marshy shoreline providing the potential to view moose feeding in the shallows. Cross Bay also has bass and some walleye. Bird watching is excellent in this area because of the variety of shoreline and habitat. Kingfishers are commonly seen skimming the water for food as they fly from shoreline to shoreline across this narrow lake.
Cross Bay Lake is the confluence of a number of creeks and streams that all converge in this lake and flow out to the north via the Cross River as it makes its way to Gunflint Lake, and then further north via the Granite River to Saganaga Lake. Especially pretty if you’re lucky enough to be there early in the year is the waterfall emptying out of a no named lake at the south end of Cross Bay. The water will be heard first before seen. One could easily spend a day or two exploring all of the nooks and crannys of Cross Bay Lake. Dawkins Creek that flows in from the east is one of these exploration opportunities that will provide more adventure into your trip and will lead you off of the beaten path.
This route is labeled as a base camp idea, but it could just as easily be a loop trip with a couple days in Missing Link, a couple days in Snipe and another couple days in Cross Bay Lake, essentially making the trip consist of a series of base camps to take full advantage of the variety of the area. And instead of making it a true base camp where you go in and out the same way, you could complete the loop by exiting the BWCAW by way of Ham Lake and the Cross River that flows north out of Cross Bay Lake. Options abound in this area, and for as short a distance you will have to travel, the amount of solitude you’ll find will surprise you.
Again, this trip could be a base camp in any of the lakes mentioned above, or it could be turned into a complete loop trip. The time you spend in this area is up to you. It could be a three day trip, or it could be a week long trip. For the loop trip, allow at least four days to enjoy the area, additional days to really explore all the options.
From brook trout to walleye, bushwhacking to swimming, berry picking to bird watching, whatever your interests, this area is sure to provide you with a unique experience in the BWCA that will last with you a lifetime.