Canoe Trip Length: 4-6 Days
Permit Required: Lizz Lake (BWCAW) entry permit
Poplar Lake is found halfway up the Gunflint Trail. This is a popular area as there are a number of lodges and businesses on the lake. The Lizz Lake entry permit is what you’ll want to get for this route. This can be a 4 day loop, or you can extend it and make it a 6 or 7 day loop as well. So regardless of your time constraints, this is an excellent option that will not be overly challenging so even the more novice canoeists can enjoy it as well.
We will drive you south down the Gunflint Trail from our location on Seagull Lake. This will be about a 24 mile truck ride to where we will drop you off at the public landing in Poplar Lake. You will then commence upon your trip and make your way back to Cross Bay where we will pick you up by truck and trailer and bring you back to Seagull Lake where you can enjoy a shower and share your wilderness experience with us.
From Poplar Lake, you’ll want to paddle to the south central shoreline of the lake where you will find the portage to Lizz Lake. Here you enter in to the BWCAW. This is a fairly well traveled Boundary Waters canoe route so the portage trails are clear and obvious. From Lizz you’ll portage to Caribou Lake via a 70 rod portage on the southernmost part of the lake. Once on Caribou, you’ll paddle around a large peninsula to the southeastern part of the lake to find the short portage into Horseshoe Lake. From Horseshoe to Gaskin is your toughest portage of the day, so save some energy for it as it ascends up over a hill and then back down to Gaskin Lake. This is where you’ll more than likely want to spend the first night on one of the numerous campsites.
The fishing along this route is fairly decent; not great, but you will find walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike.
This is a decision point in the trip. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you might consider heading south to Winchell Lake and in to Brule Lake which is one of the boundary waters’ largest lakes. On your way south you can see the large Misquah Hills that tower over Winchell Lake on the southern shore. Paddling Brule Lake can be a challenge, especially if the wind is strong from the west. So plan accordingly. But once on the western shore of Brule, you’ll portage in to South Temperance Lake, then to North Temperance, Muskeg and then to Cherokee Lake. Where you camp along the way is up to you with how you feel. There are a lot of suitable sites along this route. But if you choose this route, it will probably take you the better part of 3 days to get to Cherokee Lake if you’re moving your camp everyday.
Cherokee Lake is very pretty with a number of islands. You’ll paddle north to the portage to Gordon Lake and then continue north to Long Island Creek and then to Long Island Lake which will make a good resting point for the night. Long Island Lake is another larger lake with many islands and some excellent campsites on islands with a western exposure to view a pretty sunset.
Now you’ve only got one day left, and it will be a fairly easy day as you’ll be paddling with the current and flow of the water the entire way as you head north out of Long Island to Karl Lake, Lower George, Rib and then to Cross Bay Lake. These lakes are all connected by rapids and little cascading waterfalls. The portages run rather close to the rapids and makes for some scenic views. Again, all of the portages will be descending downhill, so it should be a fairly easy stretch for you. Once in Cross Bay Lake, you’ll just have a couple carries left as you continue north to Ham Lake, and then to Cross Bay where you’ll come to the public landing and we will pick you up to take you back to our base to get you freshened up.
This option will take a full 5 days, and if you want to extend it and allow for some more time or some fishing, 6 or 7 days would be appropriate.
The other option back from your decision point in Gaskin Lake is to paddle west down Gaskin to the portage into Henson Lake and continuing west to Omega Lake. Omega boasts a couple of nice large campsites, but it may be too early in the day for you to want to stop. So based on your schedule, you can stay in Omega or push through a couple more lakes on your way to Long Island Lake. Kiskadinna and Muskeg Lakes separate Omega and Long Island Lakes. The portage from Omega to Kiskadinna is shorter and is a downhill descent, so watch your step. There’s nothing too exciting in Kiskadinna, so you’ll probably push on through that lake fairly quickly on your way to Muskeg. The portage to Muskeg is a longer one of close to 200 rods, but if there is a silver lining, it drops 150 feet in elevation along the portage. So it will be downhill for the most part. But you’ll want to use caution.
A couple more short portages and paddling the Muskeg creek will lead to Long Island Lake where you can make a camp at one of the nice sites toward the middle of the lake on a point or on an island. It’s a fairly popular lake in peak season, so choose your site earlier in the day if you’re traveling in July or August.
Then you can continue north after a good night’s rest in Long Island via the lakes that were outlined above and in the “Long Island Base Camp” route also described on our website.
This shorter option is a pretty comfortable 4 day trip if you’re moving everyday. If you choose to enjoy your time a bit more, then you will want to plan for 5 or 6 days on this route.
Both of these options offer some very decent fishing along the way, wildlife viewing opportunities, scenic rock outcrops and some fairly smaller to midsize lakes with exception of Brule Lake. There are numerous day trip opportunities off of this route, so there is plenty offered in that variety along your way.
Learn about BWCA Permits.