Moose on the Loose

Likely Spots
By Roger Hahn
  |  Gorp.com

All of these encounters, in two short days, led us to a discussion of the many moose we, and our guests, have seen over the years, and the routes off the Gunflint Trail, which seem to be good bets for seeing these magnificent creatures. And I thought I would share just a few of them with you so you might plan your next trip in these directions if moose watching has a place on your agenda:

Cross Bay area (Cross Bay entry point #50): This stretch of small, shallow lakes between Ham Lake and Long Island Lake is well known for its abundance of moose. My personal record of six moose (on Ham Lake alone) was beaten by a guest's report of seeing eight moose one day last summer. This route has a small quota of permits and can be enjoyed by families with small children due to its small lakes and short portages.

Frost River area (Cross Bay entry point #50): This route takes several days and is pretty rugged at times, but if it's moose you're after, this is the place to go. Beginning at the Cross Bay entry point, this route takes you south to Frost Lake, then west to Mora Lake, and returning via Round or Seagull Lakes. Early October is a particularly good time to see the moose during their annual mating season, but extra caution is advised as these creatures can be deadly if provoked.

Ester/Hanson area (Seagull or Saganaga entry points #54 or #55): Due to the large uninhabited area to the east of these lakes, the moose population is heavy in this region, which is found south of the Monument Portage. The shallow lakes in the Pitfall Primitive Management Area east of Hanson are hot spots for setting up your tripod and waiting for that great moose photo to hang in your den. Day tripping is allowed, but special permission from the local Forest Service office is required to camp in this Primitive Management Area. Because of all the moose in this region, our guests also enjoy rare wolf sightings, and lots of howling, while camped in this vicinity.

Roe/Vee area (entry point #54 or #52): This lightly traveled area, lying roughly between Little Saganaga and Kekakabic Lake, is another likely spot for seeing a number of moose on your next trip. This route requires a couple of days to get to, and is a bit more rugged than most, but is well worth the trip for it's solitude, smaller lakes, and various wildlife sightings.

Kiskadinna/Henson area (entry point #50 or #47): This area, between Poplar and Long Island lakes, may see a little more human traffic in the height of the season, but draws a lot of moose nevertheless. The lakes are, once again, smaller and shallower, which seems to be the main attraction for the moose. This route also has many small side lakes to the north, which are off the main travel route and known to hold a lot of moose.

Now, obviously, there are thousands of moose in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and you may very well run into them at any point on any route. However, some areas, such as those I've just mentioned, have a little better habitat for them and therefore your odds may be better in these areas. I recommend that you ask your outfitter where, and when, they would suggest you go if you would like to see more moose on your next trip.

In general, I suggest that you treat moose viewing like fishing and focus your attention on the hours around dawn and dusk. Seek out the shallow lakes and bays and sit quietly with your mug of coffee as the moose come down to the shore to eat and drink. Travel quietly during the day and have prearranged hand signals for moose sightings to avoid having to shout to your paddling partners. Your camera should be equipped with a medium length telephoto lens and should always, always be out of your pack and ready to go.

Bear in mind that these large beasts have rather poor vision but keen senses of smell and hearing. Move slowly and quietly, and you may be treated to a close-up view of the Boundary Waters most magnificent creatures that you, too, may never forget.


Roger Hahn and his wife Debbie own and operate Seagull Outfitters and are year-round residents of Seagull, Minnesota.

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