Canoeing on the Edge

Thunder Point Route

This popular, scenic loop is highlighted by a climb up the Thunder Point Trail, overlooking beautiful Knife Lake and the Canadian wilderness to the north. From the public access at Trail's End Campground, you'll paddle Southwest across beautiful Knife Lake and the Canadian borderlands. From the public access at Trail's End Campground, paddle southwest across Seagull and through Alpine and Jasper Lakes to ever-popular Ogishkemuncie Lake. From there you'll swing northwest to the South Arm of Knife Lake and follow it west to Thunder Point, the midpoint of this route. Then you will follow the Canadian boundary northeast through Little Knife, Ottertrack, and Swamp Lakes to big Saganaga Lake. Then you'll return to Trail's End Campground via the Seagull River and Gull Lake.

If your number one goal is to escape from other canoeists and seek isolation from all reminders of civilization, don't take this route. All the zones through which you'll be traveling rank among the 14 most popular (of 49) in the BWCA. But if scenic lakes with crystal-clear water, panoramic vistas, a spectacular waterfall, and easy portages appeal to you, you're sure to love this easy loop.

DAY 1: Seagull Lake, portage 105 rods, Alpine Lake, portage 45 rods, Jasper Lake, portage 25 rods, Kingfisher Lake, portage 38 rods, Ogishkemuncie Lake.

If you prefer getting your feet wet to portaging 105 rods, you can avoid the first carry by paddling up the channel connecting Seagull and Alpine lakes. You'll encounter three short sets of rapids, up which you can easily walk your canoe (in normal or low water levels). You would find it quicker to take the 105-rod portage, however. The shallow rapids connecting Kingfisher and Ogishkemuncie lakes may also be walked up without much difficulty, eliminating another 38 rods of aching carries. Ogishkemuncie is a lovely lake with many fine campsites, but it is often filled to capacity. In fact, the travel zone in which it lies boasts the highest campsite occupancy rate in all of the Boundary Waters. It is a popular destination not only for those beginning their trip from the Gunflint Trail, but also for those who start at Moose Lake from the Fernberg Road in the Western Region. Find a campsite early!

DAY 2: Ogishkemuncie Lake, portage 15 rods, Annie Lake, portage 15 rods, Lake Jean, portage 15 rods, Eddy Lake, portage 25 rods, South Arm of Knife Lake. At the end of your final portage, take time to enjoy the scenic waterfall on the creek connecting Eddy and Knife lakes. The best view of the lower falls can be found by loading up your canoe after the portage, paddling to the creek's outlet, and then hiking up the trail on the east side of the creek. Knife is another very popular lake destination for many, and the"way" for many, many more. Find a campsite in the vicinity of Thunder Point (where the South Arm joins the main part of Knife Lake). Take the time to climb one-quarter mile up the Thunder Point Trail to the scenic overlook. There you'll be treated to a fabulous panorama of the international boundary from over 150 feet above the lake.Then cast your line for one of the lake trout, walleye or northern pike that live in this crystalline border lake.

DAY 3: Knife Lake, Little Knife Lake, portage 12 rods, Ottertrack Lake, portage 80 rods, Swamp Lake, portage 5 rods, Saganaga Lake. Ottertrack Lake—long, narrow and lined with high bluffs and a rocky shoreline—is one of my favorites. Along the north shore of the lake, you may see a clearing where once stood the cabins of Benny Ambrose. Benny was a prospector who sought gold for more than 60 years, until his death in 1982 at the age of 84. On the opposite (Canadian) shoreline, there is now a commemorative plaque cemented into the base of a cliff about one-half mile before the lake splits into two arms.

At the summit of the 80-rod carry between Ottertrack and Swamp lakes, you will see a large steel marker denoting the international boundary—hence the name "Monument Portage."

Saganaga is a big, beautiful lake that is heavily traveled because of its easy access from the Gunflint Trail. Large motorboats are permitted east of American Point, where several good campsites are located. Bears have been reported on American Point, so don't leave your food on the ground while you are away from camportage.

DAY 4: Saganaga Lake, Seagull River, Gull Lake, Trails End Campground. Your trip will end at a public access one-quarter mile north of the landing from which you started. The parking lot for both accesses is between them.


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