Canoeing on the Edge

Red Rock-Seagull Loop

This is an excellent weekend route for those who don't like to portage, with only 201 rods of walking during the entire loop.

From the public landing you'll first paddle north into the main part of Saganaga Lake. Then you'll follow its shoreline southwest through Red Rock Bay to Red Rock and Alpine lakes. From Alpine you will portage east to Seagull and paddle to the north end of this beautiful, island-studded lake. After floating down the Seagull River to Gull Lake, you will return to the narrow channel of Saganaga Lake where the route began.

This loop circumnavigates the vast area destroyed by the Roy Lake Fire of 1976. Only in a few spots, however, will you witness the scarred countryside. All five lakes on the route are quite pretty, with countless islands, bays, and peninsulas scattered throughout them which may confuse the inexperienced navigator.

The wildlife in this area may keep well hidden, but you might see a bald eagle soaring overhead, and bear have been spotted on American Point. Anglers will find walleye, northern pike, and lake trout along most of the route. You will paddle through Travel Zones 39 and 38, two of the more heavily visited zones in the BWCA (rank third and eighth respectively). Find your campsite early!

DAY 1: Saganaga Lake, Red Rock Bay, portage 10 rods, Red Rock Lake, portage 48 rods, Alpine Lake. Beware of motor traffic and potentially strong winds on big Saganaga Lake. If the water level is not too low, the 10-rod portage may be avoided by paddling through the short, shallow creek connecting Red Rock Bay to Red Rock Lake. The 48-rod path goes over a small hill, but it is not difficult.

DAY 2: Alpine Lake, portage 105 rods, Seagull Lake, Seagull River, portage 38 rods, river, rapids, Gull Lake, Seagull River, Saganaga Lake. If you prefer to bypass the 105-rod carry, paddle into the channel leading north from the east end of Alpine Lake. It will loop around toward the southeast and then constrict into three short sets of shallow rapids draining into Seagull Lake. A 20-rod portage goes around the first rapids on the right (west side), but there are no paths around the last two. If the water level is not too low, you can easily run them. Otherwise walk or line your canoe between the boulders.

The 38-rod portage bypasses Seagull Falls, a small but scenic cascade next to Trail's End Campground. The trail is quite rocky, steep in places, and somewhat difficult to follow, as there are many intersecting paths from the campground. Some branches of the trail lead through campsites. The easiest route branches off to the right soon after the start and follows a gravel road for nine rods. Just past a water faucet it reenters the forest and climbs a small hill before descending steeply to the base of the falls and rapids.

You can eliminate about four miles of paddling and the 38-rod portage by ending your trip at the Seagull Lake public landing at the south end of Trail's End Campground, just east of the falls. But you will have to walk two miles to your car if you haven't made arrangements to be picked up there.


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