Category: Boundary Waters Trip Tips and “How To”

And They’re Off!

The Iowa State University biology class is on their way!  Biology 393: Biodiveristy of the Boreal Forest to be exact.  Jim and Jim bring a group of 7 students every May on a week long trip in the Boundary Waters looking for things of biological interest with a side of adventure.  Doesn’t that sound like a fun trip?  They will be out looking for open water and things like Vulpicidia pinastri (Powdered Sunshine lichen), Polytrichum pilferum (Awned Hair Cap moss), Cladonia chlorophae (Mealy Pixie-cup lichen), and Umbilicaria muehlenbergii (Plated Rock tripe).  After a hot French toast breakfast and lots of coffee, the class layered up and shoved off fighting a strong headwind for the Missing Link portage.  First group off the Tuscarora beach this spring!

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Round Lake is open!

Round Lake is open!  Ok, ok, ok, you can’t technically leave from our beach yet if you care about your canoe.  The wind switched last night pushing the remaining ice into our back bay.  However, the far side of the lake is open which means you can paddle from the public access landing to both portages!

The first group left this morning heading for Brant.  No one has been in to Missing Link or Tuscarora yet so the ice conditions that way are unknown.  Typically Missing Link is open around the same time as Round.  Tuscarora will be a few days later because it is such a large and deep lake.

We had one group this weekend staying on Larch Lake.  They reported good luck with walleye and that Clove Lake went out on Sunday.

Ham Lake is now completely ice free.  No one has paddle past Ham Lake yet, but typically when Ham is open, Cross Bay Lake is open.  Long Island Lake is most likely still covered in ice as it is a large deep lake as well.

The forecast for this week is on the cold side.  Highs in the lower 50’s.  Lows in the upper 20’s.  Mostly cloudy with on and off showers.  Not great for melting ice but if the wind keeps up with all the rain squalls, ice conditions will improve quickly!

Time to catch some lake trout!!!


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Public access launch on Round Lake

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Tuscarora’s beach this morning

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Looking toward the Missing Link portage from the public access dock

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Frost River Adventure

What do Tuscarora staff members do on their days off? Some of us go fishing; others sleep in or hike on a nearby trail or drive to Grand Marais for time on Lake Superior. And this past week four of us decided to spend two nights and a day off in the best way that I personally can imagine: exploring the lakes and rivers that make up our wilderness backyard. Elizabeth was pretty excited too:


We decided on a Frost River loop, which started down our driveway at Cross River public access and took us south through Ham, Cross Bay, Long Island, and Frost Lake to the Frost River before turning back north through Mora, Crooked, and Gillis and taking us home through Round. We felt like the Lewis and Clark expedition as we paddled through this relatively remote area of the Boundary Waters.


Soon after starting on Monday afternoon, we discovered that our equipment pack was a LOT heavier than we remembered packing it. Good thing Shelby’s brother Dan had remembered to slip in one of these rocks for us…they come in so handy out on trail.


We camped at Long Island Lake our first night and woke up to sunshine, oatmeal, a gentle breeze, and syrup shots (we ended up making a little more than we needed and didn’t want to leave a trace!).

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Once we got to the Frost, it started feeling really Lewis-and-Clark-y. Anything could be waiting around each grassy bend of the river.


Most often, it was a portage. We calculated that there were 36 portages on this particular trip. They were usually short and around beautiful rapids rushing from all of the recent rain.


…but we also did encounter a little bit of mud:


After a day of paddling, portaging, singing voyageur songs, and seeing new places, we found a great campsite on Gillis Lake. Swimming and jumping felt wonderful, and we slept very well that night. It was a perfect way to spend a day off, and we’re excited for our next one! – by Amy





Lightening Strike!

Thunderstorms blow in and out quickly around here.  Yesterday morning dawned hot and humid and even at 6 am you could feel a thunder storm brewing.  The sticky humidity blurred the far side of Round Lake as thunderheads grew in the north-west.  Around 3 the wind started to pick up and distant rumbling heralded the start of the rain.  The wind grew fierce forcing curtains of rain across the lake so dense the far shore was obscured.  Lightening and thunder crashed over head as Denali cowered in the corner.

Within an hour the storm had blown over.  The air was cool again and smelled fresh with the rain.  It was time to play the “what’s missing” game.  The joy and curse of living in a forest is the trees.  Trees provide shade, sing in the wind, and house the birds.  Trees also tend to come down at inopportune times and usually in the wrong place.  Walking around looking at the canopy after a storm, it can be difficult to tell if something is missing.  Yes, you look out the same window every day, but will you really notice when a tree is suddenly not there when it is surround by a forest?


The first clue was a snapped off poplar trunk.  The freshly splintered wood was white and stood out against the wet dark green leaves.  A dead tree that had been standing for a few years had lost the top 20 feet.  A quick walk about discovered the top had fallen cleanly in the brush and would not need any clean up.  Perfect!

Walking back, a large spruce top was laying across a path.  The top had popped off in the high winds and fallen, missing two roofs.  A small 10 foot chunk, no problem.  Toss it in the back of the pickup and done.

The next problem was a tree across one of the driveways.  Slightly more substantial but a quick chainsaw job and a full pickup load of wood and the road is clear again.


The more serious report comes from down the road near the Cross Bay parking lot.  A large white pine had been struck by lightning.  The tree still stands, but a long spiraling crack has formed all the way down the trunk.  Chunks of bark have been blown off and charred.  Although not a problem right now, it is a tree to be monitored.  Lightening strikes can start trees and duff smoldering.  The heavy rainfall will prevent flare ups initially, but a few days later when the forest starts to dry again, small embers can ignite new fires.


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We had some guests out in the storm paddling.  The rain was so heavy at one point they could not see the shore of Brant Lake!  When storms like that blow in, it is best to get off the water and hunker down in the safest place you can find.  It is awe inspiring part of wilderness travel to watch storms roll across the lake as long as take precautions to keep yourself safe!

Cold Water and Hot Fishing

If you have not heard yet, the ice is finally out on all the lakes near us, even big Sag to the north.  It was a little challenging for a while there to get back to the good lake trout lakes like Tuscarora and Gillis.  For eager lake trout fishers that were willing to sit on smaller lakes and wait for the ice to go out, the reward was some good fishing and a lot of adventure.

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Mike Vogt and his guys found out first hand what ice out trout fishing is like.  They found the “glacier” on the Missing Link portage (which is still there by the way, but receding)!  They spent a little time on Missing Link waiting for the ice to go out on Tuscarora.  Strong spring winds kept them close to shore for a while.    Eventually their patience was rewarded with some beautiful northerns and lakers, even enough to eat!


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This is actually the first time I’ve ever seen Mike in a hat that is not a baseball cap.    Can you tell what a likeable guy he is?  I can hear him laughing right through that picture.   It is not a leave-no-trace kind of laugh, it is a leave-you-laughing kind of laugh.

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Suddenly it is Memorial Day weekend .  The lakes are ice free, the temps are rising , the sun is out, and the fish are waiting!  Come on up and share your fishing pictures with us!

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