Voyageurs National Park Trip 2011
On this trip were Lisa, Fred, Dana and myself (Bernie). Rhett had set the trip up but had to bow out at the last moment and Dana graciously stepped up to the plate to take the leadership responsibilities (thanks Dana!). We drove up on Tuesday, May 17th and got a room at the Pine Ridge Motel a few miles from Crane Lake.
Wednesday May 18th
We met for breakfast at the Voyagair Lodge and put in at Crane Lake at about 10AM. It was clear and sunny out and reached a high that afternoon somewhere in the mid-70’s. We paddled north and as we passed through King Williams Narrows there was only light fishing boat traffic (though they like to cruise by quite fast!). We paddled the imaginary international border line between the USA and Canada, but nothing was different on the other side. We came by the Ingersoll Estate on Ingersoll Island but didn’t stop for a closer look. It consisted of a boat house, main home and an out house, all painted green. The buildings were unoccupied and in need of repair but I imagine money for the project would be hard to find these days.
Leaving Ingersoll Island we headed northwest into Grassy Bay and away from most other boat traffic. We had lunch at a houseboat campsite (S8) on an island at the mouth of the bay and enjoyed the warm weather. Grassy Bay is a dead end route which does have a portage available at its end (85 rods), but we had no interest in taking the hike.
Instead we headed into Browns Bay and found our first camp site (S3) about 2:30 PM. There was a dock available but we chose to land on the rocky shore and pulled our boats up for the night. The camp site was about a hundred feet from the landing, up a small rocky incline, with a nice view. All the sites we stopped at had picnic tables, a fire ring and pit toilet and many had tent pads, as did this one, so things were quite comfortable.
It was a pleasant evening and the first night was clear and dry and good for sleeping.
Thursday May 19th
It was warm overnight and I wasn’t expecting that. We had breakfast and broke camp about 9 AM and paddled to the Grassy Bay Cliffs. The cliffs are about 100-150’ high and are sheer rock. We continued back out of Grassy Bay the way we came in.
We turned north into Sand Point Lake and observed a float plane making repeated attempts to take off but to no avail. It wasn’t obvious what the problem was but we eventually passed him, going by Burnt Island and stopped at Houseboat Island for lunch. Some clouds moved in to help keep the heat down a bit. The water was still very cold, as the ice had only gone out a couple of weeks previous, but with dry suits on we all were quite warm.
After lunch we continued north and headed through Namakan Narrows. This section had a number of twists and turns so you couldn’t see very far ahead. At times you could hear a fishing boat coming well before you could see them due to the close quarters. We emerged from the Narrows into Blind Pig Channel of Namakan Lake and paddled by Your Island and chose a campsite (N25) on the west side of My Island. We arrived about 2:30 PM and there was a long sand beach to land our boats on and a nice bay that offered protection. Lisa built a nice fire that night and we had a colorful sunset to watch at the end of the day.
It was a bit cooler overnight which made for good sleeping. This was our day to play as we had decided to stay at this campsite two nights so today we wouldn’t have to break camp. We had a leisurely breakfast and left camp about 9 AM. We circled around the part of My Island we hadn’t seen, passed Your Island and came by Blind Pig Island and into Hammer Bay. Fred and I were doing the navigation and we were on a tour that Fred had suggested.
We were going to visit O’Leary Lake that was a 29 rod portage from the end of Hammer Bay, but we were going to walk it and see what was on the other side, not take the boats. We found the portage and it was muddy landing. However the walk wasn’t too bad and soon we were looking at O’Leary Lake (and a quite ordinary lake it was).
We walked back to the boats and headed out, stopping for lunch at Rainbow Island (N33) in Hammer Bay. It was a very pretty island and had a great campsite. We paddled on the left side of Hammer Bay and emerged into Namakan Lake between campsites N21 and N22. From there Fred wanted to visit the Gull Island Rookery which would take us into the largest open water section of the trip and mark our furthest point north and west that we reached.
We had the wind at our backs and a couple of us tried a little wave surfing. We made good time and soon were at the Rookery (what can you say about gulls though?). We went clockwise around Gull Island and headed west back to our camp. On the way we went by Pat Smith Island, a very small island that would make a most wonderful stay if the weather was favorable (it offered no protection but what a view!).
Clouds had been building all day, as had the wind, and we arrived back to the protection of our little bay. Lisa built another nice fire that evening and Fred made a quick run in his boat to pick up some more wood at the day use area just beyond our campsite.
Saturday May 21st
There were a few drops of rain overnight and the forecast for the day was for rain and possible heavy weather so we broke camp early, leaving about 8 AM. Our goal was to get most of the way home so we would have no problems getting out by noon Sunday.
We headed south back into the Namakan Narrows and started looking for the pictographs that are in the area. Dana recalled them being close to the beginning of the Narrows and after visiting a few sites that’s where we found them (on the East side). While very faint, they were evident.
After exiting the Narrows we stayed on the West side of Sand Point Lake and checked out Granite Cliff and many campsites from the water (most very nice). Granite Cliff is a rocky, pretty area (not as tall as Grassy Bay Cliffs). We stopped for lunch at a very small island by Grassy Bay and then went in and explored another arm that we had not seen the first time around.
We continued south to Ingersoll Island and Dana and Lisa landed and checked out the place while Fred and I paddled in the bay. It rained heavily at times but with our dry suits on presented no problems. From there we headed south and to Mukooda Lake and got a campsite (S12) about 1:30 PM. There wasn’t a large landing area so we got out on the dock and lifted our boats out for the night. It continued to rain on and off but we got out tents up during one of the dry periods.
Dana set up his tarp over the picnic table and we were able to eat comfortably out of the rain. This was a group campsite which had running water so we took advantage of that luxury. We had another fire that evening and enjoyed the setting.
Sunday May 22nd
It rained much of the night but stopped in the morning when we were ready to leave. We broke camp and started our last leg of the trip. It rained much of the way and was rather dark as we passed through King Williams Narrows. We took a little break at the end of the Narrows and got into our boats for the last time. We arrived at our put-in site at Crane Lake about two hours after we began. Again, it stopped raining so that we could pack up in the dry.
We paddled close to 12 miles each day, sometimes a little more and others a little less. It was a wonderful trip and I certainly recommend it to everyone!