Paddle the Boundary Waters' Seagull to Saganaga Loop

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The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is an incredibly serene, unique wilderness area located in northeastern Minnesota within the Superior National Forest. Get up there and you'll find yourself surrounded with zero light pollution for incredible star-gazing, and little to no noise pollution. Sights and sounds of the surrounding wildlife will grant you a wonderfully peaceful experience.

First, things first - plan your trip well!
There are many details that need to go into planning even a short trip into the Boundary Waters. Various websites and companies exist to help you plan and check off all of the boxes prior to your departure date. The bwca.com website is one I found to be very helpful when planning my trip: http://www.bwca.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=gear.your

Location:
From the Twin Cities, the drive is roughly 6 hours to get to Sea Gull Lake and Seagull Canoe Outfitters, located along Gunflint Trail in north Grand Marais, Minnesota. Most gear you may need is available for purchase or rent through the Outfitters, and tow services can be scheduled through them as well if you need to eliminate paddle time to get to your starting point.

Permits are required for entry into the BWCA, and you can find that information here:http://www.recreation.gov/wildernessAreaDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72600

The Seagull to Saganaga Loop is a great trip for BWCA first-timers, less experienced canoeists, or those with small kids along. It's a great area for fishing and setting up a base camp if you so choose. If you opt to paddle the loop, you should plan for a 3 to 5 day trip, and can begin at either lake. If you begin your paddle from Seagull Outfitters, you'll depart from the northeastern side of Seagull Lake. A tow service is also an option if you wish to be taken 5 miles down the lake to cut back on your paddle time. This is a great option particularly if you have kids along or if your trip length is only a few days. You can arrange this with the outfitter directly (Phone: 218-388-2216 E-mail: seagull@seagulloutfitters.com)

Seagull Lake has over 100 islands which are really fun to navigate. Be sure to check out the Seagull Palisades, a rock cliff shooting straight out of the water.

From Seagull Lake you'll paddle to Alpine Lake. You can opt for a 105 rod portage (1 rod = 16.5 feet) at the west end of the lake. If you plan to fish, Alpine Lake is a great place to spend some time with the walleye and bass. If you plan to set up camp here, find a site early in the day.

The next day, head north to the 50-rod portage to Red Rock Lake (pictured above). This is where we set up camp and found it to be a scenic lake with abundant wildlife, even during rainy days.

To continue your journey, portage out of the northeast part of the lake into Red Rock Bay (part of Saganaga Lake). Your paddle through Saganaga will be longer as it's a large lake with lots of islands. Either camp on Saganaga for your last night, or enjoy a longer paddle (in hopefully nice weather) back to either the dock of Seagull Outfitters, or the public landing where you can arrange for a staff member to pick you up.

Remember to pack in, pack out, and leave no trace!

Pack List

  • Permit
  • Lightweight canoe(s) - kevlar canoes are great!
  • Lifejackets
  • Good-quality waterproof map and compass (essential)
  • GPS (if you feel you may want a backup to your map)
  • Dry bags
  • Bear bins
  • Food, water (and don't forget the whiskey!)
  • Cooking utensils and matches
  • Tent, sleeping bag, and pad
  • Rain gear
  • Fishing gear and license
  • Lightweight camera
  • Bug spray and head net
  • Tarp and rope (for creating a cooking/eating shelter in case of rain)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Loop

Distance:

29 Miles

Features:

Adult Beverages
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Swimming Hole
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Added by Emily Kent

A girl with a photo habit who loves nature a whole lot. A Minnesota native in northern California. Other loves of mine are my two little girls, my hubby, camping, hiking, surfing, singing, cycling, swimming and a good hoppy IPA. Instagram @emilyelizabeth.115

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