Sorry for the slow entry on my early September BWCA trip. I had every intention of jumping into making a post as soon as I returned from my vacation, but life in the real world got in the way. It has been a very busy Summer and Autumn is much the same. Between family events and starting a side business things have been incredibly busy.
Weather on this trip was excellent! Daytime highs in the mid 60s with most days being partly sunny. Evenings got down into mid 40s. Wind was heavy off and on, but nothing that my Old Town Guide 119 couldn’t handle.
Without further ado, let me share some images and info on my trip!
September BWCA Entry Point Homer Lake
Homer Lake is one of the smaller entry points for the BWCA, allowing only 2 permits per day for overnight paddling. Despite that I was rather surprised how many people I saw the day I paddled in on the Labor Day weekend. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, as Labor Day weekend is the last big weekend for canoe trippers in the wilderness. After Labor Day schools starts back up and families are’t able to make such trips. Non-family canoe trippers thins down as well.
Overall Homer Lake is a gorgeous lake in Tofte Ranger District in the Superior National Forest. Mostly shallow with a maximum depth in a few areas of only 15 to twenty feet. It has lots of rocks all over the place some right under the surface and not noticeable until you are close to them (depending on how the light hits them they can be tough to see). Beautiful tree lines. A plethora of wildlife. Overall it is smaller in size with a few narrows to paddle through. I liked Homer Lake a lot.
There are also a couple free to use campsites on Homer that are not within the BWCA. Going in I saw both of those campsites in use. There is only one campsite on the lake that is within the BWCA boundary and it is a very nice looking site (I stopped and walked around it on my last day of the trip when heading out). I could see myself staying there if I only wanted to do base-camp over a long weekend – and I may do that next year as a way to introduce a few people to canoe camping.
Homer lake is full of northern, small mouth bass, and walleye. I caught one northern and several walleye while trolling through some of the narrows. The northern was small, the walleye were good sized eaters.
As I mentioned above it is an entry lake, and about half of it is usable for day trippers with motor boats. I didn’t see any motor boats on the lake, and I suspect that is because there are many shallow areas with lots of rocks in the middle of nowhere; a very dangerous lake for motor boats.
Heading Down To Pipe Lake
I wanted to camp a few nights on Pipe Lake. Online Minnesota DNR reports say there are no walleye in the lake, only northern and small-mouth bass, but I had read online in a few forums that there are in fact walleyes to be found there.
Yes, I can confirm, there are walleyes in Pipe Lake. Sadly the fishing I did there was poor overall. Everything was small and skinny. I kept a few small walleye for a fish meal my first night there, but it was lackluster at best.
Initially when heading into Pipe Lake I was getting worried I may not find a campsite available. I was seeing people all over the place. Usually dead end lakes don’t get much traffic. That is not the case with Pipe Lake on Labor Day Weekend.
As I neared the portage from East Pipe Lake to Pipe Lake I came across an older man and woman coming from the portage. I said ‘hi’ and asked them if they new of any open camps sights on Pipe – they said they thought there was only one left of the three, but they weren’t sure. That had me a little concerned. It was already 4pm and if camping spots were filled up there, they were likely filled up on Vern Lake. Like I said I was seeing paddlers all over the place.
So much for a quiet entry area in the BWCA!
Pipe Lake In The BWCA
I got lucky. There was one campsite left open on Pipe Lake. It was the northern most site on the west end of the lake. It was not a very nice site. Only two small tent pads… really only one, but there was another spot that could have worked if somebody was forced to. Hammock campers would have had an easy time at this site, but if tent camping it could be an issue. Luckily it was only me on a solo trip.
The site was small, the fire grate area somewhat cramped. Rocks were everywhere and even ground was hard to find. For a solo camper it was okay. But even when solo camping and not needing a lot of space… I like to have a lot of space!
The water was clear and clean and I did have a pretty good view. So all in all it was an okay site, just not ideal for what I was wanting and hoping. I suspect there was a reason it was the last open campsite on the lake.
The Usual Camp Gear
I brought along my usual camp gear, nothing new on this trip that I hadn’t used in past outings or day excursions early in the year. My Luxe Tempo 2 man tent… I love that thing. Sets up fast and breaks down just as fast. Not too heavy either. Of course I brought my Jungle Blanket that is always worth mentioning.
A few other honorable mentions. I usually always bring two knives, my Gerber Gator Premium and a Swiss Army knife. But this time I only brought my RangerGrip 78 Swiss Army Knife – handy sized, lots of useful tools, sharp… it did everything I needed.
Of course I need to make a most honorable mention to one of my favorite pieces of kit… my portable espresso maker! I first saw this fantastic little piece of kit watching Doug Linker (Doug Outside on YouTube) and had to have one. So glad I did. you can find a link where to buy one of these over on my gear page.
Of course this trip would not have been possible without my Old Town Guide 119. Simply love that canoe.
For a list of the gear I tend to use most on such trips, hiking trips, and day trips, check out my gear list page.
Fishing Pipe Lake
Fishing on Pipe Lake was exceptionally slow and the fish size small for everything I caught. All the wish were skinny looking and bellow medium sized. I spent a day mostly pitching and jigging and couldn’t catch a thing. Trolling brought in a few fish, but again, nothing worth mentioning aside from how sadly small everything was.
The lake has a few deep runs in the 40 to 50 foot range, but otherwise it was mostly about twelve to fifteen feet deep.
So, if you are looking to find a hot lake in the BWCA that has some good northern, smally, and walleye… don’t go to Pipe Lake in the near future. Fishing on Homer Lake, trolling in and out, was the best fishing I had on the entire trip.
Heading To Vern Lake
After spending two nights on Pipe Lake exploring and fishing I decided a change of scenery was needed. I packed up camp on Tuesday morning, the day after Labor Day, and headed for Vern Lake. Going into Pipe Lake on Sunday there were canoe trippers all over the place. Heading out and up to Vern Lake I didn’t see a single person. It was like a switch was flipped as soon as the holiday was over. In fact, the rest of my trip I didn’t see anybody else until the day I paddled out.
Vern Lake was a lot of fun. I setup camp on the western campsite on the lake. It was a nice improvement to the site on Pipe Lake. Fishing remained slow, but I did catch three nice sized walleyes as I explored Vern. I as hoping the fishing was going to be better than it was, but I had a really good time just paddling around and exploring.
My first day on Vern Lake I headed west, I think that stretch is called the Vern River. It is pretty up that way with narrowing water. I have seen first hand on Matthew Posa’s YouTube channel that portaging the Vern River is a arduous thing to do. I had no plans to keep heading west any further than I could paddle.
The next day I headed up into Juno Lake for a day trip. Juno Lake runs east and west and is rather long and narrow – a pretty little lake full of northern and bass. I mostly was paddling and exploring. A few times I tried to troll but kept getting snags every fifty feet so stopped even trying. On occasion I would stop and pitch a spoon and caught some northern and bass. Healthy looking fish, medium sized and plump, and fun to catch.
The eastern side of Juno has a portage that leads up into Brule Lake. Brule is a pretty big lake… I paddled on it about fifteen years ago. Ahhh… memories…
Relaxing In The BWCA
The next couple days I spent on Vern just relaxing and exploring a couple other lakes with short portages to them. I took lots of naps, fished (nothing out of the ordinary), shot some video with my action camera (might make it on YouTube someday), wrote in my journal, did some planning on the business the wife and I are setting up, and absorbed in nature, silence, and solitude.
Aside from the first two days I didn’t see another person the entire time – until the day I exited I bumped into a couple dudes fishing from shore at the Homer Lake Access point.
The weather was fantastic. I did have a little rain one evening before dark that lasted through the night, and then a couple days later there was some drizzle off and on during the morning hours. Otherwise the temps were cool, comfortably, mostly sunny, and darn near perfect. Blustery wind a few days but since I was on smaller lakes it wasn’t bad at all. No bugs.
Late May and early September in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area… love it.