Voyageurs National Park – Sugarbush Island Camping

Sugarbush Island - Voyageurs National Park

Sugarbush Island – Voyageurs National Park

Last week I went camping with my big sis, Tracy, in Voyageurs National Park.  We ended up reserving the campsite on Sugarbush Island (K34) for a handful of nights.  Sugarbush Island is located in the Lake Kabetogama region of the park.  You can read a little of the pre-trip details on a previous blog post located here.

Prior to the trip the forecast was calling for a fair chance of rain and thunderstorms pretty much every day.  Temperatures were also being forecast for daytime highs in the mid to low 60s and nighttime lows down into the low to mid 40s.  I was also prepared for the bugs to be nasty.

But it turned out that we had no rain and the bugs were actually almost nonexistent.  In fact what we got was totally opposite of what was being projected and expected.

Camping On Sugarbush Island (K34)

The weather turned out to be mostly sunny with daytime highs in the mid to upper 70s!  The lows at nights did get down into the mid 40s a few times, but the other nights we only experienced lows down into the low 50s.  The wind during the day was slight, with hardly any wave action on big Lake Kabetogama.  It was darn near perfect!

Looking southwest

I was expecting black flies and mosquitoes, but there were no black flies at all and the mosquitoes were sparse.  Though, at dusk we could hear the mosquitoes swarming further interior on the island – They were very load and it was a little disturbing to hear.

The Campsite

Campsite K34 is listed as a small campsite by the National Park Service.  It has two medium sized tent pads, two bear boxes, one metal picnic table, one latrine box, and one fire ring.  It has a very nice pebble beach and lots of shoreline on either side of the campsite that you can fish from atop rocks.

Sugarbush Island K34 View From The Fire ring

The campsite is on the south-western side of the island’s main body (see map image at the top of this blog post).  In the evening as the sun goes down you can see lights along the far shoreline from homes, cottages, and resorts.  For those who like to camp with a phone that gets a cell signal you are in luck, because you will get near full bars when camping on Sugarbush Island.

Sugarbush Island is rather large.  You can easily spend a day or two hiking around on it.  If you do decide to hike it be prepared for some thick and dense foliage.  It is a very comfortable campsite and it gets used frequently.  You can make reservations for it, and many other Voyageurs campsites, online at the Recreation.Gov website.

Fishing!

Fishing was slow from the areas around the campsite along the shore.  The water is not that deep around most of the island, but looks like good habitat for small-mouth bass and northern.  We did manage to catch some fish; A few Bass and Northern, and one single walleye, but they were all few and far between with no real size to any.

I didn’t have a canoe or boat on this trip, but I suspect had I been able to get away from the campsite I could have done better.  Some live bait may have helped, but we didn’t have any along.

My sister shoreline fishing on Sugarbush Island

My sister likes to fish and her experience has really only been catching pan-fish and a few bass in small lakes near her home.  On our trip to Voyageurs she hooked into a four or five pound northern-pike and it really was a highlight for her on the trip.

Voyageurs National Park Water Taxi

If you have your own boat or canoe you can easily get yourself out to Sugarbush Island.  In a canoe or kayak you would want to keep an eye on the weather, as Lake Kabetogama is large and can create some serious wave action at times.

If you don’t have your own boat, or have a sister like me that does not like canoes, then you have a couple options:  Rent a motorboat or hire a water taxi.

There are a fair share of resorts along the southern shore line of Lake Kabetogama.  You can rent a boat or a canoe from any of them.  Motorboats can be expensive to rent depending on what you want, canoes are much more affordable.  A much cheaper alternative is to just hire yourself a water taxi.

Arrowhead Lodge Water Taxi Service

I didn’t look to hard to find a water taxi service.  Early in our trip planning I came across Arrowhead Lodge and Resort that offered the service.  Their fee depends on how far away you want to be shuttled from the lodge, which is on the western side of Lake Kabetogama.  Our fee to Sugarbush Island was $35 each way, less than three miles of travel to and from.

Water taxi service from Arrowhead Lodge and Resort

The water taxi was a nice pontoon boat and our driver was Larry, one of the owners of Arrowhead Lodge and Resort – I very nice and laid back guy, helpful, and punctual.  He pulled us right up to the pebble beach at the campsite and dropped us off – we didn’t even get our feet wet.

Camping On Sugarbush Island The Good And Bad

I like primitive and remote camping.  The less people I see and hear the better.  The campsites in Voyageurs National Park are a step up in regards to amenities from the campsites in the BWCA.  The three big differences are that campsites in Voyageurs have bear boxes, deluxe tent pads, and a picnic table.

What I Liked About Camping On Sugarbush Island:

  • The island is big and fun to explore.
  • The pebble beach is perfect for swimming.
  • The campsite has good tent pads.
  • Good protection from wind unless it is blowing in from the south or south-west.
  • Good fire ring area with good view of the lake.
  • Picnic tables are always nice to have and use.
  • Bear boxes means not having to hang or hide food (but you still need to keep a clean camp).
  • It only has one campsite on the entire island that can be reserved, so you do have some privacy.

What I Didn’t Like About Camping On Sugarbush Island:

  • Cell phone reception – some people may like this, but when I camp I like to get away from this sort of thing.  Yes, I am sad to admit that I did use it to post updates on Instagram.
  • Lots of motorboat traffic on Lake Kabetogama, even close to the island.  I prefer to get away from such sounds whenever possible.
  • Looking south and west I could see lights at night from the houses, cabins, and resorts along the distant shore of the lake.

Sugarbush Island Camping – Conclusion

If you want to get away and go remote camping, but don’t want to go to far into a wilderness setting and be too isolated, then Lake Kabetogama may be for you.  Some people like to have contact with civilization, and you should be able to have cell phone reception when there.

Pebble beach area for K34 Sugarbush Island Campsite

I had a good time with my sister and would go back again if she wanted to.  Hopefully, if she is interested, she might be inclined to do a BWCA trip, which is more my style for primitive camping.  I just need to get her feeling comfortable in a canoe!

Going to the BWCA or to Voyageurs National Park is about the same drive time for me and the same costs.  If I could choose between one or the other, based on my personal preference, I would always go to the BWCA as it is more my style and liking.

TD

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