Who can tell me about the North Fowl entry? I made a reservation for Memorial Day weekend, sort of a last minute decision, and it was one of the few permits left open, even though it is limited to two parties/day. The question is why? Either the Arrowhead trail is overlooked, or people don't like the boat traffic on the Canadian side, or there is only one loop option from there, or what?
Well, I have never used it as an entry, though I have used John Lake. I think a lot of what you speculate is true, though I don't think the motorboat traffic is an issue. I think the Arrowhead is often overlooked. Part of that is it is furthest access road away and very isolated. You have to travel far by car - up the North Shore and then the Arrowhead Trail - and there are no outfitters that service that area.
There are no options for travel. You must go to Moose Lake (or beyond). You are traveling along the Canadian border. Paddling is OK, but watch out if you are fishing. Be sure you are well on the US side of the imaginary line.
That part of the BWCA - the extreme eastern part - is separate from the rest of the BWCA and has several entry points served by the Gunflint Trail (East Bearskin, Clearwater, Daniels, Duncan, and South).
Because there are lots of entry points and little area to disperse, things can get crowded fast. This is one area where it doesn't help to go further in. Actually the further you go in, the closer you get to another entry point.
I think Memorial Day will be busy. My advice is to find a campsite pretty quick. Then you have a hard decision to make, to base camp or move. Moving in this area during a busy time is chancy. One trip I scoured the area until 7:30 pm before finding a campsite. I do think there are enough campsites. The challenge is finding it. I have seen illegal campsites in this area of the BWCA and it looked like a pretty common occurrence.
Where are you heded from there? North Fowl - up the royal river through royal lake (actually a swamp) to John is a tough slog but doable. From there any loop you take is nice. The Canadian border lakes are big and wind can be a factor but they are scenic and the boat traffic is light. I think it's mostly overlooked because it's not as convienient as the other entry points.
Thanks for the replies. The permit is for North Fowl, which you access by the Royal River. Don't see another way to get to North Fowl, but maybe I'm missing something. I don't think the permit allows you to go any other way out of John, like to East Pike. I was considering for a time going up to Mountain, down to Clearwater and back through east and west Pike. But that is a fairly ambitious loop for a two night trip with the family, especially when Bannock reminded me about the difficulty of finding a campsite. We can handle a 10 mile day, but a ten mile day with 5 miles of looking for a campsite is a bit more than I am interested in. I think we'll just head for Moose, hopefully find a site, and maybe take a day trip out of there.
"This permit is not valid for entry at Pine Lake. Entry must be at Moose Lake via John Lake, the Royal River and N. and S. Fowl Lakes."
Getting from the entrance point to Moose Lake isn't a long ordeal, maybe 3-4 hours if I recall correctly. As noted, Fowl is motorized, so you probably want to push on to Moose. Pretty lake, nice campsites, well worth it. We were on those lakes for three days several years ago & saw only a couple of other canoes; hopefully you have the same luck.
To answer my own questions since I have been there now:
The paddle down the Royal River was quite nice, partly because the the water was high. Once we got to North Fowl, we saw a lot more motors and activity than we expected. Paddling north along the US shore, we went by about 3 or 4 cabins and a resort which was a surprise. Lots of boats and motor (even a waterskier!)
Turns out that North and South Fowl lakes were ruled as being outside of the BWCA in 2006 (cwcs newsletter). Obviously, people are no longer obeying the 10 hp limit. I don't have anything against motors (I have a boat myself), but I prefer canoe only lakes.
Moose lake was great. We might as well have had it to ourselves, since the only other party was a few miles down the shore and we didn't even know they were there until day 2. Not bad for Memorial Day weekend!
So did you enter at little john into big john and then to the royal river? If so, how was the narrows between little john and big john. I had heard a few years ago that beaver dammed it up and there wasn't much, if any flow through there and even had to be portaged. I'm heading in there next weekend and was just curious.
"The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli." -George Costanza
Nathan, we did enter at Little John to John and then down the Royal river. Didn't know there was another way. There was no sign of a beaver dam. We were able to paddle both directions on the narrows. The water is high and there is a lot of current, so going back up was a bit of a chore, but doable.
N and S Fowl lakes look to be several feet high or more. Water is up in the woods. None of the other lakes were that bad.
I tried slip bobbering off of the campsite with a leech. I do mean "a leech" because I put one on at about 6pm and took that same leech off the hook when I went to bed! There was a cold wind blowing both evenings and I didn't feel like going out in the canoe and fighting it. The water in Moose was COLD! Might be able to pick up a lake trout there, but I'm thinking walleyes in that lake don't get going until later in the season. Just my theory to explain why I couldn't catch one. I fished a bit in John too. No luck there either.