Sunday morning. September 18, 2022. Entry Day. I had fantasized about this morning all year and longer. The day dawned cloudy and wet… Additional weather advisories for the BWCA had been posted overnight regarding the potential for strong storms to pass through before sunrise. I never heard them, but Joe said he heard some thunder overnight. In the past 72 hours, the forest has received upwards of 6″ of rain. It’s wet out there!
Joe & I went over to Britton’s Cafe to get breakfast, and their portions are still as huge as ever.
No stuffed hash browns for either of us this time – Joe got French Toast and I an egg sandwich on English muffin. Both came with a massive side of home fries. Their coffee continues to improve and happily, 11 years later it’s much better than our last visit in 2011.
Full of delicious food and now running late for our shuttle, we were back at Voyageur at 8AM…. no problems, though, as we were the only shuttle for the day and being at the end of the season they were happy to take us whenever we were ready. We transferred our packs and canoe to the shuttle van. Chase, our shuttle driver, followed Joe and I to our planned exit at EP16. Our entry is pretty far down the Echo Trail, 30+ minutes from town. At Moose River North I dropped off the car, hopped in the shuttle, and we headed East the 5 miles back to Stuart River. While we were riding, Chase told us he had to go back to EP16 after he dropped us off. Another Voyageur customer had paid them for “portage help” which is basically their employees helping you carry your packs from the parking lot to the water. Knowing what waited for us, I asked if they’d ever do that at EP19. “Stuart?! Fuck no!” was Chase’s reply.
Soon enough we were deposited in front of the EP19 sign. Chase roared out of the lot headed back towards EP16 along with a promise he’d double check my door locks before we were able to make a ludicrous offer for portage help. Oh well. Our money was back in the car anyhow. As the sound of the van diminished a new sensation crept in – one of a near total lack of sound. I pointed out the silence then shattered the quiet with a loud “Chee-Hoo!”
Stuart River has a 450 rod portage from the parking lot to the river. 450 rods = 7920 feet = 1.5 miles. One way. Because of how we travel, Joe and I would be walking the entirety of this portage 2 times, probably closer to 2.5 times with return trips for gear that we had to drop due to burden. It is not easy carrying a 50lb canoe on your shoulders at the same time as wearing a 50lb backpack! It took us 4 hours to finally put the canoe into the waters of Stuart River.
Stuart is somewhat of a marathon entry because one must travel all the way to Stuart Lake before a legal campsite can be found. There is a campsite on White Feather, but that’s in a Primitive Management Area and we didn’t have the right permit to camp there. That means that you’ve gotta put in a full day to get a campsite.
The Stuart River is a long meander North towards Stuart Lake, where it ends in a waterfall. It goes against the normal naming convention, where rivers are often named for their source and not the mouth. It’s a nice, albeit mostly overcast paddle as we mostly paddle and have the occasional beaver dam to pull over or portage around.
In all, it takes us until after 4PM to get to our campsite, #1828 on the map. A grueling day, for sure, especially after the first portage in. Thank you to whomever camped on this site last, as we had a decent supply of firewood to get started and didn’t need to go far for more.
First night steaks were grilled & consumed along with baked potatoes and green beans from my garden. We baked a 2nd potato but reserved it for breakfast the next morning. Once dinner was all cleaned up I threw in a color fire packet and were entertained by the campfire and the stars above until it was time for bed.
At one point I went out towards the rocky lake shore and nearly squashed a toad that was just sitting, silently looking out over the lake, keeping watch on the night. What is he doing here, on the shore of the lake so high up from the water? He can’t be waiting for a meal… can he?
10.0 miles paddled today, 10.0 total.
6 portages (6), 754 rods (754). 3 beaver dams.
Stuart River > Stuart Lake