Two large lakes dominate the terrain at the end of the Gunflint Trail. To the north at Trail’s End, Saganaga Lake stretches through the Boundary Waters and into Canada. To the west, Sea Gull Lake runs for miles. A Boundary Waters Canoe Area entry point serves each lake and both are connected through a set of portages. These portages make it one of the easy Boundary Waters routes that make a loop.
- Distance: 29 miles (450 rods of portages) – This area has several variation, so you could do a shorter route and still see most of it.
- Entry Points: 55, 55A, 54, 54A
- Trip Rating: Intermediate. The portages are rough, but route finding is easy. Prepare for waves on windy days.
- Maps: BWCA East Trails Illustrated Map or Voyageur Map Number Six For the BWCA
- Hazards: Cold water in the spring and fall, rough portages, large waves.
Boundary Waters Routes – Sag & Sea Gull Overnight Loop
There are a number of variations on this route, but I like starting on Gull Lake (Entry Point 55). Put in on Gull and paddle north along the Gull River. Because Saganaga is one of the few motorized lakes in the BWCA be prepared to run into boat traffic. The shoreline along the Gull River is developed, so you’ll see some cabins, both small and monster-sized.
Once out on Sag, head west along it’s jagged shoreline, passing many small bays and islands. You’ll turn south into the bay that takes you to the portage for Roy Lake. This inlet to the bay is narrow and hidden, so keep an eye on your map, because it’s easy to miss and end up in Red Rock Bay. Once you find the portage hidden in the southest corner of the bay, portage 52 rods (1 rod = 16.5 ft) into Roy Lake.
Head south across Roy Lake to a 130-rod portage into Grandpa Lake, which has many small bays and the shoreline abruptly curves and juts. If you have the time, this lake is worth exploring. Once finished exploring, take the 185-rod portage to Sea Gull Lake. You’re now within a short distance from where you put-in.
Paddle along Sea Gull’s western shore until you arrive at granite cliffs topped with cedar, the rest of the shoreline on Sea Gull is burnt from a forest fire. Look for a faded pictograph or two on the cliff. I found red smears and one human figure when I looked.
After the cliff, you’re exposed to wind from the south and southeast. Strong winds can make 1 to 3 ft waves on this lake, so be careful and be prepared. Many islands hug the western shore, so keep an eye on the map as you work your way towards the portages into Alpine Lake. There are two portages. The 31-rod portage feels unmaintained. It cuts through an overgrown forest, over downed logs and up several steep hills. The 101-rod portage runs through a burnt tree trunks, but rises gradually from Sea Gull and drops gradually into Alpine. The longer portage feels easier.
Alpine Lake’s shore is open and burnt from a forest fire, so weave your way through it convoluted shoreline until you reach the portage into Red Rock Lake to the north. You can choose from several great campsites or continue on to Red Rock Bay and hope to get the southern most campsite.
In the morning, start in Red Rock Bay, paddle east to the Gull River and trace your way back to the entry point.
Boundary Waters Fishing
On Sag, you have a chance to catch walleye, northern pike, small mouth bass, and some lake trout. Sea Gull has the same, but is known for larger than average small mouth. Red Rock Lake has the same, but it also sports lots of northerns. Both Roy Lake and Grandpa Lake have average-sized northerns. Grandpa seems to have a large stock of northerns.
Boundary Waters Routes – Sag & Sea Gull Loop Map
View BWCA Overnight Sag Loop in a larger map