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Boundary Waters Day Trip: Bower Trout Lake BWCA

Bower Trout Lake

The eastern side of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area has many great day trips, but one of the best starts at the Bower Trout Lake BWCA entry point. This route is an out and back paddle, so you decide how long of a trip you want. The fishing is good on several of the lakes, and moose often frequent Bower Trout late in the evening. Combine those factors with the burned area further west along the route, and you get a diverse day trip with plenty to see. Start early in the morning on this one, because there’s so much to explore

Bower Trout Lake BWCA Put-in

Skidway Lake in the Boundary WatersThe Bower Trout Lake BWCA parking lot is a little obscure. Find it by taking the Gunflint Trail out of Grand Marais, Minnesota to the South Brule River Road. Follow the South Brule to its end and then turn left until you see the sign. The parking lot is big enough for four or five cars, and you can fill out your free day use permit at the trailhead. Optionally, after you get your permit, you can begin by paddling up the South Brule River from the Lima Grade.

Route Description

Bull moose in the BWCAThe one downside of this route is that you start with a 66-rod portage over bog logs to the put-in that is mucky and on a floating bog. On one trip, one of our group got sucked up to her hips in the bog when she stepped on the wrong place. After entering your canoe, paddle west along the north shore of the lake. To the south, the mountainous hills rise almost 600 feet above the lake. These forest-covered hills make up the southern shore of the entire route. For anglers, you’ll find bass, pike, a good amount of walleye and many perch in Bower Trout.

Bower Trout Lake BWCAFind the rough, muddy, 91-rod portage from Bower Trout Lake into Marshall Lake at the west end of Bower Trout. Look for a small stream entering the lake on the south side. The portage is west of that. Marshall Lake is weedy and shallow, but it harbors walleye, northern and smallmouth bass. Paddle west to the end of the lake until you find the 30-rod portage into Dugout Lake.

Once on Dugout Lake follow the north shore looking for carnivorous pitcher plants. They flower during late June and early July. The blood-red flowers top a long stem that leads down to a pitcher that traps and dissolves bugs. Continue along the north shore until you find a small opening in the swamp that one canoe can paddle down to see the overgrown Iota Lake. Unless you have a 14-foot or less canoe, you’ll need to back paddle out of this stream. Dugout holds all sizes of walleye, northern and perch.

view from the skidway burn area.Next follow a twisty path of a slow moving and shallow river to Skidway Lake. This area is burned, but it is growing back. You still can get out of your canoe and easily walk around. If you have free time, hike to a nearby mound of granite and get an overview of the area.

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The route continues along narrow lakes with short portages between them until you reach Swan Lake, which has several nice campsites for taking a lunch break. For anglers, Swan is a great destination. It holds northern, walleye, whitefish and maybe lake trout, which have been stocked there. Last time, I stopped at a campsite, I found lots of moose scat and other moose sign.

Bower Trout Day Trip Map

View Bower Trout Day Trip in a larger map


  • Great article. The Gunflint Trail is a special place. Exploring day trips in that area is something I love to do while up there, especially in the fall color season. I must admit I got the chills when I heard the name Swan Lake. Could not help but think of the young man who recently drowned in that lake fishing.

  • A friend of mine went in on the SAR call for that one. It was sad. And what makes it worse is that it was preventable. He was paddling on 58F water without dressing for immersion and without a lifevest. It’s easy to die on water, especially on cold water, and that’s why I always wear my lifevest. If he had been wearing a lifevest, chances are that he’d be alive.

  • I was there two years ago and i was impressed. Unfortunately i had no time to visit around it very well because i was there for only two days, but i hope to visit it again very soon. I recommend this place, it is very nice.

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