RoutesTrip Reports

Vern River Loop

Route Name: Brule Vern River Loop
Route: Brule, Juno, Vern, Vern River, Weird Lake, South Temperance Lake, and Brule
Distance: 21 miles
Total Days: 2

Description of Boundary Waters Route

Vern Lake in the Boundary Waters viewed from the Juno-Vern Portage.
Vern Lake in the Boundary Waters viewed from the Juno-Vern Portage.

Five hours of bush whacking, route forging, and pulling your canoe up and over miles of blow downs await the brave canoeist that tackles this fine route. The route starts out on the picturesque and big Brule Lake, but quickly ducks into Jock Mock Bay and then does a quick loop through the Vern River, which if paddled once a year, it would be considered a good year. The Vern River if cleaned out and some portages added would be a short but classic canoe river in the BWCA. As it stands, prepare for a five-hour battle with blow downs, tangles, and thick brush. If you like to go where no one else does, this may be a route for you, but during the busy summer months don’t expect to find a campsite waiting for you on Weird Lake. This strenuous loop requires an early start, light packing and a lot of will power.

Day One: 12.25 miles

Route: Brule, 60 rods, Juno, 65 rods, Vern, Vern River (about two miles of bush whacking), Weird Lake

Non-existant portage down the Vern River.
Non-existant portage down the Vern River.

After getting an early start on the big Brule head west to Jock Mock Bay and find the portage into Juno. The portage is an easy 65 rods and mostly flat and well maintained. Be prepared as you exit the portage to possibly run into moose. Juno is a skinny lake in an area that has been burnt. This provides a view of the ground, hills and surrounding area often not afforded in the North Woods. There are several campsites on Juno, but both have suffered from the blow downs and the fire. The eastern most site is the best. A quick and beautiful portage awaits those heading to Vern. Be prepared to do some scrambling up rocky slopes to take a panoramic picture of Vern Lake as it snakes its way south. Vern is another skinny lake and a good place to stop for parties that got a late start. Both the campsites are nice, but the one on the western side of the lake is ideal with a perfect place to pitch a tarp near the fire and good flat tent sites. In addition, if you’re crazy enough to haul the extra weight of a hammock on this route. This site has the perfect place to hang it.

From Vern turn west onto the Vern River and be prepared for some serious off the beaten path travel. Packing light with a small pack and under 20 pounds of food and gear with a 30 pound canoe, it took me over five hours to force my way down the river. If cleared out, this would make a nice simple river run for those experienced with mild whitewater, but it’d be a job to clean the river out. After you manage to scrim out of the brush, you find yourself on a nice small lake with one campsite. This lake is close to the Baker Lake and Sawbill entry points, so don’t expect to get this site if you’re arriving late in the day during busy season.

The campsite on Weird is a nice one, but well used. Parties that are quiet may have a chance to see a moose wading through the grass on the shore across the lake at dusk. In the early spring, the frogs on this lake are deafening.

Day Two: 8.5 miles

Route: Weird Lake, 80 rods, Temperance River, 240 rods, South Temperance Lake, 10 rods, Brule

After a well-deserved rest, the rest of the route becomes easy. Wake up and take the camp down and then start paddling north. The two portages, although long are relatively flat and easy to walk across. The 240-rod portage had around 10 big blow downs on it in early spring 2006, but parties carrying saws will probably cut those out quickly. After the portage, you’re awarded with one of my favorite lakes in the whole BWCA the island-studded South Temperance. The campsite on the north shore of the lake is outstanding and well worth staying at if it ever fits into your plans, but for this route, it’s a quick paddle to the short portage and onto the Brule. If the winds are right, you’ll be pushed quickly across a wavy Brule and back to your car.

Extending the Route


Starting on the Brule provides many options for those wanting to extend this trip, but a nice one-day extension of this route, involves a 55-rod portage to North Temperance, then one small lake and a 246-rod portage to Cherokee Lake. If you’re fast enough and lucky enough, try to get the campsite on the furthest north island. It has a rock cliff above the water that looks straight north and is the perfect place for shooting pictures of the stars or watching the northern lights should you be lucky enough to see them. Cherokee is a big lake and fun to explore.

In the morning portage over into Town Lake and then down into a seldom used set of portages that take you into Cam Lake, which appears to be a lake formed by an impact from a meteor. The final portage of the day is 100 rods onto the Brule, and then paddle back to your car from there. If it’s windy and the waves are up you may want to cross the lake to the south shore near the portage before heading back to your car.

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