This out and back route in the BWCA is perfect for beginners who are seeking full immersion into the BWCA and seclusion without the lengthy portages. While I wouldn’t consider this to be an easy route, it is a less complicated route if you’re new but energetic. It is also quite short in comparison to other, more popular areas.
|Gunflint Ranger Station:|
|Address:||2020 W. Hwy 61 |
Grand Marais, MN 55604
|Hours:||May 1- Sept. 30 Thurs-Mon 8am-4:30pm|
Oct. 1- April 33 Mon-Fri 8am-4:30pm
Note: The Gunflint Ranger Station is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. The Tofte Ranger Station can be used instead if your entry date falls on one of these days. Check in with your chosen Ranger Station if you have questions about your entry dates or permits. They are there to help.
|Entry Point #||80|
|Permits Issued Daily||1|
|Permit Type||Overnight Paddle|
|Ranger Station||Gunflint Ranger Station|
Getting to the Entry Point
After your usual visit to the Ranger Station for the super awesome, informational video and quiz, you’re ready to hit the road. The drive from the Gunflint Ranger Station in Grand Marais to Entry Point 80 is 50 miles, it’ll take a little over an hour, depending on how much lead is in your foot. Watch for moose!
Start out by heading North on Hwy 61, after a mile you’ll take a left onto 5th Ave West. This will take you right to the Gunflint trail. Turn left onto the Gunflint Trail and follow for 48 miles. This is the easiest drive to an entry point there is. You’ll know when you’ve reached the entry point when see the Sea Gull Guard Station on the right side of the road. The landing is immediately after the guard station.
Parking at the Larch Creek landing is very limited. However, we have not had any issues parking given that there is only one permit issued per day for this location. The parking area is right beside the creek making loading the canoes a snap. But be warned, the mosquitos are horrendous while moving gear. Keep the bug spray handy.
Larch Creek, Dam it
Beaver dam, after beaver dam, after beaver dam. You will cross a great quantity of beaver dams and right when you think you’ve pulled your canoe over the last beaver dam. BAM! There’s another one waiting for you just around the next bend. There is no shortage of beaver dams in this stretch of creek. You may begin to think that there has to be about a hundred beavers living in this tiny winding creek.
My brother’s family were the most recent paddlers in our camping crew to voyage on this waterway. He and his family counted 11 beaver dams to pull over. They had low water on their trip, that makes the pullovers more difficult.
**A word of caution about beaver dams; the downstream side will be deeper than the the upstream side. The sediment builds up against the dam creating the illusion that the water isn’t as deep. On the downstream side of the dam, there will be a significant drop-off where flowing water has been washing out the river floor. Watch out for this. My brother-in-law got very wet with a mis-step. Always wear your life jacket.
Once you’ve gotten your upper body and back workout from the beaver dam pulls, it’s time to paddle across the serene lake of Larch. It’s a petite lake with three campsites available, two shoreline and one island site. We haven’t camped on this lake, however, it’s nice to have a backup plan in case the sites on Clove are all taken. Scope it out as you paddle across and keep in mind the sites available.
After the straight shot paddle across Larch Lake, the portage waits with a rocky greeting. The portage is short and relatively flat with a handful of minor rocky areas. At just 35 rods, this portage is a snap. Watch those rocks though, so your ankle doesn’t also become a snap.
Portage complete, you’re not quite to Clove. There is yet, another creek to paddle. A not-so-winding creek with fewer beaver disturbances gives way to the much anticipated Clove lake. I just love the entrance into Clove Lake, it welcomes you in as it opens up to the free, unobstructed waters. Take in the glorious site, it’s well deserved after all of those beaver dams.
Campsites: Upon entering Clove, a campsite sits directly north from where the creek meets Clove. This site is great for a view of the lake, it’s higher vantage point makes for a great place to check over the lake. It’s not a huge climb by any means, but it is a higher point on the shoreline.
The family favorite campsite is on the far north end of Clove. It has a sandy beach for swimming, larger tent area, places to hang hammocks and a great landing for the canoes. The only downside to this campsite; it can be a real pain to paddle to the other side on a truly windy day. That’s it, that’s all I can think of. This site is great!
Day Trip- Little Rock Falls
Little Rock Falls is a quick and entertaining day trip. It’s maybe two miles away portaging and paddling together. Take the portage on the east side of Clove Lake to Pine River, it’s 100 rods but not difficult. Head south on Pine River to the next portage. Keep an eye out for border markers. There were quite a few of downed trees over some rapids right off the bat entering Pine River. We got out to explore the area and check out the rapids. Here is where we found a border marker. A very cool find for my little camper. My daughter was just 4 years old on her first trip.
Farther along down Pine River, you’ll come across another portage. At just 45 rods, you’ll make quick work of this short stint. When you’ve reached the next portage you’ll have found Little Rock Falls. Take time for a quick picnic and enjoy the scenery.
For a great deal more on Clove Lake and our experiences, check out Clove Lake: A BWCA Beginner Lake