#70 North Fowl Lake
Features: Great campsites, old growth forest, crystal clear lakes
Be sure to get an early start for this route as you will have a good amount of distance to travel before you reach your entry point and the first group of campsites. Begin by parking at the lot by McFarland and Little John Lake, head north from Little John Lake into John Lake. Shortly after enter John Lake and heading east you’ll be on the Royal River. Both the Royal River and Royal Lake contain lots of wild rice, which in some years can be thick enough to make travel difficult. The Wild Rice attracts lots of waterfowl likely leading to the naming of North and South Fowl Lakes. On the Fowls you will be outside of the Boundary Waters, there is limited motor use allowed on these lakes and some development along the shore. At the far northwest corner of North Fowl Lake you’ll reach your entry point. Take the 130 rod portage and begin looking for a site on Moose Lake. The first three sites you pass are all great spots and with any luck you’ll be rewarded with one of them after this long first day of travel. As with several lakes on this route you will be along the Minnesota/Ontario Border. You are required to camp and paddle on the Minnesota side. If you have energy left to fish after this long day Walleye and Smallmouth Bass fishing can be excellent on Moose. A few larger Lake Trout also swim in Moose Lake.
Your day will begin with three portages with only very small lakes between them before reaching Mountain Lake. In all but the driest parts of the season you’ll likely encounter some wet and muddy spots along these portages. Once on Mountain you’ll be done portaging for the day and have plenty of water to explore on this long and skinny lake. This lake is one of my favorites in the Boundary Waters; you’ll find yourself surrounded by steep banks and old growth conifer forests. At 210 feet deep, Mountain is one of the deepest lakes in Minnesota. With that kind of depth you can count on lots of Lake Trout. If you talk to us before your trip we can make sure you know how to target these creatures of the deep. There are plenty of nice sites along Mountain with most having fire pits very near the lake. My favorite site is the second to last site as your heading west. It has a very old white pine located in the center of camp right near the fire area.
If the stars align you’ll be lucky enough to get the lone site on Little Caribou Lake. This is a great spot perched atop a large rock providing great views of this small lake. Plan to get an early start to increase the odds of getting this site. The lakes in this area of the Boundary Waters were carved by the glaciers. While looking at the map you’ll notice almost all the lakes in the area are long and oriented east and west. They line up with one right in line with the others. In between these lines of lakes are steep ridges, meaning that when traveling north or south on portages you’ll have a good bit of elevations change. The portages both into and out of Clearwater are both fairly steep, take your time and make multiple trips if need be. If you are unable to get the site in Little Caribou continue onto Pine Lake, just don’t miss Johnson Falls. Weather you make it to Pine Lake today or tomorrow the trip is not complete without visiting Johnson Falls. This iconic Boundary Waters spot is located deep in the woods and offers great swimming in the lower pool. Access to the falls is by a hiking trail along the creek that is located on the western most part of Pine Lake.
Day 4: Begin your day with a portage into Pine Lake and then visit Johnson Falls. You’ll end up spending your last night on Pine Lake so take your time and enjoy fishing for Walleye, Bass and Lake Trout on Pine Lake.
Day 5: Your final day will likely be the easiest day of the trip. After finishing the paddle across Pine Lake you’ll come to a narrows separating Pine and McFarland. Often times this narrows has enough water to either paddle or walk your boat into McFarland. If not it is only a 2 rod portage. McFarland is the last lake of the route and your car is waiting at the access between McFarland and Little John.