Brule Lake and South Temperance Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Brule Lake and South Temperance Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Canoeing on Brule Lake, July 2011

My husband and I just returned from our annual trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  This year we decided to take an easy trip to Brule Lake.  I’ve never seen an easier entry point; you can literally back up to the lake, drop off your canoe and gear, drive your truck 25 feet away and park, and your trip can begin!  I can see how the ease of entry would be a draw for many (particularly those with children), but it did not feel as though we were “roughing it” as much as our past trips.  We actually

Me at the easiest entry point we have encountered yet. The lake behind me? Yep - put yer canoe in there.

canoed back to the truck in the middle of the trip to drop off a baggie of garbage and some dirty clothes. If you’re looking for a low-key BWCA trip, entry point 41 is for you!

The main thing we noticed about Brule was how crowded it was for being in the BWCA.  It’s a large lake with many campsites, and 7 entry permits are granted per day.  We knew it was going to be a busy lake, but I was still surprised to see so many trucks lined up in the parking lot.  Many of the groups we saw were larger; we saw several groups with the maximum 4 canoes alloted per entry permit.

Brule is the 7th largest lake in the Boundary Waters, and the effects of its size became apparent in even the slightest wind.  It’s a rather oblong lake, oriented East/West, and it was quite common to see small whitecaps when the East or West winds started to blow.  Hugging the shoreline is recommended when possible.  We paddled west into the 15 mph west winds one day, which was not only tiring, but the occasional extra large wave would cause our canoe to jar downward and give me a good splash in the process.

The campsites seemed to be either beautiful, scenic rocky points or smaller, mosquitoey sites tucked back into the woods.  Naturally, we gravitated toward the more picturesque ones.  With the traffic on the lake, it was necessary to get up early and move to a new site quickly.  It seemed like there were two waves of groups: those who got up early and traded good sites (10am or earlier) and those who got a move on later in the day and ended up with the less attractive sites.

We canoed past a good majority of the sites on the lake, and we could generally tell which sites would be good by looking at the red dots indicating campsites on our McKenzie maps and customized National Geographic TOPO maps ahead of time. Nearly always, the good sites were the ones located on points jutting out like this:

We stayed on C0967 our first two nights, and you can tell by the red dot's location on the map that it's going to have some beautiful views!

Part of our preparations for a Boundary Waters trip include putting the GPS coordinates of all the campsites into our GPS.  This helps us to travel swiftly between sites.  Here are some views of site C0967:

Near the fire grate, looking out toward one of the rocky shorelines

The view from the lake, looking up toward camp.


A view looking down on Brule lake from our campsite

We had heard rumors that the fishing on Brule Bay (located on the east side of the lake) was good, but we did not find out firsthand.  After spending a relaxing two nights at our first campsite, we headed out to Brule Bay to search for a good site bright and early.  Another tip:  if you head out early in the morning, before 9am or so, the water is much less wavy.  Alas, after a quick tour of all the campsites (which were all available), we decided to head west again and try our luck elsewhere.  All of the sites were tucked back in the woods and lacked the expansive lakeshore views we were seeking.

The red dots are campsites on Brule Bay

We traveled back toward the center of the lake and actually ended up at a campsite quite close to the one we had just left!  By this time it was about 10:30 AM, so we were lucky to get it.  Quite a few canoes passed us shortly after we arrived, also looking for good sites like the one we just snagged.

C0941 was our home for the next two nights

Canoeing up to beautiful C0941

We planned to stay at C0941 for two nights, since rain was in the forecast.  It proved true, and we were glad to have a tarp shelter to relax under during the morning rain.

The blue pagoda-shaped structure in the back was our glorious rain shelter

We left this site on our second morning there by 7:30 AM, and made a pit stop at our truck on our trip west.  We have never had the luxury of stopping at our vehicle before, so it was a very un-BWCA-like experience.
It took us about 4.5 hours to leave our campsite, stop at the truck, canoe across the rest of Brule Lake, portage 10 rods (easiest portage ever) to South Temperance Lake, and find a campsite.  Here’s a view of the 10 rod portage to South Temperance:

10 rod portage between Brule Lake and South Temperance Lake BWCA

It gets a little more rocky and steep as it curves towards Temperance, but it’s really not bad considering how short it is.

Another view of the portage from Brule to South Temperance

We were once more lucky to arrive on South Temperance when we did, because as we began paddling up to our next site, a group appeared from the north.  They must have just portaged out of North Temperance Lake.  They bypassed the site we were heading toward, and we spent our last two nights on another beautiful rocky outcropping.

C0909 was our final destination

Our campsite on South Temperance Lake

South Temperance Lake - Photo by Drew Laursen

Me fishing the morning of my birthday on South Temperance Lake. Not too shabby!

This site provided us with not only with some amazing photos (the best ones taken by my husband Drew), and some unique wildlife action.  When we woke up on our first morning at this site, we heard a strange scampering noise going around and around our tent.  A pine marten spent a good couple of hours chasing a snowshoe hare all around our campsite, completely disregarding us!  My husband got this on video, which I will be editing and posting shortly.

Overall, I recommend Brule Lake to beginners (if you have experience paddling a canoe in wavy water), larger groups, and those with children.  Many sites had multiple flat areas that would make suitable tent pads, if you need to set up more than one tent.  You can go your entire trip without portaging, which is useful to anyone with a heavy canoe.  We will do something more challenging for our next trip, but I would definitely come back here again in the future (probably not until we have children old enough to camp though).  Please feel free to ask questions!  I’ll be happy to answer them.








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