SAGANAGA BASE CAMP
BOUNDARY WATERS CANOE ROUTE – SAGANAGA LAKE
BWCAW Entry Point 55A(17 entry permits)
Minimum Trip Length 3 Days
Saganaga Lake is a magnificent BWCA lake dotted with islands. There are long bays, hidden coves and open expanses of water in this large, beautiful lake. It’s the perfect place to set up a base camp for those who want to camp in comfort or be close to civilization.
Boats with motors up to 25 horsepower are allowed on the Minnesota side of Saganaga and on the Canadian side of the lake there are cabins and no horsepower restrictions. If you do not want to see motorboats then it is best to camp off of the beaten path, however the boat traffic is minimal.
Your group can be towed from Voyageur right to a campsite of your choosing. There is also the option of an overnight boat and motor permit so you could bring a boat out yourself. Day trips into the Granite River, Red Rock Lake or into Canada are all possible for those who want to travel.
Saganaga is a great lake for kayaking because there is no need for portaging. If you want to travel then that is possible too, just move from one campsite to another, there are plenty to chooose from on Saganaga.
BWCA Maps Needed:
- Fisher Maps: F-19
- McKenzie Maps: 6A
- Voyageur Maps: 6
|Lake||DNR #||Fish Species||Maximum Depth||Acres||Elevation||Campsites|
|Saganaga||16063900||Walleye, lake trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike, whitefish||280||13832.23||1430||77|
|Portages out of Saganaga|
|North 600 rod to Saganagons|
NW 130 rod to Saganagons Silver Falls
West 5 rod 3rd Bay to Zephyr
West 5 rod 3rd Bay to Swamp
SW- 10 rod RR Bay to Red Rock
South- 40 rod to Roy Lake
South- 38 rod to Seagull via Seagull River
SE- 10 rod to Tenor
SE- 80 rod James Bay to Morris
SE- 38 rod to Maraboeuf on Granite River via Sag Falls
East- 25 Currans Bay to Wantelto
NE- 20 rod Northeast Arm to Northern Light Lake
Saganaga Lake is a large lake located half in Canada and half in Minnesota. There are cabins on the Canadian side of the lake so if you see one then you know you are no longer in the USA. Motors up to 25 horse power in size are allowed on Saganaga so do not be surprised if you see a boat or tow boats from the various outfitters on the lakes. The number of permits for day use motor use is not large and on a “busy” boat day on the big part of the lake you may see only 2 or 3 boats. If you camp on the straight path to Canada then expect to see a few more.
Red Rock Bay is one of the most beautiful areas of Saganaga Lake with twists and turns around numerous the numerous islands. It’s protected from the rest of the lake and almost feels like an entirely different lake. Campsites in this area are well protected from wind and have the small lake appeal.
Campsites are plentiful on Saganaga and are some of the nicest you will find in the Boundary Waters. Towering pine trees, large granite outcroppings and excellent fishing make Sag a favorite of many. Take time to stop at campsites to stretch your legs, eat a snack or take a quick swim. An evening spent camping on Sag will surely include a bedtime song from a loon so you may want to spend your last night camping there. In the morning you’ll only have a short paddle back to our dock on the Seagull River.
The history of this area would not be complete without talking about wildfires. Where there are forests there are fires and the region around the end of the Gunflint Trail has seen its fair share. The Roy Lake Fire of 1976 burned a relatively small area but it caused quite a stir due to the proximity to cabins and resorts at the end of the Gunflint Trail. It was started by a lightning strike on August 21 near Roy Lake just south of Saganaga Lake. The fire burned outward from Roy Lake to the northern shore of Seagull Lake, the southern shore of Saganaga Lake and directly up to the shoreline across the water from the Trail’s End Campground to the east end of Gull Lake. The fire burned a total of 3380 acres before it ended on the 27th. From the Roy Lake Fire of 1976 until the Saganaga Corridor Fire of 1995 there was very little fire activity with the exception of Red Tank Island, Spruce Island and the small island near Toe Island on Saganaga that has been aptly named Burnt Island.
In 1995 a fire started on August 10th just west of Roy and south of Saganaga on the north side of Romance Lake. Within minutes the fire jumped across the narrows of Saganaga and continued east to beyond the Granite River and into Canada. If the winds would have been from the north it would have spread just as quickly taking the cabins and businesses that were spared during the Roy Lake Fire with them. Fortunately the fire was kept from structures and burned primarily in Canada with the exception of the southeastern shoreline of Saganaga including James Bay and north of James Bay up to Sag and around the shoreline to Saganaga Falls and beyond into Canada. The Sag Corrirdor or Romance Lake Fire burned 12,600 acres before being contained on August 22nd.
In 2007 fire visited the end of the Gunflint Trail once again. The Ham Lake Fire began on May 5th and quickly spread to create mosaic burn patterns in a number of places. Seagull, Alpine and Saganaga were affected by the Ham Lake Fire as it burned over 75,000 acres until it was contained.
A Short Story:
I could fill pages upon pages of stories about camping on Saganaga Lake. I’ve spent numerous nights on Sag since it’s right in the backyard of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. I’ve camped at many different sites and I have favorite ones for different reasons but mainly the memories created there. A site in Red Rock Bay where I took Josh when he was just a small kid, a site on Englishman’s where Mike and I were windbound for three nights one fall or the tall pines on Bradley Island where Abby and I enjoyed lounging in our hammocks, they are all wonderful memories. I’ve picnicked at a site in James Bay, swam from a site on Loon Island, picked berries on Voyageur’s Island and relaxed and read on Blue Berry Island. If I could only go to one Boundary Waters lake for the rest of my life it would be Saganaga, it’s the best.