Rose Lake Canoe Day Trip

One way to experience the Boundary Waters Canoe Area without having to go all out and do a long camping trip is to enjoy a relaxing day trip into this amazing, untouched wilderness.  On a warm day at the end of July we stopped in at Hungry Jack Outfitters to rent a canoe, some lifejackets and paddles, and took a day trip to one of the area's most scenic lakes.  Rose Lake, that is.  This was my first trek into the BWCA as an adult.

Our journey started right from the dock of Hungry Jack Outfitters where we were able to drop our canoe right into Hungry Jack Lake and start the hour and half long journey to Rose Lake.  It was a warm summer day, temps in the mid 70s and nothing but a light breeze to help keep us cool but make for easy paddling across crystal clear waters.  

A quick paddle across Hungry Jack Lake led us to the first of three portages we would take that day.  From Hungry Jack Lake to Bearskin Lake brought us right to the Duncan Lake portage where we were officially in the BWAC- a protected wilderness area free of motorized vehicles and full of incredibly peaceful sights and sounds that's hard to find anywhere else these days.  Once on Duncan Lakewe paddled roughly 25 minutes, the longest trek on a lake throughout the entire journey, until we tucked into a shallow inlet. 

We pulled our canoe alongside that of about half a dozen other canoes taking their rest along the shores of Duncan Lake while it's occupants explored the portage between Duncan Lake and Rose Lake.  It is indeed a very popular area!

It's a short hike from Duncan Lake's shoreline to the famous Stairway Portage, which is actually two wooden stairways that sandwich the incredibly beautiful Rose Falls.  I'm told that while Rose Falls is beautiful in the summer, the Frozen Falls are a must-see.  I make a mental note to return this winter in order to see that.  After soaking in the falls for a few moments we descend the larger Stairway and another quick hike later and we are at the shores of Rose Lake.

It is in fact true that the views of Rose Lake are stunning.  The lake itself is located half in the US and half in Canada- we stood on the US side looking at the Arrow Cliff's on the Canadian side.  The Arrow Cliff's are steep, dramatic cliffs that flow on after another- in itself they are a sight to see but add in the crisp, blue waters of Rose Lake and you have an image that will stick with you for a lifetime.

How the lake got it's name has proven to be harder to determine than I thought it would.  I had heard that the lake is named after a person, not a flower, but one source suggests it was a mispronunciation of the French name for the lake: Lac Roseau.  However, aside from that one reference, I have yet to find any other suggesting how the lake got it's name. So whether it be the name of a woman, last name of an early settler, or a misinterpritation of a French name, the lake is as beautiful as the flower.  It fits.

Rose Lake itself is contained entirely within the BWCA, but prior to the establishment of the wilderness area it was actually the terminus of the Alger Smith railroad, used by logging companies until the Great Depression, which essentially ended logging operations in this remote part of Minnesota for the better part of a decade. By 1938 the lake was included in the Superior Roadless Primitive Area (later renamed to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area) which limited motor use and logging.  There were a few clauses that allowed logging and motor use, but in 1978 Congress enacted the BWCA Wilderness Act thus ending all motorized access and logging in the designated BWCA area.  Visitors today will not encounter even as much as a plane flying overhead as flight restrictions also surround the area (barring a true emergency, of course).  At Rose Lake you are greeted with the sounds of the water lapping the shoreline, birds chirping in the trees, and, on this particular day, the laughter of a group of kids swimming and laughing just out of our sight range.

We spent some time on the shore of Rose Lake- enjoying the scenery and grabbing a bite to eat before making the return trip to Hungry Jack Outfitters. An entire day could easily be spent hiking and exploring the area around Rose Lake.  I'm told the views from the overlooks are as incredible as the views from the shoreline.  But, alas, time was not on our side as we had gotten a later start than one would normally get if heading into the BWCA for the day.  We needed to get back and get home before it got too dark, so, we set out, briefly stopping before the Duncan Lake to Bearskin Lake portage to take a quick dip in the water to cool off.

It makes sense to me why Rose Lake is so popular.  You won't find yourself alone, deep in the wilderness there.  Sure, you'll be deep in the wilderness, but it's unlikely you'll be alone if you head in during the warm summer months.  But, even with at least a couple dozen people likely dotting the shoreline, we found peace and quiet.  It's definitely worth the trip for anyone looking for a nice, easy day trip into the Boundary Waters.