Saganaga Seagull Loop
A popular canoe route from the end of the Gunflint Trail is the Saganaga to Seagull loop. Many of our guests enter in Seagull or Saganaga and paddle and camp their way through Red Rock and Alpine Lake. During the Cavity Lake Fire much of this area was closed to canoeists because of the fire activity. When the route opened back up we were very happy and so were many of our guests.
Some of our guests and other paddlers were concerned with what the area would look like after the fire. Last week I took advantage of a beautiful day and paddled the loop with my group of 5 kids and Rugby the dog. We got a tow boat ride to the Red Rock Portage, hiked across and started paddling Red Rock Lake. Everything in Red Rock looked pretty much like usual except for down by the portage into Alpine Lake. There were a few different areas where the trees were scorched and had turned a colorful orange almost like it was fall. It was great to see all of the campsites in Red Rock open and in great shape.
As we portaged into Alpine there were a couple of areas along the trail that had been burned. I have to admit when we arrived at Alpine Lake I was pleasantly surprised. The burn didn’t look that bad as I scanned the lake. We paddled across Alpine and saw areas of scorched trees that had turned color, some areas with black poles standing, and other areas with green trees. Two of the best campsites in Alpine were untouched and many of them looked to be in good shape. It was interesting to see how the fire traveled close to a campsite but then backed away like fingers stretching straight and then curling back up.
We saw groups of people camping on the sites in Alpine and paddling across the lake. They paddled by and went about their business as if nothing were any different. I started to think about the fact that the lake itself remains unchanged; it is still nice for swimming, good for fishing, and the loons are still singing.
We got to the portage from Alpine into Seagull and could tell the fire had burned hot there. This was probably the worst area we saw and it really wasn’t that bad. There were areas with scorched trees, some black poles standing and even new green bushes popping up all over. The end of the portage closest to Seagull looked the same as it had prior to the fire. The lowland and wet ground must have protected the area from the fire.
We paddled our way back home through Seagull Lake and were continually amazed. The fire would touch one island and leave the next one alone. It would come out to shore in one spot and remain back in the woods in another. There were plenty of my favorite campsites that weren’t affected by the fire and people were out enjoying themselves in spite of the burned areas on the lake.
We have asked our guests and people who have paddled the burned areas what they thought and everyone has said it has been really interesting to see. They have been happy that they didn’t change their route and pleasantly surprised at how the fire acted. They have enjoyed their time spent paddling and camping in the Boundary Waters even though a fire went through the area.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to paddle a part of the Cavity Lake Fire Area. Seeing it with my own eyes allows me to honestly say to people, "Yep, I would still paddle the Sag Seagull Route, it’s still a great Boundary Waters Canoe Trip."