History of Select BWCAW Lakes

West Bearskin Lake, c. 1930.

West Bearskin Lake

West Bearskin Lake

West Bearskin Lake sits roughly twenty-eight miles up the Gunflint Trail. Like most of the lakes along theGunflint—including East Bearskin and Hungry Jack (see sidebar)—Bearskin is long and narrow in an east/west orientation, as it was carved out of the ground when the glaciers scoured the area during the last ice age.

Found just outside the B.W.C.A.W., Bearskin is partially developed, with cabins and cottages nestled in the stands of red and white pine that surround the lake. A great lake for catching trout, its proximity to the Boundary Waters makes it a popular place to launch canoe expeditions, as just one portage takes canoeists into the wilderness. Bearskin is perhaps best known as the home of Caribou Rock, a fact attested to in the postcards on these pages, all created from images captured from the rock itself. The rock is an outcropping that creates a natural overlook, offering breathtaking views of the lake. Today it is accessed by the Split Pine Trail, which runs for seven miles through the B.W.C.A.W. to Stairway Portage and Stairway Falls.

More Lakes Found Near the Gunflint Trail

Found at the end of the Gunflint Trail, a portion of Seagull Lake  lies inside the B.W.C.A.W. The lake’s surface covers over four thousand acres and is known for walleye fishing. Motorboats are allowed on the lake but must go no faster than ten m.p.h. Its name derives directly from gayaashk, the Ojibwe name for the American herring gull. The Seagull River connects the lake to Canada’s Saganaga Lake further north, and Gull Lake is where the river broadens considerably before fl owing into Saganaga—but we can’t be sure if the lake in the postcard is that particular Gull Lake. Minnesota has nine lakes named Gull, including four in the Arrowhead: one in St. Louis County, one in Lake County, and two, including the one mentioned above, in Cook County.

Like Gunflint, Hungry Jack, and both Bearskin lakes, Clearwater Lake (above) is an east/west hollow of bedrock formed as glaciers migrated over the region. And, like Seagull, much of the lake lies within the B.W.C.A.W. This access to the wilderness makes it a natural spot for fishing expeditions (the lake is said to be a hot spot for lake trout), and so it has long been home to outfitters. Clearwater Canoe Outfitters works out of the historic Clearwater Lodge, the oldest original whole-log structure in northeastern Minnesota, built in 1926 by famed builder and early settler Charlie Boostrom, who built many of the log resorts and cabins along the Gunflint Trail. The Lodge is in the National Register of Historic Places.

Stairway Falls, located at Stairway Portage at the end of the Caribou Rock Hiking Trail, where Rose Lake drops about thirty feet over the falls and further over some cascades and finally into Duncan Lake. The portage traverses the falls for 138 feet along the creek.