Upper Peninsula / Lake Superior

daverave

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2015
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233
Location
Sacramento, CA
As we usually do in this time of year lately, the wife and I are looking to duck out from California for a couple of months before the smoke gets heinous. We'll be taking off about 8/17. This year I'm targeting the UP and a circumnavigation of Lake Superior via Voyageurs NP and the Boundary Waters. We'll get there via SLC, Denver, and hopscotching due north across the Nebraska, Wyoming and the Dakota state lines. That part of the trip seems fairly straightforward being in the public lands paradise that is the West.

Once we cross into Canada south of Regina and turn east stuff gets a little more confusing. I'm considering checking out Riding Mountain NP in Manitoba then heading towards Voyageurs. Unlike BC there don't seem to be Rec Sites that are essentially very primitive dispersed campgrounds that we utilized three years ago on a trip to Alaska. I'm wondering if anyone is familiar with dispersed camping options in that part of Canada just over the border. In Ontario dispersed camping on Crown Lands (similar it appears to USFS/BLM dirt) is permitted but requires a permit for non-residents. The rules for it seem a tad nebulous so any help there would also be appreciated.

Getting back in the US I can navigate through the various National Forests for places to boondock. Not unexpectedly the NP campgrounds are completely booked until late September and I'd rather not make reservations as our trips tend to work best without commitments in advance. I'm hoping that in Northern MN, Michigan and the UP we can find USFS property that is available even if it means being in a campground. Any suggestions for not to miss locations would also be appreciated. We will be traveling with convertible packs to carry gear to backcountry camp where feasible and the crowds are overwhelming. That may be our only option in Pictured Rocks for example. We'll also have inflatable kayaks but they are not robust enough to get us and gear out to islands at places like the Apostle Islands.

Looking forward to seeing more of this continent that we haven't been to before! We did do a quick north shore of Lake Superior drive through back in '16 that got me interested in going back there but that was pre-pandemic before everyplace got inundated. We had absolutely no problem finding campsites then.

Any suggestions would be welcomed!
Cheers
Dave

View from Lk Superior Provincial Park campsite in 2016 attached
 

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Dave there are some nice NF campgrounds in the area of Temperance River SP
Cook County. It's south of the Boundary Waters Canoe area.

We spent several nights in that area.Did a lot of day drive/hikes.
Check my blog I posted a TR from fall 2012 trip. It's called Fall trip to Minnesota.

Enjoy it's a beautiful area.
You might PM member Al "takesiteasy " he does a lot of traveling to that area.

Frank
 
Vic Harder said:
Have you considered using Harvest Hosts and/or Boondocker's Welcome in areas with few NF/BLM/Crown lands?
The problem with HH is that your rig must be self-contained. Friends of ours that have a Leisure Travel Van love them but their rig is a mini hotel room with king bed, toilet, two sinks, large screen TV, etc.
I'm not sure about BW though, will check.
We have gone the Hip Camp route on occasion particularly when east of the Mississippi. It's made for some interesting experiences.
 
daverave said:
The problem with HH is that your rig must be self-contained. Friends of ours that have a Leisure Travel Van love them but their rig is a mini hotel room with king bed, toilet, two sinks, large screen TV, etc.
I'm not sure about BW though, will check.
We have gone the Hip Camp route on occasion particularly when east of the Mississippi. It's made for some interesting experiences.
You can be self contained for one night, can't you?
 
Hi Dave

I would say strongly that our experience with HH has very much fit our needs when we just need an in transit spot to spend the night.

Many HH owners have finished their work day and gone home by the time you arrive.

MANY times we have been very happy to have a convenient and preplanned place for the night.

If we get in early or the venue opens early we try to buy something to help their business before hitting the road.

As for the UP I would mention Apostle Islands National Seashore....a series of very nice places to visit in Lake Superior.
Despite the name there is fairly easy access to the many islands with rental kayaks, excursion boats etc.

It is full of History and Natural History...our guiding lights in travel.

Have Fun

David Graves
 
Casa Escarlata Robles Too said:
Dave there are some nice NF campgrounds in the area of Temperance River SP
Cook County. It's south of the Boundary Waters Canoe area.

Frank
We happened to spend one night at Temperance River SP back in 2016. It was a quick but enjoyable stopover.
 
daverave said:
We happened to spend one night at Temperance River SP back in 2016. It was a quick but enjoyable stopover.
The Coho fishing in the tidal part of the river was fun. We were there with follow campers we met 2 years before at Pebble Creek
in Yellowstone.They live in Winona Mn and invited us for some camping. The area was beautiful in the fall.
Frank
 
Vic you are so right, It made me sad to see this "advertisement" to lure folks without a clue into "boondocks' sites. But it was out there so thought it worth noting for a backup plan. The happy news I read last week was the RV industry was "tanking" which I see as a sign folks who pandemic bought are burning out with fuel costs and reality. Cat maybe out of the bag though.
 
buckland said:
Yeah I cringe at these stories too. We camped at the Badlands spot in 2016 which I found by crunching hard on Google Earth. It was also shown in the Nomadland movie which won Best Picture so that cat is way out of the bag. It was by far the windiest spot we ever camped. T-shirts and shorts at dinner and bedtime then in the middle of the night the wind came up (60 mph?) and as we were right on the edge we decided to put the top down and sleep as best we could with our cat on the floor and sofa. There were ten or so campers there when we went to bed and by morning we were the only ones left. Somebody was out there in a Tepui!
 
I dunno what the disbursed camping rules in the central and western UP may be, but practically the entire section of the UP west of, say, Marquette is a mixture of NF, state forest, and timber company lands. It's all public land survey system out there so finding tracts of public lands is pretty straightforward. There are several large hydropower reservoirs (Michigamme Res comes to mind) and the public utility (Wisconsin Power back in the day) maintained many small boat ramps and small primitive campgrounds. Unlimited small to large stream paddling or lake/pond access throughout the central and western UP.

Foy
 
There is this was well on tonight on PBS.
Might be interesting to see either way.
 

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Dave, we live in the Duluth, MN area right at the west end of Lake Superior. We've driven the Circle Tour and boated around the lake. There are so many interesting and beautiful things to see in both the US and Canada. We don't boondock much around here like is done out west(I learn so much from the WTW site) but we do frequent the state parks and have some favorite local parks too. Being close to the lake is our favorite and there isn't much boondocking there. Just inland.
The Canadian provincial parks are beautiful. Just east of Thunder Bay is the Sibley penninsula Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. It's worth the time to drive to the end and visit Silver Islet and to the overlook of Thunder Bay waters.
Stop and visit every park along the way if only for a walk. When you get to Sault St Marie CA. Visit the Seaplane museum. I thought my wife would last 30 minutes and they had to kick us out when they closed. The Canadian side of the Soo is much more fun and interesting than the US side and it's fun too.
Visit the shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point. We had a great trip out to Crisp Point Lighthouse and stayed at Taquamenon Falls state park. There's a brewery/eatery right in the park. Stop in the little local towns and take a walk, Watch for waterfall signs on both the north and south shores.
Lake Superior Magazine has a bunch of information on the Circle Tour of the lake.
If you need any local help feel free to call me at two one eight 94zero 29three six. We have a boondock site back in our piney woods just outside of Duluth too.
Have a great trip, Bigfoot Dave
 
Thanks for everyone's participation! We head out tomorrow for two nights along US-50 on the way to SLC (and a Disgusting Brothers show ;-) Then Denver to visit friends before we head north for the border.
I've printed out your post above Bigfoot and will keep your suggestions in mind. Glad to get out of Sactown and the second half of our hellacious heat wave.
Cheers,
Dave
 
Sorry I'm slow to respond, daverave. Hopefully you're still checking WTW while on the road.

I don't know if you're a fan of these but I always like to sample the pasties ('PASS-teez") when we're traveling through the U.P. I'm partial to the ones with rutabaga. Many grocery stores have them but I like to stop at small pasty shops as some have stories to tell about their secret recipes.

Since you mention Voyageur NP, I'd also recommend a visit to Ely, Minnesota, particularly the North American Bear Center. It has dozens of video displays with very interesting bear footage. I was impressed with how thoroughly they anticipate and answer any question we might have about bears and bear research. I imagine many folks do a walk through on their way to see the live bears out back but there's a heck of a lot of good info on those video displays. Also- on both our visits there we were able to talk to very experienced bear researchers.

Ely also has the International Wolf Center. We enjoyed that and took the night-time wolf-calling tour. You don't need to pay for a tour if you want to call on your own as I can provide location details on a good night-time wolf-calling point with an overlook into the Boundary Waters wilderness.

There's also a 50-plus mile gravel road we enjoyed in the Superior National Forest north and west of Ely... the Ely-Buyck road (route 116). It's also sometimes called the Echo Trail, presumably because it goes to Echo Lake. It felt kinda remote but then we'd pull into an out-in-the-boonies canoe launch and find the parking lot nearly full as this is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The lakes in that area are wonderful but you do need a permit. Also- here's a link to a possible adventure along that road: Hegman Lake Pictographs ( I just ran onto that in a search for Ely-Buyck Road). Alltrails has a route there called Hegman Lakes Hike and Paddle Route.

Ely itself is an interesting little town. You might also keep an eye out for anything to do with Will Steger in and around Ely. I see he recently returned from an expedition and had a premiere showing of a new documentary called 'After Antarctica' in Ely last month.
 
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