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Author Topic: Traversing the Rainy River  (Read 965 times)

Offline Kaifus

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Traversing the Rainy River
« on: December 31, 2017, 11:06:22 am »
If someone wanted to make an attempt at skiing the border route from Lake of the Woods to Lake Superior, how would they handle the Rainy River? From what I saw a year ago the eastern two thirds looks like pretty unsafe ice. Would the only way be to use the roads, maybe with some kind of wheeled sled carrier? I only saw the Rainy while driving by but I didn't see any snowmobile tracks, but maybe its better than I think??

Offline Paul_the_Pike

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Re: Traversing the Rainy River
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2017, 01:05:05 pm »
The Rainy River from LotW to I-Falls should freeze well enough in the deep winter to travel for the most part. There are certainly trouble spots as it is a river, but with caution and a good awareness of how river ice works, I have to think that stretch would be doable. Further east is a different story after you get by the first few big lakes.

There are constant falls along the route as you head east, which are quite treacherous in the winter. There are also long expanses of good lakes to cross at times. I have done a bunch of these sections, but only piecemeal, usually from one major obstacle to the next. I think it would take nearly an entire winter to do the whole route if you crossed them all as there are very few roads or trails to bypass them in this area. The far eastern edge gets pretty extreme (for MN at least), 400' elevation shifts over an 80 rod portage is pretty typical. I've had to hoist sleds up and down parts too steep to walk up-- let alone haul gear over.

Very pretty and remote area though.

Offline Kaifus

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Re: Traversing the Rainy River
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2018, 09:25:14 pm »
Thanks for the reply, I'm still really wary of the Rainy River though. When I saw it in mid February a year ago it was littered with spots of open water and if I have to break trail and pick my way through that then your right the trip would take an entire winter. I think maybe it would be wise to scrap that first leg of the journey and start in International Falls which would still be a formidable undertaking, though it would be a shame to cut out Lake of the Woods.

Offline Paul_the_Pike

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Re: Traversing the Rainy River
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2018, 11:41:45 pm »
Last year was definitely not a normal year for ice, the last two actually. River ice conditions can change with the weather, whereas lakes tend to steadily gain once they initially freeze over until spring. A good cold snap like we've had tends to push river conditions to the safe side, especially if traveling by foot.

The Rainy up there is fairly wide and slow moving. There are only a few rapids, Long Sault and Manitou that I recall (plus the dam in I-Falls, but that would have to be bypassed regardless.)

The main problem spots on the eastern end are the narrows past Crane Lake, the Basswood River which is not safe ever and near impossible to bypass, the Granite/Pine River, and the Pidgeon River leaving South Fowl. Lots of little pinch points between lakes that also stay open up there even at -40F. The trouble as you head east is that many of the narrow spots are also cliffs which aren't easily bypassed.

Offline Kaifus

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Re: Traversing the Rainy River
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2018, 09:49:43 pm »
the Basswood River which is not safe ever and near impossible to bypass,

Is this why I can't find any reference of someone doing a winter crossing of the BWCA? I've covered a fair bit of the border in the Boundary Waters in winter but I haven't done the part on the western end from Loon Lake to Basswood, which is also the most remote. Everywhere else I've been there's been a portage trail waiting for me when needed, or at least river banks I could travel on.


Offline Snowbound

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Re: Traversing the Rainy River
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2018, 06:23:50 am »
I think Dave Freeman did it in 2001.  I couldn’t find his website posts from the trip but I found this article.  http://bwca.cc/diaries/wintersojourn

Maybe you could reach out to him for route info.