December 15, 2015 snow storm damage:
The mid December, 2015 snow storm delivered wet heavy snow which did considerable damage on the BRT and some of its access trails. The damage consisted of an unusual number of large pines knock downs that sporadically blocked the trail and 20 to 30 foot saplings being bent into the trail from 10 to 15 feet off the trail by the heavy snow loads effectively causing significant “brush” interference along the trail tread. Most of the damage started at the intersection of the Crab Lake Trail and runs east though the entire length of the BRT within the BWCAW and eastern non-wilderness segment from the McFarland Lake Campground area to the 270 overlook. The damage consists of large tree falls obstructing the trail sporadically and tall brush and tree sapling sporadically being bent into the trail. The tree messes require navigation skills to go around or through and the bent brush will require patience. Both will require persistence and longer hiking times than normal.
The Eastern Non Wilderness Segment was heavily damaged by the December, 2015 storm, with the heaviest damage occurring between the Swamp River Bridge and the 270 Overlook. The 0.9 mile portion from the 270 Overlook to the eastern trailhead is clear. A portion of this segment was cleared in May, 2016 from the eastern BWCAW boundary to the McFarland trailhead and east to the junction with South Fowl ATV trail. By July 4, additional clearing was completed from the South Fowl ATV trail junction to the Swamp river bridge (total clearing 6 miles east of the McFarland Campground Trailhead). This leaves about 5 mile left to be cleared to the 270 overlook. 8/21/2016 update: BRTA crews cleared to 3.1 miles west of the 270 Overlook
The Western Non Wilderness Segment appears to have escaped the December, 2015 storm damage. The Magnetic Rock trail is clear. Through hikers reported some brush and a few tree falls in BRT segments that run next to the West End Ski Trail.
June 19, 2016 wind/rain storm damage:
The Forest Service reported from a fly over that tops of large pines were observed broken along the south shores of South, Rat, and Rose lakes and the east side of Duncan Lake. The South Lake camp trail connecting the camp to the BRT has been blocked by tree damage. A ranger paddled to the camp but gave up trying to flag the camp trail due to the heavy damage. It’s not known how far the damage goes up the camp trail. Significant damage was reported in the Stairway Portage area. The Caribou Rock Trail has over 200 trees down between the Stairway portage area and the Bearskin/ Duncan portage. This trail is open south of the Bearskin/Duncan portage to the trailhead, providing access to the Moss Lake Trail. See notes under the Access Trail section of this report.8/21/2016 update: A CCM&I crew cleared over 300 trees from the Caribou Rock Trail. This means that the Caribou Rock Trail is nearly open with a 200 yard section that needs further work but is rated as passible.
The BRT is blocked by a “wall” of trees between the Mucker Lake flow and the South Lake Trail. Please see the text of the 8/19/2016 Forest Service Notice that has been posted at the BRT access trailheads and entry points to the western BRT sections in the BWCAW.
Trail condition changes are subject to forces of nature resulting in tree falls that can occur at any time. Please be cautious if you have to go off trail to get around tree falls as the terrain can be very uneven. Brush grow back will normally take 3 or 4 years before it obstructs the trail. The brush clearing dates in each segment can be used to determine the potential of brush obstructing the trail.
Border Route Trail Conditions inside BWCAW Report August 2016
By Tom Suter, BRTA Director, BRT Wilderness Maintenance
The most recent trail condition report posted here is current as of the completion of the spring trail clearing trips in May 2016, including reports of some storm damage that occurred on December 15, 2016 and June 19, 2016.
McFarland Lake Segment
- • The McFarland segment from the eastern BWCAW boundary to the McFarland/East Pike portage was cleared in early October, 2014.
EXPECTATION: This should have been a relatively clear segment with little brush. For the length of this segment there may be around 6 tree fall blockages and some sporadic bent over brush to contend with.
Pine Lake segment
- • This segment from the McFarland/ East Pike portage to the Pine/ West Pike portage was cleared in May, 2015.
EXPECTATION: This segment should have been a relatively clear segment but probably has several tree fall blockages and bent over brush east of the cedar grove. There have been reports of large tree messes in the Pine/West Pike portage area.
West Pike Lake/ Gogebic Lake Segment
- • This segment from the Pine/West Pike portage to the west end of the Clearwater/West Pike portage was cleared in May 2015 with the exception of brushing needed of the 1.32 miles east from the V29 overlook (overlook of the West Pike island from south of the island).
- • EXPECTATION: The brush in the above portion of the segment not cleared is sporadic in 20 to 30 meter runs. When leaves are on this brush, the trail will be obscured. There probably are several tree fall messes from the V29 over look to the Pine/West Pike portage. May 15, 2016 scouting of the trail from the west end of the Clearwater/ West pike portage showed one large tree mess on the portage that could be walked around located about half way from Clearwater to where the BRT veers off to the south east from the portage. Expect the portage mess has been cleared by now. The BRT from the Clearwater/West Pike junction to the beaver dam on the southwest bay of Gogebic was clear with a normal small number of tree falls that could be stepped over. Beavers have refurbished the dam since September, 2015, with an additional 18 or more inches added to its previous height. Several through hikers have said they have crossed it going along the top of the dam, which has long been part of the trail. There are three major up slopes from the dam going east to the V29 overlook. The first two usually have robust brush growth but that was cleared May 2015. There may be occurrences of bent over brush and/or tree falls from the December storm. The third upslope going into the V29 has usually very little brush but may have several tree falls.
Clearwater Lake Segment
- • This segment from the west end of the Clearwater/ West Pike portage (east end of Clearwater) to the junction with the Daniels Lake access trail was last fully cleared in May, 2012.
- • In May, 2015 clearing was started from the west Clearwater camp trail junction to the east. A tree fall sweep was completed to 2.02 miles east from the camp trail junction (about half way to the Clearwater/Mountain portage). Brushing was completed 1.21 miles east from the camp trail junction to the V22 overlook (first of two) above the west end of Watap Lake with a view across Rove Lake to the west.
- • In May 2016, the trail segment was cleared from the east end of Clearwater to V28, the first viewpoint west of the Clearwater/Mountain portage looking east down Mountain Lake. Working from the west Clearwater camp, the camp trail and the portion of the trail up to the V22 overlook was recovered from the December storm damage. The trail from V22 east to V24 was cleared of very heavy encroaching brush, a lot of bent over brush and several tree fall messes. The portion of the segment from V24 to V28 was rough cut, meaning the tree fall messes were limbed off providing a way to get through the obstructions.
EXPECTATION: From the V24 overlook ((UTM 699639.96E 5330460.69N 15U) to the V28 overlook (UTM 701098.49E 5330789.90N 15U), there are 6 obstructions, with one being a crawl under, one being a bushwhack around the end of the mess and the rest are step overs. This segment still needs to have the obstructions and brush removed.
- • The Forest Service relayed a report from a hiker at the Mountain/Clearwater portage coming from the east end of Clearwater that there was no damage on that segment of the trail. The conclusion is that the June 19, storm damage didn’t go that far east.
Rove Lake Segment
- • This segment of the BRT goes west from the West Clearwater camp trail junction to the Daniels Lake trail junction, and overlaps with the long portage. With the Long Portage cleared, about 1 mile is left to be cleared from the long portage east to the junction with the west Clearwater camp trail.
EXPECTATION: There is a reported (2015) tree fall that has been rough cut as a crawl under just before the up slope from near the Rove Lake shoreline to the Clearwater camp trail. 8/12/2016 update: A BRTA crew cleared 0.7 miles west from the West Clearwater Camp Trail junction. Tree falls were cleared across the entire segment to the Long Portage east landing. 0.8 mile remains to be brushed with brush being very heavy in the 200 yards going east from the Long Portage junction.
Long Portage Segment
- • This segment of the BRT is shared with the long portage between Rose Lake and Rove Lake. There was heavy damage on the long portage that was cleared by the Forest Service July 1 and 2, 2016.
Rose Lake East Segment
- • The entire segment from Stairway portage east to the Long portage was cleared and brushed in May 2013.
EXPECTATION: The up slopes going east from the Stairway Portage most likely have brush encroaching the trail with the possibility of bent over brush from the December storm. The high ridge in this segment is most likely has some tree messes. It’s been reported in June, 2016 that hikers have had problems finding the trail going west from the west Rose Lake camp. The portion from the long portage west to the west camp was as passable.
Rose Lake West Segment
- • In May 2014, the segment was cleared from Stairway portage to the South Lake trail. There wasn't much work between the South Lake trail and the Partridge northwest camp trail. The access spurs to the iconic Rose Cliffs Spire and its west facing photo shoot location were reopened.
- • The Partridge northwest camp trail was clear in September 2015. Gunflint Lodge reported one of their hiking groups made it to the North Partridge camp after the June 2016 storm but returned to Stairway Portage because the trail west of the camp trail junction appeared to be blocked. A conflicting report from the Forest Service says that other hikers made it to the bluffs above Rat Lake, which are 0.5 miles west of the Partridge north camp trail.
EXPECTATION: Persistence may be required to get through the bottlenecks in this segment.
Mucker Lake/ Sock lake segment
- • This segment goes from the South Lake Trail to the Topper Lake Cutoff trail, and includes junctions with the Mucker Lake trail, the Mucker Lake drainage flow and the Sock Lake camp trail. The portion of this segment from the junction with the South Lake trail west to the flow from Mucker Lake has three or 4 large tree falls just east of the drainage flow. It also most likely has encroaching brush and bent over brush from the December storm that needs to be cleared. EXPECTATION: This portion of the trail will most likely be slow going. 8/19/2016 update: The Forest Service reports that a “wall” of trees is blocking the BRT east of the Mucker Lake flow.
- • From the Mucker Lake flow to the Topper Lake cutoff trail was cleared of tree falls in May 2016. Brushing was completed from the topper Cutoff junction east to a short distance west of the Sock Lake camp trail. More brushing is needed to the Mucker lake drainage.
- • The Forest Service reports in June, 2016, that there are some trees down to the east of the Topper Lake Cutoff trail junction, which means there will be a need for another recovery effort in this segment.
Topper Lake segment
- • The trail from the junction with the Topper Lake cutoff trail to the junction of with the Crab Lake trail was cleared in October 2011.
- • In early May, 2015 a tree fall sweep was completed from the Topper Lake camp trail west to the Crab Lake trail junction. A small amount of brushing was done from this junction east. A small distance of both tree fall sweep and brushing was complete from the Topper Lake camp junction to the east.
- • EXPECTATION: There are number of step over trees to the west of the Topper Lake cutoff junction. The entire segment needs brushing, especially on the west end where Poplar trees are thriving in the burned area blocking the view to the north. It’s unknown how much additional damage was done in this segment by the June 19, 2016 storm. 8/13/2016 update: : A BRTA crew cleared 0.25 mile west of the BRT junction with the Topper Lake Cutoff trail. The brush was thick and was filled in with a lot of annual plants (thimbleberries, ferns etc.) creating a “jungle”. Scouting from there to 800 feet east of the Topper Lake camp trail, showed a few poplar trees down and sporadic “jungle” level brush.
Crab Lake segment
- • The trail from the junction of the BRT/Crab Lake Spur west past the junction with the Crab Lake cutoff trail to the western Boundary of the BWCAW was cleared in July 2012.
EXPECTATION: This segment is naturally relatively clear since the 2007 burn. It’s unknown if there is storm damage in this segment.
Daniels Lake Trail
- • This trail was last cleared in 20 I0. A June, 2016 report indicates the trail is still clear with the 6 or 7 passable tree falls between the trailhead and the BRT junction.
- • This trail can have standing water in the road side ditch and old ruts near the trailhead when there is snow melt or heavy rains.
Caribou Rock Trail
- • The trail from the Duncan/Bearskin portage north to the Stairway portage has been severely damaged by the June 19, 2016 storm. The Forest service estimates there are over 200 trees down in the 2.1 miles in this portion of the trail, which essentially closes the trail. 8/19/2016 update: The caribou Rock trail has been mostly reopened with a 200 yard segment left to be cleared, but is described as passible.
- • The non-wilderness portion of the trail was cleared in May 2016 and provides access to the Moss Lake trail.
Mucker Lake Trail
- • The Mucker Lake trail beyond the junction with the Topper Lake Cutoff trail was scouted in May 2013. It was clear with the exception of having to work around flooding from snow melt. The flooding normally recedes by the middle of May. This part of the Mucker lake trail is not being maintained by the BRTA.
Topper Lake Trail
- • The Topper Lake Cutoff was cleared May 2016. 8/13/2016 update: A BRTA crew cleared some minor damage left by the June storm.
- • In early May 2015, the last two northern sections of the board walk on the Topper Lake Cutoff are broken at the cross member where the two are joined. A beaver dam has been constructed up against the southern two sections of the boardwalk with several loose sticks laying on the boardwalk.
- • This trail can have standing water in old ruts at the trail head due to snow melt or heavy rains.
South Lake Trail
- • The South Lake trail was cleared in May 2014. The trail was rerouted back to its original tread to avoid a water collection area near the junction with the BRT. The tread was also rerouted back to its original tread to avoid an area south of the Partridge camp, where the lake shore was eroded causing the tread to cross bare roots. There is still a 10 foot section of the tread toward the lower end of Partridge Lake that can be under water if the lake level is high.
- • EXPECTATION: The South Lake trail was recovered in May, 2016 from the December, 2015 storm damage, including several tree messes and a lot of bent brush from the snow load. A bypass of a large tree north (UTM 685959.29E 5328797.43N 15U) of the Partridge southwest camp was reworked to make the bypass more obvious. As of September 2015, there was a second large tree down on top of the original tree fall. The trail down to the South Lake camp from the BRT junction was fully cleared. Unfortunately, the June 19 storm brought down a lot of trees on the north end of this segment cutting off access to the camp. A ranger paddled to the camp, tried to flag the trail but gave up due to the amount of obstruction. 8/19/2016 update: The camp trail remains completely blocked and the camp site itself has suffered some damage.
Moss Lake Trail
- • The Moss lake trail is entirely outside the BWCAW and runs along the south side of Moss Lake connecting the South Lake Trail and the Caribou Rock Trail to form a hiking loop that includes the Rose Lake Cliffs overlooks above South, Rat and West Rose lakes. A loop hike can start either from the South Lake trailhead or the Caribou Rock trailhead and return to the originating trailhead. With the Caribou rock trail blocked, the larger loop is not available. Construction of this trail was completed in May 2015.
Crab Lake Trail
- • The Crab lake trail from the trailhead to the BWCAW boundary (non-wilderness section) was heavily damaged by the June 19, 2016 storm with over 60 tree falls reported by the Forest service.
- • There are no reports about the Crab Lake Cutoff trail storm damage.
- • The Crab Lake trail from the split with the Crab Lake Cutoff to the junction with the BRT was last cleared of tree falls and brushed in May 2013. No reports yet on storm damage.