Larch Creek is an entry point into the BWCA off of the Gunflint Trail. Only one permit a day is allowed through entry point 80 into the Boundary Waters. Access to this creek is found right alongside of the Gunflint Trail next to the Seagull Guard Station about 50 miles from Grand Marais.
Larch Creek is a Boundary Waters entry point perfect for a day trip or as part of a longer Boundary Waters Route that includes the Granite River. Water levels affect this BWCA creek making navigation a bit difficult at times. When a recent rainfall makes the water level go up it's a perfect time to paddle the creek. This is what I did yesterday for a quick BWCA fix.
Larch Creek is a unique Boundary Waters entry point as it is only about 1 1/2 miles long. It flows into Larch Lake and is quite narrow in places which keeps the paddler busy with all of its tight twists and turns. If you gain too much speed you are bound to crash into the soft banks of the creek as you miss the next turn. I have paddled this creek in a Wenonah MN III 18.5 foot canoe but prefer traveling it in a Wenonah Prism 16.6 foot canoe. The shorter the canoe the easier this Boundary Waters Canoe Route is.In addition to rainfall the beavers play an important role in the water level of Larch Creek. This year there were only four beaver dams to navigate over or around while some years there are more. Getting out of and back into the canoe can be tricky on these muddy stick towers as it is easy to sink up to your knees in muck on either side of the dam. I've even been surprised by a mouse making it's way across a beaver dam one time. Beaver chewed sticks float on the creek and submerged stumps sometimes act as obstacles.
I remembered discussing the differences between a beaver dam and a beaver lodge with my niece as we paddled this Boundary Waters route when she was just five years old. She insisted the dams were lodges and the lodges were dams. The problem with arguing with a five year old is you begin to sound like a five year old yourself. I ended the argument by telling her she could only speak if she was going to help paddle and if she wasn't paddling then she couldn't speak. It was a quiet paddle after that.
Yesterday wildlife was scarce on this BWCA creek. A few painted turtles plopped into the water as I paddled by, one swam beneath the canoe and another shared its log with me as I attempted to shimmy the canoe over it. Dragonflies flittered about letting the sunshine reflect off of their delicate wings. A wood duck took to flight as I rounded one of the last curves of the creek and chickadees could be heard singing their familiar song.
As the creek opened up into Larch Lake lily pads waved and welcomed me. The Ham Lake Fire of 2007 ravaged the area but saved the most beautiful BWCA campsite on the island of this lake. Towering pines still stood and large rock outcroppings stretched into the surrounding wilderness waters. Nestled amongst the pine trees on this island one would never know a fire had past this way. The open space on this BWCA campsite is perfect for multiple tent sites and there's plenty of space to spread out for privacy. From the shores of this island fishing could be good with the rocks and weeds interspersed.
Elevation is seen on the hills surrounding Larch Lake. I could picture it in my mind as it looked when I paddled this BWCA route for the first time with my niece years ago. Pine trees had shrouded the shorelines and one could only guess what the terrain was really like.
I paddled to the creek that flows into Clove Lake and portaged the 25 yards along it. Clove connects to the Granite River another popular Boundary Waters canoe route. Jack Pines line the portage of every shape and size. It's a flat easy portage with decent landings on both ends of the trail.
There are three Boundary Waters campsites in Larch Lake. One is tucked into a bay directly to the right of the mouth of Larch Creek when it flows into the lake. This wilderness campsite has tall pines surrounding it with nice elevation directly behind it. The other campsite that is closest to the portage into Clove is carpeted with jack pines. Small trees are growing everywhere except in the fire ring and one spot for a tent behind it. The bald rock in front of the fire ring is a perfect place to watch the sun rise and set.
The lake contains northern pike, smallmouth bass and walleye. The only fish I caught was a small northern while I dragged a crayfish lure behind my canoe. The water level is low this year and I think the fishing would be easier with more water. Weeds were abundant and it was difficult to troll without catching weeds.
It took me about an hour to get to Larch Lake via the creek and only a half of an hour to get back out. On the way in I stopped to take photos and carefully made my way over beaver dams. On the way back I walked barefoot on the beaver dams and didn't worry if I slipped into the muck on either side of the dam. I paddled hard for a work out and to see how quickly one could navigate the narrow creek.
As I looked at the shoreline I saw Tamarack trees. It finally dawned on me why it was called Larch Creek and Larch Lake. Larch is the other name used to identify Tamarack trees. It's a beautiful pine tree that loses it's needle and is one of my favorites in the fall.
Before long I could see the tower at the Guard Station and the roofs of the buildings signaling the end of my canoe trip. I know I will return to Larch Lake again as it's always a nice route for a day or a stay.