Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dark Colored Pictographs- Fall 2007 Isabella Area Solo Canoe Trip

In July 2007 I did most of the Hunter’s Island loop in Quetico. This was a solo trip of 161 miles in eleven days. The trip report I wrote, Quetico’s Trees, Rocks and Water: A Solo Journey, is posted on

When I was done with that trip I began thinking what other paddling adventure I wanted to do in the fall. The problem I faced when I was thinking on where I wanted to go was that we're in a drought and there was very little water in the rivers where I wanted to go.

The fall of 2007, in September and October, I decided to go back up to the Isabella area in Minnesota to do a short solo canoe trip. This area is in the Superior National Forest in Northeastern Minnesota. The areas where I paddled were just inside the BWCA and a small part just outside of it. I hoped to complete this trip in September, but I revised my initial plans once I arrive in the area in September so I went back in October to finish what I didn't accomplish on the first trip. I’ve mentioned before that I worked for the US Forest Service out of the Isabella Ranger District from 1980 to 1983 out of Isabella, Minnesota. Some of these areas where I went I had never been to in the past and some of the other areas I haven't been to in about 25 years.

On 09-05-07 I posted a message under the, Trip Planning Forum, on the website, asking if anyone had paddled the Perent River recently and if so, what the water levels were like. Although I really didn’t expect a response because this river is not traveled by too many people due to the many portages in such a short distance, but I thought I would see if anyone had done it. Well, just as I thought I didn’t get a response.

On 09-11-07 I posted some tentative plans on the website after I decided to go to this area, since it had recently rained a significant amount in the area. I wanted to paddle the Perent River between Hog Creek and Isabella Lake. This river is not paddled too often due to about 12-13 portages in such a short distance. I’ve never been on the Perent River and this was one of the reasons for me going to this area. The second reason was to see the only known dark colored pictographs in Minnesota. These pictographs are along the Island River just outside of the BWCA.

These dark colored pictographs are unusual for several reasons. They are very high above the water without any ledge or handholds for someone to use when they were drawn.Therefore, a ladder of some sort had to be used, such as a tree or other item to climb. The symbols are several feet high and a black pigment was used to drawn them. One other reason they are unique is that these pictographs face north. All the other pictograph sites have some direct sunlight that shine on them during the day.

The following were my general tentative plans that I posted on the website:

Day 1: Island River to the SE (Not in the BWCA) to see the pictographs. I may or may not camp on the river.Day 2: Entering Hog Creek and paddle to Perent LakeDay 3: Perent River to Isabella Lake. I might see if I can find the old portage that goes to Ferne Lake. This portage is no longer maintained and I was aware some people haven’t found it lately. Ferne Lake is in the Fungus Lake Primitive Management area.Day 4: Isabella Lake to Quadqa LakeDay 5: Back outMy plan for Day 2 was to leave my Suburban in the parking lot of Isabella Lake and then riding my Mountain Bike approximately 25 miles to the start of my canoe trip at Hog Creek. On this trip I would be placing more emphasis on photography than covering a large amount of ground like most of my other solo canoe trips. I've never been on the Perent River and with the recent rains this was to time to do it. Some of the other areas where I would be paddling I haven’t been to in about 20 to 25 years.These were only tentative plans and things may change depending on the weather once I got to the area.

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