Updated November 7, 2016
CAUTION! Due to heavy regrowth and continually falling trees from the 2011 Pagami Creek Wildfire, conditions on the entire Powwow Trail are very difficult for hiking.
Based on amount of trail maintenance, the Powwow Trail is divided into two sections. Section 1 (6 miles) will be a difficult hike, but you will have a chance to explore a regenerating post fire wilderness. Due to low visitation and an abundance of animals that flourish in a post fire ecosystem, you may run into more wildlife than you might expect, as well as enjoy a ‘big sky’ more like a prairie than a woodland. Travel in the unmaintained Section 2 (21 miles) is not recommended at this time, though it is still open for experienced backwoods navigators that are looking for challenging hikes.
Section 1- 6 miles from the Trailhead near Isabella Lake to Pose Lake Campsite:
During the spring and fall of 2016, a group of volunteers began to work with the Forest Service on maintaining this section of trail. This is challenging work and the trail is still a challenging trail. Hikers should be experienced and skilled at backwoods navigation using map and compass, and should consider having a GPS as back up (caution, GPS units should never be relied upon as a primary source of navigation.)
Section 2- 21 miles from Pose Lake Campsite to southern intersection with Section 1:
This section of trail will remain unmaintained for the next few seasons. While open for use, travel is not recommended on this section of trail. Despite efforts by the Forest Service, the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, and volunteers, it has not been possible to maintain a locatable trail tread in this section of trail. The trail was cleared after the fire, but is now obscured again by heavy regrowth and fallen trees. If you choose to hike this section of the trail, you will need navigational aids and exceptional way-finding skills. There is no shade and few water sources. Only the most experienced hikers should attempt to hike this section of trail.
Unmaintained, no travel recommended
If you are interesteding in helping our volunteer group with the maintenance of Section 1 of the trail please send an email with a subject of “Powwow Trail Maintenance - Attention Jon Benson”.
Visit the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness section of our website for information and regulations regarding traveling in the wilderness. This trail does require a permit for entry. If traveling for the day by you can use a self-issued permit found at any Ranger District office or at the kiosk at the official entry point. For overnight use, see our BWCAW section of the website.
At a Glance
||Section 1 of the trail was cleared in September 2015, and again in the spring/fall of 2016, but expect regrowth in spring and summer of 2017 to obscure the trail. Section 2 is not currently maintained, and travel is not recommended. There is one campsite at Pose Lake, camping elsewhere is allowed, see Dispersed Camping guidelines.
||Permit reservations for Boundary Waters Entry permits can be made at www.recreation.gov
||For over night travel May 1st to September 30th - $16.00 per adult and $8.00 per youth (under the age of 18) and for America the Beautiful senior and access passes.
||A Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness use permit is required. Overnight permits during the summer season are available at www.recreation.gov, day use permits are available at the trail head.
||Camp 150 feet from the trail and bodies of water.
||No potable water available – lake water must be treated.
||Isabella Area (Tofte Ranger District) 218-323-7722
Follow the directional signs to Isabella Lake. From the town of Isabella on County 1, turn on FR 172 (Wanless Road). From 172, go north on FR 369. Veer left on FR 373, then right on FR 377. Park in the Isabella Lake Entry Point parking lot. The trailhead is not the same as the portage to Isabella Lake. The Powwow Trail trailhead is from the southwestern end of the parking lot.
Parking lot is the Isabella Lake enrty point for the BWCAW.
Hikers should download a map showing the trail route with the two sections, and a zip file containing GPX and GDB files usable on many GPS units. This map is not intended to be used as a trail map, be sure to have larger more detailed topographic maps when you hike. Do not rely on GPS as a primary source of navigation information, always carry a map and compass.
Be prepared for a post fire environment. You will be able to experience first-hand a forest in the process of recovering after a natural wildfire caused by lightning. There will be little shade, and charred wood will get you dirty. There will be few trees for hanging food packs, bring alternative ways to 'bear proof' your campsite. It may seem counterintuitive, but there will not be a lot of wood for campfires, and we ask that you limit your use of what wood there is. Nutrients in rotting wood are important for forest regeneration, so you should plan to use a cookstove as much as possible.
Camping 150 feet from the trail or a body of water is allowed. Standing dead snags are becoming unstable with the passage of time as roots rot. Before making camp, scan for these dead snags, and do not camp where one could fall on you. There is one designated campsite on the trail at Pose Lake.
The rest of the story…..
The Powwow Trail was constructed in 1978-9 and is located in a remote part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Trail maintenance was always difficult because of remoteness and length, but is now even more difficult due to the aftereffects of the 2011 Pagami Creek Wildfire. The fire killed most of the overstory trees. The resulting open conditions have led to heavy regrowth, and many standing dead trees which are now falling. These two factors can completely obscure the trail tread. In addition, there is little to no shade, no trees for hanging food packs, and the blackened ash on the trees will rub off on you and your clothes. Footing is poor due to growth and new deadfalls.
Since the fire, the Forest Service has made a concerted effort to maintain the trail, including hiring the Conservation Corp. of Minnesota and Iowa. In 2012, 21 miles of the trail were cleared of deadfalls caused by the fire. The remaining 6 miles on the north side of the loop between Pose Lake and Lake Three were cleared in May of 2015. Additionally, the trail was re-cleared between the trailhead and Pose Lake in 2015, and again in the spring/fall of 2016. Despite this massive effort, regrowth has made a large portion of the original 27 miles essentially invisible, and led to the recommendation that only the 6 mile Section 1 be used for hiking.