Crab Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage Southeast, 320 rods, to Burntside
  • Portage South, 140 rods, to Clark
  • Portage West, 95 rods, to Saca
  • Portage Northwest, 20 rods, to Little Crab


  • Fisher F-9, Cummings, Big Moose, Fourtown Lakes
  • McKenzie No. 16, Burntside Lake


Crab Lake
Scale 1:42840
Full image approximately 4 miles square


Crab is a rather large, relatively deep lake at the head of Crab Creek in the Burntside basin of the Vermilion drainage, 29 miles southeast of Crane Lake and 11¼ miles WNW of Ely. Multi-armed, though short the full number of its namesake, Crab covers 541 acres with a maximum depth of 57', and a measured water clarity of a rather remarkable 15'.

In the southeastern arm(s) of Crab one finds the mouth of Clark Creek, some 1½ miles north and east of its origins in Clark Lake. Nearby is the mile long (320 rod) Burntside portage to BWCAW Entry Point 4. This carry begins with a bit of a climb, the trail rising some 25' above the shore but this is followed by 65 rods of a relatively steep downhill grade (dropping some 85'), and then a more gentle, but still downhill course for the final 250 rods to the western shore of Burntside.

In the southwestern arm of Crab, with its steep hills lining the southern shore, are two portage landings. One of these, out of the far south end, is the 140 rod trail to Clark, which climbs 65' out of the Crab basin in its first 25 rods before changing to a gentle downhill gradient, for the remainder of the carry, into the northeast end of Clark. Off the western shore of the arm, the 95 rod Saca portage gains 40' of elevation over the first 60 rods before dropping ever so slightly to Saca's eastern shore.

At the end of the northwestern arm of Crab, an easy, 20 rod up-and-over portage with a 4' rise connects with Little Crab and the Korb River. At the end of the northeastern arm is the origins of Crab Creek, which flows east and south, some 2½ miles, to the western shore of Burntside.

Damage from the Independence Day windstorms of 1999 at Crab is largely limited to strips of shoreline blowdown on southern and western shores, primarily in the eastern and southern arms of the lake.


Crab supports 10 established campsites, well distributed along its 12 miles of shoreline.

Planning Considerations

Crab connects with a group of small, interconnected lakes clustered just to its southwest near the southern boundary of the BWCAW. Lakes in this group include Battle, Boulder, Clark, Glimmer, Hassel, Meat, Phantom, Saca, and Sprite. Crab also has connections, by way of Little Crab, north to Cummings and west, by way of Lunetta, Schlamn, Glenmore, Western, Buck, and Pine, to big Trout.

Crab is included in Beymer, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, vol. 1, The Western Region, routes 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, and 27.


Crab supports populations of Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui), Tullibee (Cisco) (Coregonus artedi), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens).

Notes and Comments


Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004