Trout Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage Northeast, 700 rods, to Norway Creek Road
  • Portage Southeast, 141 rods, to Little Trout
  • Portage East, 40 rods, to Pine Creek
  • Portage East, 260 rods, to Pine Lake
  • Portage South, 60 rods, to Lake Vermilion
  • Portage South, 160 rods, to Lake Vermilion
  • Portage West, 200 rods, to Merritt
  • Portage Northwest, 170 rods, to Oriniack


  • Fisher F-1, West Lake Vermilion, Vermilion, Trout, Lost Lakes; F-2, Bear Head Park, Eagle's Nest, East Vermilion; F-8, Vermilion, Trout Lake, Vermilion River, Bootleg Lake
  • McKenzie No. 15, Trout Lake


Trout Lake
Scale 1:85682
Full image approximately 8 miles square


Trout is a huge lake in the Vermilion drainage, anchoring the southwest corner of the BWCAW, 18¾ miles SSE of Crane Lake and 20¾ miles WNW of Ely. Some 7½ miles long on its north/south axis and up to 4 miles across, Trout is the 5th largest lake in the wilderness and the largest lake contained entirely within the borders of the BWCAW (ie, not on the Canadian border). It covers a whopping 7,641 acres and touches some 78 miles of shoreline. Though with a maximum depth of 98' it is not particularly deep for a lake of this size, more than ¾ of the lake is in the deep water zone, more than 15' deep. The only major stream entering the lake is Pine Creek, the mouth of which is tucked away in a bay on the eastern shore behind Cramer Island. Trout drains to the south, the outlet stream dropping 36' in its short run (under a ¼ mile) to the north shore of Lake Vermilion.

The Fourth of July windstorms of 1999 cut a broad swath across the Trout Lake area, with numerous patches of heavy blowdown everywhere but at the extreme northern and southern ends of the big lake. was largely confined to the area north of Stony Island and Norway Point. The heaviest damage includes the area around of the Merritt portage, the southern portion of Pine Island, Stony Island, Norway Point, Trout Rock, and the area between Trout and Little Trout.


Trout is connected to the outside world, and other portions of the BWCAW, by seven maintained portages.
  • to Lake Vermilion, a 160 rod (½ mile) truck portage brings in boats and motors from the south.
  • to Lake Vermilion, a shorter, 60 rod carry
  • to Pine Lake, a 260 rod, up-and-over carry heads east, climbing 75' in the first 70 rods, then dropping back 78' in a gradual descent over the final 190 rods, into the end of a narrow arm on the western shore of Pine.
  • to Pine Creek, an easy, 40 rod carry along the south bank of Pine Creek heads upstream, providing access to the Chad Lake portage and the chain of lakes east towards Cummings.
  • to Little Trout, a 141 rod, up-and-over portage out of the North Arm of Trout climbs gradually to an elevation some 40' above the lakeshore, then drops down the other side, into the northwest corner of Little Trout, with no overall change in elevation.
  • to Oriniack, an up-and-over portage of just over ½ mile heads to the northwest, gaining some 75' of elevation to the crest of the trail, then dropping back some 85' to Oriniack's southeastern shore.
  • to Merritt, a 200 rod, up-and-over portage climbs 38' in the first 75 rods before dropping back 53' to the eastern shore of Merritt.


Trout supports over 40 established campsites scattered along its 78 miles of shoreline. While this is a large number of sites, they are often separated by miles of open water so that, at any given point, the number of campsites realistically available to a canoe party is much more limited.

Planning Considerations

Trout is unlike any other BWCAW lake for the wilderness paddler. Its great expanses of open water are not particulary hospitable to small, muscle-powered watercraft. It is popular with, and quite accessible to, the motorized visitor. And it tends to be a destination in and of itself. While a few lakes on the periphery of the wilderness can only be reached by way of Trout (Oriniack, Merritt), the big lake does not fit in well as a link in the region's canoe routes, short of the occasional dodge in and out along the eastern shore.

Trout is included in Beymer, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, vol. 1, The Western Region, routes 1, 2, 3, and 12.


Trout is named for its Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), and also supports populations of Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui), 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