Dugout Lake

Making Connections

  • Bushwhack/Paddle Northeast, 250 yards, to Iota
  • Portage East, 30 rods to Marshall
    Landing: 47º56'16"/ 90º28'54"
  • Paddle West, to Skidway


  • Fisher F-13, No. Gunflint Trail, Gunflint, Bearskin Lakes
  • McKenzie 3, Ballclub Lake


Dugout Lake
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Dugout is a very small, shallow lake with swampy margins on the South Brule River in the southeast corner of the BWCAW. Over ½ mile long, but narrow, its 25 acres have a maximum depth of only 8'.

The South Brule River enters Dugout at its western end, by way of Skidway, leaving out of the southeast end, with 200 yards of river dropping into Marshall. Access to the former is by a shallow, rocky channel while a 30 rod portage on the north bank of the river descends almost imperceptively to the latter.

Along Dugout's northern shore is the mouth of Little Trout Creek, which loses 240' of elevation in its 2 mile run down from Little Trout Lake to the north, passing through diminutive Iota on the way. An old railroad grade crosses Little Trout Creek just above Dugout, part of an abandoned line from Bower Trout up to Swan. Along the south shore is the mouth of Abita Creek, which descends over 280' in its 2¾ mile course from Abita Lake to Dugout. (Abita means "half" in the Ojibwe language of the region).

The 1995 Winchell Lake Fire, which burned much of this area, crossed the South Brule at Dugout, and its path remains prominent today, marked as it is by scattered, blackened snags rising above charred, downed timber. The fire was not all-consuming, however, and scattered patches of trees can be seen which escaped the blaze, especially near the water's edge. Now well along in its recovery, the burn is covered with the greenery of opportunistic shrubs and flowers, taking advantage of the fire-enriched soil and the full sunshine.


Dugout is a small lake and supports no established campsites

Planning Considerations

Dugout is a link on the South Brule route, the 8½ miles of river and small lakes up from the Bower Trout entry point to Brule Lake. Lacking campsites, it is little more for the paddler than a wider, slower moving stretch of the South Brule. While important links in the South Brule watershed, both Little Trout Creek above Iota and Abita Creek are too steep in their descent to be navigable for any significant distance upstream from Dugout. Iota itself might make for an interesting side trip, however.


Dugout supports populations of Black Nose Shiner (Notropis heterolepis), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). The dead snags from the 1995 fire make good perches for Kingfisher, Bald Eagle, and Osprey (we've seen all three fishing birds here). The decaying, downed timber from that blaze attracts large numbers of insects, which in turn attract woodpeckers and flycatchers. One can see quite a variety of bird life while coasting through Dugout.

Notes and Comments

The South Brule River route up from Bower Trout traverses an underappreciated corner of the BWCA and is probably the premier approach to big Brule Lake. Take care coming upriver from Marshall, however. The first bends of the river (er, "lake") above that portage are rocky and can be quite shallow. Be prepared to step out and walk your canoe through them.

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004