Little Saganaga Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage North, 30 rods, to Rattle
  • Portage Northeast, 90 rods, to Virgin
  • Portage East, 20 rods, to Elm
  • Paddle Northeast, to Ecstasy
  • Portage Southeast, 45 rods, to Mora
  • Portage Southwest, 150 rods, to Elton
  • Portage West, 19 rods, to pond, then 19 rods, to Elton
  • Portage Northwest, 18 rods, to Vierge


  • Fisher F-12, Little Sag, Tuscarora, Temperance Lakes
  • McKenzie 7, Tuscarora; 8, Knife, Kekekabic Lake


  • DNR Lake No. 160809
  • Lake Map No. B0094
  • Lake Table No. 8C
  • MDH Fish Consumption Advisory - N/A
  • MPCA Water Quality - N/A
Little Saganaga Lake
Scale 1:42840
Full image approximately 4 miles square


Little Saganaga, usually spoken of as Little Sag, is a very large lake 9 miles SSW of Gunflint Trail's End and 38¾ miles ENE of Ely. Covering nearly 1600 acres, and up to three miles across, Little Sag is dotted with enough islands to make navigation a challenge. Connected to most major routes in the region, Little Sag is linked by a 30 rod portage north to Rattle and to Gabimichigami beyond. Another northern portage runs 90 rods up to Virgin, and the chain of lakes stretching east to Gillis. To the east, a 31 rod portage leads into Elm, while a nearly mile long paddle up a narrow channel brings one to Ecstasy (so to speak....). The far southeastern end of Little Sag ends at the 45 rod portage into Mora and, through Mora, the route from Gillis in the north, south to the Frost River.

In the southwest end of Little Sag, two portages connect with Elton, a single carry of 140 rods and, a bit farther north, a combination of two 19 rod portages and two ponds leads into the north end of Elton. Finally, an 18 rod portage to the northwest connects to Vierge, not to be confused with the Virgin to the northeast of the lake. The southern shore of Little Sag abuts on a trackless expanse of small lakes and bogs which stretches to the Louse River, five miles to the south. The oldest forest on Little Sag is that which stretches along the northern shore and north to Gabi, which dates from the fire of 1854. The forest off the east end of the lake and extending east to Gillis last burned in 1864, while the southern shore marks the northern limit of the great fire of 1875.


Little Saganaga supports some two dozen designated campsites scattered over its broad expanse, most of them on islands.

Planning Considerations

Little Sag is both a vital travel hub, with connections to routes in most all directions, and a destination in its own right. The islands call for attentive navigation and the more open areas, as on any large lake, can become a hard pull when the afternoon wind gets up. The many islands can be used effectively as windbreaks but, in my experience, Little Sag is best experienced in the still misty silence of early morning, while the water's surface is still glassy smooth.


Burbot (Lota lota), Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) all call Little Sag home. The Lake Trout populations are low but the Northerns are abundant.

Notes and Comments

Little Saganaga, the largest lake in this region of the BWCAW, hardly seems to rate being tagged "Little", but that is what it is, when compared to Saganaga, the "Big Sag" straddling the Canadian border. The name is probably derived from Sagaiganan, the Ojibwe for "inland lakes".

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004