Mesaba Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage West, 20 rods, to Chaser
  • Portage North, 105 rods to Hub
  • Portage East, 80 rods, to Hug


  • Fisher F-12, Little Sag, Tuscarora, Temperance Lakes
  • McKenzie 20, Alton


  • DNR Lake No. 160673
  • Lake Map No. C0304
  • Lake Table No. 9B
  • MDH Fish Consumption Advisory - N/A
  • MPCA Water Quality - N/A
Mesaba Lake
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Mesaba is a moderate sized but deep, V shaped lake in the upper end of the Louse River watershed. Each arm is over a mile long on the 180 acre lake, which drops quickly to a maximum depth of 65'. To the north, a 105 rod portage connects with Hub and a 300 rod portage to the Frost River beyond. The northern leg of the upper Louse River route procedes along the southern shore of the lake, from the 80 rod portage to Hug at the east end, to the 20 rod portage to Chaser in the west.


Mesaba supports three designated campsites, one on the south shore, one in the northern arm, and a third on the peninsula which separates the two arms of the lake. Mesaba is not an easy lake to get to and so on most occasions you will have your pick of sites.

Planning Considerations

Mesaba is the largest lake on the northern leg of the upper Louse route, which runs from Zenith down to Duck, Hug, Mesaba, Chaser, Dent, and into Bug where it joins the southern leg from Pie. As is true with much of the Louse, there is no easy way to reach Mesaba, whether one takes the two long portages, totaling 405 rods, down from Whipped on the Frost River, or the 460 rod portage up to Zenith from Lujenida on the Kelso River, or work up the Louse from Malberg, nearly ten miles to the west.

Because the Louse watershed is remote and lightly traveled, finding one's way can be more difficult. Portage landings and trails are not so heavily trodden and obvious as elsewhere in the BWCA and the available map information is less consistent. On the portage down to Mesaba from Hub, McKenzie No. 20, Alton, lists the 105 rod portage as 195, an error which does not appear on No. 7, Tuscarora which lists it as 105.

The portage up to Zenith from Lujenida is indicated as a single, 460 rod carry on Fisher F-12, Little Sag, Tuscarora, Temperance Lakes, but as a 170 rod out of Lujenida followed by a short stream paddle and a 200 rod portage on McKenzie No. 20, Alton. McKenzie also shows a second portage, branching westward from the north end of the stream section, into Frederick on the south leg of the upper Louse. No distance is indicated but it appears to be on the order of 200 rods. Our experience with this particular portage is consistent with Fisher, which is to say a single, long portage. We have tried without success to locate the trail to Frederick from this portage. If present it is little used and overgrown.


Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) were introduced to Mesaba in 1977 but reproduction has been limited and numbers remain low. White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni) and Northern Pike (Esox lucius) are also present though the depth of the lake severely limits the weedy shallows preferred by Northerns.

Notes and Comments

The Louse River is one of the most pristine wilderness settings in the BWCA, and worth the effort, which can be considerable.

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004