Lucky Pay Lake
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Nearest Entry Point: Cross River #50 or Missing Link Lake #51 (via Round Lake) Fishing: Saw fish jumping and detected fish on fish finder
Maps: Fisher F-12, McKenzie #7 Lake Depth: At least 7 feet in north half (measured by depth finder); over 10 feet in south half of lake (measured by depth finder)
Bushwhack Rating: Short but sweet Lake Size: About 20 acres (counting both halves)
Campsites: None Wildlife Seen on Visit: Many waterfowl
Last Visited: May 12, 2016; Previous Visits: August 16, 2014 Lake Elevation: 1770 feet
Water Clarity: MN DNR; water is bog stained and vegetated Fire History: 1936, 1894, 1846, 1824 and 1727

Lucky Pay Lake

Hairy Lake PMA

Lucky Pay Lake is accessible from an unnamed lake to the north and via a long bushwhack along a creek from Swollen Ankle Lake and Yogi Lake. Thus, a viable loop in this area is to enter at the Cross Bay River entry point, travel through the unnamed lake, Lucky Pay Lake, the creek connecting it to Swollen Ankle Lake, down the creek from there to Yogi Lake and out to Long Island Lake. From Long Island Lake, head back up to the Cross Bay River entry point thus completing the loop. The water level, as is typical of many of these small PMA lakes, is raised a bit by the beaver dam at the north end of Lucky Pay Lake where the creek flows out. There is another beaver dam which raises the water level of the south half of Lucky Pay Lake. The lake is fairly shallow. However, some fish are in the lake so it may be worth a cast or two.

Lucky Pay Lake looks on a map to consist of an upper and lower section. However, the pinch area between the two lakes is heavily overgrown with trees and only a small creek connects the two. In the geological past, these two parts were surely connected, but now they may be considered two separate lakes with the southern section flowing into the northern one. Note that if the beaver dam were removed from the north end of the south half of Lucky Pay Lake, the equalization of water levels between them would facilitate these two lake halves being more like a single lake. Likewise, if you removed the beaver dam that raises the water level of the north half of the lake (while leaving the other beaver dam intact), the water level difference between the two halves would increase somewhat. This would make them more like separate lakes. So the beaver dams control the function of this lake quite a bit.

There are several spots in the south half of the lake that would be serviceable as PMA campsites.

A number of smaller burns affected the eastern part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1936, including some areas in the Hairy Lake Primitive Management Area.

1894 saw a large number of fires throughout the entire BWCA. The fire in this area is called the Snipe Lake/Round Lake area to Gunflint Lake/Pine Lake area complex. This fire probably got its start near Round Lake, a popular BWCA entry point.

In 1875, a large fire that likely ignited somewhere near Lake Insula and/or Hog Lake, swept through area. The fire is known as the Alice Lake/Ogishkemuncie Lake/Tuscarora Lake/Cherokee Lake Complex.

A fire started within what is now the Hairy Lake Primitive Management Area. The ignition point was probably somewhere between Mass Lake and Auk Lake. This fire, which took place in 1846, is called the Auk Lake/Long Island Lake/Cross Bay Lake Complex.

The 1824 Long Island Lake/Rush Lake/Loon Lake fire complex probably burned the eastern part of the Hairy Lake Primitive Management Area and moved eastward. It likely started somewhere around Snipe Lake, or perhaps the northwest part of Long Island Lake.

Way back in 1727, the Gordon Lake/Brule Lake/Winchell Lake Complex burned this area. It probably began somewhere near Sawbill Lake.

Approach to Lucky Pay Lake

Continuing through the unnamed lake that you entered from Cross Bay Lake, you enter a creek and continue to paddle along for a short stretch. When you reach the high cliffs on the left, you see a small beaver run that leads to Fool Lake on your immediate right. Passing by the beaver run, you continue up the shrinking creek until it ends at a small cascade, which you can hear in the grass beyond a log that somewhat blocks your way. It looks like you can manage to get the canoe out of the creek here by the floating log, just to the left of the little cascade.

Bushwhack to Lucky Pay Lake

Beginning from the small cascading creek, you bushwhack up to Lucky Pay Lake. During the bushwhack, you walk in it a bit at the beginning, crosss it, and then mostly stay to the left of the creek the remainder of the bushwhack. There is a dead pine that makes everything more difficult as you have to move gear and yourself underneath it while its branches tangle up in any loose straps and scratch exposed skin. As is common in these places, this bushwhack ends at a beaver dam when you reach Lucky Pay Lake.

Looking south from the north end of the north half of Lucky Pay Lake. This gives a good view of the beaver dam holding back the lake.

Exploring Lucky Pay Lake

To make it more clear, I have divided this lake into several parts (The North Half (images shown from August 2014), The Notch, The South Half (images shown from May 2016) and Explorng the Creek South of the Lake (May 2016 again)). Starting with the north half of Lucky Pay Lake first and continuing on...

NOTE: The goal of the route below is to find a "reasonably passable" route between Cross Bay Lake and Long Island Lake through the Hairy Lake Primitive Management Area.

North Half of the Lake

You are paddling along the eastern shoreline of Lucky Pay Lake.

Lucky Pay Lake in the BWCA Hairy Lake PMA
Panoramic view as you look at the eastern shoreline of Lucky Pay Lake.

You continue paddling around the perimeter of Lucky Pay Lake.

Lucky Pay Lake in Hairy Lake PMA
This is your view up the northeastern shoreline of Lucky Pay Lake, as you look around from about the middle of the east shoreline.

The Notch: Bushwhacking from the north half of the lake through a "notch" between two cliffs to the south half of Lucky Pay Lake.

A short and trickier bushwhack than expected is required to get a look at the southern part of Lucky Pay Lake. You notice that a small creek, with obvious current (and thus elevation change) separates the upper and lower parts of Lucky Pay Lake. Are these two halves of the lakes still the same lake, or completely separate now? (This view is the "notch" on August 16, 2014. A view of this area a couple of years later in the spring of 2016 is show below.)

Close up view of The Notch. The creek is visible to your left.

This is the bushwhack through the "notch" as shown above, but now it is May 12, 2016. It is a bit easier without all the added foliage.

South Half of the Lake

Starting from The Notch, paddle south, around a fallen tree and out into the larger expanse of the lake.

Continuation of southward paddle down Lucky Pay Lake. A little further on you pull up to this rather interesting cliff found along the east shore of the lake.

Overhung and colorful cliff along east shore of the south half of Lucky Pay Lake.

From the prominent cliff, paddle onward until reaching somewhere around the middle of the south half of Lucky Pay Lake. This is the widest point of either half of this lake.

Looking south from near the middle of the south half of Lucky Pay Lake. The creek flows into the south part of the lake in the back of the bay that is just left of center. A mossy and very green (hard to see) rock face is just right of center.

Here you finish your paddle through the south half of the lake and reach the mouth of the small creek that flows into the south end of the lake. The creek looks paddle worthy (it is...for a while).

Exploring the Creek South of the Lake

View of the creek just south of Lucky Pay Lake.

These are early May water levels. The creek flows through a wide valley bordered by a peat bog along the creek and heavy forest on the more distant higher ground along the water course. For about one-fifth of a mile, you encounter few obstructions and are able to paddle with little difficulty.

Soon the creek begins to narrow and become shallower. Much of the water level is probably determined by beaver dams. Eventually you come to one of those and have to do a liftover. This dam creates a small pond along the creek. A cliff is now visible in the far distance further up the creek.

You liftover the small beaver dam in a single bound and continue paddling. Paddling is easier for a short ways since that last beaver dam raises this stretch of the creek a little bit. The easy going doesn't last long though and the creek becomes clogged up by these mini-islands of floating peat bog with dried grass growing out of them. The cliff in the distance gets slowly closer. Eventually you can't move the canoe through the peat bog islands. To get through, you step on each individual peat bog island. These islands sink under your weight, but have just enough buoyancy to keep you afloat until you step onto the next one if you don't linger too long; all the while using the canoe and the canoe paddle to support the rest of your weight to minimize the weight being applied to each peat bog island. The water is waist deep (and pretty cool) if you fall off a peat bog island so you don't want to do that. Eventually you hop enough peat bog islands to make it to another small beaver dam. Dam number 2. From the tiny beaver dam, another short paddle gets you to a modest beaver dam (number 3) that is holding back a large pond. This pond is visible on the McKenzie #7 Map. The cliff you have been seeing for a while is directly across this pond.

The pond with the cliff. This pond is visible on the McKenzie #7 map to give an idea of the location of this view.

You rip off paddling strokes as you move through the pond (this feels like crossing Saganaga after that last stretch of creek). You hook a right and re-enter the creek and are quickly crestfallen as the creek quickly disappears into a thicket where the forest edge comes right down to the creek (no peat bog here). Time to conslt the map...

With no way to canoe any further, exit the canoe and start walking along the creek. It's actually fairly easy going. After a short ways, cross the creek as the other side looks much more walkable...and it is. Forest is oddly quite open for a stretch with no undergrowth. Could be because a large cliff is to your left as you pass through here and may shade the forest floor, but that is just an assumption. Soon get back to the creek and find that the peat bog is now lining its edges again. However, the creek is definitely to shallow to paddle. (It appears from satellite images, that this more difficult section doesn't extend more than maybe 200 yards beyond where I turned around, so it may still be a viable route.)

PMA #1: Weeny PMA #4: Tick PMA #7: Pitfall PMA #10: Hairy
PMA #2: Canthook PMA #5: Spider PMA #8: Mugwump PMA #11: Weasel
PMA #3: Sundial PMA #6: Drag PMA #9: Humpback PMA #12: Fungus
Auk Lake Fool Lake Juniper Lake Plug Lake
Burt Lake Fungus Lake Little Copper Lake Ragged Lake
Din Lake Hairy Lake Lucky Pay Lake Sora Lake
Don Lake Intersection Lake Mass Lake Swollen Ankle Lake
Ell Lake Iris Lake Moth Lake Tame Lake
Fetters Lake Jester Lake Myth Lake Yogi Lake
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