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DATE: 3rd week of may
COUNTY: St. Louis County
LOCATION DETAILS: See below.
NEAREST TOWN: Crane Lake
NEAREST ROAD: County Rd 116 (Echo Trail)
OBSERVED: In May of 1986, three friends and me went canoeing in the Boundary Water's Canoe Area Wilderness in Northeastern MN (St. Louis County). We had originally planned on doing a loop trip; beginning and ending at Moose River parking lot off the Echo Trail (County Rd 116).
We had never gone canoe tripping before, although all of us had done extensive backpacking and were experienced woodsman. We ended up taking way too much gear, but being stubborn Air Force guys (stationed at Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota), we assumed we could overcome it. We ended up spending the night on Lake Agnes, on the peninsula on the northwest side. Due to poor planning, our site got raided by several marauding bears, which really messed things up. The next morning, the rangers asked us to depart the area. Since we were on leave, and had worked hard planning the trip, we agreed, but planned another route.
We ended up portaging a mile into Ramshead Lake, approximately 2.5 miles southwest of Lake Agnes. We got in around 6 at night and set up camp and make dinner. The next day, everyone was bushed, but I wanted to go visit a nearby waterfall. So I took the canoe and paddled across the lake to Meander Creek, which flowed into the west side of Ramshead Lake.
I ended up disappointed as there was very little water over a small cascade. I was just relaxing when I heard footfalls in the area. At first I thought it was a moose or a deer, but the sounds appeared to be very close and circling me. I thought this was odd, but was not overly concerned until I heard the sound of something hitting a tree with another log. The crack startled me and I jumped. Then the sound moved away and to my left, about 100 yards upstream. Another crack and I hit the path back to my canoe and returned quickly to the island. My friend Rick was sleeping and Roy and his son Ken saw me hustling and asked me what was up. I stammered that there was something out there, and I was a bit nervous. I didn't want to lose face, so I minimized it. Roy asked me to explain myself, but I couldn't articulate what had happened. I finally told him what I heard, so being the more mature and higher ranking person, he jumped in the canoe, while rousting everyone to follow him to show the "pussy" up.
I reluctantly followed, and climbed into the canoe with Roy. Rick and Ken followed in the other canoe. We paddled back to the creek, and grounded our canoes before hiking to the cascades. Everyone wanted to know what happened, so I told them. They of course were laughing and poking fun at the "old boy scout", when we all heard the crack again. Everyone stopped talking and we listened. The noise was coming from the north of us, in the heavy brush about 15 yards away. Rod grabbed his paddle and rushed off into the woods to confront the noise maker.
We heard several more cracks, and then Roy called to us to talk to him, so he could find his way out. He had run headfirst into the woods chasing whatever was making the noise, when he realized it was leading him deeper into the underbrush and away from us. It had moved westerly, and then paralleled the creek. When he called out, he was approximately 100 yards west of our position and we talked him back to us. As soon as he appeared, he ordered everyone back into the canoes and we paddled like crazy back to our island campsite.
He explained that he felt whatever it was, was purposely leading him into a trap. He was certainly unnerved and because it was now late in the day, we couldn't leave. We built a very big fire that night and none of us hardly slept. About 4 am, we heard a loud splash, near our island and everyone jolted awake. We looked outside our cabin tent and didn't see anything. But we readied our clothes for an immediate pack up and head out.
As soon as daylight broke, we tore down the campsite and started loading the canoes. At that point, Rick noticed a very large, wet footprint on the rocks by our canoes. It had to be at least 14 inches long and half again as wide. We looked around and there was no other traces, but we realized whatever made that footprint, also made the splashing sound and likely swam across the 100 yards of lake to pull himself out of the water.
We cleared the site in no time and portaged another mile to lamb lake, and then we endured a 2 hour portage through a swamp southeast of Lamb lake before drained into Nina-Moose Lake. We spent the night on Nina-Moose, before heading out for home the next night.
Neither of us smelled anything abnormal. Nor did we hear anything that resembled growling, screaming or grunting. All we heard were the sounds of tree branches being banged against other trees. Rich though he heard grunts, but it easily have resulted from our evacuation of the area and our heavy breathing.
ALSO NOTICED: Just the loud cracks.
OTHER WITNESSES: Three friends, but they all work in classified positions for the Department of Defense.
OTHER STORIES: Plenty. I volunteered in 1997 on the Lac LaCroix Indian Reservation outside of Atikokan, Ontario, just north of the BWCA. They all talked about Windigo the creature of the north country. I have visited the BWCA and the Quetico Provincial Park (Canada's BWCA) just north of the boundary waters over 30 times since that fateful May day.
I had heard tales from the Forest Rangers blaming the natives for stealing canoes from visiting campers, and taking them across the border, only to resell them. I brought this up to the tribe and everyone laughed at me. They knew the same tales and how they were blamed for the missile canoes. They asked how it would be possible to steal a canoe, unseen, or unheard and then paddle it across the lac LaCroix without getting caught in the dead of night. The trails are pitch black and very rocky. Someone would have killed themselves attempting this foolhardy adventure.
They told me they too have reported missing canoes for years in the Quetico and often blamed the lazy American's for stealing their property. When I returned to Ely one year, and talking to some outfitters about this issue, nobody wanted to address the problem. Everyone wanted to blame the other guys, until one brave and forthright outfitter admitted he had a similar tale on Lady Boot lake, northwest of Lake Agnes. He had reported hearing similar sounds and grunts one night he was leading a group of Boy scouts. The kids were clearly frightened and he had never experienced anything like that night, nor wants to again.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Early afternoon, about 1300.
ENVIRONMENT: Heavy underbrush in a thick Boreal forest along the Meander Creek.
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator Curt B:
I spoke with the witness, John, about his experience. Note that the friend's names in John's written account have been changed at his request to protect their anonymity. John and two of his friends were active in the United States Air Force, and one of them brought his son.
Their planned trip into the BWCAW followed the Echo Trail which stretches north of Ely, MN to the southern area of Crane Lake, MN. Portions of the Moose River, the Agnes River, Ramshead Lake, and Nina Moose Lake, were used to enter and exit the area. Their campsite was located on the western most island of a chain of three islands on Ramshead Lake.
John went to look for a waterfall on a small river/stream that flows into the west side of Ramshead Lake. He paddled approximately 150 yards from the island to shore. After arriving at the falls he heard the sounds of a log being smacked against a tree. The sounds were approximately thirty feet into the thick brush and seemed to be going around him. He also heard grunts. Upon hearing noises behind him he felt that something wanted him out of there and he heard branches breaking as he left. From the area of the waterfalls to the campsite is approximately a 20 minute hike and canoe ride.
Upon returning to the campsite his friends wanted him to show them where he heard these sounds so the four of them set off in two canoes back to the waterfalls. While standing near the same area all four heard knocking sounds. One of them suggested that it was possibly a moose hitting its antlers against a tree. Approximately three to four minutes later they heard it on the other side of the stream. They observed nothing cross the stream and suspected there were possibly two different creatures. After hearing a loud crack Roy gave chase towards the area that the sound had come from. Approximately ten minutes later Roy was heard yelling to the group to find his way back out of the dense forest. Upon his return he told them that he felt he was being deliberately led away and they should immediately leave the area. They returned to the island around 6 PM where they collected more wood and started a campfire. They all shard a large canvas tent.
The following morning, just as the sun was coming up, two of the friends heard an extremely large splash in the water near where they beached their canoe the previous night. They then heard some movement in the water. The other two were woken up and they all hiked down to the canoe. They noticed what looked like a wet blob of a footprint approximately 14" long and 6" wide on the rock/gravel beach. Shortly thereafter the group packed up their equipment and left the area.
About BFRO Investigator Curt B:
Curt is a resident of Andover Minnesota and also owns a home in Sparta Wisconsin where he grew up.