Brule Lake
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Nearest Entry Point: Brule Lake #41 Fishing: MN DNR; Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye
Maps: Fisher F-6; McKenzie #21 or #3 Lake Depth: MN DNR; 78 feet
Fire History: Logging around 1929. Fire 1929.
Lake Size: 4,272 acres
Campsites: Around 32 Wildlife Seen on Visit: None
Last Visited: July 20, 2020;
Previous Visit(s): August 22, 2015
Lake Elevation: 1834 feet
Water Clarity: MN DNR

To Cam Lake: Walk the 100 rod portage
Echo Lake: Paddle in
Juno Lake: Walk the 60 rod portage
Lily Lake: Walk the 37 rod portage
South Cone Lake: Walk the 30 rod portage
Temperance River: Walk the 10 rod portage
Vernon Lake: Walk the 65 rod portage

Brule Lake

Tofte Ranger District

None visited yet.

This is the second largest lake that is entirely within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). Only Trout Lake in the western part of the BWCA is larger. This is not a good lake to cross on a day with strong winds. The lakes shoreline is nearly 38 miles long.

The name of the lake is derived from the French word meaning "burnt wood".

Brule Lake offers many route opportunities, with a total of six portages leading out of the lake into other parts of the BWCA. There are also over 30 campsites located on Brule Lake, so even late starters will be able to easily find a place for the night. Note that BWCA Entry Point 40 - Homer Lake is just 1 1/2 miles down the road from the Brule Lake entry point. You'll pass it coming in. So a nice short route is to travel between these two entry points.

There are two entry points for Brule Lake (#41 and #42). Entry point 41 has no restrictions. If you use BWCA Entry Point 42, you must camp on Brule Lake for the duration of your BWCA visit. You may travel to other lakes though during the day.

Logging impacted the area here in the 1920's and early 1930's. In 1918, the Northern Logging Company purchased the Alger Smith line to access the timber near Brule Lake. A large logging camp was located along the south shore of Brule Lake. The modern day entry point area was the location of a log hoist. Several smaller logging camps existed along the north shoreline. This was the Brule Lake General Logging Company. Fires around Brule Lake in 1929 brought an early end to the logging operations. The 1929 fire, which started near Star Lake on July 22, was probably caused by sparks from railroad cars used to haul the logs. This was a slash fire (a fire that burns forest that was recently logged). The clearing of trees allows the forest floor to dry out quickly, making fires more likely (Heinselman, 1999). This fire burned the forest along the shorelines of Brule Lake, Homer Lake and Juno Lake. The fire consumed about 25,000 acres. The fire was out by August 7, 1929 (Hansen, 2007). A number of other fires burned in 1929 as detailed in Heinselman.

Another logging operation was run north of Brule Lake beginning in the mid-1940's and ending in 1950. The final logging sale on Brule Lake was called the East Tofte Sale and it occurred in 1961 (Heinselman). This last round of logging wasn't for big timber, but rather for pulp. This operation was short-lived however, as on September 3, 1964, President Johnson signed The Wilderness Act. This Act included the BWCA. Logging operations ceased soon afterwards.

There were a couple of resorts and a bait store near the landing on Brule Lake. The Pure Oil Company had a company retreat on the largest island on Brule Lake which was later sold to Ruan, a truck rental commpany. These businesses closed around the World War II era.

Sky Blue Water Resort was the last resort on Brule Lake. Located in a bay along south side of lake. It closed down in 1986. Once it closed the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Bill took effect and motor usage was banned on Brule Lake.

There used to be a crude statue on the tiny rocky island just north of the island on which BWCA Campsite 952 is located.

Beymer, Robert, Boundary Waters Canoe Area – Volume 2– Eastern Region (Berkeley: Wilderness Press, 2006), 66, 75, 77, 80, 82, 85, 86, 92, 94, 102, 103, 110, 117, 133.
Hansen, Mary Alice, Sawbill: History and Tales (Tofte: Sawbill Press, 2007)
Heinselman, Miron, The Boundary Waters Wilderness Ecosystem (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 56-57, 107-109, 112, 114, 115, 120, 135, 154.

Exploring Brule Lake

Routes to locations on Brule Lake are shown below:
Paddling from the Cam Lake portage to the Temperance River portage
View of Brule Lake from BWCA Entry Point 41

Click on the photos below to see the full resolution image - Use your browsers back button to close photo and return to this page.

This paddle across Brule Lake takes you south from the Cam Lake portage and then west over to the Temperance River portage and the beginning of that river. As you paddle, to your right are two very prominent hills that are visible for much of the route through Brule Lake. These hills rise to over 2,000 feet above sea level. For reference and comparison, the highest point in Minnesota is 2,301 feet (Eagle Mountain). Here is a list of the highest points in the BWCA and in Minnesota.

Brule Lake 1
Brule Lake from the Cam Lake portage. The lower slopes of the large hill just south of Wench Lake is visible in the center distance. This hill is 2,060+ feet in elevation. The surface of Brule Lake is 1,834 feet.

From the Cam Lake portage, begin by paddling south down the northwest bay of Brule Lake. After coming out of the bay, you round a point with a large talus debris field below of high cliff on the west shoreline. This is similar to another talus field on nearby Gasket Lake. Another short stretch of paddling toward the south takes you to the mouth of this bay, which is located in the northwest part of Brule Lake. Once through the mouth of the bay, you continue paddling due south to another channel. After passing through this channel you are greeted by many islands in front of you. From the channel you steer to the west, now heading directly for the Temperance River portage. The Temperance River portage is located behind a small island. You can pull up on a smooth rock slab on your right, just as you enter the Temperance River. Some rapids are just beyond, so don't continue.

Brule Lake 2
The point on the west side of the bay that leads to the Cam Lake portage. This is just southeast of the east end of Wench Lake. A large talus slope has been created over geological time at the base of the cliff.

Brule Lake 3
Another view of the cliff from a bit further out on the lake. The channel leading to the bay where the Cam Lake portage is found is just to the right out of the view.

Brule Lake 4
A more distant hill as seen from about a quarter-mile east of the Temperance River portage. This more distance hill lies just northwest of Wench Lake. It has a measured elevation of 2,151 feet and is about three-quarters of a mile away from where you float in your canoe.

Brule Lake 5
The island just offshore to the east of the portage into the Temperance River. The Temperance River's headwaters are here at Brule Lake. The Temperance River begins just out of view over your right shoulder.
Portage to the Temperance River -or- Explore Another Route
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Brule Lake in the BWCA
Brule Lake from the BWCA Entry Point 41 landing. (Image not expandable)

Visit BWCA Entry Point 41 -or- Explore Another Route
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Route Connections for Brule Lake

From Brule Lake, you can portage to Cam Lake, Echo Lake, Juno Lake, Lily Lake, South Cone Lake, South Temperance Lake or Vernon Lake. If it's adventure that you seek, you can also potentially bushwhack to Bull Lake, Cow Lake, Headlight Lake and Wench Lake (there is sort of a portage here). Also, Brule Lake is the location of BWCA Entry Point 41 - Brule Lake.

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