This Winter, Snowmobile Across Lake of the Woods to the NW Angle
As the leaves are starting to come down in big numbers and we begin experiencing some of the first light snowfalls of the season around Lake of the Woods, life encourages us to look ahead. For some, looking ahead means cold winters. To others, it means a winter wonderland of opportunities. One of those opportunities that often times gets overlooked in these parts because of the world class ice fishing is snowmobiling. One trip to consider specifically is snowmobiling across Lake of the Woods on the groomed trail to the NW Angle.
Last year, myself and a couple of friends had the chance to embark on this snowmobiling trek. It was something we wanted to do for a long time. With a busy schedule and also out of fairness, being a walleye nut, never made the time for. On this particular trip, we put that “woulda, coulda, shoulda” aside and took on the adventure. Bret Amundson of Prairie Sportsman and Jamie Dietman, avid outdoorsman from the Brainerd area joined me and we did it up right. Our adventure will be featured on an upcoming episode of Prairie Sportsman which airs on Pioneer Public Television, TPT Minnesota, Lakeland Public TV and KSMQ in Austin and Rochester.
After spending a day snowmobiling the south end of the lake, we rode our Polaris sleds north across frozen Lake of the Woods to the NW Angle. The trail across the lake is about 42 miles long and marked with black stakes with reflectors on the top that show up well against the white icescape that extends as far as the eye can see.
The trail this year was in good shape, but it is important to stay on the trail as the ice froze amongst crazy winds this year which caused ice upheavals scattered across the lake. Consequently, the trail snakes through what could be very dangerous ice chunks if not careful about sticking to the marked trail. If you stick to the trail, it is all good and the snowmobiling is very beautiful.
The shards of ice are absolutely magnificent. They stick up in some areas over 15′ high. Big chunks of ice sticking up into the air. Imagine the force. The lake froze in November and we received strong winds from the south, then north, then west and eventually east. That big chunk of ice was blown back and forth around the lake with an awesome force so strong it caused upheavals all over.
Upon crossing Pine Island and then a massive ice pile over 15′ thick, the many fish houses come into view. This is prime walleye fishing area and the lake was covered with well distanced fish houses. After flying a drone to capture the scene the next stop was Garden Island.
Upon crossing the easterly tip of Garden, we stopped to check out the shelter on the island. The shelter is a refuge for all seasons if caught on the big lake in inclement weather. After a brief stop, we continued on to our destination, which on this trip, was Sportsman’s Oak Island. Chi chi and crew welcomed us and got us settled.
There are about twelve resorts up at the NW Angle and most are open throughout the winter months. Some are on the mainland while other are on the islands. All are amongst the beauty of the Angle.
After lunch, we headed for the one room school house. Here, we met up with the President of the NW Angle Edge Riders, Richard Allen McKeever for an afternoon ride. We went west on the inlet to about the northernmost point of the contiguous United States possible, eventually entering the land trails and and then headed south just inside the Minnesota border along the Canadian line.
The trails were groomed to perfection with no traffic. We snowmobiled an entire afternoon and never saw another sled. “This happens all of the time,” explained McKeever. “Folks who have never snowmobiled the Angle hit the trails and are blown away at how well they are maintained, how wide they are and the absolute beauty of the NW Angle. They also comment on how little traffic there is on the trails.”
We agreed. The snow covered pines mixed with hardwoods were awe inspiring. This was postcard beauty at it’s finest.
We talked about how wonderful the sledding was in this area and how it was such a well kept secret. It’s no surprise snowmobiling in this area takes second fiddle to walleye fishing.
We did take part in some ice fishing our third day. I will say, the temps dropped to -25, so having a bombardier pick us up at the door of our cabin was a welcomed treat. The heated bomber drove us just a couple of miles to our heated fish house set up on the edge of one of the many NW Angle reefs. Despite the cold snap, Lake of the Woods once again produced. In a partial day of fishing, we caught plenty of fish for a fish fry that evening. Along with walleyes and saugers, we iced a tulibee, eelpout and jumbo perch.
If you like snowmobiling, a destination on your list needs to be Lake of the Woods. The two snowmobile clubs, the Lake of the Woods Drifters in the south and the NW Angle Edge Riders on the north end of the lake, are active and do a great job of maintaining the trails. The trails go through some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes around.
There are seven shelters along the trails to stop and take a break. These, for many, are nice places to stop, talk about the trails, plan on next stops and just pause for a moment to appreciate the beauty of being in the woods.
The sleds we used on this trip were all Polaris. It is something to see how Polaris, located in nearby Roseau, MN has evolved to make some of the best snowmobiles in the world. The sleds started right up in -25 temps, were snappy and powerful, hugged the trails beautifully and were very easy on the body. After putting on a couple of hundred miles in a few days, take it from a guy who doesn’t snowmobile much, I felt better than I ever had after so many miles. A testament to the new design and cutting edge suspension Polaris has incorporated.
The last day of our trip, we woke up to frigid temps bottoming out at -25. After a hearty breakfast and some good coffee in the lodge, we dressed up with extra cold weather gear, double checked that we had no skin exposed and fired up our sleds for the 42 mile journey to the south shore.
As the weather was extreme, we stopped every ten miles to make sure everyone was doing OK. It was nice having new sleds and having four of us in the event there was any equipment challenges. Luckily, there was not and we arrived to our trucks and snowmobile trailer in good shape.
This trip was unique as we focused on snowmobiling, something most don’t do on Lake of the Woods. I can promise you this, the trails were incredible. It was a trip we will never forget and one we will surely be embarking on again in the near future.