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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

October 02 2023

Entry Point 27 - Snowbank Lake

Snowbank Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP max). This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 24 miles. Access is a boat landing or canoe launch at Snowbank Lake. Many trip options for paddlers. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Latitude: 47.9716
Longitude: -91.4326
Snowbank Lake - 27

Snowbank to Kekekabic July 2010

by moss13
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 06, 2010
Entry Point: Snowbank Lake
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
Our first bwca trip starting on Snowbank. Have been wanting to see Kekekabic lake for a long time now. We chose the long route to Kek as all of the lakes on this route were a first for us. It would take 19 portages to reach Kek from Snowbank.

Day 1 of 7

Tuesday July 07, 2010

On the road at 10:47 this morning for Ely. Stopped for lunch in Cloquet. Arrived in Ely at 3:25pm. Went to Piragis to pick up our permit and bought an axe for firewood. Stopped at the Boathouse for some good beer. Lots of people out and about today. Some guy driving around in an army jeep with a machine gun in the back. Circus must be in town or is this the new law enforcement in Ely?

We stopped at the Chocolate Moose for dinner and more good beer. They had a surprisingly good selection of beers. Very good food as well. We then drove to our destination for the night, Smitty's on Snowbank. Arrived there at 7:35pm. It was our first time there and on Snowbank. Had another beer at the lodge then went to our room and finished packing our gear for the following morning. Had our chocolate moose cake for dessert and were in bed at 11:45pm.


Day 2 of 7

Wednesday July 07, 2010

Woke up at 6:10 am. Partly cloudy and calm. Temps in the 60's. Had breakfast at Smitty's at 7:30. Good way to start the day. Coffee was good.too. We were all loaded and on the water at 9:10 am. 65 degrees and Snowbank was VERY calm. Almost eerie. I was expecting much more of a chop. We decided since it was so calm we would make a direct line to the Boot lake portage which would mean crossing the middle of the lake. We would have never done that in windy conditions. It was 4.80 miles and took us an hour and 15 minutes so that was not too bad. We then paddled and portaged Boot, Haven, Abinodji, Swing, Gibson, Cattyyman and stopped at Jordan lake for the night. We stopped at Cattyman Falls for a break. Water was flowing pretty good. Note to those who go on the Abinodji to Swing portage. Stay on the boardwalk! It is there for a reason. I took a side step off the portage with canoe on shoulders and found out quick it just sinks as it is just a bog. So I leaned back to the boardwalk and landed on my behind with canoe still on top. No harm done. Swing was a mucky mess and skeeter haven so we moved along quickly through there.

We paddled and portaged 13 miles for the day. 8 lakes, 1 pond, 8 portages. We arrived at our Jordan lake campsite at 4:20pm. Hi 80 Low in the mid 50's. Moving time, 5hrs and 25 minutes, 2.4mph avg. 7 hrs 51 minutes total time today.

Side note- We came across 4 girls in bikinis laying out on Cattyman lake near the falls. I did not take pictures as I did not want to be rude. It was tempting though. Never have come across that in the bwcaw before. It was a nice surprise to say the least. We also saw 2 rangers on the Boot to Snowbank portage and then another female ranger on the Cattyman to Jordan portage. She asked to see my permit, the others did not. This was the first time I was asked that while on a trip. She was nice, fit and cute! Seeing lots of females on this trip so far.

It was very calm today, no wind which made a nice day of paddling. The night sky cleared up and we got to see the stars nice and bright.

Dinner was steaks on the grill, mashed potatoes and a salad. The sun peaked out right at sunset and gave us a nice mix of clouds and sun. Add the birds, loon calls and this was better than going to a movie. We were in bed at 10:30. Skeeters were bad starting at 9:30.


Day 3 of 7

Thursday July 08, 2010

Woke up at 4:30 so I could watch the sunrise. No wind and 58 degrees, 100% humidity, 58 dewpoint. Skeeters were EVERYWHERE. Glad I brought my bug shirt. Sunrise was great on Jordan this morning. Fog was rolling over the lake which made a nice sight as well. After taking some pictures I went back to bed for a bit. Breakfast was cereal, english muffin and some fruit.

Broke camp and were on the water at 11:10am leaving Jordan. This was a very long day as we made our way to our destination of Kekekabic Lake which is a total of 19 portages away from our starting point on Snowbank. Jordan to Kekekabic was 11 portages today. Most were short but a couple were hilly in some spots. I now wished we would have been on the water earlier but I don't really like to rush and break camp real early. I like to enjoy my breakfast and coffee, just taking in the scenery and of course listening to the loons. The only time I seem to break camp fast and early is if I hear the weather was going to turn bad or I am at a less than desirable campsite. Bears would be another reason but we had no bear problems or sightings on this trip. We did not see any moose either which is something I would have really liked to have seen.

Today we covered 16.5 miles, 10 lakes, one unnamed pond near Thomas and 11 portages. (Jordan, Ima, Hatchet, Thomas, Fraser, Gerund, Ahmakose, Wisini, Strup and Kekekabic). We stopped at a campsite on Thomas Lake near the narrows to Fraser for a break and a swim as it was getting hot. We arrived at Kekekabc from the south end coming up through Strup Lake. We first looked for the site on the island on the south end but that was taken so we moved on towards the NW side of the lake for the site on a peninsula. We were beat after such a long day and was really hoping this site was open. We let out a big sigh of relief when we saw it was vacant. We arrived here at 8:40pm. It would be dark soon. We were greeted by an army of black flies that were relentless. Time to put on the long sleeve shirt and pants. They were pretty bad.

Weather- Warm and sunny with a strog SW wind at times. Hi was in the 80's and the low in the mid 50's. The narrows on Jordan and Hatchet lakes were nice. Hatchet was full of lily pads. Although we ended up camping on Ima our last night due to the fact it was closer to our exit point, I liked Thomas and Fraser lakes much more than Ima. Ima was nice though too. We had a bit of a challenge as we were looking for the "portage in the rock wall", aka Ima-Hatchet portage. It was windy and the lake was choppy. We did have a bit of luck as there was a couple just leaving that portage so finding it was much easier had they not been there. I can see why it would be hard to find. I made sure to mark it on my gps in case I need it again in the future. It is a unique portage entrance that is for sure.

The 2 tough portages of the day were Gerund to Ahmakose as it starts with a steep climb but overall it is a short portage. Then the Strup to Kekekabic was rough too, mostly because it was our last portage of the day. Going north to south was much steeper. That was a 72 rod portage.

We hardly had any energy for making dinner but somehow mangaed. Tonight was hamburger helper, classic macaroni and cheese. We were in bed at 10:45.


Day 4 of 7

Friday July 09, 2010

Woke up at 4:40am to watch the sunrise over the east end of Kek. Each sunrise is never the same so that is why I try to see as many as I can. This morning it was about 60 degrees. The view from this campsite really is something else as you can see some of the bluffs on the east end. You also have a panoramic view to the east and south. Nothing like enjoying a cup of coffee to this! Thankfully the rain stayed away from us and eventually cleared up to blue sky for the day with a SW breeze to help keep the skeeters at bay. I went back to bed after the show about 6:35 for a bit as the only paddling we would do today would be a daytrip to the Kekekabic Cabin on the east end. No portaging today! Relaxing, watching the loons, swimming, exploring a little and my favorite....Hammock Time.

After waking up again we made breakfast. Today we had biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, bacon and oj. Why does the food always seem to taste better when you are in the backcountry? Great way to start the day. A canoe with 2 girls slowly paddled by looking for a campsite. They also were attractive, fit and knew what they were doing. We exchanged hellos and they took the next campsite to NE of us. I must say I have never seen so many good looking women in the boundary waters on one trip. What a nice surprise!

The day ended up being sunny and warm, in the 80's and low humidity. I spent lots of time in my hammock today. After all the portaging it took to get here, I felt this was well deserved. One of my favorite parts of being in the boundary waters is laying in a hammock overlooking a lake, listening to the loons and just taking it all in the best I can.

After getting plenty of rest we decided to go for a daytrip to the east end of the lake to see if we could find the ranger cabin. We had a nice breeze at our backs as we headed east. As we came to a bend that we could not see from our campsite the lake really opened up and wow, this is a very big lake. It really humbles you as you paddle such big waters in a canoe and see a lake that has changed very little over hundreds of years. I know this lake was hit hard over the big July 4th blowdown storm of 1999 and I did see some of that but I thought my trip to the south arm of knife lake 2 years ago was much worse in certain areas. Kekekabic was very impressive to me. We end up paddling 3.5 miles from our site to the cabin and had no problems finding it thanks to my gps. It was a short hike to the cabin and we could see that is was in really good shape. Somebody is taking the time to keep it in good condition. It is kinda weird to see this cabin in such a hard place to get to but realize this was built many years ago and there was a road very close which is now the Kekekabic Hiking Trail that which gave acess to a fire tower that was there for many years but has since been removed. We took a look around the area. The cabin was locked up and there was a sign that said "closed to public". After we were done looking around we paddled back to our campsite into a brisk wind. Our daytrip was a total of 7 miles paddled.

Dinner tonight was pizza! We brought some premade crusts and rehydrated some mushrooms, red, yellow and green peppers and added pepperoni. It was excellent and we were feeling good after that. We started a campfire and listened to the loons that were out in full force tonight as the sunset. It was calm and a perfect evening.......until the golden hour of 9:30 when a massive buzzing sound invades our site followed by fast and furious repetitive slapping of ourselves until we can't take it any longer. Yep, our "other" state bird, the mosquitoes were on a mission tonight. Time to get in the tent! 64 degrees out and we were in bed at 10:00 pm.


Day 5 of 7

Saturday July 10, 2010

13.5 miles, 10 portages, 9 lakes, Kekekabic, Strup, Wisini, Ahmakose, Gerund, Fraser, Thomas, Hatchet, Ima. Hi was in the 80's, low in the lower 60's. Moving time 5hrs 49 minutes, total 8 hours.

Woke up at 5:00am to a few low key thunder bursts. Rain off to the NE. A mix of clouds and sun here at the campsite. Watched the sunrise. There was the orange glow of the sunrise plus a big grey wall cloud above that really gave it a cool look. You could see parts where it was raining and the sunrise at the same time. Plus the loons were making their calls and of course the white throated sparrow.

Today was a travel day so I stayed up and made breakfast which was pancakes, eggs, bacon and of course coffee. Today would be another long day as we head for Ima lake. There would be a SW pretty much all day and we had to fight with it on Kek, Fraser, Thomas and Ima. We left Kek at 10am.

We took a lunch break on Thomas lake at the portage to the unnamed pond. It was hot and we went for a swim in Thomas to cool off. The water was just right. Cool but not too cold. As we were paddling on Thomas 2 loons were not too far from the canoe and making a lot noise. Almost looked like they may have been fighting as they were facing each other and "displaying" with wide wingspans. Their actions did not seem friendly to each other. One finally flew off. I think one was in another's "territory" and the other let them know. Wish I could have taken some video of that but was focused on paddlng with the brisk wind we had to deal with.

We filtered some water and made our way to Ima. We arrived at the island campsite on the south end at 5:40pm. This was a nice site as well with a panoramic view. It had a big slab of rock that would be perfect for those who like to sun bathe. I wonder if the 4 bikini girls we ran into our first day know about this site. :)

We had a nice view facing the west and was looking forward to seeing a good sunset. It was blue sky with big puffy clouds. Dinner was potato soup with rehydrated veggies of green beans and corn. Layed in the hammock for a bit and then as the sun was setting a dark cloud was slowly looming in front of the sun to give it an odd but cool look. So sun and clouds can make for some good pictures. It sprinkled a bit but only for a few minutes. A few loons were out calling but not nearly as much as what we heard on Kekekabic. Ima was a nice lake but it really made me appreciate how special of a lake Kekekabic is. Kek left a big impression.

Right on cue it was 9:30 and the buzzing, relentless blood sucking skeeters were out in full force. Bed at 9:50. Temps were on the warm side still as the tent was very warm. Finally cooled off a couple hours later so I could sleep well.


Day 6 of 7

Sunday July 11, 2010

15 mles paddled today, 5hrs 54 min moving time, 7 hrs 30 min total. 2.5 mph avg. 8 portages, 9 lakes. Ima, Jordan, Cattyman, Adventure, Jitterbug, Ahsub, Disappointment, Parent and Snowbank at Smitty's.

Slept in a little today. Woke up at 7:15am. Went and layed in the hammock. It was a grey morning with clouds, breezy and cool. Looked like rain was on the way and it did shortly after. Went back to bed in the tent waiting for the rain to end. After it let up I was out and making breakfast. Today was english muffins, blueberry granola with milk and some oj. We were very slow packing up as we knew this was our last day in the boundary waters.

The wind was picking up and we witnessed 3 other canoes crossing Ima. They looked like they were barely moving so we were in no hurry to get caught in the wind. We did not leave Ima until 1pm. It was still pretty windy crossing the open waters of Ima until we were closer to the portage to Jordan. The Jordan narrows were pretty calm. Very nice area. The sun finally comes out and the grey clouds make way for big white puffy ones with blue sky. It got up in the lower 80's again.

The wind today was coming from the NW at 10-20mph most of the day. As we backtracked from the way we came in, once we hit Cattyman lake we then went south to explore new lakes. First was Adventure lake which was pretty small but we had a nice view of Disappointment Mountain. At the portage from Adventure to Jitterbug a guy who was there noticed my Leinenkugel's Northwoods sticker on the canoe. He asked if I had any on tap. That sure would have hit the spot about then! We move on to Jitterbug which was pretty much a mucky, stinky bog. The portage was a bit tricky to find as it was hiding from us. We do find it and quickly move on to Ahsub lake. Ahsub was nice and would have camped there if we had another night to spare. It was a smaller lake but I liked it. Next was Disappointment Lake. We take a break here before paddling some bigger lakes. I have heard much about Disappointment and am happy to finally get to paddle on it. It really is a beautiful lake with islands spread about. It was a bit windy but enjoyed my time there.

We then worked our way to the double portage on the SW side. We had 2 choices, go left to Parent or right to Snowbank. We chose left to Parent. It was a rocky portage with a fallen tree in the middle of the portage we had to climb over. Not difficult though. Parent Lake was nice and round. The wind was not so bad here. We then find our last portage to mighty Snowbank. We have quite a ways to paddle to get back to Smitty's. As we see Snowbank from the portage we know it is going to be a challenge. The wind and waves were kicking. It was a far cry from the calm waters she was when we started our trip.

It was 7:38pm when we started paddling on Snowbank. We were fighting the wind the whole way back and some of the waves were coming at us in all different directions. It was by far our biggest challenge the entire trip. We also saw a couple of motorboats that are allowed on this end of the lake. None of them were close enough to worry about though. It took us 48 minutes to make the crossing in big water and waves back to Smitty's from the Parent Lake portage. It felt like 2 hours though. I am very happy how my wenonah escape handles in wind and waves.

It ended up being 2.69 miles from the parent portage to Smitty's which is shorter than if we would have not gone through Parent Lake. I think that was a wise move or else we would have had to paddle longer on a windy Snowbank. So we make it back to the landing at Smitty's at 8:26pm and as we approached the calm bay the sun was setting on a clear blue sky and could not have asked for a better sight to end our trip.

So our total distance of paddling and portaging was 65 miles, 36 lakes, 2 unnamed ponds, 37 portages over 5 days. Really enjoyed this route and hope to make it back to Kekekabic someday.

Weather was great overall. We only put the tarp up our first night. We had no bear problems. Black flies and skeeters were pretty bad I though.


Day 7 of 7

Monday July 12, 2010

We stayed at the Adventure Inn in Ely our last night. That was good because we did not get back in Ely from Smitty's until after 9pm. Took a shower which is always nice after a b dub trip. It was now 10 pm and was too late for food at the Ely Steakhouse which is what we were craving so we went back to the Boathouse for a couple of well deserved beers and they did have pizza available. They were done serving food as well but had a limited "after hours" menu. It was frozen pizza but must say it was pretty darn good with the beer after a week in the woods! Back to our room and to bed around midnight or so.

Woke up around 8am and had some coffee. Good coffee at the Adventure Inn. Sat out on the front porch and finished my notes from the trip. Another nice and sunny day in Ely. We checked out at 11am and headed over to the new Rockwood restaurant for lunch. I noticed right away it was located where the old Hardee's used to be as I used to stop there in the past. It definitely looks liks a fast food joint from the outside but inside is very nice with northwoods decor and a nice looking bar as well. Since it was a Monday there were not many people there yet so the service was speedy and excellent. I got the Rockwood burger and was very good.

On our way home we stop in Cloquet at the Warming House which is a part of Gordy's HI Hat. Coffee was in order and hit the spot. They have ice cream, cake and pie too. Good stuff. Finally make it home around 5 or 6. Time to unpack and slowly plan a new route for my next visit to the b dub.


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