BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1249 feet
North Kawishiwi River - 29
Family Trip to Insula
August 01, 2015
Number of Days:
Even though we live in the Twin Cities we’ve found that driving up the day before makes for a more enjoyable family experience and enables us to get on the water early. This year I was more on the ball than last year and reserved one of the bunkhouses at Kawishiwi Lodge in March. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Since this was going to be a longer trip we also felt that trying to fit us all into my 17ft Voyager Alumacraft wasn’t a great idea so we rented a SRQ 18.5. The SR was great and we were easily able to fit two SeaLine 115L, a GG Food Pack, a GG Superior Pack and a Duluth Wanderer Day pack into the canoe with lots of leg room for the two older kids (Samantha 9 and Andreu 7) on the middle seat and the youngest (Silas 4) in the front with mom (Kyliah) sitting on a small stool in the front. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] While packing up the day before we were starting to have issues with getting everything to fit in our three packs and I finally conceded that we probably could do it, but that it would be a lot easier if we bought another pack. We ended up purchasing a second SeaLIne 115L pack at Paragis Outfitters. The benefit of the extra pack was that not only was everything easier to pack, but I was able to distribute the weight better between the packs and it enabled us to only have to double portage vs. my anticipation/dread of having to triple portage.
After a nice dinner in Ely we redistributed/packed the bags and tried to get the kids down who are always wound up in anticipation of the next day and just being in a new environment. We finally all settled down after 10:00 pm with the intention of getting an early start the next morning.
It thunderstormed early in the morning and was still drizzling when my alarm went off at 5:30 am so we decided to sleep a little longer and get a little latter start. After having breakfast we loaded up the canoe and were on the water by 7:00 am (not bad for a bunch of night owls). As we loaded the canoe my youngest just stood back on the beach and when I approached him with his life jacket he started to panic. He didn’t want to get into the canoe.
As some context, earlier in the summer we did a float down the St. Croix river which included a short trip down the Snake River (we stayed overnight at the Snake River campground) and went through a few shallow rapids. The experience was rather scary or him particularly when I made too late a turn in once case and hung our Mad River Explorer on a rock. With the canoe at 45-degree angle all the kids were in a panic and I think poor Silas saw his short life flashing before his eyes. We were able to swing the canoe so that we were on the down river side of the rock and get loose without tipping (the gunnel went all the way to the water, but that beautiful Mad River V hull design righted us without swamping). For the remainder of that float he was always terrified if we even scrapped a rock or said the “R” word. Whenever we reached a portage or campsite Silas was the first one out of the canoe on this trip.
I reassured Silas that we weren’t doing any rapids and that we would always get out of the canoe to walk around any rapids that we might encounter. He was still not happy about being put into the canoe and it took a good 30 minutes of paddling before the poor kid stopped crying. [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
Our aim today was to at least make it to Lake Four. We had a fairly uneventful paddle (with an occasional rock scrape that immediately sent Silas into a panic and screaming). We decided to have lunch at the campsite just before the first portage into Hudson Lake . It was late morning and Kyliah didn’t like the site and wasn’t ready to stop paddling so we decided to push on to Insula. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] By the time we finished the long portage into Insula the wind was much more of an issue so we often had to paddle into the wind and out of our way and than back with the wind to cross some of the open water and not be broadsided by the waves. We aimed to take the unmarked Moose portage which wasn’t hard to find. When we got to the other side it looked like the better sites were mostly taken. I was fairly tired by now and it was getting close to 5:00 pm. We pushed into the area where “The Rock” is located and I prayed that the site to the west of it would be open. We were in luck it was!
It’s a nice site, but small ( Our Campsite on Insula ), which in retrospect wasn’t great for the kids as they didn’t have as much open space to move around in, but it worked. We were able to fit our new family tent the Big Angus Chimney Creek 6 mtnGLO. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] It only weights around 15lbs and my only complaints are that the vestibules require being crouched when closed and the built in lights are nice, but really aren’t bright enough for reading. Otherwise, for its weight it worked really well, easily accommodated our family with room to grow and we could stand up inside it!
We planned to stay put on Insula and do daytrips, but today we were all tired enough that we just decided to stay in camp. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We did some fishing and caught a few Smallies casting off towards the drop-off on leaches and slip bobbers and had a refreshing abet short swim. It ended up being our only real swim as it was as about 10 degrees cooler than average and cloudy the entire week. Before dinner we bushwhacked our way to the other side of the isthmus we were camping on.
Today we decided to try to paddle to the pictographs on Fishdance, but got a really late start and had sustained winds from the northeast ( Wind & Waves on Insula ). We paddled through Lake Carol and Hum Lake (clearly not the most traveled route) to Alice that was a white capped mess. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The first portage from Insula into Fishdance was really beautiful. It was very green and like entering a tropical forest. If you’re day tripping it’s worth doing, but if you’re loaded down I would recommend just taking the Kawishiwi River which is also a very nice paddle.
We ate a late lunch at the campsite nearest the entrance to the Kawishiwi where we found a nice blueberry patch on the path to the latrine. While they were really small, we picked a cupful for our pancakes tomorrow. We decided that it was way to late to try making it to the pictographs and didn’t want to deal with all the waves beating the south shore of Alice, so we headed back via the Kawishiwi River. [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
Overall we paddled 9 miles and covered 144 rods in four portages. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Mom and Dad were fairly pooped again, but we had a beautiful sunset that evening. [paragraph break]
Today we decided to paddle over to the southwest side of the lake to search for raspberries (Kyliah loves to pick berries). We found that the island campsite that is closest to the portages to Hope Lake was one large raspberry patch. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] While Kyliah picked I decided the landing area looked like a great place for Samllies and put on a top water popper. After the 5th cast or so a Smallie flew out of the water smashing the lure. My kids jaws all dropped seeing the action. Unfortunately for me he went right into the lily pads before I could keep him away, tangled up the line and got away along with my lure. [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
That night we listened to the weather radio which said that Friday and Saturday were likely to be wet. We had planned to move on Friday to make coming out Saturday not as long of a paddle, but decided to make the move tomorrow instead to avoid moving in the rain.
After some discussion and looking at the maps we decided that we would head to Fire lake to spend two nights there. We encountered a couple at the portage into Hudson who weren’t sure where they were going to stay and heard we were headed over to Fire since Hudson is burnt up mess. They were ahead of us and turns up they decided to go there too. My initial worry about going to Fire was if it was filled up, we'd have to keep on paddling. We paddled over to the campsite across from the portage from Hudson to check it out. It was terrible. There was no way it looked safe for the kids and had several risk dead falls, looked buggy, etc. We decided to try the site to the west, but as we headed out another group a canoes came into view. It was obvious that we were paddling towards the same site. The women and four teenagers informed us that they had put in that day with that site in mind. I was really frustrated at this point as it was 2:00 pm, we were hungry and it was threatening to rain. There was no way I was going to have an argument over a campsite so I turned the canoe to look for the fourth and furthest east campsite on Fire. The lady told me she knew for a fact that it didn’t exist as we paddled away, which turned out to be true.
Tired and hungry we decided to head over to Lake Four. I was really frustrated at this point and being peak season and all, was hopeful that we would be able to find a decent or even any site on Lake Four. Between the two short portages we grabbed a bite to eat and put on our rain pants and it started to sprinkle. The first and second sights that were empty on Lake Four were less than desirable. I remembered a site we had day tripped to on our last trip (site 1498) which turned out to be empty. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] It worked out to be a great site for the family as it's large and there was plenty of room for the kids to run around ( Bear Fun ) without risking turning supper over on the stove.
We paddled 10 miles that day and covered 160 rods of portages. [paragraph break]
The weather turned out to be not that bad, but the new campsite was a much better fit for the family so we were happy that we had moved. We enjoyed hanging around camp and than that afternoon I decided to actually do some fishing from the canoe and try out my new windsock. The whole family climbed aboard for ballast and Kyliah read Harry Potter to the kids while I fished across the bay letting the wind push us, but not too quickly with the windsock deployed. It worked really well and I’ll be adding it to my regular mandatory gear for trips with fishing. I caught a few small Eyes jigging with twister tails and leaches that I released. On the last drift toward our campsite I hooked onto a nice sized Northern that we decided to keep and add to our dinner. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
Today we packed up after breakfast and paddled back to Kawishiwi Lodge for hot showers and a soda. We were all happy to clean up, but already missing being out in the wilderness. Everyone had fun overall and we are all looking forward to our next family trip! [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
We paddled 6.5 miles and covered 65 rods on our travels back to the Lodge. [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
- Fewer packs are not always better. Having four large packs instead of three actually enabled us to double portage whereas three big packs would have required triple portaging.
- I bought some watercolor pencils and nice Moleskin Journals to take for each person. The kids really enjoyed them, keeping notes on the trip of what we did/saw and really enjoyed coloring.
- Campsite selection for the family is even more critical than with adult only trips. I’ve always thought of this from a safety perspective, but hadn’t as much from a space perspective. The kids need plenty of room to roam without all of us tripping over one another, which leads to everyone becoming grumpy.