Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 20 2024

Entry Point 29 - North Kawishiwi River

North Kawishiwi River entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 15 miles. Access the North Kawishiwi River through Ojibway Lake and Triangle Lake using two portages.

Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1249 feet
Latitude: 47.9543
Longitude: -91.5641
North Kawishiwi River - 29

Number Chain Newbies--Guiding Five First-timers on Lakes One, Two and Three

by bottomtothetap
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 06, 2022
Entry Point: Lake One
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 6

Trip Introduction:
The seeds for my 2022 BWCA trip were planted in the summer of 2020 as I shared details of a pending canoe trip over a beer with friends Ashley and Debbie. Ashley remarked that such a trip would be something good for her teenage son to try some day. Having guided numerous teen groups in the past, I told her that I could probably make that happen. Then Debbie stated that the Boundary Waters was a "bucket list" item for her as well. Soon we were discussing how I could take her, another married couple we knew, Ashley and her son all on a "newbie" BWCA canoe trip. As soon as 2021 permits were available, I secured one for late August at the Lake One entry. But...that summer's extreme drought and resulting wildfires put an end to those plans when the Boundary Waters was closed and our permit was cancelled. So we re-set to 2022. Then most of the summer I fought a bad back which sometimes made it so I had a hard time moving. Suddenly our trip was in danger again! I did NOT want to cancell again so I aggressively re-habbed enough to be able to do the trip, though I told the group that they would be doing a lot more of my share of the physical work than normal. Finally, come early August, I was able to take Ashley, her son Jakob, married couple Matt and Alicia, and Debbie on their first ever Boundary Waters adventure.

Day 1 of 5

Friday, August 05, 2022 After almost two years of planning, the day was finally here! I was about to introduce five new people to the magic of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness!

Our group all knows each other from involvement in our local Chamber of Commerce so we decided to first meet up that day at the Chamber's weekly breakfast meeting where we excitedly shared our plans with other attendees (making just a few of them slightly envious!). When the meeting concluded, we all rushed home to gather gear and then reconvened at my house where we loaded up and snapped a few photos before hitting the road to Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely. After checking in with them and securing a few last items of gear, it was off to Sir G's for pizza and beer. We then concluded the evening at the apartment over CCO's store with a few more beverages and lots of smart talk before our heads hit the pillows, full of anticipation for getting on the water early the next day. 


Day 2 of 5

Saturday, August 06, 2022 Early in the morning on put-in day we all got up just as it was "graying-up" outside. After quickly getting dressed we went down to Britton's cafe for a hearty breakfast before final pack-up and the trip down the Fernberg Road to our entry point on Lake One. When we arrived, I was pleased to find that the landing was not too busy and that we were going to be able to launch without the pressure of getting organized while in other people's way. Even though we had to make a few trips back and forth from the lake to the parking lot to make sure we had everything, we weren't doing too bad...except...we DIDN'T have everything! We found ourselves short one life jacket! We were not going to launch without a lifejacket for everyone so this was going to be a trip all of the way back to Ely and back again to Lake One--a delay of more than an hour. I decided to first stop at Kawishiwi Lodge, which was right around the corner from the public landing, and see if there was some way I could obtain a lifejacket from them. Lodge owner Frank Udovich met me just as I was walking up to the office and when I explained my situation he said to just go into their shed and pick a lifejacket out. He would let me take it on the "honor system" and have me return it when we were done with the trip, settling any rental due at that time. This was outstanding! Thank you, Frank!!!!

Once I was back at the landing we were finally on our way. Paddling a canoe was new to most of us so we were not a fast group but made steady progress. After about an hour or so we made it to our first portage. As we started unloading I realized that our third canoe with Matt and Alicia, who had been right behind us, was now nowhere to be seen. As we backtracked around the first point from the portage, there they were...hung up on a rock. We pulled up next to them and transferred one of their heavy packs into our now empty canoe and that was just enough to help them float free. When we did the portage, this crew of first-timers performed like champs (again, my back was still tender so they did most of the hauling) so we were soon across and then over the pond and then past the second portage into Lake Two. Our target for the day was the southern end of Lake Three so we made quick work of Lake Two and continued into Three just as the breeze picked up and the lake got choppy. By the time we made it to the islands on the southern end of Three we had come through some whitecaps so we were ready to grab a campsite. Our first preferred site was already taken but our second choice, about a 1/4-mile away, was open so we landed there and after a quick walk uphill from the water were immediately pleased with our home for the next couple of nights. The fire grate and latrine checked out fine with plenty of options for shaded tent pads back in the trees. The best part of this site was the sweeping view of the lake and the way we were going to be able to see the sun set. After a lunch and getting camp set up we relaxed for the afternoon in our new wilderness home before enjoying a great supper and evening fire. As dusk came the hordes of mosquitoes reminded us that it was time to end our first successful day on the water and we all turned in for the night. 


Day 3 of 5

Sunday, August 07, 2022 A restful night brought us to the dawn of a beautiful morning. Not much tastes better than campsite coffee in the morning especially when you can have it with a breakfast of bacon and eggs. My group of newbies was thinking, "Not bad at all!".

Fish was on the menu for supper so Jakob and I decided to check out the nearby channels for anything that would be willing to join us for our meal. Matt had brought along his fly rod so he was going to try his luck from shore. Ashley, Alicia and Debbie were content to just soak in the wilderness and the good company with maybe a few pages here and there from the books they had brought along. As Jakob and I worked the islands and channels that extended from our campsite we saw lots of structure that looked very promising. Unfortunately the fish that just HAD to be there were not tempted by what we were offering so after a few hours all we had for action was one strike that I did not get to the canoe and Jakob getting bit off once--probably from a northern when he was fishing for bass. We decided to take a break and return to camp. When we got there, we learned that Matt did not experience any more luck than we'd had. I also learned that one should really inform your fellow campers more thoroughly of your plans than just, "We're going fishing". Ashley raised a good point in that as folks who were new to this BWCA thing, they were kinda counting on me for guidance throughout the trip and my vanishing act without much idea of where to, or for how long, was maybe a bit unsettling. She was absolutely correct. That's the value of bringing new people into the wilderness: it is all seen with a different set of eyes and it amazes me that after all of the many times I've been to the BWCA, how much and how often I learn from first-timers that makes me a better wilderness camper.

It was now about lunch time and just as we were breaking out something to eat, a few raindrops fell. Once again this group clicked like an experienced crew and we had a sturdy tarp up in no time. The rain never increased beyond a few sprinkles here and there but the temperature did drop a few degrees so more hot coffee was in order. At one point Jakob and I decided to go out again for fish (this time with a more specific itinerary left with the others) but our luck was not any better than earlier. After we each got just a bit chilled by the cooler temps we returned to camp to start on supper, which was now going to be our freeze-dried beef stroganoff we had packed as a back-up meal. Debbie pronounced this dish to be rather tasty and combined with some Camp Chow cauliflower in cheese sauce we didn't miss eating fish (ok, maybe we did at least a little bit). Despite not catching anything, this beautiful campsite, camaraderie around an evening campfire and a stunning deep-red sky as darkness came, made our layover day another successful segment of this BWCA adventure.   


Day 4 of 5

Monday, August 08, 2022 The sprinkles from the previous day did turn into an earnest rainfall overnight so when we got up the next morning, everything was pretty wet. However, bright sunshine and warming temperatures, aided by a slight breeze worked together to dry things quickly. This was a day we planned to move to a new camp but as we did give the drying process some time, we lingered over coffee and a pancake breakfast before slowly packing up our gear once it had dried sufficiently. This process meant that we did not leave our site until nearly noon. Mrs. Merganser and her brood, who had been hanging around the last day or so, were happy to give us an escort away from the site (they were likely glad to see us go!) and we were now on our way north back up Lake Three to Lake Two with a target of camping on Lake One for the next night. Jakob took over map duty and did a fine job of navigating us past the islands, through the channels and around the bend to the portages leading out of Lake Two. Again our crew, who were becoming seasoned canoe campers, handled the portages well and let me give my back a rest. When we got to Lake One, a decision was made to first check out the campsites toward the western side of the lake so we set out from the portage in a clockwise direction. Because we had gotten a late start, I was not particularly surprised to find campsite after campsite already taken so we continued this clockwise search through the southern part of Lake One. Finally, our maps showed only two sites remaining before we were right back to the portages from Two. Debbie and I went to check out one site which was tucked into a little cove while the rest went to look at the other right around a point. Debbie and I did find this cove site to be open but a long uphill trek to the latrine and smallish size of the main site area had us wondering about the other site. Matt and Alicia soon appeared and said the other site was also open but wanted our opinion on which was better. They agreed to stay behind as we went off to form a verdict and to collect Jakob and Ashley, depending on which site we'd choose. From the water, Debbie and I could tell that we'd prefer the first site we saw so Ashley and Jakob followed us back over there. As we rounded the point into the cove again, it looked to me like Matt and Alicia were leaving so I firmly stated, "Hey we're gonna camp here!". WOOOPSIE! It was NOT Matt and Alicia! It was some other canoeists, who having seen our group already at the site, were moving on to check out the one we had just come from. I had come across as rude, like I was making it clear to them that this was ours and they couldn't have it. I was very embarrassed by this and apologized profusely. They were very good natured about it and were pleased to hear that the next site over was open with no other canoes in site.

While first glance at this cove site made it seem just "OK", it actually was quite nice with plenty room for our tents, lots of firewood right behind the tentpads and a really cool cliff that formed a backdrop behind the firegrate. There was the long latrine trail (to the top of that cliff) but other than that, there isn't a reason I wouldn't stay here again. By the time we got here it was already about 3:30-4:00. A look at the map told us that if we had chosen to travel counter-clockwise instead of clockwise when we entered Lake One earlier in the day, we would have come to this site in about 10-15 minutes and saved well over an hour of paddling! Since we had not had lunch yet, the first item of business was to ravenously dig in to our jerky and trailmix. After that I went off to gather firewood while Jakob wet a fishing line from shore (again, no luck). Matt hit his hammok for a well earned snooze and the ladies did a great job with the rest of camp set-up. Once those chores were done, Debbie and I decided to try some nearby structure that looked promising for fish. We were soon joined by Ashley and Jacob who fished from their canoe. After a few minutes, Debbie did hook into the only fish our group was able to boat the entire trip--an "eater size" northern. Since lunch had been so late and since there was already plenty of other food for anyone who wanted to eat more, we let the fish go. As the sun began to sink we decided to end the fishing and gave our left over leeches to a father/son who were camped nearby. Debbie and I had a pleasant conversation with them and then returned to camp for the evening fire and to snack on or cook whatever we wished to call supper. At this site the mosquitoes were almost nonextistent, compared to what we had experienced the previous two nights so a few of us enjoyed the fire until long after dark before turning in for what was to be our final night in the woods. 


Day 5 of 5

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 Come morning of our final day, we woke up to a clear sky with a bit of a breeze. Fortunately, it was going to mean a nice tail wind on our way out of Lake One. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, dried fruit and coffee, we struck camp and got packed up for our final paddling of the trip. The breeze helped us make it to the Lake One landing in well under an hour. After a quick post-trip group photo, we got loaded up and swung by Kawishiwi Lodge to return the lifejacket and settle up with them (again, Thank-You Frank!!!). On the way into town I told the group that they were about to have one of the best-feeling hot showers they'd ever experienced and once we got checked in at Canoe Country Outfitters and had that chance to clean up I believe everyone agreed that this was true. Before hitting the road home, we finished the adventure at the Boathouse in Ely with some awesome-tasting burgers and beer.

One of the distinct pleasures for me in canoe country travel is introducing new people to the BWCA and helping them experience the magic and wonder of the wilderness as I and so many others have. Based on the excited chatter at our post-trip meal of what fun they'd had, the recollection of particular highlight moments, how they want to come back, and how they'd do a trip "next time"--I'd say, "Mission Accomplished!".


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