BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 21 2022
Number of Permits per Day: 13
Elevation: 1230 feet
My son Remy and I, and my friend Keith and his son Charlie put our canoes into Lake one at 9:30 Monday morning after dropping off a car at the Snowbank Lake landing. Lake One can be tricky to navigate. On our way to Lake Two we turned East too early and ended up paddling about a mile out of our way into a dead-end bay before we realized our mistake. We blamed the fact that Lake One was split between Fisher Maps #10 and #4 for our error. If the entire lake had been visible at once on a single map, we would not have made the wrong turn. Once we got back on course we portaged the 30 rods into a pond and then portaged the 40 rods into Lake Two. The weather was nice, and there was a bit of a tail wind out of the West. We stopped for lunch on the shore of Lake Two. After lunch we canoed through the North end of Lake Three and into Lake Four. We stopped for the night at a campsite on the West shore of Lake Four, just North of the channel heading toward Hudson Lake. We had to battle swarms of mosquitoes as we set up the tents. We then had a nice refreshing swim. Because we had brought steaks along for the first night, we didn't go fishing.
On Tuesday morning we had a bacon and eggs breakfast then packed up camp and headed out in our canoes. As we canoed past our campsite, we realized that Remy & I had left our hammocks pitched between trees. We landed again and quickly packed them up. Once again we had beautiful weather. We paddled East and completed 3 short portages before entering Hudson Lake. The 105 rod portage into Lake Insula was exhausting! Lake Insula is a large gorgeous lake broken up by multiple islands and penninsulas. We had lunch at a campsite on a large island just East of Hudson Lake. It felt like we had a tail wind as we were heading East, and then as we turned North it seemed like the wind shifted and was at our backs once again. We navigated Lake Insula flawlessly and camped for the night on the island just West of Williamson Island. After setting up the tents and a refreshing swim, Remy & I got back into the canoe and tried to catch some fish. We had no luck! At 9PM that night, just as we were going to bed, a thunderstorm rolled through. That night I was awakened several times by the loud croaking of bullfrogs from the shallows around our island. What noisy neighbors!
By Wednesday morning the weather had cleared, but the wind was now coming from the Northwest, pretty much in our faces. We paddled to the North end of Lake Insula and tackled the largest portage of our trip. The 180 rod walk to Kiana Lake actually seemed easier than the 105 rod carry into Lake Insula. We headed onward into Thomas Lake where we really started feeling the headwind. We finally made it to the campsite just Northeast of the portage into Thomas Pond in time for lunch. After lunch we proceeded across Thomas Pond and into Thomas Creek after hiking across the famous Kekekabic Trail. We managed to easily run the rapids in Thomas Creek and avoid the 2 short portages. We camped for the night on Hatchet Lake at the northern campsite. It was cool and windy, so we didn't swim. There was lots of threatening weather going by to the North of us, but we stayed dry. After supper we canoed back to Thomas Creek to fish and look for moose. No luck on either count, but we did see a beaver swimmming.
The weather was nice again Thursday morning, but the wind was out of the West which was the direction we were heading. We portaged into Ima Lake and canoed across it. Before portaging into Jordan Lake, we watched a bald eagle sitting in a tree get harrassed repeatedly by a seagull. The narrow channel leading into Jordan Lake is quite beautiful. It is narrow like a river with big rock outcroppings. We paddled across Jordan, Cattyman, Adventure, and Jitterbug Lakes. We found the Eastern campsite on Ahsub Lake taken, so we camped at the Western campsite which had a great place for swimming in front of it. There was a very brave loon in front of the campsite who didn't seem to mind if we got close to it. We tried our luck at fishing, but only caught 1 smallmouth which was too small to eat. Between 5:00 and 7:30 that evening we saw a number of canoes heading across Ahsub Lake from Disappointment Lake to Jitterbug Lake. We weren't sure where they were planning to camp, but it was getting late.
On Friday we awoke again to good weather. We paddled the length of Disappointment Lake and portaged into to Parent Lake and then on to Snowbank Lake. It was July 4th, and as we entered Snowbank Lake the sounfd of firecrackers reminded us we weren't in the wilderness anaymore. After a brief splash war on our way across Snowbank, we made it to the landing and our car was still there. What a great trip!
Fall exploration of the Kawishiwi triangle
September 30, 2016
Number of Days:
Since we didn't figure this would be an aggressive trip, we are in no particular hurry this morning and enjoy a hot breakfast at Grandma & Grandpa's before driving up to Spirit of the Wilderness outfitters in Ely to grab some last second items and grab our permit (I hadn't reserved one). By this time the sun had taken the edge of a brisk fall morning, peaking our enthusiasm as we prepare to embark.
There is a slight breeze as were paddle across Farm Lake. Aurora is fascinated with her new binoculars and scans the horizon, pointing out various colorful trees etc. There are a couple of motorboats out on the lake but, they are far enough off in the distance as to not be a serious distraction. We soon pass by the last cabins and cross into the wilderness.
A silver canoe is spotted on the far horizon & the occupants appear to have claimed the site on the northern shore. Pressing on, we paddle into the narrows and decide to pull off at an inviting tiny island to stretch out. Aurora quickly dubs it mushroom island, due to the many fungii scattered throughout. Sporting several sawed off stumps, it appears this island may have served as a campsite at one time. Refreshed, we push off to continue our journey.
Easily paddling right through the 2 chutes (no portages required) we round the bend and head south to the Clear Lake portage trail. There is a large uprooted tree were we presume the landing is, Vickie hops out & quickly confirms there is a trail. Unfortunately we soon find that this is NOT the portage but, not before having hauled our first load 20+ rods into the woods. As we return to the landing we find another canoe unloading their gear & a third group out in the bay paddling towards us too. Comparing maps, we agree this is the right spot (at least as indicated on the maps). The third party soon confirms that the actual portage is just a little further south, actually at the bottom of the southern finger of this bay; not where our (and every map I've seen since) shows it to be.
Needless to say, both groups now have the drop on us. Considering the time of day, we dishearteningly agree that both groups will be staying on Clear Lake. So, before committing to the portage we decide to check out the site just NE of our present location. We find it unoccupied and acceptable, so we just decide to call this our home.
Located just below the rapids that necessitate a 10 rod portage, it sits high above the river providing nice views of the fall colors. The landing it quite nice and there are good sitting logs around the grate. Although, the kitchen area is sloping towards the river and most of the tent pads are plagued with rocks & roots. A larger group probably wouldn't do well here but, it works out quite nicely for the 3 of us.
We decide to explore the 210 rod portage today. So after a filling scrambled egg breakfast, we do the short paddle over to the 10 rod portage. Our first of the trip! It's a flat nondescript path with a few boulders along the way. The landing on the north side proves to be a little tight & I need to paddle out and turn the canoe around so Vickie can hop in. It doesn't take Vickie long to hook the first fish of the trip (a small northern) as we paddle over to our next portage.
This trail is a little more difficult but, still rather easy. After bringing the canoe across we opt to explore the shoreline of this chute. If it wasn't for a large immovable log,that a beaver has chewed down, laying across the river; I wouldn't have a problem running this rapids - even in a kevlar canoe. As it is we'll use the portage on the way back.
There is a beautiful landing at the start of the long 210 rod portage. Large pines canopy the area & there are trails leading to river and views of the scenic rapids. We opt to walk up the river bed & shoreline for awhile. The fall colors really make this a magical experience and are able to cover a fair distance before the terrain forces us to bushwhack out to the portage trail.
We hike down the portage trail for awhile before veering off to go checkout the waterfall. The spur trail is pretty obvious to locate, especially if using your ears as well. Skirting around the dried up, boulder strewn shoreline we hook up again with the path near the falls. Once again the fall colors are brilliant here, and we lounge here in carefree splendor. I even stumble across a few prime pieces of birch bark.
Reluctantly we eventually depart and finish our exploration of the portage before returning from whence we came. On the way back Vickie hooks into a monster smallie that gives her quite the battle. I estimate it goes between 4-5 pounds. Not to be out done, Aurora soon pulls in a chunky northern which (to date) qualifies as her biggest fish ever. She's thrilled! Next, the rapids near our camp deserve a closer look see. We all have fun playing in the rapids & I spy some nice sun bleached logs that will serve well as firewood.
Vickie & Aurora decide to bake up some muffins for a late night snack. I don't think Vickie needs to wash the spoon or bowl afterwards!
There are a couple of unique boulders out in the water just south of us. Today we will finally tackle the Clear Lake portage. We have NO trouble locating it! :) It has some elevation changes & muddy spots but, mostly it's about overcoming the length.
Yet again we a treated to a glorious sunny fall day. A large group passes by us as we paddle for the Eskwagama Lake portage. I hadn't previously visited this lake when I've been in this area so I wanted to check it out this trip. Also, I grew up on a lake of the same name (at least phonetically) - Esquagamah. The portage in was easy to find and the first 3/4 provided a nice undulating walk in the woods. About 20 rods from the Eskwagama end the trail becomes mushy & eventually morphs into a bog walk. For us it was no trouble and Aurora was fascinated with it. But, I could envision this being more trouble in wetter conditions. Vickie inadvertently drops her map along the trail, giving Aurora an extended opportunity to play on the spongy ground while I hike back to see if I can find it.
Eskwagama proves to be a beautiful lake, not nearly as low lying as expected. Unwittingly we stumble onto an unmarked campsite located at about 4 o'clock (if the lake were a clock). Both of us agree that it is a nice site worthy of 4 stars, and we spend some time exploring this site. Pushing on to our next portage we find the landing a little overgrown. I reason that perhaps since it is so wet here, the grass just keeps growing. The path surmounts a gradual rise then drops down to our next dilemma. There is water across the trail before it climbs again in about 10-15 rods. I put Aurora in the canoe and begin pulling it across. Eventually the water is over knee deep and I even see fish swimming by. While this is not my ideal mode of travel, I'm mostly unfazed by the experience. On the other hand, Vickie absolutely LOATHES walking through muddy sections like this and the histrionic show she puts on clearly reveals that fact. As fate would have it, somehow Vickie's camera pricelessly records the whole event for posterity. There's no video but, the audio gives a vividly clear picture as to whats going on.
No sooner do we crawl ashore than we see the trail drop back down into the water. It's here that we realize we could've avoided this whole section and just paddled up to the large beaver dam before starting the portage. I guess hind sight is 20/20. Of course this does nothing to soothe Vickie's psyche.
There are a few groups out and about as we start navigating the Kawishiwi River. We need to hop out of the canoe to pull the canoe through the rapids where the river narrows just before turning NE towards the 30 rod portage. We pull off at the campsite just before that portage to take a break. It's a very nice camp and Vickie captures a classic picture of Aurora & I. She wants us to throw rocks into the river with her & is told right after we take a picture. We dubbed it "waiting patiently".
The 30 rod portage has a decent climb over a good trail. We are able to paddle/pole right up the rapids at the next portage then opt to take the 15 rod trail before turning west to claim a campsite as our lunch spot. I had stayed on the first site, after the narrows, years ago with a friend. It had an old wooden box latrine still standing at that time & I was hoping it would be open so we could show that to Aurora. Alas, it isn't meant to be as the site is occupied. However we find the next site, just west, open so we pull off here.
An inviting, though rocky, landing guides us into this expansive site. Aurora delights in the massive boulder outcropping while Vickie prepares minestrone soup for supper. The kitchen area is open and offers little in the way of shade or shelter. There are, however, a few nice tent pads back away in the woods. As Vickie is finishing supper, I help Aurora catch a crayfish which helps keep her occupied until we are ready to leave.
It is an absolutely gorgeous, tranquil fall evening as we navigate the maze of bends, bays and fingers of the Kawishiwi River. The shimmering glow of fall colors on the mirrored water is both breath taking & invigorating. Soon we are back to familiar territory and carry across the the 210 rod portage, and the 2 subsequent shorter trails before reaching camp.
Once back in camp, Aurora and I use the last bastions of daylight to catch more crayfish & frogs. Fellow BWCA.com member 'HeavyCanoe' paddles past and we exchange hellos. After sundown, Aurora gets to throw a couple packs of color into the campfire while Vickie & I enjoy the quiet relaxation of our last night in the wilderness. Clear Lake, Eskwagama Lake
While it is shaping up to be another picture perfect day, our tent, tarp & hammock are still heavily saturated with dew as we begin packing them away. Aurora heads back down to the river and catches a few more frogs & crayfish while Vickie and I finish packing things away. We have the river to ourselves this morning, and don't encounter anyone until we cross the wilderness boundary. Shortly after doing so, a Forest Service ranger motors up to us and inquires if we had heard or seen a motorized watercraft during our stay. We had heard a motor off in the distance one evening but, since we were camped virtually right on the wilderness boundary, figured it was coming from someone on a non-wilderness lake. He thanks us & moves on without questioning us further.
There's a little chop out on Farm Lake and we're forced to take a line that's a bit off course so we can quarter the waves. The landing proves to be a busy place as there are several (motorized) boats coming and going. Once we're loaded up, it's off to The Boathouse for some grub and to fill a few growlers for back home. Then a short visit at Grandpa & Grandma's before the drive home.
Besides the aforementioned set of binoculars. New gear for this trip included a Body Glove PFD for Aurora. There were no complaints, so I presume it worked just fine for her. Vickie used a new pillow that she seems very happy with (presently forgetting the brand). And, this was the first use of our new Irwin saw. I was amazed at how dull our other one had gotten as the new one really ripped through the wood. Great product! Thanks again to PortageKeeper for the recommendation.
Considering it was October, I was slightly surprised at how much traffic we encountered on this trip. But, since it is such a great area, and so easily accessed from multiple EP's, I guess I shouldn't be. Still, it goes without saying, that we achieved a far greater sense of remoteness/solitude than if we would've done this trip during the summer months. (Which is precisely why we like to hit these areas during shoulder seasons.)
In one sense it was unfortunate that we didn't get to camp on Clear Lake. But, I think things worked out just fine regardless. We had beautiful weather throughout, no bugs, memorable fishing and Eskwagama Lake (not just the campsite) was a pleasant surprise. The several scenic rapids and the waterfall were all fun to discover and explore. And, as always, it's always fun to see how Aurora grows each trip and what new things will fascinate her. But, I think this trip will always be remembered for Vickie's unforgettable performance along the Eskwagama portage.