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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 16 2021

Entry Point 32 - South Kawishiwi River

South 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 21 miles. Access is a 140-rod portage to the river.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1201 feet
Latitude: 47.8419
Longitude: -91.6632
South Kawishiwi River - 32

Base camping the Kawishiwi Triangle, August 2018

by geotramper
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 23, 2018
Entry Point: South Kawishiwi River
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
We managed to do just about everything on this last gasp trip of the summer to the Kawishiwi Triangle. In four days and three nights we managed to paddle all of the Kawishiwi Triangle and half of Gabbro while never moving camp. We managed to base camp AND cover long distances. We explored, relaxed, and fished. We got to do all of the above. All of that made this a great trip for 4 guys looking to get away and enjoy the BWCAW one last time before summer's end.

Day 1 of 5


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wednesday afternoon at 4pm I shut down my computer, left work, and headed home to pack the last few things for our trip to the BWCAW. I was throwing the food barrel and gear safely packed in dry bags into the car as DM drove up with his gear. By 5:45pm DM and myself were on the road from Northeast Minneapolis and Jazzywine and BR were one their way from South Minneapolis. By 8:30pm we were at the Duluth Pack store picking up our permit -- with Jazzywine sending off a postdoc application on the store WiFi while the rest of us watched (critiqued) the permit video. [paragraph break] By 9pm we were back on the road and headed to the South Kawishiwi River Campground just southeast of Ely. After an uneventful hour and half of us hoping for moose we made it to the campground, snagged a site, and headed to bed for an early wake up the next day.

 



Day 2 of 5


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Jazzywine and I woke up at 6:30 and drove in to Ely to buy leeches. Supposedly Arrowhead Outdoors (the bait shop formerly known as Skube's) was the only place in town to have them so that's where we went. Sure enough, they still had leeches, and a few dozen leeches and three Log Cabin Coffees later and we were headed back to the campground. We found DM and BR stirring when we arrived and started up some hot water for oatmeal. [paragraph break] Following a quick breakfast we laid out all of our gear, recombined shared items, and packed two Granite Gear packs and a 30L blue barrel with all of our stuff. On our way out of camp we spoke to the camp host about the possibility of entering from the campground and leaving our cars there. He said we could, but we opted for the short drive to limit our paddling on our first and last days. We drove out of the campground and on our way out noted a satellite dish next to one of the RV's -- "nothing says wilderness like satellite television." [paragraph break] The drive down Spruce Road to Entry Point 32 was dry and dusty. There was a group of campers (I assume) doing a run down the road, and I felt bad as the clouds of dust from our cars enveloped them. We drove by slowly to try to keep the dust down. As we passed, we thought about the possibility of copper-sulfide mining in this area. For those who don't know, Spruce Road lies above a portion of the proposed Twin Metals underground mine. It is one of a few different proposals to mine copper, nickel, platinum, and other metals from sulfide ore bodies. While the mine here would be underground, it was interesting to consider the changes a mine might bring to the area, let alone environmental concerns. [paragraph break] The parking lot for Entry Point 32 was mostly full when we arrived, and we snagged two of the remaining three spots left. Excited to get on the water we quickly unloaded the cars, threw the canoes and gear on our shoulders, and headed in. At 144 rods the portage isn't a major challenge, but given that it was the first of our trip my shoulders were sore with the weight of my 16' Old Town Penobscot by the time we were halfway in. Thankfully, eagerness to get on the water carried me (and the canoe) through. Before long we reached the South Kawishiwi River, and we were greeted by bright sun, a nice breeze, and beautiful scenery. The portage landing (which is at a different location than indicated on my McKenzie map) had a fair bit of trash, so I picked up what I could and we got onto the water.[paragraph break] With the wind at out backs we cruised up the South Kawishiwi River. Within 45 minutes we had reached the small rapid which we pulled our canoes up without too much difficulty. While wading through the rapid I spied a lure among the rocks and "fished" out a fire tiger Rapala (Husky Jerk perhaps). It had a broken hook and some scratches but it seemed salvageable to I tucked it away for later use.[paragraph break] Soon we had reached a narrows in the river in front of Campsite 1131 where we had two options: A) carry out canoe over a rock garden, or B) power up a small rapid to the right. After some deliberation, we chose option B. With the occupants of the campsite watching, Jazzywine and BR paddled hard up the current and nearly made it but lost momentum. Jazzywine had to jump out and push the canoe the rest of the way through the rapid. With a bit of room to build up some speed DM and I powered up through the current, nearly lost momentum, but managed to push all the way through.[paragraph break] We had planned to camp at one of the sites in this area, giving us a relatively centralized location. We paddled a little further upriver to site 1130 which sits on a nice peninsula, and since it was already noon decided to call it good. As we set up camp, we noticed how parched everything looked. The grass was brown and bushes had dry and browning leaves. The reeds to the west of the site changed color about 1.5' above the water's surface. Clearly it had been dry recently and the lake levels were low.[paragraph break] After setting up camp we had lunch and then paddled to the next set of rapids upstream, just northeast of the site. With a rod for everybody and a bucket to leeches we set to work. We got a lot of smallmouth action at the base of the falls. DM caught the biggest of the day, which we estimated at 18". We didn't want to eat smallies though, so they went back into the water and after a few hours we headed back to camp for a fishless dinner. [paragraph break] Despite the lack of fish we had a delicious "Thanksgiving dinner" of instant mashed potatoes, gravy, pre-cooked chicken, and dehydrated veggies. We sat around the fire and relaxed, discussing our plans for the next day. Rain was in the forecast, so we decided we would have a relaxed morning and explore Gabbro Lake. Before long we were tired and headed into the tents.

Daily Summary:

Lakes traveled: None, technically. S. Kawishiwi River
Distance paddled: 4.95 mi
Distance portaged: 0.45 mi (144 rods)
Number of portages: 1

 



Day 3 of 5


Friday, August 24, 2018

Jazzywine and I woke up earlier than the other guys so was made the most of the gray morning and went fishing. We trolled along the river to the rapids to the East, and cast into the current from the canoe without much luck. Jazzywine managed to get a small Northern that he released. We headed back to camp to eat breakfast.[paragraph break] After breakfast and some deliberation, we decided to continue with our plan to explore Gabbro Lake. There was some occasional misty rain, but nothing that could put a damper on the day. We took off East and then South from the campsite towards Little Gabbro Lake. Before long we reached the 122 rod portage to Little Gabbro. A family with some young kids was at the portage, going in the same direction we were. They got a head start, so by the time we were unloading they had already disappeared into the trees. There were quite a few bugs on the portage, and I spent the 122 rods trying to smack the bloodsuckers with one hand while holding the canoe with the other. At the South end of the portage I stepped into the water to offload the canoe as I usually do. As I dropped the canoe from my shoulders to the water, I lost my footing and fell in up to my armpits, right in front of the crew and the family, clinging to the gunwales with my arms. With no scrapes or bruises as the dropoff was fairly steep, I burst out laughing and hung on the canoe for a minute, enjoying the feeling of the cool water on my recently acquired mosquito bites. [paragraph break] After spending a few minutes to admire the remains of the dam by the portage, we set off across Little Gabbro. Paddling the narrows between Little Gabbro and Gabbro, I admired the rocky (gabbro) shorelines that seemed unique to this area. The evidence that this lake had once been dammed was clear, with a water line multiple feet of the current water level visible on the taller rocky outcroppings. [paragraph break] Spitting rain and light wind picked up as we moved out into Gabbro. We pushed on, our destination the narrow bay just East of the large peninsula in the middle of Gabbro. Once we turned North into the bay the wind died and cruised up the rapidly narrowing bay, passing rocky bluffs covered in pines. Towards the northern end of the bay we pushed out way through thickening lilly pads in an attempt to get as far off the beaten path as we could. Eventually the waterway opened up, and with paddles resting let the quiet solitude of the Boundary Waters take over.[paragraph break] The quiet was soon disturbed by rustling and splashing. We looked around, and watched a family of otters swim and run along the shoreline next to us. We sat there in our canoes watching them run and play in the water, before disappearing into the reeds.[paragraph break] We explored a bit more back in the bay before heading back south. We stopped at a peninsula on the western side that looked to be a nice spot for lunch. We enjoyed pita with hummus and tuna on the rocks, and watched a bald eagle hanging out in a nearby tree. Despite is being late August, it was clear that fall was already on the way. Here and there, tree were starting their annual change from green to hints of yellow and orange. We trolled out way back through Gabbro without much luck. By 5pm we had made it back to camp.[paragraph break] Not wanting to end the day without a few fish in the boat, Jazzywine, DM, and I left BR behind at the campsite and paddled to the nearby rapids for another go. With lines and leeches in the water, it wasn't long until we finally found a walleye hole and got a couple eaters to supplement the night's dinner. We spent the rest of the evening around the fire until the bugs forced us into the tents. A restful night would be needed for our big push the next day.

Daily Summary:

Lakes traveled: S. Kawishiwi River, Little Gabbro, Gabbro
Distance paddled: 8.12 mi
Distance portaged: .76 mi (244 rods)
Number of portages: 1 portage x 2

 



Day 4 of 5


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Knowing we had a big day ahead of us we woke relatively early and had a quicker breakfast. As we got on the water, the day was the same gray overcast as the day prior, and we hope we were not in store for more rain. Given the distance we planned to paddle for the day we packed light, just food, fishing gear, and personal bags. [paragraph break] The short rapid proved to be much easier to paddle down than up, and we made quick progress down the Kawishiwi. Wanting to make quick progress given our longer day, we set a quick pace to start. This meant that I forgot to look for the fishing shack and wooden boat supposedly located in a bay on the Kawishiwi just before reaching Clear Lake. Guess I'll have to come back on a future trip to find it. As we reached the portage to Clear Lake, we noticed that there was gear left front and center at the landing. The gear included cookware, a big pot, and camp chairs. It seemed to have been there for a while, but not wanting to lug it with us all day we left it there, hoping another group might find it and pack it out. [paragraph break] The paddle across Clear Lake was uneventful. Overcast skies seemed to threaten rain, but none came. We quickly reached the portage to the Kawishiwi River. The portage itself wasn't bad, just long and it sure was buggy. This would not be the longest portage of the day. Before long we were paddling NE on the Kawishiwi, and as we looked behind us we saw a group of people on the shore in the bay just East of the one we had exited. They had their gear unloaded from their three canoes so it way clear they thought they were on the portage that we had just left. Maps incorrectly mark the location of this landing. Thankfully, the group was sending out a search party in one canoe and they were headed in the right direction, so we continued on. [paragraph break] Ahead of us were two very short portages around small sets of rapids. The first portage we get out and begrudgingly walked. The second we decided to try to walk the canoes up the rapids. In the end it probably would have been easier to complete the portage, as the combination of slick boulders underfoot and a strong current pushing us back made for tough going. [paragraph break] Before long we had reached the most challenging portage of our trip, a 209 rod carry with a few difficult elevation changes to keep things interesting. I wish I could have portaged the kevlar Spirit II rather than my 60+ lb Penobscot. Jazzywine broke the monotony of the carry with song as we worked our way down the trail, and just when shoulders and backs were feeling ready to give in we reached the waters of the Kawishiwi once again. We weren't quite done with the portage, however. We backtracked about half of the portage to a small waterfall just south of the trail. We spent a while there at the waterfall, washing off sweat from the portage with the icy current below the falls.[paragraph break] Back on the Kawishiwi we decided it was time for lunch, and stopped at the campsite just before the portage to Conchu Lake. Perched above the river it offered a beautiful spot to sit and eat. The sun finally started to break through the overcast skies while we ate.[paragraph break] It wasn't long after we were back on the water that on member of the crew decided that a trip to the latrine at a local campsite was necessary. Heeding their warnings, one canoe peeled off to a campsite on the shore, while two of us drifted on the river. A loon surfaced nearby, and we watched it dive, resurface, and clean its feathers while we waited. [paragraph break] It wasn't long until we reached the point where the Kawishiwi bifurcates. We turned south to continue or loop on the South Kaiwishwi River. Shortly after splitting, there are two sets of small rapids with a pool in between them. We were able to navigate a small chute through the first set, but chose to hand carry the short portage around the second. It was there that we stopped and took out our fishing rods. It wasn't long until we found the local population of smallmouth bass in the pool between the rapids. [paragraph break] Eventually we determined that we had caught all the smallies the pool had to offer and we continued our paddle on the S Kawishiwi. Tired from a long day of paddling, we slowly made our way southwest on the long, unbroken stretch of river. This stretch of river featured what appeared to be stands of old growth forest including some towering white pines. We paddled mostly in silence, simply enjoying our surroundings as the afternoon waned. The day featured two more small sets of rapids, the first of which we ran in the canoes. We finally returned to camp late in the afternoon, having completed our circumnavigation of the Kawishiwi Triangle. We enjoyed dinner and a fire as we watched the sun set on our last night in the BWCA. [paragraph break]

Daily Summary:

Lakes traveled: S. Kawishiwi River, Clear Lake, Kawishiwi River
Distance paddled: 12.16 mi
Distance portaged: 1.64 mi (525 rods)
Number of portages: 7

 



Day 5 of 5


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Our last day of the trip, and we were headed home. It was a warm and sunny day, and with relatively little breeze we expected it to be hot. We took our time in the morning, trying our hand at fishing from camp without any success. It was nearly noon by the time we had packed up camp and were on the water. We chose to run both small rapids along our route out, and that only improved our time. Not wanting to end our trip too soon, we took our time paddling down the last unbroken stretch of the Kawishiwi before the portage to EP 32. Hats and bandanas were frequently dipped in the water to keep us cool in the cloudless sky. At some point a frisbee made its way out of someone's bag, and we tried our best to throw the disc back and forth between the canoes. Given that three out of the four group members play ultimate frisbee in the Twin Cities, you'd think that we would have success with this (we did not). [paragraph break] By 1:30pm by had reached the portage back to the parking lot. With seasoned shoulders and very little food weight the portage was much easier going. We passed another group just starting their own Kawishiwi adventure. Speaking for myself, I'd take sore shoulders at the start of a trip in the BWCA over breezing through a portage to end one. On the drive home I was already thinking about the next.

Daily Summary:

Lakes traveled: S. Kawishiwi River
Distance paddled: 4.95 mi
Distance portaged: 0.45 mi
Number of portages: 1

Trip Summary

People: 4
Canoes: 2 (16' Old Town Penobscot and 17' Wenonah Spirit II)
Total Distance Traveled: 33.48 mi
Total Distance Paddled: 30.18 mi
Total Distance Portaged: 3.30 mi (1056 rods)
Days/Nights in BWCAW: 4/3

 


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