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May 29 2024

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

2 weeks of reality in the time of COVID

by dogwoodgirl
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 10, 2020
Entry Point: South Kawishiwi River
Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (38)
Number of Days: 14
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
I'm not getting any younger, and my son has never been on a trip longer than 5 days, so we decided to have an epic adventure this summer and do a long point to point jaunt. Thanks to all who offered suggestions on routes....S Kawishiwi to Sawbill fit the bill!

Day 1 of 14

Monday, August 10, 2020 Got burritos at Front Porch in Ely and headed to the S Kawishiwi entry point. A little rocky and muddy, but not bad, a nice start to the trip. Paddled until after the 2nd portage on the river, then took the campsite just before the 30 rod portage. Lovely site, with bonus wood and a cool stone bench, also a cave up the shore a little ways. Drank some cold press that we carried in and thought about meteors...the Perseids should be in full swing tonight.First night and it already feels like we've been out here forever.

Nice meteors after dark, then off to bed.


Day 2 of 14

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 Broke camp and paddled to the last site on the Kawishiwi before the portages into Lake One. Nice lazy day. Had lunch at the 5 rod portage- nice little waterfall. So hot and windy! Paddled off our first map- Yay!

Latrine has been chewed on by some animal- sharp edges! Found a rope and weighted bag abandoned in a tree and managed to free it.


Day 3 of 14

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Got up before the sun and were on the water by 8. Portaged into Lake One and then took the back way to the main body of the lake, avoiding the entry point. So many people! Found a site on the far shore of Lake Two near the portage into Rifle. Large, spacious, not too many tent pads but a real nice rock kitchen area under the trees. Used my new solar shower for the first time....awesome! Shored up the firegrate, which is rusted out on 3 legs, washed our clothes. Found: 1/2 a cigar.


Day 4 of 14

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Decided to take a layover. Explored the cool peninsula near camp, made pancakes, cut wood, and lazed around. Did some swimming. So many people paddling by in both directions! Another really hot windy day. Saw someone looking for a campsite at 730 pm....wonder where they ended up.


Day 5 of 14

Friday, August 14, 2020

Paddled 12 miles today to get through the burn area to the end of Insula. We were both getting a bit hangry by the time we found a site. Lots of shade here and a very nice tent pad. Fire grate rusted out and cracked in half, but usable. Poured last night, lots of thunder and lightening. Thought it would rain all day, but only a few sprinkles. Evidence of spruce budworm everywhere so far- lots of dying spruce.

Super noisy guys across the way from us tonight, hollering to passing canoes and talking about their sonar that came with a radar service, warning everyone that it's gonna rain. Yup, sure is. Sigh.


Day 6 of 14

Saturday, August 15, 2020 Rained a bunch last night but woke up to clear blue skies and a stiff wind on Insula, some whitecaps. 3 portages and a lovely paddle up the skinny Kawishiwi River to Fishdance. Pictographs on Fishdance very cool! Faded but easy to find. The lake is deserted- we saw one other group today, but they kept going towards Malberg.

Camped in a lovely cedar grove across the lake from the pictographs. Kitchen is up on a high rock, tent is tucked in the woods, nice spot for the tarp.


Day 7 of 14

Sunday, August 16, 2020 Layover on Fishdance today. Paddled around the lake and checked out all the other campsites. They all looked pretty poor. Caught a couple northers and kept 1 to eat, panfried in some butter. Showered and washed clothes again, what a luxury. Saw 6 canoes, fishing and looking at the pictos, but no one is camped here. Found: green leader


Day 8 of 14

Monday, August 17, 2020

Nice paddle up the Kawishiwi to Malberg. Saw an eagle eating fish guts and a loon with baby super close to the canoe, making little squeaky noises to each other that I did not know loons made. Only 2 portages, but the 2nd one to Malberg started with a knee deep sucking mud pit and had a beaver pod in the middle of it. Fun!

Baffin Swamp Buggies earned their stripes! They did not get sucked off my feet, and the insides were not full of silt and sticks. Impressive.

Gorgeous campsite down at the end of a bay on Malberg, feels very private for such a busy lake. We've been out a week now.

Found: Green carabiner



Day 9 of 14

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Saw loon baby being fed by it's parents just off shore from our campsite this morning, and a kestral being chased by blue jays. Started out real foggy, but now a clear blue sky.

Got to Polly- seemed like all the sites were taken, but found one tucked behind an island and got everything set up before it rained. So many tent pads here! Also a million skeeters- haven't really seen many of them on this trip. Gorgeous sunset, but a lot of canoes on the water.

Found: spork


Day 10 of 14

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Up before dawn again, cereal and coffee and on the water by sun-up. Paddled and portaged the Phoebe River to Hazel. Saw one group- they daytripped into Hazel, sat on the shore for 30 minutes, then turned around and left- odd. Other than that, totally deserted back here. HOT! Hung sleeping bags to air out, everything just a bit damp.

The route here was interesting....Phoebe River is little and full of beaver dams. They have widened some areas and made others much more shallow, so portages are only approximate....some treks along the river edge to reach navigable water.

Heating up the solar shower again....could be last shower of the trip.


Day 11 of 14

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Layover on Hazel- explored the gorge. Really amazing little place that feels like no one has ever been there before, though I'm sure they have.

Crazy thunderstorm last night with high winds and a little hail, torrential rain. Dog was none too happy about it!

Saw 3 Western Grebes that must have been blown off course, swimming around the lake all day. Ate the pouch of pickles that we brought in...what a treat! Pickles!

Found: Rayban sunglasses, red stringer


Day 12 of 14

Friday, August 21, 2020

Paddled, portaged, and lined canoe through the shallows to reach Ella Lake. Fell in the river twice before I learned not to have my pack on when walking over algae slimed rocks (LOL) Still have not seen anyone- it's been 3 days now. The portage from Grace into Ella is....quite the boulder field at the start. Ella is deserted. The campsite just across from the portage is a 5 star for sure- All granite and white pines, lots of stone benches/tables. Very flat tent pad.


Day 13 of 14

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Last full day on the trail....foggy misty day. Lots of ravens here and still no people. Explored Ella and hiked the portage into Beth to see what's in store tomorrow. Piece of cake- easy as pie. Dreaming of real food, and starting to have attacks of maniacal laughter over...the smell of our scrubbie. Probably have been alone in the woods too long!


Day 14 of 14

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Got up and going- we have a smooth routine now. I break down the tent and pack our gear, Jesse makes coffee and breakfast and packs the kitchen pack.'s a wrap.

Once we hit Alton, it's crazy again. The portage into Sawbill is a congested madhouse- 8 canoes in the portage and more waiting to load/unload. Nuts.....and then it's back to the world of masks. Sure was a good couple of weeks though...


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