BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1201 feet
South Kawishiwi River - 32
S. Kawishiwi River July 2007
July 18, 2007
South Kawishiwi River
Number of Days:
Day one started out pretty by waking up at the Lakeland Inn and heading out to get some breakfast in Ely. Soon we were watching the video at the ranger station and had our permit in hand. Later on in the trip, I would wonder if some people even paid attention to this video. Cheesy as it may be, it does lay out the rules pretty well.
We reached the entry point for South Kawishiwi River about 9:00 am. We went about our portages a bit differently this year. In years past we had always had to have at least a few people run back and double portage to grab the last pack (usually the heavy food pack). This year we used two equipment/gear packs, and two 30L barrels with harnesses for the food packs. By splitting up the food pack into two lighter packs, my brother and I were each able to carry a barrel and a canoe, while the girls each carried an equipment pack. Being able to single portage for the first time was great.
We were soon on the water and heading up to Clear Lake. This must have been a popular boyscout week as we ran into our first group at the first portage. They were scraping and pin balling their way through the rapids as we hiked over the short portage. We continued on up to the 70 rod portage into Clear Lake. This is where things got interesting. I have never, ever seen so many canoes at a portage. Pulling up to the portage you’d think there was some sort of contest to see how many canoes and packs could fit in the landing area. These groups were clearly experts of this game of canoe tetris. We waited patiently as two groups of eight worked their way out of clear. One was a boy scout group that looked a little disorganized. I felt bad for one of the kids as he was clearly not having the best time as he carried two paddles at a time across the portage over and over. I would think of him later on as well. The unfortunate part was the group of 8 guys going into Clear Lake ahead of us, decided they weren’t waiting so pretty soon you had about 8 canoes and 16 people on the trail at any given time. Then, just as I thought things were going to clear up, another group of 4 people come walking out! Everyone was double and triple portaging, and not in an efficient manner. After awhile I had no idea what belonged to who, and I half expect that some of the groups ended up with new people in their paddling groups. Everyone was nice though, we chatted a bit with everyone and I received lots of compliments on my newly completed cedar strip canoe. We waited for about a half hour just to land our canoes. I had to remind myself we weren’t really on a schedule and that this trip is for relaxing. Luckily, this is the last bit of congestion we would face.
We made our way to the Northeast site on Clear Lake and it was open and after checking it out we decide to call it home for the next two days. After a quick lunch we set up camp. The camp was pretty nice, open, with a huge rock outcropping right in the middle and at the fire grate. It had great views of the lake. However, the previous tenants had cut down several live trees and left them and a bunch of 4-5’ pine boughs laying around the site. There were so many wood shavings I was wondering if they had whittled a bent shaft paddle out of a 20 foot tree. I carried all of this back into the woods and tried to tidy up as best we could. My brother and I headed out to do some fishing to waste the afternoon away without much luck. Soon it was a dinner of B-Dub pizza, followed by some wine and a little scotch to cap off the night. Some thunder started rolling in, so we headed to our tents about 9:00. It rained a bit that night, but nothing major.
Day 2 We decided to have a layover day on Clear. My brother and I again went fishing. We caught some smallies, some northern, and did a little sunfish fishing as well. Nothing of much size other than the northerns. The whole trip we were blessed with beautiful weather, and today was no exeption.
Other than fishing it was a day to relax. We napped in hammocks, read some books, played some dice games, and generally just took some time to take the surroundings in. We had a loon family visit us every night. The little family of four would fish just north of our site. It seemed like the parents were trying to teach the wee ones how to fish. Dinner that night consisted of some Jaipur Vegetable Indian food over rice with some garlic frying pan bread. Good stuff. The night cap was smores and wine before heading to bed. I was little cold this night as I had only brought my little lightweight sleeping bag, so I used that along with a fleece and long underwear to make it through the night. I would guess it was down into the 40’s that night.
Today we were heading out of Clear and into the North Kawishiwi. No portage drama this time and it was smooth sailing into the North Kawishiwi. After a short paddle and portage we came to our own personal Everest of the trip. The 210 rod portage. I’ve done longer portages, but this was one of the toughest. Partially because I was carrying a little more weight than in the past. It’s hilly, rocky, and deceiving. Everytime I started to go back down hill I thought to myself “I must be getting close to the lake!” only to be greeted by another hill up, than another down, etc… After beginning to wonder if I had taken a wrong turn and would soon be greeted my some Monties up in Canada, I saw a glimpse of water through the trees. Soon I dropped the canoe with all the grace of a car wreck and rested my shoulders before going back to see how the others were fairing. My brother was right behind me and also managed to try and dribble his canoe as he took it off his shoulders, and the girls were right behind as well. They really did a great job of carrying some heavy packs the whole trip, and one of them had a bad hamstring she was battling through. I know it hurt her more than she let on. During the portage we could hear the raging waters to our right. And after reading about the area in this forum, we decided we definitely had to come back later to check it out.
We made camp at the second site east of the portage. What a beautiful site. A high rocky outcrop provided a great view, while some really large pines offered some nice shade in the large and open main area of the camp. This site may be my favorite of all the sites I’ve stayed at yet. I took lots of pictures at this one. My brother and I caught some fish for dinner in the area across from camp, so this would be the one fish meal we had on the trip. We supplemented the fish with some hashbrowns and pan fry bread.
We ran into the same scout group that had trouble at the 70 rod Clear Lake portage. He asked us how the 210 rod they were about to tackle matched up with the 70 rod we had seen them on. I told him it was a doozy, and to just tkae some breaks along the way. If they had trouble with the 70 rod portage, I'd hate to see how the group was after that one. I imagine the boy I saw the first time wouldn't be too happy.
Then we decided we do an early evening trip back to see the rapids along the portage. I had noticed a side trail while portaging that we followed to the rapids. It was ok, but not what I remembered seeing on the forum. If you were heading back west on the portage it was at the top of the hill after the second boardwalk. We could see down stream a much more major drop in the river, so we backtracked a little more on the portage and found a second trail that went toward the river. We followed that one to a high cliff view of a large pool in between falls. I found a way down to the rapids by trekking off to the left and soon we were at the base of the larger falls/rapids. What a powerful sight! We sat there for quite awhile, and hardly anyone talked. We just reflected and took it in. It was one of the greatest moments of the trip. I took a handful of photos and as it was getting dark, we decided we better get going back to camp. We had some smores again that night in front of the fire, and we soon went to our respective tents for the night. That day was one of the best days of the trip.
We wanted to get a little closer to the entry point so we didn’t have too long of a paddle the last day. We ate a breakfast of freshly steamed chocolate chip muffins (bakepacker style) and Cache Lake’s blueberry and cranberry scones with some jelly. It was my favorite breakfast. We packed up camp and soon were on our way. We had found a small ice fishing type rood and reel at the site, along with a bunch of wrappers. So we packed those with us and headed out. After deciding to run a couple of the little rapids in my new cedar strip canoe, we found ourselves a decent campsite on the South Kawishiwi River. It was very hilly, but open. The latrine trail was more fit for mountain goat than human, but it was only for a night. An Eagle screeched about 20 feet above me as I wandered the site, prompting me to yelp a little expletive to myself in surprise. I tried to get a photo but he flew away before I could snap a shot. We all took a quick dip in the water then proceeded to dry ourselves out by laying around on sleeping pads and playing a few games of “hot dice” in which I finally ended my losing streak. We had a very persistent chipmunk at this site. I’m guessing he’s had his fair share of handouts over the years. We didn’t give him anything and tried repeatedly to chase him off. This group has a history of taking “Senior Photos” like in High School, so after a few cheesy photos we got on with our night. My brother tried to start a fire “bow and spindle” style and after some sticks flying at eye threatening levels, the spindle had worn down to a short little stub and we broke out the lighter. We made lots of smoke, but no flames. Dinner that night was tasty. I made Bear Creek wild rice soup (in two pots) with Cache Lake dumplings and foil pack chicken with some frying pan bread on the side. TASTY! We finished off the last of the boxed wine that night and my brother (and Johnny Walker) and I stayed up a bit longer to try and see some stars before heading to bed. We didn’t make it too long and soon we were in our tent.
We had a quick breakfast and hit the water. We had perfect weather the whole trip so far, so we were due for a change. We had a pretty good wind right in our faces as it usually seems to be on your way out. Soon we were hearing thunder in the distance and we pushed hard to make it out before the rain. The last stretch of travel heading south on the river before the portage was brutal. We faced a really stiff wind and whitecaps the whole way. We took a few breaks of in little bays when we could, but there really wasn’t much relief from the wind. We battled through and eventually found ourselves at the portage. After one last look at the place we called home for the last five days we took off for the cars. We got everything loaded up just as it started to rain and headed into Ely for lunch at the Steakhouse to finish off the trip
All in all it was one of the best times I’ve had there. We had great weather, beautiful views, and wonderful company. We noticed more garbage and “traces” than ever before. We found shorts, shirts, gloves, rods, reels, cut live trees, and lots of little wrappers. I hope it was just a bad stretch and it isn’t a trend. I had a certain satisfaction after the trip of making it through paddling a canoe I had made myself, and am looking forward to more adventures with it. I think everyone in the group got what they needed out of the trip. Whether it was time to reflect on some important decisions in life, or maybe just some time to regroup and recharge a bit. That’s one of the great things about this beautiful place, it can be so many things to so many different people