BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

January 20 2021

Entry Point 33 - Little Gabbro Lake

Little Gabbro Lake 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 23 miles. Access is a 200-rod portage from the parking lot to Little Gabbro Lake.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1235 feet
Latitude: 47.8423
Longitude: -91.6316
Little Gabbro Lake - 33

Kawishiwi Loop of 2009

by bapabear
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 06, 2009
Entry Point: Little Gabbro Lake
Exit Point: South Kawishiwi River (32)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
Again I am fortunate to be asked along by my son's father in law, Terry, and his friend John, who brought his grandson Cody. John organizes this trip each year and makes the trip from Illinois. With his van and canoe trailer it's about an 8 hour drive from my home. Last year we enjoyed our trip on the Isabella River enough that we wanted to try another river trip.

Day 1 of 6

Saturday, June 06, 2009 On day one we started around 6 am and had what I hoped to call an uneventful trip, however we had one really scary moment on the drive. While on Hwy 53 outside of Trego, WI we were cruising along when without warning the car ahead of us slammed on its brakes causing us to jam on ours and change lanes narrowly missing the car with the canoe trailer. As we sped by we saw the reason for the near catastrophe, a duck waddling across the road!

We picked up our permit at the Beaver Bay Sport Shop. As we traveled on we witnessed a really incredible sight. The scenery on hwy 61 is spectacular enough but we saw an event sponsored by Beaver Bay Sport Shop where they were trying to set a world record for number of ATVs at a single event. We caught sight of the long line on the trail that borders the hwy and then we went past the staging area. We couldn't imagine how many we saw but there had to be hundreds if not thousands of them just waiting to join in the procession.

We arrived at entry point 33 (Little Gabbro) and unloaded canoes and gear amid a swarm of mosquitoes and flies. Even though it was warm we put on long sleeves and it was bearable. The 200 rd portage wasn't too bad but you realize right away that you can always be in better shape! We double portage and on the return trip there was a clap of thunder and the dark clouds rolling in were visible through gaps in the trees. We made the final portage leg with the amount and volume of thunder increasing. As we loaded up to push off we were trying to think on the fly just what we wanted to do with a storm bearing down on us. Some guys fishing at the EP said the first site on the left was where they just left and they knew it was open. In just a hundred yards or so we were there and pulled in to see what the weather was going to do. Suffice to say we had other plans but when it started to hail we put our big tarp. As the hail changed over to rain we figured that before stuff got soaked wed set up camp #1. It was a tight spot for 3 tents but we got them up quickly. It rained lightly on and off the rest of that day and into the night - just enough to get things wet but still give us some nice moments. We did have a sunny break that evening where I fished while the rest explored. As I swung quietly around a nearby island I glided up on a deer that was minding its own business. I didn't want to frighten it but I did glide pretty close before it chose to move on. That night it rained some more and I found water in my tent. I am now an innie believer because I found in my haste to put up my tent I allowed my groundcover to stick out on the backside of my tent and the rainfly was directing a rivulet right between the groundcover and tent.


Day 2 of 6

Sunday, June 07, 2009 Day Two broke cool but with the sun making an entrance among some small puffy clouds that reflected perfectly on the calm water. The three older campers need to heat water for our coffee and tea so we take a little time to work out the kinks and have a breakfast. I didn't keep records of when we arrive and leave campsites but we’re always on the water before 8:00 on travel days. We were more than ready to get going after the start ground to an abrupt halt the day before.

We actually found a few open campsites early on day 2 but it was not to be the case often on the rest of the trip. It was a beautiful day to enjoy our travel heading NE on the South Kawishiwi River. Before EP 29 we crossed a 15 rod portage where we met a young couple from Alaska traveling with their dog. During a nice chat they told us they just left an island site that we would shortly come to when we made our westerly turn. We had high hopes for that site! As we headed west we came across 3 sites, including the island, already occupied. I think we are learning a lesson on traveling so near other entry points. We had a long paddle westward into the wind with at least four canoes ahead of us which I wrongly assumed were also looking for a site. Where we saw the canoes stop was at a campsite we'd pinned our hopes on. It happened that all the canoes passed through the long 210 rod portage and the camp right next to the portage was open!

It had an open elevated site with a nice view. There were plenty of tent pads. The rocks had some comfortable “sitting areas” that got used often. There was quite a bit of portage traffic nearby but overall that wasn't a problem. We made ourselves very comfortable at this site and started to think about making it a two day stay.


Day 3 of 6

Monday, June 08, 2009 Day Three was a more leisurely start. We cooked breakfast and decided to explore. Nearby is Conchu Lake so all 4 packed into one canoe and went to check out the neighborhood. This lake is really picturesque with an elevated rock wall on the north side. Near the portage in is the only campsite which we found to be small for us but would be a very nice out of the way campsite for a solo or smaller group. We then circled the lake and as we went along the northern side and couldn't resist stopping and climbing up to check out the view. I’m glad we did as it was a bluebird day and clambering around gave me a chance to stretch my legs and soak in some real BW beauty. We then continued to circle the lake and on the west edge followed a creek in the direction of where our camp was. With four in the canoe it was tough going and the boggy, mucky swamp made travel difficult. We got as far as we could to where there was a stand of dead trees in the swamp. By the time we worked back out of the marsh and circled the lake it was time to head back for lunch. As we hugged the north shore of the river we could distinctly hear what sounded like a waterfall. We beached the canoe and fought our way through the brush until coming upon a huge beaver dam with a good rush of water coming through it. Enough to make it sound like a waterfall that could actually be heard from our camp. After lunch Terry and Cody were feeling more adventurous than John and I. They cooked up a plan to drag the Kevlar canoe through the brush, lift it up over the dam edge and see if they could find the stand of dead trees where the large group effort stopped. John and I did camp chores, got some water, John explored along the river solo while I did some reading and washed and dried some clothes. Terry and Cody returned covered in mud and bug bites of all kinds with huge smiles claiming that they had woven their way through the marsh to where we had been earlier that day. 

Later on we did some more exploring along the river and made plans to leave early the next morning as we would start out with a 210 rod portage and cool temps and fresh legs would help to get us going.


Day 4 of 6

Tuesday, June 09, 2009 Day four. The early start and coolness of the shade made a long portage much less tedious. There is a picturesque falls that I caught Terry taking a picture of from a spot that actually was more precarious than it looks. He is a real “tree hugger”. The portage ended with a mirror finished river and a crew that was eager to get moving along. We weren't sure just how far we'd get today but figured when we hit Clear Lake we'd start looking for a nice site and see what happened. The wind had begun to whip up a steady blow by now and as we toured the lake every site was occupied except for the one just to the left of the portage as one enters the lake from our portage. It didn't take long to see how exposed we were to the wind. Three pretty nice tent pads were found and the tents went up but the fire grate and cooking area were going to be a problem with the wind. We engineered a wind break out of a tarp that worked very well and had a comfortable time working at the fire grate.

This site was a hub of turtle activity. All day long there were turtles hugging the shoreline. At night they came ashore and deposited eggs wherever they could find a spot. Most found a sandy place but some laid them right on the rocks. All in all an interesting aspect of nature we don’t see that often.

I will also add that the site was the hub of canoe activity the rest of the day. All the sites were occupied and many groups would come through, circle around and move on. I spotted 2 groups of four canoes each and we spotted a huge armada of about 9 canoes that circled the lake once and ended up moving toward the 175 rod portage that heads NW out of Clear Lake. There were many other single canoes looking for a site also.

That evening we decided to push on through Clear Lake in the morning and get back on the Kawishiwi River.


Day 5 of 6

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 Day Five. Another early beginning. We glided past mostly quiet campsites on what was to be our warmest and really nicest weather day of the trip. For some reason we had some trouble finding the portage entrance but we were just too eager. We kept traveling on and finally came up on it. This is a rocky portage but the end of it was showing another bright day ahead of us. After our hail and rain first day we really had much improved and warmer weather for travel the rest of our stay. We passed one full campsite after another. We passed a couple of slower canoes and decided to paddle through a small rapids while they portaged. This move got us the last open campsite on the Kawishiwi River all the way to EP 32. We passed some fishermen and since they didn't mind talking we found out that they were among the canoes we saw circling Clear Lake the night before. They had planned Clear Lake as their destination for a base camp but couldn't believe how far they had to travel as they continued on and took what they could find.

The next to last camp on the right side of the river before EP 32 was found to be open and we took it. A site with a large open fire grate and kitchen area with a flat “table” rock looked very appealing. We then found many nice tent pad spots and agreed this was the nicest spot we had found this trip. As we broke out lunch and sat in the shade of the tarp eating the canoes we had passed earlier cruised by and later we saw them come back heading in the other direction. We wished them luck because we saw no other places available. The rest of the afternoon was another procession of canoes looking for a campsite. While this trip was a beautiful one and overall enjoyable it is remembered by the numbers of people and canoes we saw and the competition for sites that was more than I had ever experienced.

Camp was set up and we chose to be a "bunch of bums" and take it easy with some swimming, fishing, napping and storytelling. Directly across the river we could see the browse line from deer the winter before. I remembered someone on had commented on it.

Cody had developed a bad cough early in the trip and was coughing worse today. We were concerned about how he was doing. It was a day early but the three older members agreed it would be better to leave the next day so Cody could get some medical attention. (This proved a great move because once he saw a Dr. he was diagnosed with an onset of pneumonia)


Day 6 of 6

Thursday, June 11, 2009 Day 6. Last Day. It wasn't our intended departure day but that gave us a chance at a leisurely breakfast and time to pack everything nice and snug for the trip home.

We again had a gorgeous morning to start out paddling. It was knowing we were heading out that gave us freedom dawdle so we took some time and explored the island at EP 32 and found a couple of duck families out for a swim which was fun to watch.

I took as much as I could carry on the final portage dropped it off in the parking area and proceeded on a hike to EP 33 to retrieve the van and trailer while the rest finished the portage. When I got back my crew was chatting with a gentleman and some kids that had just come out from the island campsite on Clear Lake. He was really disgusted over how busy the area had become. I heard he’d been coming to the area for almost 20 years and this was the busiest he’d ever seen it.

Our 2010 trip will take us farther into the interior from a more distant EP. However we again had a wonderful river trip in the BW, enjoyed mostly warm and sunny skies, and were making plans to return on the drive home.

The end.  


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