BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1.5
Elevation: 1235 feet
Little Gabbro Lake - 33
Kawishiwi Loop of 2009
June 06, 2009
Little Gabbro Lake
South Kawishiwi River (32)
Number of Days:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 BWCA.com 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)
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.