BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 23 2019
Kawishiwi Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Isabella; Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 33 miles. Access is a boat landing at Kawishiwi Lake.
Number of Permits per Day: 9
Elevation: 1653 feet
Kawishiwi Lake - 37
Number of Permits per Day: 9
Elevation: 1653 feet
Kawishiwi Lake - 37
Kawishiwi to Polly (or The Wettest Trip Ever?)
June 19, 2011
Number of Days:
Plans were started last August after our departure from EP27 on Snowbank. We decided on a south entry. Late 2010 discussions landed on a destination of Polly or Malberg. I was hoping for better fishing and long days so the summer solstice was chosen. Permit applied for and received, we began packing. Very little thought or planning was put into meals this year. Pretty much off the cuff or rather, a quick trip through Cub and off the shelves. Our trip began Saturday the 18th when Gary and his sons pulled into my driveway about 11:30. We made some last minute "I've got that and those, leave yours" We'll take my cook kit, leave yours here" kind of things and tied the old beer can on top of the van. Off we went. About 1 pm we were finally on I-35 headed north. We exited the freeway in Esko. I pointed out a few things around town, the area I spent 8 years growing up in. We took some back roads to Miller Hill to avoid the Duluth mega project. A stop at Gandor Mtn for a couple last minute items and a new pair of Keens for myself and we were again on our way - all the way to the other side of Hwy 53 to Dairy Queen. One last snack. Up the shore we went. Through the road construction at Split Rock. A stop at Zups in Silver Bay for some more off the shelf meals. One more leg to travel. Finally made it to Tofte around 7:30 pm. It was raining and cold. We originally planned on picking a rental canoe at Sawtooth Outfitters and spending the night at a campground off the Sawbill Trail, however, due to the constant rain we opted for a room at Cliffdwellers and dinner at Bluefin Bay. The rain stopped long enough for us to sit fireside on Superior's shore at Bluefin and enjoy their smore fire. It was nearly dark so back to the hotel room we went to enjoy one last night in a bed.
Day 1 of 7
Sunday, June 19, 2011 I woke up in the hotel room about 6 am. Showered and tried to wake the rest of the crew for the continental breakfast. Not long after we were all enjoying a hearty breakfast while looking over the lake. There was some good conversation with the owner and she tried to sell us the hotel. She is ready to retire and downsize. Give her a call if you are interested. The price sounded reasonable. Showered and fed we left for the outfitter and picked up the second canoe for the trip. We checked in with the rangers and watched the mandatory video. I asked the ranger "Why only plastic? That would last longer in the wild than glass or cans." She stated because it was lighter to carry in and thus easier and lighter for people to carry out. Other than that, she seemed to not really be sure. I'm still not sure why. Anybody know? North we traveled up the Sawbill Trail. West we went down Perent Lake Rd. Screeeeech go the breaks. Wet gravel hits the underside of the van. "Look!" Gary and I say in unison from the front seat. There standing in the middle of the road was a gray wolf. Where's my flippin camera! comes from everyone's mouth. The wolf stares at us for about 1/2 a minute as we look at him and look for cameras. We begins quickly walking toward us and right down the drivers side of the van. I thought he was big. As big or bigger than the mounted wolf at the ranger station. The other guys didn't think so. He trotted down the road and Gary and I jumped out to watch him. About 50 yards behind us he jumped into the woods heading south. That was exciting. Hopefully the rest of the trip would be the same. The rain kept falling. It had been falling since we left Duluth. We arrived at the EP on Kawishiwi about 11. Many boats were headed in while we were loading up to go out. Two boats came in and a guy went to get their truck. The A-hole pulled is big Infinity SUV ten feet from the water so they could load. His truck was less than a paddle from our two canoes. They putted around in the rain and loaded up. I just stared in disbelief at the bonewad for doing that. The loading area is pretty big. You could park at least 10 vehicles in there and this dingledong pulls right up to where we are loading. I suppose all in the name of not having to carry their gear 50 feet from the water. I apologize for sounding a little ticked but I was. Then one of them noticed me staring with a "Your'e a dumbass stare" and I could tell he was talking to his budding about it on the other side of the open door. Sorry, it just kind of pee'd me off. Finally they were loaded with canoes tied and they left. That allowed us the room to finish loading the boats. We put in about 1:30 and began our trek to Polly or Malberg. There was a good breeze, drizzle and rain and the temp was 62 degrees. On the far side of Kawishiwi we made a wrong turn into the last bay (my fault). We should have gone past one more peninsula and then turn. The paddling through the channel to Square Lake was very peaceful and rain free. We passed some beaver lodges, one of which I saw a footprint on. Somebody must have been trying to scare out a beaver. The first portage was a quick one of 20 r to another channel that would take us to Kawasachong Lake. On the north end of a Kawasachong bay we found the portage that would take us to Townline Lake. 190 r portage that none of us were looking forward to. I was not looking forward to it, nor did I think I would make it carrying the old 17' beer can but I made it with only a couple minute stop about a 1/3 of the way across. The Alumacraft was heavy when I set it into Townline. On the way over we met a group leaving. We helped carry a few of their packs as we went back to finish the double portage. Townline is a small lake. Gary threw a line out and caught a 7" perch from the portage. We took about a ten minute break and then crossed Townline. On the north side we came to the neatest little portage entry I have seen yet. I channel that headed inland with a corduroy pier/road on the left side for about 25 yards. Our short jaunt across Townline barely let me catch my breath from the 190 r portage and now it was time for another. 95 rods to Polly. I picked up the heavy and started hiking. A long portage for sure after just doing the previous but the feeling at the end was worth every moment of both portages. Polly Lake! The rain had come and gone, we were all sweating from being overdressed, the water was warm compared to the air. We were there. It was about four after leaving the EP on Kawishiwi. We had kept moving, not too fast or slow as we had plenty of time. Now on the banks of Polly we had to make a decision. Push through to Malberg or base it on Polly and make a day trip to Malberg. Since it was late afternoon and a bear had torn apart a campsite on Malberg a couple weeks before, we opted to stay on Polly. About half the sites on Polly were occupied. We took the site on the north end on a small point looking toward the inlet to the portage to Koma and Malberg. We made camp and had a well deserved dinner in the misty, cold rain. I didn't sleep too well that night. I usually sleep great in the wilderness or anywhere in my tent. It was cold, humid, wet and I was beat. I decided I hated my mummy bag. I couldn't stretch out without putting my arms out of the bag. When I did, I was colder. Temp made it into the very low 40's that night by what we heard on the radio the next morning. I'm sure we hit the 30's. Every muscle above my stomach was aching. I really had no problem with the cold, just that it was so damp. Day one completed. Oh yeah, Mike caught a walleye soon after entering Polly. A sign of good fishing to come?
Day 2 of 7
Monday, June 20, 2011 Monday started out pretty good. It was the best day we had. The morning was cloudy, cold and windy. The weather got a bit better over the day and we were able to get some fishing in. Gary was up first and then myself. The boys were in the sack for a while yet. We had breakfast and watched a beaver swim a short distance away from us. We were slow to get on the water as we were all a bit sore from the voyage in. Fishing that day we caught some northerns and walleye's. Nice 'eyes to. Perfect eating size. We found good fishing on the north end on the west side of the long peninsula. We watched a bald eagle pick up a fish (we had seen one do that same on Kawasachong the day before). The eagle flew over a small island (north center island w/campsite). We were north of the island and couldn't see where the eagle went. All of the sudden we started hearing screeching. Non-stop screeching. It sounded like crazy dinosaurs in a movie. We soon realized it had to be the baby eaglets in the nest eating, perhaps fighting over, their fresh fish dinner that had just been flown in by mom or dad. We caught a late in the day walleye and brought it back to camp. Too late to fry him so we put him on a stringer and tied him to shore. Gary said a snapping turtle might get him but we took a chance. About a 1/2 hour later, I walked over to look at the walleye and sure enough, there was a snapping turtle. It was on top of the 'eye with one front foot holding the fish to the bottom. We shot a few pictures and scared the turtle away. Luckily he haded taken a bite out of the 'eye yet and he was alright. I was surprised at how the turtle could get up to the fish and then hold him down. I would think the fish would have just kept swiming around as far as the stringer would allow. We left the fish and came back 10 minutes later. Again the turtle was there. We decided to let the fish go as we knew he would be turtle food overnight if left there. The sky cleared and we watched the stars and satellites for a couple hours. I enjoyed my first evening in my new ENO hammock. Very relaxing. Later in my tent I listened to KQDS from Duluth. Not my favorite station but I couldn't pick up WELY or Grand Marais without holding the radio up in the air and turned in 5 different directions. Weather report was not good for the next few days. Rain, rain and more rain and even more wind. It wasn't looking good for the home team.
Day 3 of 7
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 A quick side note here. On the way out of the cities I learned what I thought was going to be a seven day trip, Sun - Sat, was now a 6 day trip as we would be returning on Friday because of obligations for some of the group. Tuesday morning I was up about 5:45. Out of the tent just before 6. It wasn't raining. Lighter clouds in sky with an occasional sighting of the sun through the hazy clouds. Things were looking good compared to the weather reports. Too windy for myself to go out fishing though so I waited an hour for Gary to wake up. The water was restless and so was I. I needed to wet a line. I replaced the clogged water filter, the old Pur Hiker has held up well since '95. It has seen the Appalachian Trail, Smokey Mountains, some wilderness areas in the Blue Ridge and Chesepeake Bay areas and even did a stint in Italy. I listened to the weather reports on the Radio. Still rain and wind for the next few days. After he woke up, Gary and I ate, washed it down with a couple cups of joe and hit the water. It was windy but nothing we couldn't handle. We fished the north end of the lake and then headed across the top of the lake to the east leg of Polly. The wind was picking up and we ducked into coves and little bays to fish. Gary caught a nice bass in a bay on the east side of the east leg. In that bay a stream entered the lake between two big, er, huge slabs of rock that must have reached 20 to 30 feet above the water. They were like big fat pillars. Sentry's standing gaurd over the entrance to the stream. Pretty neat. I'll add the pictures later. We paddled farther into the east leg and found one boat at the south end. We tried to find the southernmost campsite but could not locate it. The wind was picking up quite a bit. We decided it was time to vacate the area and head back. The wind made for a good walleye chop drift up the east leg. Would have been better in a regular fishing boat though. As we drifted north, we couldn't really tell where the wind was coming from. It was starting to whip around every island and point from all directions. We rounded the NE corner and drifted westward across the top of the lake. The wind was really picking up. It was loud blowing through the treetops and the white caps were emerging all over the place. We were having a hard time holding the canoe on track. We were blown into the campsite at the north tip of the long peninsula and nearly crashed into the rock. We were able to stop and turn at the same time narrowly missing a collision by less than a foot. We were now being blown across the the north end of the lake in a slight SW direction. We saw a couple canoes fishing on the quiet west side of the peninsula on a good walleye spot. Meanwhile, we were holding on for dear life. I had my paddle in the rudder position and just tried to keep us straight into the waves. Zooming across open water, we were moving like we had an outboard on the the stern. Right between two islands and then a quick turn to starboard and we found safe harbor on the quiet side of the island. We could see our site. The tarp blowing in every direction, the boys trying to get it down and secure the kitchen. We paddled over to the site and rounded the point into still water. Beached the canoe and started helping. As we secured camp the wind picked up considerably. Gary and I notice a glass vodka bottle with the bottom broken off. Adam found it in the woods while he was looking for firewood earlier in the morning. I tell ya, the yahoos and the trash they leave. Bastards huh. We watched as the tree tops swayed and the sound of the wind was like a frieght train. Someone noticed the base of a tree, the tree with our food pack hanging in it, was lifting up a few inches on one side as the top swayed. Up and down the roots and dirt went. We watched and hoped it wouldn't come down or if it did hopefully it would fall with the wind. If it took a 90 degree fall to the left it would have hit the tents. It never did fall. The roots are strong. About 3pm the wind really is blowing hard and the rain starts to come down harder. We tie down the tarp to the ground over the kitchen and wood to keep it dry and we evacuate to our tents. I am in mine and the other three in one tent. For nearly three hours we are stuck in our tents. I inspect every square inch of the old Kelty Quattro 2. It also has held up well, being bought the same day as my Pur Hiker. There is a single floor seam from side to side that can use some new tape though. it is still stuck to the seam on the floor but has pulled away from the material for the few inches that it goes up the sides. I had a couple of the pole pockets sewn before last years trip to the BDub. I finish reading Sam Cook's "Up North". I recall the time I went on a Boy Scout bicycle trip with him in the early 80's. 1983 I think. About 15 of us. He went and wrote a story about it for the paper. I have it somewhere. Shirt, pants, hat, thermals for sleeping, they are all hanging from the birds nest in my tent trying to dry in the damp air. About 6 pm it seems the rain has stopped. It has stopped falling from the trees as well in the wind. Cold and damp. Very damp. Reminds me of winter in Italy. KQDS states there is a wind advisory until 10pm. I get out of the tent hoping I can get some walleye fishing in but the wind will deny me of that pleasure for the rest of the day. The food pack tree is still up. The wind still blows hard. We put up the tarp foot down to the wind. Enough room underneath for dinner and a fire complemented with some schnapps. We hover under the tarp until 11pm. All night long the wind comes and goes in waves. At one point I heard some wolves howling. I thought that was really neat. I loved that. I heard them a couple of times during the lulls in the howling wind. I was able to pick up WELY for some of the Twins game. So much for the wind advisory ending at 10. Nearly midnight and it is still howling. I am reminded of watching The Weather Channels "Storm Stories" a few weeks prior. They had a show about the blowdown storm in the BWCA. It was interesting to watch. Now I think I am going to be in a Storm Stories segment. Twins winning, no more wolves howling, only the wind. I fall asleep.
Day 4 of 7
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 I wake up about 6:30. The wind is still blowing but managable. I put the tarp up, start some water for coffee and wake Gary. I listen to the guys on KQDS talk about the weather. They state that the radar looks like a hurricane with the eye just off the north shore over the great lake. It is drizzling with off and on rain. I tune in WELY for a while. They give the weather report and the woman states "I feel sorry for those in the Boundary Waters right now". I didn't want to hear that. Gary is up and we discuss that which we don't want to discuss. The weather is going to be the same for the next couple days according to the radio. Sun on Friday....when we leave. Stick it out or go home and use our vacation for better things? It starts down pouring and we again head to our tents. I listen to the rain and WELY for an hour or so before falling asleep. Gary has discussed the options with his boys. I am woke up about 11, "Jeff! wake up, the rain has died down, were packing up and headed out". I get up and pack. The temp is in the low 50's. We get the canoes loaded. As I am pushing the canoe out, I slice my thumb open on that damned vodka bottle. I hope the person that brought it and left it gets his thumb sliced off. Trying to do the right thing by taking out someone elses trash and I get a scar for it. After some serious first aid to my thumb, we shove off. It rains and drizzles across Polly. No rain as we make the 95r portage to Townline. We fish Townline for an hour if only because there is no wind on this little lake. It starts to drizzle on the 190 rod trip to Kawasachong. As we get head onto Kawasachong, the rain has stopped. Less wind now. Was the right decision made? Should we have stayed? Should we set up camp here for a couple days? No, not now as everything is wet. Wet tents are no fun. We make the channel to Square lake and fish some pools. We catch a few northerns. A quick 20 rod portage to Square from the channel. I carry both canoes as I want to compare my Alumacraft to the rented kevlar. I like the kevlar. I just might be sold. I made that 190 rods though going in without too much trouble. Perhaps I can just keep my future portages shorter and the beer can will not be an issue. I'm getting older though. Less weight would be nice. Something to consider. We paddle through a quiet Square lake and through the channel to Kawishiwi. Here we find more wind. Not as bad as earlier but still a bear to paddle through. We encounter only one boat heading in as we are leaving. A 21 footer with three guys. It was a nice Wenonah kevlar. I forget the model. Minnesota I think? There was one boat on Polly fishing. One boat on Kawasachong and one on Kawishiwi both fishing out of the wind. I hope they all have better weather. We make the entry about 6:30pm. All alone, we load up and head for Tofte. We drop off the canoe and are told about the road construction by Split Rock. The road is severely rutted and potholed and washing away from the storms. We are advised to take Cty Rd 3 from Beaver Bay to Two Harbors. On the drive down the shore we are amazed at the water flowing down the rivers. We stop just before Beaver Bay and take photos of Beaver River. The falls are amazing. As we are parked on the bridge a truck stops and put out the detour signs. Now we have to take Hwy 3. It moves well until the dirt road part. Rain, mist, fog, potholes - it makes for a slow go. As we get closer to Two Harbors we encounter a lot of traffic going north. I can see it getting backed up from people slowing for the potholes as the southbound traffic has been doing. We make Duluth about 10 pm. We eat and continue south. I am dropped off at home in the metro after 2 am. We dig out my gear, take down the beer can and the rest of the crew heads home. I am beat and tired. I am awake for another two hours thanks to all the coffee and mountain dew on the way home. A good trip all in all. Just, sadly cut short. That's alright though as I will be back in July or August. Headed to Kelly Lake with my girlfriend for her first trip into the wilderness. She doesn't like spiders. I can hardly wait!
Day 5 of 7
Thursday, June 23, 2011 Sleep much of the morning. Unpack, clean and dry equipment. Wash clothes. Wonder if we should have stayed....on this, the wettest camping trip of my life. Believe me, I've camped a lot. Hey BWCAW! I'll be back!
Day 6 of 7
Friday, June 24, 2011 BBQ and drink Grain Belt Premium!
Day 7 of 7
Saturday, June 25, 2011 Nuts. Never did make it to Malberg. So much for the first days of summer. It truly is a late spring.
discuss this trip report (6 comments) - last post on June 28, 2011