BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 18 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 9
Elevation: 1653 feet
Kawishiwi Lake - 37
Kawishiwi Lake to Snowbank 2012
August 10, 2012
Snowbank Lake (27)
Number of Days:
We arrived at our “guide’s” house at the designated time to stow our gear in her vehicle and head for Crooked Lake Resort. We decided months ago that we wanted a couple of days to prep for the trip and double check that we had our gear. We arrived at the cabin at about 2, got checked in, enjoyed the lake and the dock, sorted gear, and made dinner over the fire. I made pork chops, corn on the cob, and brownies. We all settled in with a book after dinner and had a relaxing evening enjoying the relative stillness of the resort.
After cooking french toast and bacon over the fire, we headed into Ely. We ran out to the Northern Lakes Girl Scout Canoe Base to say hi to the staff (who were absent), hiked at Kawishiwi Falls, ate lunch at “A Taste of Ely”, did some shopping, and stopped off at the outfitters (Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service) to get our permit and the canoes.
We stopped for another set of maps, then some ice cream at DQ before we got on the road back to the resort. After much giggling and singing along to “Minnesota Morning” on the road, we arrived back at the resort and made foil dinners over the campfire. We loaded everything we decided not to take back into the vehicle, then loaded our packs (which was challenging since we couldn’t open the back hatch of the SUV because the canoes blocked it).
We paddled Kawishiwi and Square Lakes easily enough, but we took our time- there was an immature eagle at the end of Kawishiwi. The devastation on Square Lake was heart breaking- the blackened trees were a stark backdrop to the green on the forest floor.
Between Square and Kawasachong Lakes there were two beaver dams. We were able to take the canoes over them, but there were other groups breathing down our necks! After Kawasachong, there was a 189 rod portage. The portage was the most congested I’ve ever seen. We passed at least three other groups, but we were the last ones off of the portage since we weren’t in a huge rush. After the Townline “Puddle” Lake, we approached a really cool portage landing.
We got across and made it down the steep hill at the end. I ended up going back for the canoe this time and did my first kevlar portage. The kevlar was much lighter to portage but I caught wind much more easily than the Alumicrafts do. I made Tacos for dinner while Terry threw the bear hang. Polly Lake Campsite Review: Site 1072- Campsite had a couple of nice tent pads, good fire grate area, and nice seating area. We swam at the canoe landing (west side of site), but the rocks were slippery, so watch your footing! Bearhang tree wasn’t very good, but protected from mini and micro bears well. Nice site for sunrise and sunset with no other campsites in view. Overall a 3-star site Lakes: Kawishiwi, Square, Kawasachong, Townline, Polly 6.5 mi paddle, 1 mi portage
Happy Birthday Carolyn! Today is the 71st birthday of one of the members of our crew. We got a bit of a late start and didn’t hit the water until 9:30. We paddled the last bay of Polly and started portaging. We ran into the same crew that we did yesterday (several times) and played “cat and mouse” across the 3 portages into Koma and Malberg. We stopped for lunch at the first site on Malberg. The site was extremely overgrown and looked like it hasn’t seen much use. After lunch we paddled Malberg and admired the site on the cliff on the narrows. We caught some wind on the way to the Kawishiwi River, but finally made the portage. The outfitter we worked with had made a note on our maps that this portage “might be muddy”... TALK ABOUT AN UNDERSTATEMENT! The middle of the portage was completely submerged by about two feet of water.
The River end was extremely muddy as well. We paddled the river and passed 4 open campsites-we were on a mission- we wanted the coveted 5-star site on Amber Lake. We pull into Amber and around the point...to see another canoe already there. Since it is late in the day and all four of us are tired and hungry, we back track to the site at the south end of the island-only it isn’t there! Our Fisher maps show it on the very end of the island, but it isn’t. It is 1/3 of the way up the west shore of the island (later, we found out that the McKensie maps have it marked correctly). Since it is late, we skip the brownies and ice cream planned for Carolyn’s birthday. I made chicken fettucini with mixed veggies and hot apple dessert for dinner, we got the dishes done, the bear bags up, and crawl into the tents for the night. Kawishiwi River Campsite Review: Site 1969 This site is mis-marked on both this website and the Fisher maps. It is located about 1/3 of the way up the west side of the island. It has a decent canoe landing, a couple of iffy tent pads (rocks and logs...or as one member of our crew called them locks and rogs --- that would be the tired kicking in ). The fire area is VERY nice and has several large boulders that make great tables.
There is a rock face that goes right down to the water but is large enough and flat enough to make a great picnic area and to watch the sunset. We hung the bear bags down by the canoe landing. There are a couple of trails that split off down by the canoe landing that lead to different overlooks. Overall a 4- star site. Lakes: Polly, Koma, Malberg, Kawishiwi River, Amber, Kawishiwi River 7 mi paddle, 2 mi portage.
We got an earlier start today than we have the last couple of days. We packed up camp and had granola bars and oranges as we loaded the canoes. We paddled the river and River Lake to the 20 rod portage marked on our Fisher maps- WHAT A PORTAGE!!! It had a decent landing on the north shore, but had downed trees, huge boulders to scale, and it wasn’t wide enough for the canoe to fit through. The south landing was extremely boggy and I thought we were going to lose a couple of boots. As we pulled away from the landing, I looked to the right and saw it- the REAL portage. After walking back up that portage trail I discovered the landing for this "actual" portage is very close to the rapids and quite concealed by boulders. We continued down the river into Fishdance Lake and saw the pictographs. I was amazed at how many there were!
I only saw pictures of a few of them before the trip. From there, we headed back north to the portages to Alice. On the 70 rod portage we ran into “Go Solo” and chatted for a minute before we continued on our way. The end of the portage was really rocky. As we were trying to load the canoes and vacate the portage ASAP, a couple of guys pulled into the only logical loading place to fish. Don’t you love people who don’t use portage etiquette? At the other end of the puddle was a very intimidating portage- it had what looked like a 20 foot climb at the start of it. It wasn’t that bad, but by this time all of us were ready for a break. We stopped for a quick snack and watched a crane on the rocks across the river.
After a break, we headed for the campsite our outfitters had told us about. We found the site- with other people already on it. Our second choice site didn’t impress us, and the third one (west on the island) had a lot of downed trees and no decent bear hang. At this point, half of our group headed to the next site to the west of the island and decided we had found our “home” for the next two days, since the next day was layover. After a swim and making camp, I made beef stew, peas, and brownies. We then hung the bear hang and took a stroll on the beach before climbing into the tent and listening to the loons. Alice Lake Campsite Review: Coming tomorrow! Lakes: Kawishiwi River, River Lake, Fishdance Lake, Alice Lake 8 1/2 mi paddled, 110 rods portaged
Today was a good day for a layover- we would have been nearly windbound all day anyway. As layover seem to go (for our crew) we had severe wind and threats of rain all day. The weather didn’t keep us from eating well though. The food pack should be about 10 pounds lighter, and the bear hang is our best yet. Pancakes, pitas, and personal pizzas with blueberry cheesecake kept us busy over the fire for a good chunk of the day. The sandy beach was warm, sunny (sometimes), and windy, but the fire area in the shade was cool. Two of us spent the morning lounging in the hammocks and the tent, but in the afternoon I (as the designated “chef”) repacked all of the rest of the food- and put my “lackeys” to work helping. We plan on an early start tomorrow to make it to Ima and get a decent site. Alice Lake Campsite Review: Site 1175 This campsite was GORGEOUS!!! The sandy beaches bragged about on the east shore of Alice have nothing over this one!
We spent our layover day here (so 2 nights) and really enjoyed this site. In our time here, we never saw another person. It has one minibear who is rather bold, but didn’t really cause trouble. This site has 2 nice tent pads and a nice seating area around the fire grate. While all of this stuff is rather close together, you have an entire beach to go with the site too. There was a bear hang behind the west tent pad that actually worked out quite well. Someone had lost a rope in a tree to the latrine, but our trees worked better anyway. :) The clump of trees between the fire grate and water were great for a couple of hammocks.
The latrine is fairly close to camp and slightly visible to the rest of the crew (especially if someone was wearing an orange bandana). Our second night in camp, we walked along the shore out to the point to the east and got some great pictures. The only issue we had with the site was the wind. If the wind is from the south, you could get windbound here, but if you can just get out around the point, you can duck behind the big island and have a wind block. There isn't really a good place to sit in the sun and avoid the wind...unless you sit in the brush. Overall a 4.5-star site. Lakes: Alice Distance: 0
After a night of high winds, rain, and little sleep, we got up at 5:30 and were on the water at 6:30. The waves on Alice weren’t as bad as yesterday, but were still a challenge. I double packed the 10 rod portage successfully- surprising, since it was my first time double packing. We quickly paddled Cacabic Lake. On the 240 rod portage, two of us started out double packing, but only made it 1/3 of the way before we had to drop the 2nd packs. One of the others dropped the canoe at the 2/3 point and back tracked to get the other packs. She double packed the two personal packs to where the canoe was and switched back to the canoe. Two of us then backtracked and grabbed the last 2 personal packs sitting at the 2/3 mark. It was kind of a weird system, but it worked out! On Thomas, we had white caps galore. We island hopped across the lake while watching an eagle soar above us, then portaged into Thomas Pond. We quickly portaged and passed through the river sections passing a few people and a couple of playful otters.
We stopped for lunch on a rock across the portage to Ima, and then had fun sliding (and falling) down the rock face into the muck. After lunch we hit Ima- talk about whitecaps! I climbed up along the west side of the portage with binoculars and a map to see what sites were open. We ended up on the second site on the east shore. We got in around 2pm and made camp with enough time for a nap before dinner... After a 3 hour nap, we had a late dinner to a “sailor’s delight” sunset. We hung the bear bags and went to bed. Ten minutes later we heard “scratch, scratch, scratch.” We had a microbear helping itself to our empty packs. We got up and hung the packs- only to hear “scratch scratch” coming from inside one of them! We started opening the pack- only to have the mouse come FLYING off the pack and hit Tauna! The adventures of the BWCA are ever-changing and never-ending! Ima Lake Campsite review: Site 1190 This was a nice campsite with a view. The landing was a 1-canoe very rocky landing, especially since we had white caps coming right at us from the other end of the lake. The fire grate area looked good, but since it was so windy, we ended up hiding out farther up the site. We found two decent tent pads and a cool high elevation spot that might work for a tent if you don’t mind it not being staked down. The wildlife here was pesky-we saw mice and a snake. There was a depression just to the south side of the campsite where we put up our rain fly and cooked dinner over the stove. The bear hang was ok- we tied off to the main tree in the site and the top of a dead tree trunk that was at least 8’ tall. If you use this system, just make sure you get the packs away from the branches that overhang...or else you’ll be short a few cheerios in your trail mix. Overall a 3-star site. Lakes: Alice, Cacabic, Thomas, Thomas Pond, Ima Distance: 6 mi paddled, 350 rods portaged
The adventure of the microbear continued last night and into this morning. Even after hanging the empty food pack, the mice were still getting into it-we could hear them trying to gnaw through the pack. We got back up and our fearless leader karate kicked the pack (hoping to stun the mouse with the piniata effect). Instead of stunning the mouse, she was stunned when her foot got stuck in the waist belt of the pack and her other foot went out from under her. Don't worry; no injuries. Just lots of laughing in the dark. We ended up hanging the pack upside down and they left it alone. The bear bags had proof of the determination of the microbears this morning- the trail mix was short some cheerios. After reassembling and repacking the packs and breaking camp, we hit the water on Ima. It was calm and we made great time. We paddled Jordan, Cattyman, Adventure, Jitterbug (finding the portage landing at Jitterbug was an adventure, but we had a lot of fun paddling, pulling, and poking our way through the bog), and Ashub Lakes with a side trip to Cattyman Falls before we stopped on Disappointment. The trip to Cattyman Falls is well worth it!
We made it to the north site on the east shore at 1pm, had lunch and set up camp for our final night. We swam (briefly- that water was COLD!!!), relaxed in the hammocks, re-directed lost hikers on the trail behind our campsite, and snacked heavily. I found the leftover tortillas in the food pack, along with onion, garlic, butter, and oil, so I sauteed the onion and garlic in the butter and oil and fried tortilla chunks in it to go with our Mountain House Lasagna. We then hung the bear bags and got our gear repacked as much as possible. Tomorrow we’ll paddle Disappointment, Parent, and Snowbank- then begin the drive back home. Disappointment Lake Campsite Review: Site 1380 This site has a nice landing and shallow swimming area. All of the tent pads are fairly level, but have rocks and roots in them. There are logs all over the campsite set up to sit on.
The latrine is almost full and can be smelled if the wind is in the right direction. (If you happen to pass this site, grab the number of the lat and report it please as we forgot to do that) The bear hang was OK, but not spectacular by any means. The site to the south is very close and we could hear them talking most of the night. We hung the hammocks right in the middle of the site and it worked out well! Lakes: Ima, Jordan, Cattyman, Adventure, Jitterbug, Ashub, Disappointment Distance: 6 1/2 miles paddled, 150 rods portaged
Our guide overslept this morning-even though her head was on top of her watch alarm. We made good time once we got on the water, paddling the rest of Disappointment, Parent, and Snowbank. We made it to the portage from Disappointment to Parent early enough to wake up the people camping there. They had paddled all of Disappointment the night before, and were disappointed because there were no sites left. Parent was a quick paddle. We could hear the motorboats on Snowbank as soon as we hit Parent. On the second trip across the portage, there was a crane sitting on a rock just off the end of the portage. We made good time across Snowbank and the only motorboat we saw on the entire trip was very curtious! We got to the landing, loaded all of our gear, and headed into the outfitters in Ely.
We grabbed the traditional Subway lunch and ice cream in Ely and hit the road.
We had a great adventure and are ready to start planning next year! I think one of our favorite things about this years trip was that because the evenings were cool, there were almost NO bugs. The days were comfortable, but the evenings did cool off. Lakes: Disappointment, Parent, Snowbank Distance: 4 miles paddled, 185 rods portaged.