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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 01 2023

Entry Point 37 - Kawishiwi Lake

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: 7
Elevation: 1653 feet
Latitude: 47.8390
Longitude: -91.1036
Kawishiwi Lake - 37

Kawishiwi L.-Beaver-Makwa-Malberg Loop or I want to Basecamp next trip

by Mashuga
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 08, 2016
Entry Point: Kawishiwi Lake
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
This trip was supposed to include my son and his girlfriend but, a week prior things came up for both of them at their jobs. So, instead of 4 of us, Chris, a co-worker/friend of my son (and of our family) and I did the trip. This was his first time to the Boundary Waters. As such, he wanted to travel and test himself as well as seeing as many of the sights as time would allow. Chris is 28, very fit and muscular. I am not. There is a major discrepancy in our ages as well. I picked Chris up on Sunday at 6 a.m. for our 9 ½ hr. drive. We made good time going up, which is quite the opposite of our return trip which will be explained later. We picked up our permit and fishing licenses in Tofte and headed to the small, 5 site campground at Kawishiwi L. There were two sites left, one of which we claimed. The other site was taken within an hour. I was supplying most of the gear for the trip including separate, 2 man tents. People have told me I snore, sounding like a bull buffalo challenging another one for a mate. I was hoping we would find sites with not only at least 2 tent sites but, far enough apart that Chris could get some sleep. We had some nice conversations with other campers there and a very clear night sky which gifted us with several meteors.

Day 1 of 7

Monday, Aug. 8, 2016 We were on the water by 8:30 a.m. This was my first trip with my new to me, used, SR Q17. All other trips have been with my aluminum tank barge. The day started with a clear sky and a slight breeze blowing over our shoulders. We never had high winds the entire trip, at least while on the water and contrary to most trips I've taken, the winds were almost always blowing on our backs. We saw a few others on the portages but it was not as crowded as I thought it would be. The first 2 marked portages were beaver dams that we did pull overs on. Polly had quite a few people which was expected. We paddled on making good time and picked a site at Malberg at around 4:30 p.m. We saw no one else on Malberg that day. None of the portages today were tough nor was the paddling. This night was also clear and we saw many, many stars that we don't get to see at home. I like my new canoe and it’s nice to be back in canoe country.

Kawishiwi L - Square L - Kawasachong L - 189R - Towline L - 95R - Lake Polly - 19R - Kawishiwi R - 48 R - K. River - 127R - Koma L - 24R - Malberg L. Several beaver dams pull overs.


Day 2 of 7

Tuesday, August 09, 2016 Although the night started clear, there were on & off showers during the night. Nothing heavy but enough to wet everything. We had breakfast, broke camp and were on the water by 10 a.m. We were seeing other canoes on Malberg from our camp. The sky was overcast and we had light winds, again helping to push us along. We had lunch near the north end of Adams L. The only site we passed on Adams was the island site which was occupied. The morning was a very pleasant paddle. The afternoon not so much. The map did not seem entirely accurate with the portages from Adams to Boulder. Although we made steady progress we did a lot more paddling through shallow lily areas than what I thought the map showed. We made it to Boulder where we hoping to camp on the island site and do a layover day. We passed 2 of the 3 sites on Boulder and both were occupied. I did not want to go back to the SW site as the wind was a bit stiff from the south. We decided to move on and hope the Ledge L. lone site was open and adequate for us. The portage north resembles a “T” with the 135 rod N/S portage intersecting the E/W 200 rod portage at about the midpoint making for a 235 +/- rod portage for us to Ledge. No big deal…at least the start of the 135 rod wasn’t. At about the midpoint you come to a black, shoe sucking quagmire pit. The actual portage cuts west at this point. About 30 yards west you then come to a creek about 20 or so feet wide. We were doing 2 trip portages so we brought all the gear to this point. We put the canoe, loaded with the gear, in the water for our one stroke crossing. One the north side the trail goes up, steeply! After doing the first big up there are several more ups on the trail. Have I mentioned I’m not in prime shape and I’m 62. After we got on the E/W portion the trail was relatively flat although not well used. On the Ledge lake end I was totally spent and out of fuel. Chris went back to get the last of our gear while I laid flat on a rock. When Chris arrived we started loading the canoe. There was a short section of black quagmire with a 3” diameter log laying over about 3 feet of it to facilitate crossing. Of course I lost my balance. My left foot was on solid ground but I knew I was going to get at least mud covered on my right leg up to my ankle and maybe my calf. BIG surprise. My right foot and leg kept going and never hit bottom. The only thing stopping me was the vast expanse of man land and the back 40. Yes, I was actually up to my crotch in a nano second. Here is the full mental picture: My right leg is straight down and my foot not touching anything solid. My left foot is still flat on solid ground. My left knee is about even with my face. Undesired gymnastics for a 62 yr. old. I had earlier called this spot a quagmire but a more fitting description is that it was a swirling, sucking, cesspool of black vile, vomited up by something evil. And, it had me in it’s grasp. I held my arm out for Chris to use to pull me from the pit of dispair. He pulled and nothing happened. When Chris didn't suceed on his first pull I saw a surprise look on his face that turned to fierce determination. I had no time to say anything but, I knew one of two things was going to happen in the next second or so. On his next pull he was either going to pull me free or he was going to tumble backwards with my detached arm in his hands. I'm typing with 2 hands so the outcome was in my favor. We made it to the site on Ledge L. which turned out be a darn nice site. I washed my pants off in the lake and me as well. After an exhausting day we had dinner and turned in fairly early to a mostly clear sky and a fantastic sun set.

Malberg L - 68R - Kawishiwi R - 26 R - K. River - 30 R - Beaver L - 90R - Adams L - 10R - crk - 20R - Boulder L - 235R - Ledge L.


Day 3 of 7

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 A much needed layover day for me after yesterday afternoon. A light rain started about day light and ended about 10:30 a.m. or so. I’m getting old so I stayed in bed until 11:00 which felt good. The temperatures have been really nice. Not hot during the day and cool enough at night to use my sleeping bag as a blanket.

We had a brunch of scrambled eggs and bacon. We took the canoe out twice that day to fish. We both came the conclusion that this was a very pretty lake but alas, had no fish in it. The sky was overcast and we had some on and off light rain late that afternoon. We made tortilla pizza for supper. I had 2 and Chris had 4. That boy can pack the food away which is good as it helps lighten the load. This was a nice relaxing day that helped me recoup a little which was good for what was coming the next day. We have not seen anyone since we left Boulder Lake.


Day 4 of 7

Thursday, August 11, 2016 We were up early to an overcast day that looked like rain. We had breakfast and packed up camp. Just as we were getting on the water at 8:30 a.m. the rain started. Not a down pour but steady. I started out wearing my rain jacket but after the first portage I was way too warm and my glasses fogged over so I packed it away. It didn’t matter as the portages today were pretty overgrown and you got soaked just walking them. The rain lasted for about 3 hours but the trees and brush stayed wet all day. To add to the challenges the portages had mud holes and, at regular intervals, downed trees. The trees were mostly pines and previous folks had trimmed the upward pointing branches off to about 2” stubs. Chris, with his long legs had a much easier time crossing these trees as he could step over and always have one leg on the ground. I, being much shorter, always bottomed out and had to be careful that Rod and the boys didn’t get snagged or worse. All 7 of today’s portages were on the tough, rugged side and had quite a few trees down. We made camp on Pan Lake about 4 p.m. In spite of the challenges today, we enjoyed paddling through the smaller lakes and the scenery, as usual, was fantastic. We were very tired so decided to have freeze dried. We had Mtn House chicken breasts and mashed potatoes which was very good. We also had Backpacker Pantry Shepherd stew which was terrible. We forced it down for the calories but will never buy it again. We also popped some corn over the fire which was a nice treat. The day stayed overcast as well as when we turned in for the night. We saw no one today. I’m getting old. To help me sleep I have been regularly drinking my medicine each night. I prefer to call it medicine rather than Jack Black. Saw no one today.

Ledge L - 180R - Vee L - 80R - Fee L - 40R - Hoe L - 100R - Makwa L - 60R - Pond - 85R - Pond - 55R - Pan L.


Day 5 of 7

Friday, August 12, 2016 We were up by 7:30 a.m. and after our typical oatmeal breakfast we were on the water by 9 a.m. The sky was total overcast with almost no wind. We were not traveling far today and the portages are in better shape than yesterday. We fished a little in our travels but had no luck. As we entered Malberg we started seeing quite a few other people which are the first humans we‘ve seen since leaving Boulder. We went to the same site that we stayed on our first night and found it open. We were there by 12:30 p.m. After setting up camp we took the canoe out and fished. Chris caught one walleye and about a 22” northern. While fishing I saw another canoe with the flying moose and spoke briefly with that person. We went back to camp where I cleaned and cooked the fish and we had a delicious meal. We turned in around 10 p.m. just as sprinkles were starting. I finished the last of my medicine tonight.

Pan L - 60R - Pond - 25R - Kivaniva L - 40R - Kawishiwi River - 90R - Malberg Lake.


Day 6 of 7

Saturday, August 13, 2016 We were up by 7:30 a.m. We had light rain on and off all night. I always take tarps to set up over the tents as extra insurance and it helps keep the tents dry for packing up. Today we packed the tents and gear up under that tarps. The rain stopped about 10 a.m. and we soon after that took to the water. The winds have been kind to us this trip. When we were going North at the start of the trip the winds were from the South. On our southerly route the winds have been from the North. Easy paddling. We ate lunch on Polly and decided to push through to Kawasachong to camp so that we could be back to the car earlier the next day. We’re seeing more of the sun as the day progresses and it feels good. We set up on Kawasachong at 3 p.m and a group of 4 set up on the next site north about 5 p.m. We had 3 bald eagles, one mature and 2 young roosting in a dead tree about 100 yards west of us for most of the evening. Although still somewhat cloudy it didn’t look like rain so we decided to not set up the tarps over the tents.

Malberg L - 24R - Koma L - 127R - Kawishiwi R - 48R - K. River - 19R - L. Plly - 95R - Tgowline L - 189R - Kawasachong L.


Day 7 of 7

Sunday, August 14, 2016 We were up extra early today to a mostly cloudy sky. After a quick breakfast we hit the water at 7:45 a.m. The sky started clearing and we once again had sunshine. The trip out was uneventful and we greeted a few people entering the area. We were back at the car by 9:30 a.m. We loaded everything and headed to Sawbill Outfitters for a shower. It looked like a small town there with all of the people.

We were on the road at 11:30 a.m. for our 9 ½ - 10 hr. drive home. The drive, however, turned into 12 hours. For several miles prior to Two Harbors the traffic was stop and go. When it was go, it was about 5 mph. We thought there was an accident. Traffic was normal going the other way. After getting to Two Harbors we wondered if the traffic and stop lights in town were what caused the backup. Whatever it was, it added close to an hour to that portion. Then, south of Duluth in the construction zone was another frustrating portion. Keep in mind this was Sunday and there was no work going on, just inept drivers apparently. This was stop and go, mostly stop it seemed. It added at least an hour. I guess if this is my biggest complaint I really don’t have much to complain about.

Last parting thought. This was a good and memorable trip. I’m glad to have been able to take a younger first timer along who loved it and is wanting to go again soon. I have always taken loop trips when in the BWCA and we travel almost every day. I always plan at least one or two layover days though. I may not have mentioned it but, I’m getting old and the portages are getting tougher. I also get tired of setting up camp in the afternoon just to break it down the next morning. I’m ready to try a base camping trip. I’d like to go in a day or two, set up camp and then relax, fish and explore the area. So, if I do take another one with my son and his friends we’ll do it on 2 permits. One for them and one for me. We’ll travel together for a day or so and they can then go on their own and meet back up with me later. Sounds good to me.