BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 29 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 9
Elevation: 1653 feet
Kawishiwi Lake - 37
Basecamp in Malberg area
June 02, 2018
Number of Days:
We drove up from Iowa, and it poured from the Twin Cities all the way to Tofte. Seeing this would be the case, we stopped in Duluth and pulled under a parking garage to repack our gear without getting everything wet. (it was 38 degrees as the SE wind was coming off the lake) We got a few last groceries at the store and headed up the north shore in the driving rain. Got our Northwind 17 from Sawtooth and supper from the Coho Cafe across the road. (we recommend both of those now) Since it was still pouring on our drive up the Sawbill trail, our plan changed. We had a campsite reserved at Sawbill for the night and were going to drive to the EP Sunday morning. We instead drove to the EP, all the campsites were filled with what looked like darn-near permanent campers so we slept in the truck in the EP lot. (not great)
Daylight couldn’t come fast enough as neither of us slept real well in the reclined seats of my truck. Needless to say, we were the first ones to push off from 37 that day since we used headlamps to get started and were awake since about 4am. We were on the water around 5:30am in a gentle mist/haze and no wind. (forecast was for 20mph winds from NW later) Our goal was Malberg as we’d read that this could be done in a solid day, and we like to push hard on the first day while single portaging especially given the forecast. The paddle to Polly was uneventful, both our first times through a burn area. We were paddling on Polly by 10am, hadn’t seen anyone the whole paddle until Polly, and made it to our campsite (near Louse R. mouth) around 11:30am after seeing the narrows site was taken. Mission accomplished and then some, lunch on Malberg.
Today was sunny and very windy (start of a theme) and was nice to dry everything out from the mist of the day before. We fished some, found some nice smallies on top water lures and explored Malberg a bit. We tried dehydrating our own canned pasta sauce before the trip, it rehydrated beautifully and was one of the best spaghetti dishes I’ve had.
We set out for a day trip down the Kawishiwi R. and back to Malberg. (counter-clockwise) Very cool areas, some great fishing, a few easy portages, and overall a great day. The portage back into the NW part of Malberg wasn’t my favorite. We stopped at a few campsites to check them out and snack, I’ll rate those on the maps page. Tortilla pizza was a new adventure at supper, tomato paste in a tube plus parmesan cheese and precooked bacon were the ticket over the fire.
Sunny and windy again, we decide to take an afternoon trip away from the wind up the Louse River. The whole time we’d been camped right next to it and thought the portage on all the maps started on a large rock in our view from camp. (though we’d yet to see anyone go in or out) We were wrong, portage starts up the river a bit. We took it and it was overgrown and nasty. We fished our way up the river, catching some fish at narrows and turned around at Frond and came back down. We skipped the portage back into Malberg as it was a very small beaver dam and some easy rapids. (now I know why the portage is overgrown)
Our last full day on Malberg, we plan a big day trip up to Pan for some fishing. We get to Pan and there are canoes all over fishing. One nice man in a solo and large beard said they were doing alright but we decided to skip the crowds and keep going since I’d heard there were lakers in Makwa. A few more lakes and portages and we had Makwa to ourselves. We ate a quick snack on an island and cobbled together some deep-fishing rigs, including a little cleo I’d just ordered from Cabelas. Our first drift/troll run I caught a nice 18” fish and our day was made. Neither one of us had ever caught one in the BW before. I have no idea how deep we were or how deep my lure was. We trolled all the way around the lake and got nothing. Came back to the original spot and caught 3 more, all fish on the little cleo including this 20” laker/splake. We kept one since it’s jaw was in bad shape after getting the hooks out. Back to camp to figure out how to cook and eat this new fish. (it was amazing) Side Note: On our way back, we fished in Panhandle a bit (not worth it) and missed the portage landing. We found what looked like one at the very SE corner of the lake. Landed, started down the trail and it was very overgrown and rough, not what we recalled doing earlier in the day. But it was still a trail and basically impossible for me to turn around with the canoe so we kept going. Many twists, turns, and bangs with the canoe we were at the same Pan landing with the wonderful sandy beach we’d been at in the morning. Turns out there are 2 portages between Pan and Panhandle, DO NOT take the eastern one. If you are on Pan, head straight north from the landing, don’t go right as there are 2 trails. If you’re on Panhandle, don’t paddle along what seems to be a huge beaver dam/embankment to the SE corner.
Friday morning we started early back toward Polly so we would be closer to our exit on Saturday morning. We fished the pool below the rapids coming from Koma for a bit, largest fish of the trip from there. (still swimming) We paddled around Polly for a while and saw a bunch of people and occupied sites. We knew it was a busy lake and started getting a little nervous but found a nice site that we believe some kayakers had just left that we passed on Polly that were headed to Malberg. Set up camp, fished some, saw an otter, and had a nice sunny breezy day.
We were on the water by 7 and in a light rain just like our trip in, we were wet heading out with no rain all week otherwise. We were back to the truck before 10 and it looked like 2 groups were unloading at the landing so we just single portaged to our truck in the lot to get out of the way. On every portage this trip, one of us double packed and the other had the canoe and a pack. We traded who did what, she carried as much as I did which is usual but I'm spoiled. Overall a great trip, new area, good fishing, and good weather. We’re planning our next one already.