BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 22 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 9
Elevation: 1653 feet
Kawishiwi Lake - 37
Annual Paddle With The Boys
August 08, 2018
Sawbill Lake (38)
Number of Days:
Kawishiwi to Alice. Extra work, lost gear.
We rented one canoe from Sawbill outfitters and utilized their shuttle service over to Kawishiwi for an 8:00 a.m. start. This group, four college buddies in our late twenties, doesn't mind putting in the work to get away from it all but also appreciates base-camping for a few days to relax and target some fish. Day one we decided to haul our way to Alice - 15+ miles of paddling and 3+ miles of portaging.
We took an early break to climb the overlook in the burnt area between Square and Kawasachong - to our delight, the blueberries were popping and we were surrounded by our second breakfast. I imagine the entire area hit by the Pagami creek fire of 2011 was much the same.
We made good time through the Townline portages and Lakes Polly and Koma with a goal of lunch on Malberg. That's when the extra work began. When we arrived at the Malberg end of the portage from Koma, there were a few other canoes partially unloaded and a few more off to the side with a group swimming underneath the rapids. This made for a crowded portage and a bit of confusion while trying to clear out and be on our way. In the confusion, we inadvertently left a pile of fishing gear at the portage (the author carries a majority share of fault and would be tremendously grateful if said gear was found by a forum reader and returned - otherwise the author will experience a lifetime of paddling trips with his friends heckling him about this day *not all bad, what a day*).
We paddled two thirds across Malberg before stopping for our lunch and realizing our mistake. What's an extra 50 minutes of paddling, anyway?! Unfortunately, the gear was nowhere to be found and we went the remainder of our trip down three fishing poles and a couple nets.
We got out on the water early enough to fish the end of the morning bite. We located a hump between...lets say a quarter to a half mile from our campsite and slammed a few nice eaters in a ten minute span. With a nice stringer in the making and the bite slowing, we were about ready to leave until, WHAM, tight line. My buddy in the front of my canoe, fishing with my pole (see above) was into a real nice fish. In short time he had it to the back of the canoe on the right side and, without a net (see above) I landed his PB walleye, a nice 25 inch hog-in-the-making. Like an expert angler and true gentleman, he released the beauty back to the depths to fight another day.
With a steady breeze building out of the west/northwest, we decided to spend the next few hours traveling the lake. We paddled the mile plus across Alice and went for a swim and then drifted and jigged our way slowly back across the lake to camp.
The rest of the day was spent hanging around camp and exploring the shoreline between sites 1166 & 1165. You can easily walk between them and a decent ways south of 1165 too. Plenty of shooting stars that evening and almost every night to follow.
With a big day on the horizon, we decided to lay low and relax. We found a few more eaters for the stringer and enjoyed some more cheesy, fish tacos.
That evening we enjoyed a long, proper fire and watched as the dragonflies descended upon our camp to protect us from the mosquitoes, at least until 9:00/9:15 when they either had their fill or lost the hunting light. The pests were bad but not terrible until 10:00 when, like clockwork, they mostly disappeared.
Alice to Wine.
Plans are meant to be changed and limits are meant to be pushed. We could have taken it easy and enjoyed any of the amazing lakes and campsites between Alice and Wine, but like I mentioned earlier, this group likes to put in work and stay for multiple nights. So at 5:30 a.m. we were up and at 'em.
We slammed some food, broke camp and were on the water by 6:45 a.m. to take on our challenge - Alice, River, Malberg, Pond, Boze, Trail, Bug, Louse, Poe, Bug, Wine and all the sloughs in between. Compared to the second half, the first section of this route (Alice to Trail) was a breeze.
All in all it took us around 13 hours to make it to Wine. Although we did stop to "filter" water, break open the food pack and swim, what slowed us down the most was part two of this route.
The portages get a little questionable East of Trail. The 125, 50 and 125 rod portages really set the stage for the home stretch. It didn't help when we found ourselves on a false portage between the 125 & 50 - be careful in here, if you don't go far enough north after the curve, you will see what appears to be a portage, it will take you very near the start of the real 50 rod portage but not before some full on bushwhacking - speaking from experience.
The remaining hikes, especially the 80 between Louse and Poe are very overgrown and rocky underneath. In shorts and sandles of various sorts, our legs and feet took a beating. Nothing five liters of wine won't fix though! We checked all three sites on Wine - the one by the portage to Frederick is the nicest, by far. The island site wouldn't be bad, but after the day we had, we held out hope for a nicer view. Site 860 was terribly overgrown. We walked past the fire grate twice before realizing it was there.
Chilling on Wine
Obviously the middle of August is not the best time of year to catch lake trout - we knew that before, and confirmed it right away Sunday morning. Not saying it can't be done, but our group sure didn't make it happen. I carried a very small, handheld depth/fish finder - MarCum LX-i - simply one of the best additions to a mobile canoe fishing setup there is. We found the deepest holes and fished all over and around them. We jigged leeches, artificials in white, silver, yellow and brown, spinners, spoons, you name it. We even caught a giant cicada and floated it off a bobber for hours from camp. The fish weren't biting. Another five liters of wine and nobody cared - heck if we were carrying it tomorrow.
The WHITE PINES on and around this lake are unreal - some of the coolest views I have seen. The island straight away from campsite 861 was really cool to explore with an impressive gully cutting it in half.
Wine to Smoke.
We took our time breaking camp; with a mile and a half portage on our plates for the day, it wasn't hard to delay our departure. If I'm remembering correctly, the 90 rods leaving Wine was no joke either. It starts out with a serious climb, definitely enough to get the blood pumping.
We single portaged the 480 (allowing ourselves a couple breaks) in just over an hour. There was ankle deep water for 40 yards at roughly the midway point. Other than that, it was not a terrible carry whatsoever.
The other canoe stopped to climb up on an island in the sloughs between Lujenid and Kelso and reported a pretty impressive view from that vantage point.
Made it to Smoke and set camp. The plan was to target some eyes and hopefully bring a stringer home the last day for our wives and girlfriends to enjoy - anything to maintain support for the next paddle. Unfortunately, the water had turned (from the summer heat?) and the fishing was terrible. Two years ago we experienced the same murky water over on Burnt around the same time of year. Lesson learned.
Not much to be said other than we could have easily gone another six nights. It's always tough leaving the spell of the north and returning to life in the city. Until next time.
Shout out to the folks at Sawbill for never disappointing - we appreciate you!!