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May 27 2024

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

Polly, Malberg, and a long day trip to Fishdance

by pcallies
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 03, 2021
Entry Point: Kawishiwi Lake
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
This was a return trip to Polly and Malberg for my wife and me. It was our niece's second BWCA trip and she got to experience a very different part of the wilderness than last year's trip to the south arm of Knife. We also brought a newbie who got "patina" on her canoe on its virgin BWCA trip.

Day 1 of 8

[paragraph break]Saturday, July 03, 2021~Kawishiwi Lake, Square Lake, Kawasachong Lake, Townline Lake, Lake Polly[paragraph break]

After camping the night before at Sawbill Campground, we left camp at 6:40, arrived at the entry point at 7:15, and were on the water about 7:50. We wanted an early start knowing that all permits had been reserved for a few consecutive days and because the forecast high was in the low 90s. The paddle between Kawsihiwi Lake and Kawasachong Lake is one of my favorite in the BWCA; I love the bends of the creek and the countless water lilies.[paragraph break]

After arriving at Polly around 11:00, we refilled our water bottles and set out in search of a campsite. We ended up getting one of the campsites we had set our sites on: 1078.[paragraph break]

We ate lunch, relaxed, pitched tents, gathered wood, swam, read, napped, tried to stay out of the sun - forecast hottest day of trip. [paragraph break]

Dinner was diced chicken we had browned, seasoned, and frozen before leaving home, mixed into some instant chicken gravy and served over Stovetop stuffing.[paragraph break]

We saw a beaver swim past camp after dinner and it turned in beside camp, came partially out of the water and ate bark off a bush stem about 20 yards from us. When he finished the stem, he went to the shore, harvested another and pulled it back out to where he ate the first.[paragraph break]

With the high temps, horseflies and deerflies were the insect pests of the day.


Day 2 of 8

Sunday, July 04, 2021 I rose at 5:00 and fished from shore for an hour. No bites so I made coffee and enjoyed the peacefulness. There were few mosquitoes and it wasn't warm enough for the flies yet.[paragraph break]

It was a long, hot day of slow fishing. Fished 10:30-12:30. Stayed out of the sun. Fished 4:30-6:30. My wife caught a small walleye on our way in. We shared it as an appetizer amongst the four os us and all appreciated the sample of fresh-from-the-lake walleye.[paragraph break]

A large thunderstorm passed just to our south as we finished dinner. There were scattered thunderstorms well into the night. I think this was probably the storm complex that started the Delta fire.


Day 3 of 8

Monday, July 05, 2021~Lake Polly, Koma Lake, Malberg Lake Up at 7:00, we left for Malberg about 9:30 following yummy cinnamon raisin fry bread. [paragraph break]

The skies had been hazy with smoke from Canadian fires for many days, but today the air was smoky and hazy closer to the surface. At the portage into Malberg, we met two other paddlers who asked about the smoke/haze. They'd been in for a week so were unaware of the Canadian fires. We talked about the lower-level smoke/haze and agreed that it was too diffused and widespread to be from a fire started the night before, but 20/20 hindsight makes me wonder now that I know about Delta.[paragraph break]

Arrived Malberg about 11:30 and filtered water VERY slowly at the portage. I love the convenience of the Platypus gravity filter compared to a pump, but, man, it is seriously finicky regarding air in the lines or filter.[paragraph break]

We dragged a line up to the northern end of the lake and got the campsite 1054 at the mouth of the narrows. No success casting from shore. After setting up camp, we fished to the end of the narrows and back, catching only two small northerns. [paragraph break]

Having not caught any fish, we improvised dinner: kielbasa and mashed potatoes. S’mores for dessert. [paragraph break]

Another disappointing day of fishing.


Day 4 of 8

Tuesday, July 06, 2021 I rose at 5:00 to fish from shore. Snagged two lines and gave up. The girls got up 7:15-7:30 and we had a leisurely morning, including breakfast burritos - yum. [paragraph break]

We went out fishing about 10:45 under the only overcast sky of the whole trip. I caught my first ever bluegill; even though I'd never caught one, there was no doubt about its identity -- what a distinctive fish. I also caught two small walleyes that we kept. [paragraph break]

We met a couple of friendly solo paddlers who were out fishing from their camp near the Louse River portage into Malberg. We traded stories about the poor fishing we'd been experiencing. They kindly offered some extra food when they learned that we rely on fish for protein. Having caught just enough and having enough lunch options to improvise dinner, we graciously declined. It's always very cool to meet fellow experienced wilderness travelers.[paragraph break]

Out for another two hours of fishing in the afternoon. Many bites, a couple small northerns, but nothing to keep. A small walleye filet for each and Uncle Ben’s wild rice for dinner.


Day 5 of 8

Wednesday, July 07, 2021~Malberg Lake, River Lake, Fishdance Lake The weather changed dramatically (90s as highs the previous days to 40s as lows the rest of the week) today and the mosquitoes found our camp this morning! It was about the worst I've ever seen mosquitoes, but they're easy to keep at bay with repellent so they were nothing more than a nuisance. They ended up being mostly gone by Thursday so my hypothesis is that a specific species of mosquito hatched with the change from hot to cool weather and then they lasted only 24 hours. [paragraph break]

We had pancakes and then were on the water at 9:20 for a long day trip to the pictographs on Fishdance lake. We took the northeast portage out of Malberg after hearing how bad the northwest portage is. This meant two extra portages, but the Kawishiwi river was pretty and it was a new area of the BWCA for me. With the wind and current were in our favor, it was just over 3 hours to the pictographs from our camp. [paragraph break]

Along the way, we mistakenly took an early portage from the river into Fishdance (make sure you go all the way down to the big rocks. One of the people in our group aptly named this false portage "the pivot portage" after the famous scene from the TV show Friends :-) . It reminded me of a few Quetico portages where I felt like I was constantly trying to fit my 18.5' canoe around tight corners bookended by trees. [paragraph break]

The pictographs were disappointing after seeing photos of them in other trip reports. It looked like the surface of the cliff had flaked off in places so perhaps some of the pictographs went with them. [paragraph break]

My niece tracked the return trip from Fishdance on her GPS watch. It was 9,936 meters and took us 3 hours, 4 minutes. We dragged lines on part of the return trip and I caught a decent Northern - no pizza for dinner tonight. [paragraph break]

After stopping to clean the Northern, we returned to Malberg via the northwest portage - it has earned its reputation. If we’d had our canoes loaded with packs it would have been an almost impossible portage. Mud, a mid-portage flooding that needed to be paddled, and a rock ledge at the end of that paddle. Then more mud to walk through. [paragraph break]

Sweet and sour northern for dinner. I sautéd fresh red pepper and onion. I cut the fish into 2" chunks and dipped them in tempura batter before frying them. It was 4-5 pans of 10 chunks of fish. We served it over Minute Rice with a packet of Campbell's Sweet and Sour Skillet mix. It's an involved meal, but it's my favorite on canoe trips.[paragraph break]

The mud at the west end of the northwest portage out of Malberg: [paragraph break]

This is the rock ledge mid-portage after needing to paddle a flooded portion of the portage:


Day 6 of 8

Thursday, July 08, 2021 After the long day trip on Wednesday, this was a day of rest - lots of reading. I made loaded hashbrowns for brunch. My wife caught a nice northern by noon that was enough for dinner. [paragraph break]

The younger women paddled a bit in the late afternoon so the newbie could practice steering.


Day 7 of 8

Friday, July 09, 2021~Malberg Lake, Koma Lake, Lake Polly Instead of traveling all the way from Malberg to the EP, we decided to spend one more night on Polly sop today was the day we paddled back to Polly. Left camp 9:50. Arrived Polly 11:40, campsite 2013 on the mid-lake island at 12:10. [paragraph break]

Malberg was like glass. I love those conditions when paddling a canoe. We stopped at the portage out of Malberg to explore the river feeding into Malberg. There was just a relative trickle of water flowing into Malberg. The girls climbed to the top of the big rock in the middle of the river and I took photos of them. [paragraph break]

We went out fishing for a couple hours in the late afternoon. My wife and I had no luck, but the young women found a walleye hole in the rocks just south of campsite 1074. They kept a couple for us to have for dinner -- a nice way to finish off the last night of camping. Given the hot, sunny weather, I can't believe we caught all of our walleyes in 6-9' of water. Go figure. [paragraph break]

After we got out, we learned of the fire ban that start this day. We cook over the open fire and enjoyed the fried fish over the fire in blissful ignorance. Given the weather we've had this summer, I was a little surprised a fire ban wasn't put in place before our trip started. I'm thankful it wasn't and we were very careful with our fires.


Day 8 of 8

Saturday, July 10, 2021~Lake Polly, Townline Lake, Kawasachong Lake, Square Lake, Kawishiwi Lake After a pan of carmel Fryin' Pan Bread, we were on the water at 9:20, heading back to EP 37 at Kawishiwi Lake. It was a warm morning and those first two portages seemed never-ending, even with significantly lighter packs minus the food we'd eaten. We enjoyed the paddle through the creek once again.


Lakes Traveled:   Polly, Lake, Townline Lake, Kawasachong Lake, Square Lake, Kawishiwi Lake,

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