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May 26 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

One Pan-tastic Adventure

by naturboy12
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 31, 2022
Entry Point: Kawishiwi Lake
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
I have been taking my youngest son (now 14) on canoeing trips to the BWCAW and Sylvania Wilderness for several years now, slowly extending their length and distance traveled. This year he helped me plan what was so far his most ambitious trip- an out and back from Kawishiwi Lake to Pan Lake. As always, it was a memorable experience!

Day 1 of 7

Sunday, July 31, 2022

After picking up our permit on Saturday afternoon, we made camp for the night at the Temperance River Campground north of Tofte. It's a nice little campground that I've stayed at before and served its purpose well in getting us off to a quick and easy start for our trip.

We woke at 5:00 AM and after packing our gear and eating a quick breakfast, we made the 30+ minute drive to the Kawishiwi Lake landing and were on the water by a little after 7:00. It was a sunny and pleasant morning, with rain forecast for the afternoon and we were pushing to make it to our hopeful "home" on Koma for the next couple of nights before the rain arrived.

A light breeze out of the south helped us through Kawishiwi Lake and into the nearly lily pad covered Kawishiwi River fairly quickly, and before we knew it we were in the burn area at Square Lake. Jaden said the lake reminded him of The Lorax because of the barren land with no treetops. It was a pretty good observation from a teenager who doesn't always pay attention to the bigger picture going on around him while we paddle.

We skipped the portages between Square and Kawasachong and weren't sure why they were even a thing until we got to the 2 beaver dams holding back lots of water just before Kawasachong. It was plain to see then that without those 2 beaver dams, the river portion of this trip so far would have been much different.

We quickly passed through an empty Kawasachong Lake to our first portage of the day- a lengthy but easy portage through the burn area into Townline Lake, which was immediately followed by another similar portage from Townline into Polly. The south landing of that second portage has some timbers/boardwalk to use to keep people of the mud. It didn't look like skipping their use would be a good choice, so we got out and pushed our canoe up the narrow channel while walking on the timbers to the side.

By the time we reached Polly the wind had picked up a bit, nothing major but it did provide a steady force to push us easily across Polly. We stopped at the island site in the middle of Polly (2013) for a snack/bathroom break and were happy for the chance to stretch our legs a bit.

After a short rest we again headed north through Polly into the beautiful island studded north end of the lake before heading back into river/portage areas. It was a pretty warm day, so we walked our canoe down the river instead of taking the 45 rod portage. This would have been better choice in higher water as we did scrape across several areas, but it was still a welcome source of cooling on a warm day and saved up the effort of loading/unloading yet another time.

When we finished the final portage from the Kawishiwi River into Koma, we could see darker clouds on the horizon and knew the rain was getting close. All morning long we had been one portage load behind a solo canoe, and we had our fingers crossed that he would either push through the coming rain to Malberg or at least would not choose the site we wanted on Koma. As we rounded the point into the lake and started heading towards site 1063 we could see his canoe tucked up along shore and him hastily setting up camp. We pushed on north, now pinning our hopes on the remaining decent site. Thankfully it was open. We landed at that site (1060) a little after 1:00 PM, set up camp and ate lunch just in time for light rain to begin around 2:30.

After a short nap the rain had stopped and we headed out to fish for a couple hours. The bay to our east had been getting pounded by that south wind all day, and we hoped to find fish stacked up in there somewhere. After hooking and losing a couple fish and Jaden getting snapped off by something very large, we set up to troll back and forth across the small deeper area of the bay and were rewarded with 4 walleye, including Jaden's first ever walleye, and a couple pike.

We wanted to explore more of the lake before it got too late, so we paddled over to the portage to Malberg, walked to the other end for some quick casts and photos, and were promptly greeted by the return of the rain, which forced us back to camp for the rest of the evening.

We cooked and finished a quick dinner just as the thunder was rolling in right at sunset. Jaden went into the tent when the heavier rain arrived, but I took the opportunity for a standing bath in the rain, which was well appreciated after a hot, sweaty day of travel. Most of the lightning and thunder stayed well north of us, but the rain persisted until near midnight. Sometime after that, Jaden and I were both woken by the distant howling of a lone wolf, a fitting end to our first day in the wilderness.


Day 2 of 7

Monday, August 01, 2022 Monday was a layover day for fishing and exploration, and we spent most of the morning and afternoon doing just that after portaging into Malberg. We caught plenty of pike and some small bass and checked out a few different campsites around the lake. Both Jaden and I really liked the campsite in the NW part of the lake (1042), with its long beach area, rocky dropoffs near camp, and large shaded area for tents. We made an extended stop there for lunch and relaxation.

We also explored another nice site (1051) that had a full Caribbean style walkout beach with the camping area and tent pads way up under the cedars next to a small rocky cliff.

Near the beach site we watched 3 trumpeter swans feeding and moving around the lake. We were able to get close enough to listen to them and Jaden decided they don't know how to play the trumpet very well. We were quite entertained when the swans decided to fly away from us as each bird had a different escape plan. One flew up high, one got enough air to just barely skim the surface of the water, but the star of the show was the swan that apparently had too much to eat that morning. Instead of getting any air, it simply ran across the water in a loud thrashing mess of wings and feet for a full 200 yards before stopping where the other 2 swans had already landed. It was a comical display for sure.

Later in the afternoon we headed back to Koma and I took a nap in the hammock. It was a last minute addition to our packs as we had never brought one before and it turned out to be a great choice when put to use throughout the remainder of the trip.

After my nap it was time for dinner, but when we brought the food bag down we were suddenly faced with our first "forgotten" item of the trip. We were going to make some instant mashed potatoes, and although we were supposed to have 3 different packs of them along, none were anywhere to be found. All we could figure was that we had somehow left an entire package of food behind, so I spent quite some time going through our list and trying to decide what else might be missing with them and what food to substitute at future meals so we wouldn't run short.

While waiting for me to figure this all out, Jaden got hungry. He knew we had an extra package of pop-tarts along so he was going to substitute them for his mashed potatoes that night. He opened the box and immediately started laughing and tossed something my way. Tucked into the what would have been a 1/2 empty pop tart box were 3 packets of instant potatoes we had put around the pop-tarts for extra padding while getting the food pack ready back on Thursday night. Well, problem solved- we did have all the food we were supposed to have. Jaden made plenty of remarks about us both being pretty dumb for not remembering where we had put them.


Day 3 of 7

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Tuesday was move day and we were on the water by 7:45 AM headed north to Pan. We took our time and fished along the way, catching a few pike and bass near some of the rapids. The east end of Malberg and the Kawishiwi River is a stunningly beautiful area, accentuated more so by the blue skies and calm water of that particular day.

We portaged from Malberg into the Kawishiwi River, then into Kiviniva and Anit. The river areas between these smaller lakes were absolutely full of lily pads, which made the paddling slow but the flower viewing magnificent. After Anit, the 2 short portages are really just 1 big portage with a wet meadow in between them. Clearly it has been this way for a long time as there is a very established portage around the meadow. By the time we arrived on an empty Pan Lake, the winds had picked up from the south. We checked out both campsites and decided we liked the eastern site much better as it had an easier sandy landing area and better tent pads, so we unloaded, ate lunch, and set up camp.

We decided not to go out fishing right away as rain was in the forecast again, and sure enough, it clouded up throughout the afternoon with thunderstorms rolling in from about 4:00-6:00 PM. After dinner we trolled around the lake to no avail, then spent an hour and a half looking for the portage from Pan to Kivandeba and instead just bushwacked to see the lake. We never did find the portage on either end. We had been hoping to get a canoe into Kivandeba to check out the beginnings of what tomorrow could be a trek towards the infamously hard to reach John Ek lake, but unfortunately we had to abandon that plan before it really even got into motion.

That night we had the best sunset of the trip, a beautiful end to another full day of enjoyment in the wilderness.


Day 4 of 7

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Today was our day to "sleep in"- we didn't get out of the tent until just after 7:00 AM, which for us is a late start to the day. We spent most of the windy day fishing Anit, Kiviniva, and Pan. We caught several smaller pike along with pike at 26", 27", and 30", a nice 18" largemouth bass, and even managed to find some decent sized bluegills in the lily pads with some mini-mites. Overall it was our best fishing day of the trip.

"Did you look in the pop tart box" has become the answer given whenever something is missing. It was Jaden's response yesterday when I couldn't find the saw and again today when I misplaced my needle nose pliers. He's a real smartass sometimes, but his timing on both of these deliveries was perfect and made us both laugh. During the early afternoon we stayed in camp due to the winds. At 4:30 we went back out fishing and promptly got rained on for the second time on this trip when the forecast said "0%" for rain. The rain was light though, so we just fished through it and caught several smallmouth bass along a nice reef area south of the western campsite. We kept 2 for a very tasty black beans and rice w/fish dinner and tossed back a fat 19"er that Jaden hauled in through the thick weeds around the reef.

After dinner the clouds broke and left us with the indelible image of the trip- a double rainbow so clear and bright that it looked painted onto the sky. The base of it formed only about 10' off our shoreline almost as though it had sprung out of the log there. We sat and admired that rainbow until the clouds came back and washed the colorful image away.


Day 5 of 7

Thursday, August 4, 2022

I slept in the hammock last night, and despite it not being any special setup or having any of the bells and whistles of a "real" sleeping hammock, it was way better than sleeping on the ground. I'll be looking into some options for future trips for sure. We woke up to a dense fog and everything was soaking wet from a heavy dew. There was no wind at all and it was eerily quiet all around us. We had a 5 hour travel day back to Polly, so despite the wet and the fog, we got packed up and on the move.

The thick humid air made it feel like we were in some tropical jungle, but we knew we had to get to Polly to find a site before it got too busy. Anit, Kiviniva, Kawishiwi River, Malberg, Koma and all the portages made for a tough morning and early afternoon, Once on Polly, every site we passed on the main body of the lake was occupied, but we got lucky when the site on the east side of the south narrows was open. That site isn't on all maps, and we watched a group coming towards us with their map out go right past it. We could hear them talking to each other about hoping to find a site soon as they passed us. We felt very lucky and a little bit guilty to snag that campsite, especially since it turned out to the such a good site.

After arriving, we both took a quick swim and had lunch before setting up camp. The morning fog and clouds had given way to blue skies, with a light breeze building throughout the day to help us not notice how much warmer it had become. We fished along the south shorelines for a couple hours in the early evening but only caught two small pike. The fish weren't really biting, but for the first time on this trip the black flies certainly were, so we headed back in rather than face their wrath.

We lazed around camp after dinner, had a nice campfire and just relaxed and reflected on how great of a week we had been having. The mosquitoes came out again that night like clockwork, it was the 3rd night in a row that their arrival signaled it was 8:45 PM. They were thick enough to drive you inside the tent for about 45 minutes, and then almost non-existent outside of that small window.


Day 6 of 7

Friday, August 5, 2022

It was Jaden's turn in the hammock last night and he agreed that it better than the tent. While he was still sound asleep, I put on my berkley choppo for the first time all week and caught a 16" SMB from camp on the first cast. I knew under the right conditions I would like the addition of that lure to my arsenal, and I look forward to finding more fish with it.

The day started out fairly clear and windy. We fished and explored the north and east ends of Polly but only caught 3 small pike despite several hours of effort. Polly looks like it should be a very good pike lake but it sure didn't fish like it while we were there. We also trolled the area in the narrows between the islands and our campsite every time we passed through, but never caught the walleye we knew had to be there somewhere. Ultimately the wind ended up winning on this day as 25-30 mph gusts from the south convinced us to get off the water around lunch time.

In the early afternoon, we watched in absolute awe as a nature documentary happened right before our eyes. We were sitting on the logs around the fire grate waiting for a weather update from our SPOT and looked behind us to see a mass of large ants (guestimate of 500+) all moving together towards us. We thought we may have kicked an ant hill on the way over to sit down, but couldn't figure out exactly where they had suddenly come from in such a large group. The ants followed each others path, spread out along a line about 15 feet long and a foot wide, with a few dozen stragglers. They marched right past us, up and over the fire grate logs on one side, then up the rocky incline past it and into the woods. We stopped watching them when they got 10-15' into the woods figuring that was the end of it. About 40 minutes later they came back in a much more spread out line, practically single file, with almost every ant carrying an ant pupa. We watched them disappear one by one back into their apparent source- a decaying tree stump on the other end of camp. For whatever reason, that ant squad was the moving crew today. The total area they covered where we could see them was 40-45 yards long, and probably double that based on the time it took them to get back. Its hard to imagine what it would be like moving your "families" entire future survival from one place to another, but we could only shake our heads somewhat in disbelief that we had watched it happen.

By mid afternoon clouds had covered the sky, followed by some on and off light rain and lightning until dinner time, but most of the storm stayed north. The winds died down, switched directions lightly a couple times and then died out again. The rumble of thunder continued on and off all evening with scattered light rain here and there. We just sat under the cedars at the back of camp and mostly ignored it until the mosquitoes once again pushed us inside and to bed a bit early in preparation for leaving in the morning.


Day 7 of 7

Saturday, August 6, 2022

When you have an 8 hour drive to get home and a few hours of wilderness to paddle through before that, its somewhat important to get an early start to your day. So for only the second time this week, I had to set an alarm. 5:30 AM should be early enough to need an alarm, but I was up by 5:15 so I packed up most of camp and let Jaden sleep a bit longer. We were on the water at 7:00 AM while most of the lake still seemed to be sound asleep. The 2 longer portages between Polly and Kawasachong were still wet from the morning dew and yesterday's rain, so there were a few muddy and slippery spots. Both Jaden and I had a couple times we slipped in the mud and nearly fell while carrying our loads, but thankfully neither of us got hurt.

When we got to Kawasachong, there were lots of people out fishing and all four sites looked occupied. We did see a couple fish get caught and I wish we would have had time to join them. But alas, we pushed through Kawasachong and Square and starting meeting groups headed in once we got to the river near Kawishiwi Lake. We did get a bit lost in the islands headed through Kawishiwi, but figured it out quickly enough to not lose too much time. When we rounded the last point and could finally see the landing, it was jam packed full of people There were 6 canoes and 15 people from 2 different groups trying to get things loaded. It was a true northwoods circus in every aspect, but we pulled off to the side, unloaded and got out of the way before any of them made any true progress. A long and uneventful drive home capped off yet another wonderful visit to the Boundary Waters, and planning has already begun for our next journey north!


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