BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1276 feet
Little Isabella River - 75
July 04, 2014
Little Isabella River
Number of Days:
My alarm goes off at 2:30 and I decide to sleep a little more. If I remember correctly there is a beaver dam about a couple hundred yards down the Little Isabella River. I don't expect it to be a problem but better in full light than the early twilight that I usually start my trips in. Soon enough Claire and I are on our way. The short cut saves about thirty or forty miles I would guess but I'm not sure if it saves all that much time. It's a forest road but is better described as a logging road. A four-wheeled drive with high ground clearance is the only vehicle I would recommend drive down it. I have a compact car. It's twilight now as I stop to tighten one of straps that has come loose. It's five miles of this rocking and steering and branches scraping my car and I'm out on to the Tomahawk road. Thank goodness I drive a crappy car. Though mechanically sound, it aint' much to look at. The road leading into the Snake/Little Isabella isn't any better than that logging road and when I arrive at the entry point and get out of my car I see one of the rear straps is gone. Oddly, the other three are still nice and tight. I haul my gear down to the river in three trips and go back up to grab the canoe. It's about fifteen rods with a twenty foot elevation change I would guess. When I get back to the canoe I realize I brought the canoe yolk down there too. Oh well, it's not that far. I'm on the water about sun up and navigate the beaver dam and then I am quickly on the first portage. It's flat, short and muddy. I do the same thing with the yolk. Another beaver dam two and I'm on the second portage. It has some elevation but seems shorter than the thirty three rods that the map says. I've come to think of rod distances in terms of football fields which should put it at almost two. Eighteen rods equals one football field. Immediately after this portage I run in to a problem. There is a large tree across the river that has been cut away on one end so us paddlers can get by, however, there is another smaller tree that now lies across the opening. It too has been cut away but I'm guessing very high water has repositioned it so the cut end is now on shore. I can't ride over the top and there is no decent spot to pull in and bushwhack around. I go back to the portage and see how hard it would be to bushwhack my way from there-no chance. Now it's back in the canoe only without the dog. I'll just have to find a way and I decide it's better to leave her on shore if I'm getting out in an awkward place. Before I do I take another run at running over the top. It works, just barely. I have to do the kid in a cardboard box move a few inches at a time but I make it. Don't know how I'm going to get back up but that's not for a couple days. I pick up Claire down stream after she bushwhacks her way through the brush. I don't know much about dogs, having never had one, but this much I learned they want to come with. It's how I've trained both dogs I have taken canoeing with me. Leave without them for short distance and keep offering them chances to get in. This is Claire's third trip with me and has been a wonderful companion. More beaver dams but nothing of note. I'm debating coming out through the Snake River because of that log jam problem back up stream but that would mean paddling a river I don't like much, many more rods of portaging and a two mile hike back to the car. Soon I'm on the last portage of the Little Is. It's short flat and sure footed. From here it's clear sailing to the big Is and then an upstream paddle to the portage of my destination, Quadga lake. On the way I snap a picture of a lone pine that survived the fire. As I get out on the Quadga portage I can't help to think that this is a wonderful fishing spot. Just below a hard rapids on a big river with a water swirl one could maybe throw a slip bobber into at varying depths and have it stay there. I bet there are fish there and I regret not having tried. The only reason why I don't is because I want to get one of the only two campsites on Quadga before anyone else gets there. Turns out I don't see another soul the entire trip. Anyway, the Quadga portage has about a forty foot elevation on both ends, is fifty one rods, and has a few trees to step over and around. At this point it's a tough one by my standards-nothing to avoid though. When I get all my gear over to the other end I suck down one of my two 24oz mountain dews (soon to be water bottles) and look across the lake. My head net is on as the gnats (black flies?) are here in force. The campsite I want is easily spotted across the lake. It's that spot right in that direction that isn't burned. A quick trip across the lake in nearly wind free conditions and I'm at the campsite. The best place to land is about fifty yards to the west of the site. And I thought I was done with the portaging for the day! I set up camp and make some lunch-mountain house freeze dried something-unrememberable. I still haven't cooled down after the days workout and hot lunch so it's time for a swim. With the exception of my water shoes I'm in my birthday suit. The area right in front of the fire pit has a smooth slow transition to deeper water. The water itself is cool and clean. Perfect for cooling down. Claire looks on from shore. For whatever reason she just is not a swimmer which also means she makes a good canoe dog-won't jump out of the boat for any reason. Now I try my luck at fishing and doggy comes for a visit and I start taking selfies of us. Meanwhile my bobber gets about ten feet from the rock ledge I'm sitting on. Claire loses interest and I reel in only to find to my shock I have a fish on. From the swirl in the water it's good size and likely a northern. It pulls my drag out a couple times and bites off my line. I was hoping for a stray walleye and expecting bass. When I hook up again I put on my one leader and sure enough the fish is still around and I hook into it again, land it in my mini net(two tries), photo it and release it. Soon I hook into another northern although smaller than the first it puts up a very good fight and does something I've never seen before. It flies completely out of the water horizontal to the water like some sort of malfunctioning torpedo. As far as the fish is concerned it works as she manages to break my line. The rest of the trip is average to small size bass. An hour or two before sunset it begins to rain and Claire parks herself in her pop-up kennel and I retire to my hammock.
It rains all night and stops around daybreak. Rolling thunder is the menu for the day and hashbrowns for brunch. Claire gets her fill and retires for the rest of the trip to her kennel. I'm worried that she's sick or maybe bugged out. Even when she ventures out she is very lethargic and soon is back in her pen. Eventually the rain comes in late afternoon and it is wicked. The kayak paddle I used as the center pole on the tarp won't stay in place in the high winds and water starts to pool and I have to make the run from my hammock to my tarp area to fix it and save poor doggy from an eventual dousing. I'll have to go to a lean to setup when expecting severe weather next time. After the storm it cools dramatically and the wind changes direction coming from the east now. It looks most ominous in that direction but after a time I can tell that while the surface wind is from the east the storm itself is heading north. The north shore must be getting pummeled. The night comes quick as I make a mental note to bring earplugs during bug season. The sound of skeeters near my ear at night is annoying me.
I sleep well and morning comes quickly as Claire wakes me by rubbing her head up against me. She is still moving slowly but seems to want me to get going so I break camp and get on the water. I can't believe how warm and humid it is as I start portaging. Before grabbing the last of the gear from the Quadga side I load up on water. Luckily, as I head down stream, a light breeze is against me and I leisurely paddle my way to the Little Is. By now I have decided to take that river out hoping that all the rain has raised the water level enough for me to get over that log jam problem. What wind there is comes at me. I've noticed on rivers the wind seems to follow the river so it's either with you or against you. I do well going upstream and the log jam is no problem and manage all the beaver dams by doing the Hawaii five-0 except for one. I have to get out on that one and get water in my boots for the first time. Oh well, I'm near the exit point and am exhausted from the constant work coming upstream. Claire is happier now but still doesn't show her usual spunk and stays strictly on the portage trails. On the last portage she surprises me by jumping into the back of the boat before I'm ready. She has never been that eager to get in but has been getting better at getting in on command. I am spent and finally we are out and taking the short cut back to the cabin hoping to see my missing strap along the way. What I do see is a notice that they are doing wolf trapping in the area. At the cabin I unload my car and lay out my hammock and camp tarps to dry out, take a nice bath and take a nap. When I get up Claire makes it clear she wants to go for a walk.