Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Little Isabella Trip
by Birch66724

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/31/2018
Entry & Exit Point: Little Isabella River (EP 75)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
This is the 2018 installment of my annual trip to the BWCA with my Father.
Day 1 of 5
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

We left our home in Southeastern MN around 7 AM, and had secured our permit and had lunch by 1 PM. Then we had to backtrack 20 miles for gas. Whoops. With a full tank, we took off to our trailhead, with Google Maps said was a little under 2 hours away. After getting stuck in road construction for about 15 minutes, we got lost. Google Maps cut out. It left a vague screen behind, that showed only lines for roads. Okay…. In addition to hard copy map for out trip, which had road numbers on it, we drove off.

Ah bad idea. We ended up on an ATV trail. For over 12 miles. It was all white knuckled driving and heads out windows to check the canoe straps for an hour and a half. Thee were not well kept ATV trails either. They were overgrown, with huge rocks strew about, and parts were the right side of the road was 3 feet higher than the left side.

We have a good laugh about it now, picturing our Pontiac Vibe bouncing through the woods with a 22-foot canoe on the roof.

Once we arrived at the trailhead, we feared we had a flat tire, but pushed it to the back of our minds, as nothing was to be done about it now. The initial portage was easy, and the first ? of the river was too. It is a narrow river, not more than 10 feet across, but we had no troubles with the depth. We have a shallow draft canoe though.

I believe there were 5 small portages on the Little Isabella River, and 2 dams. There were also large patches of reeds that you have to build up some speed to coast through. The second half of the river had more turns and took some maneuvering. I wouldn’t recommend this specific River if you don’t have someone along that knows how to steer a canoe. Haha. In total, the trip down the Little Isabella took about 3 hours. (We don’t bring watches)

As we neared the end of the Little Isabella, the sky clouded up and it was growing dark. We were lucky to find the campsite right off the Little Isabella, on the Isabella, open, and we stayed there the first night. It rained most of the night, but the fly was on the tent and all of our gear was under the canoe.