Isabella Lake to South Kawishiwi River
by IndyElden

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/24/2019
Entry Point: Isabella Lake (EP 35)
Exit Point: South Kawishiwi River (EP 32)  
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 5
Trip Introduction:
After a long drive to Ely from Indianapolis with a rendezvous with two other trip members in Bloomington, IL, our group of five checked into Voyageur North Outfitters bunkhouse on Sunday night and got to bed early. We arose at 5 a.m. on Monday and had a bounteous breakfast at Britton's Cafe before getting our VNO shuttle at 7 a.m. to EP 32 (South Kawishiwi River) parking lot to leave our vehicles and then on to EP 35 (Isabella Lake) to begin our trip.

The Monday forecast called for rain most of the day, but it was a light rain and did not impede our plan to get to Bald Eagle Lake by the mid-to-late afternoon. A 15 rod portage and 8 rod portage along the way were avoided by paddling through some fast water. The 39 rod portage south of Quadga Lake was very overgrown and hard to find in places. The 130 rod portage near Rice Lake was very flat, but the 141 rod portage near Bald Eagle Lake was a little more difficult, especially since it was the 8th or 9th portage of the day. We were single trip portaging two 18.5' Alumnacraft canoes and three SeaLine 115 Pro Packs weighing 65, 65 and 55 lbs. (on the first day). Day One mercifully ended at Campsite 1729 on the eastern shore of Bald Eagle Lake, at a very nice 4-Star campsite, where we spent two nights.

On Wednesday morning, we were on the move again, with three or four hours of paddling to Campsite 1711 on Gabbro Lake, on a little bay with great walleye fishing. It was another 4-Star campsite in my book, although some BWCA reviewers only rated it 3-Star. The campsite was surrounded by water on two sides and there were lots of insect, bird, turtle, and beaver activity. Portage99 discovered some molting nymphs becoming dragonflies, and we watched one of them for two hours until he came out of his crusty shell, dried and flexed his big wings and took his first flight.


On Friday morning, after two nights on Gabbro Lake Campsite 1711, we were on the move again with a three or four hour paddle and a moderately difficult 122 rod portage to South Kawishiwi River. There was some up and down, lots of roots and rocks, and muddy spots, but really nothing too bad. We checked out a few campsites on the way south on South Kawishiwi River and decided to stay at Campsite 1696, the closest site to the South Kawishiwi River EP 32. The campsite was not as good as the 4-Star sites we occupied on Bald Eagle Lake and Gabbro Lake, but it was at least a 3-Star site and only 10 minutes from the 147 rod portage to the EP 32 Parking Lot. Early on Saturday morning, we reluctantly left the beauty of the BWCA and took a short paddle to the moderate 147 rod portage from South Kawishiwi River to the parking lot where we found our vehicles and drove the 15 miles back to Ely and a much-needed shower at Voyageur North Outfitters. After cleaning up, we shopped a little at Paragis and visited the Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely. At 11:00 a.m., we started our 13 hour drive back to Indianapolis, or 10 hour trip for Portage99 to Bloomington, IL.

This was a most enjoyable and leisurely trip with less than 30 miles of paddling, and about 12 portages. We ate very well, cooking dinners four nights on the fire grates and baking cakes, cornbread, and apple pie in the reflector oven. We pre-treated our clothing with Permethrin and had no bug problems whatsoever. We also tried out home-made Reflectix pot cozies and found them very effective in keeping food hot after cooking.