Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Kawishiwi Lake to Malberg Lake and Others
by IndyElden

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/22/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Kawishiwi Lake (EP 37)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
Our group of four experienced BWCA trippers (ages 66, 65, 59 and 37) drove up to Ely, MN on June 21, 2020 in two cars from Indianapolis, IN and Champaign/Urbana, IL area. We rendezvoused in southern WI and caravanned up to Voyageur North Outfitters where we got our permits and spent the night. As usual, John and his crew were very helpful and friendly. We did our final packing in the bunkhouse room, and got all of our food, gear and spare clothes into two SeaLine Pro Pack 115 L dry bag packs weighing about 70 lbs.each, three individual Mountainsmith Day Lumbar packs and an Army assault pack, which we each carried in addition to our pack or canoe. Our canoes were 80-85# Grumman 18 footers. We arose early on Monday, ate some microwaved breakfast sandwiches we brought along in a cooler, and headed out about 7 a.m. on the two hour drive to EP 37, Kawishiwi Lake.
The four members of our party were experienced BWCA trippers, aged 66, 65, 59 and 37. We hailed from Indianapolis and Terre Haute, IN, St. Joseph, IL, and Mansfield, OH. We drove up in two separate cars from Indianapolis, IN and St. Joseph, IL on Sunday, rendezvoused in southern WI and caravanned to Ely, where we had reservations for the night at Voyageur North Outfitters bunkhouse. As usual, John and his crew were friendly and helpful. We did our final packing and managed to get all of our food, gear, spare clothing, etc. stuffed into two SeaLine Pro Pack 115 L dry bags. In addition to the portage packs, we each carried either a Mountainsmith Day lumbar pack or an army assault pack, along with our canoe or pack. Our canoes were 80-85 lb. 18' Grummans. We arose early on Monday and had a breakfast of microwaved breakfast sandwiches before starting the long two-hour trip out to EP 37, Kawishiwi Lake.

We made it from Kawishiwi Lake to Lake Polly in about 2 1/2 hours, and another 2 1/2 hours from Polly to Malberg, single portaging. The 20 rod portage between Square Lake and Kawaschong Lake was not necessary and involved just a couple of small beaver dam pullovers. The 11 rod portage was more like a 2 rod mini portage over a massive beaver dam. The 48 rod portage between Polly and Kona can be waded through in either direction but there are several points where you have to pull the canoe over rocks. One of our canoes portaged and got to the end of the portage a couple of minutes before our canoe which we waded and dragged through. We arrived at Malberg Lake around 2 p.m., but it took another hour or more to find a good campsite. We ended up at a great 4 rated campsite on the west end of Malberg across the bay from the 67 rod portage. The landing was a wide sandy beach, there were plenty of trees for tying off tarps, and hammocks, etc. and four or more tent pads. The site had a great fire grate and log seating area, and plenty of shade. This would be an ideal site for a large group. A large brown snowshoe rabbit was seen at the site and was not scared off by these campers.

On Tuesday morning, we all took a 5 or 6 hour excursion to Fishdance Lake to see the pictographs there and explore the rest of that lake. That evening our fisherman caught some good small mouth bass and walleyes but since we had already eaten, he did not keep them. On Wednesday, we checked out some other campsites on Malberg, including the highly rated Campsite 1058 on the far east end, which in my opinion was inferior to the far west end Campsite 1042 where we camped.

On Thursday, we paddled down to Lake Polly and camped at the nice 4 rated Campsite 1081. There were at least three good tent pads, plenty of trees and a good spot for a camp kitchen area. It was worthy of its good rating. There were lots of big boulders for laying out on or viewing the lake from a couple of directions. Our fisherman caught a nice 12" - 15" small mouth bass which we enjoyed as a supplement to our supper. The mosquitoes were swarming at dusk and their humming filled the air, soon to be replaced by frog croaking for most of the night.

On Friday, we paddled down to Kawishiwi Lake and camped at Campsite 1006 on the northwest end, which we found most worthy of its 4 star rating. It had a maximum of three tent pads, and a deluxe pit toilet. A grouse was observed walking along the toilet trail, and a larger unidentified animal ran across the trail on another trip. Butterflies were prevalent at this site, and the massive rock sloping bank was ideal for laying out. Our fisherman caught some small mouth bass near the campsite which supplemented our supper.

We arose early on Saturday morning and paddled to the landing in 25 minutes and got loaded up for our long drive back to Ely. On the Forest Service road leading out of Kawishiwi Lake, a large moose was seen running along the roadside, and soon after that a bobcat ran across the road. We got back to Voyageur North Outfitters by 9 a.m. and showered and soon started our long trip back to Illinois and Indiana. It was a most enjoyable trip with great weather and great people. Next year's trip is already the object of great expectations.