Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Pictographs on Fishdance
by alblais

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/12/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Lake One (EP 30)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Father/Daughter trip through the numbered lakes, with a stay on Lake Insula and a day trip to Lake Fishdance to see the pictographs.
After the temporary fire ban was lifted on 7-10-2020, I was very happy to see an available permit on the Lake one Entry point. With the kawishiwi ranger station closed the instructions were to just print out your confirmation email and head out for the entry point. I swung by Duluth pack to buy a new Fisher map as I had somehow lost my old one. My 15 year old daughter and I headed out from Duluth MN after a quick packing session. I am a somewhat seasoned veteran of 12-15 trips and my daughter has been along for about 3-4 times.  I prefer the numbered chain as its an area I know well so I feel at ease when I do a short notice trip. Other entry points I feel I need to research more to make sure I know where I'm going and what I'm getting into. When the kids were smaller we would stay on Lake three or four to keep the portaging to a minumum so I didn't tire them out . But this time I wanted to show my daughter the Pictos on Lake Fishdance as I had seen them 18 years ago with my wife and wanted to see them again, its always good to have a goal when you plan a trip.  I really like the town of Ely as an Entry point and usually stop at the DQ on the exit drive as a treat after being in the wilderness for a week. Sunday (7-12) we entered Lake One with great weather and hardly any wind. Very smooth canoeing in my 1991 Old town 158. This canoe is rather heavy but handles weight well. Goes through the water like a tank , slow and steady. We saw numerous Eagles, and some Mergansers with upwards of 15-20 chicks in tow. I never knew they had such large broods.  We stopped at a site on the south of lake three at a new site with a lot of cedar growth . I wanted to do some fishing as I knew some walleye areas I have historically fished here. After a fish dinner we listened to a pair of Loons sing us to sleep. The next day my daughter was pushing me onward so we headed out for Lake Insula with a slightly stronger wind at our back. The burn had really damaged the more direct route to Insula , I had seen on google maps that Hudson had been hit pretty bad. The trees have been slowly coming back with a thick growth of 3-4' pines in the burn areas but i was nostalgic for the scouting trips of my youth, so instead of going east on the portage to Hudson we headed North from lake four heading for Bridge and Fire Lakes. Here the old growth returned and made for a really scenic paddle. We traveled over a short 2 portages into Fire Lake only seeing one other canoe ahead of us. After Exploring Fire Lake a bit We took another short portage over into the north of hudson lake. I was looking at sites to stop at but my kid kept pushing me onward. No-one was camping on Hudson , not many large trees left standing here. We made it to the longer 100 rod portage to Insula . I pulled over to a empty campsite to make us a quick lunch. As we were eating I had my first experience of getting my permit checked by 2 20 something guys in green pants and brown shirts from the forest service. They were very pleasant to chat with, I had never seen forest service employees out in the BWCA before on any of my other trips. I was glad I bought the permit and remembered to print it. Portage to Insula hurt me , steep hills on both sides with a flat middle section. my 90 lb canoe wasn't fun transporting. On Insula the wind had kicked up and with all the islands I had become messed up on our location, I just followed the compass East and then North, until we saw a nice empty campsite with a sandy/ pebbly beach in a beautiful old growth area of cedar and pines. On Insula the south half was burned but the north islands were spared. Fishing was great , right off the campsite we would catch 3-4 medium 14-15 inch walleyes in 10 minutes on my barbie rods . I use rapala crank baits , deep diving shad raps in gold and silver highlights and just troll them behind the canoe. The gold one was the clear winner with the walleye . Northerns liked the silver but I let them all go . I tried cooking the smaller fish for lower toxin levels for the kid. Mercury sucks. The next day was a dad rest day, fish eat and recover . Had a couple storms roll through at night but fairly dry by morning .  The following day was the big event , leave our gear at the base camp on Insula and day trip into Fishdance with a light lunch packed.  We went through the Kawishiwi river which was a very pleasant change from lake paddling, then skirted the edge of Lake Alice, Alice has always scared me a bit . A fairly large lake that can develop big wind and waves when the weather turns bad. After paddling the edge of Alice you portage back into the Kawishiwi river and then after another 70 rod portage we were in Fishdance and showing my kid the impressive cliff wall there with the faded pictographs. We guessed at their meanings , took pictures and visited a campsite that me and her mom had stayed at years before.  Small thunderstorms were coming in so we headed back to Insula.  Big waves on Alice , slow going . Thank god for the Kawishiwi river as it was protection from wind. We got a little wet but made it safely back to our camp on Insula in about 3 hours. We saw a stand up paddle boarder making his way across the waves of insula with some troubles and finally had to be towed by a kayak buddy across the lake.  We stayed at this spot on Insula for 4 nights then headed back to lake three directly through Hudson east to west (three portages) We stayed one night on the south of lake three again on a rocky point.  Not much wind, a lot of small mosquitos hiding on the rocks and brush.  Probably the most buggy site I've come across. Beautiful rocky point though. Nice thick log furniture around the fire grate.  Made it back out thru lake two and one in about 3 hours the next day as we had a weather forecast of strong winds coming the day after . We headed back a day early to avoid that. We spent 6 nights and 7 days exploring. Some surprises... -cell reception of one bar on south of lake three and lake Insula -giant moose bone cracked in half on the shore of Fishdance -merganser chicks in groups of 15 , 16 and 20 spotted. -very good malts and frozen custard at Red cabin custard in Ely MN (cash only) -seagulls on three and Insula (small numbers of 3-5) A very fun and easy trip with a lot of father / daughter bonding . We did a similar trip before to see some waterfalls at Caddyman . Ensign lake to Assign to Caddyman and the goal of seeing the small waterfalls was fun also. I might check out what other similar sights we could target. Al and Kid