Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Kawishiwi to Malberg in May
by KjerJoy

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/14/2024
Entry & Exit Point: Kawishiwi Lake (EP 37)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 5
Day 2 of 5
Wednesday, May 15, 2024 After a solid night of sleep, we woke around 6:30am and started packing up camp. Bianca, Brock and Amanda enjoyed some gas station cinnamon rolls, while Sean and I ate Clif Bars and had a couple Celsius energy drinks. We cleaned up camp, brought our gear to the entry point and Sean and Brock went and parked the cars. After loading Brock and Amanda and gear into the Minnesota II and the 3 of us into our Minnesota III, we pushed off from the launch around 7:30am for our journey north to Malberg.

The morning was very calm and not quite as cold as we were anticipating. We reached the beaver dam into square and after getting everyone out, we were able to float the canoes and gear over the top. Rounding the corner into Square, Brock and Amanda got their first view of the burn area from the Pagami Creek 2011 Fire. Sean and I commented on how much growth there has been since our first trip through the area in 2018. We were able to avoid the portage out of Square by heading left through the river. The current and turns in the river always keep us on our toes, but we were very impressed with how well Brock and Amanda navigated and kept up with us. Shortly after we arrived on the river, we reached the first beaver dam. We again unloaded people, but could float the canoes and gear right over the top. A few more paddle strokes and we reached the last beaver dam before Kawaschong. This one requires a bit more gear manipulation for us, and we fully unloaded our canoes, carried them over and hopped back in.

The paddle through Kawaschong was uneventful and we arrived easily at the first full portage into Townline. We all unloaded our gear, Sean took off with the Minnesota II and I stayed back to help get everyone else started. Brock really wanted to single portage, but his pack didn’t quite work with the canoe, so we settled on him taking his pack half way while I took Sean’s pack halfway. Amanda and Sean would come back for those packs after they completed their first jaunt across. I helped Bianca get her pack on, gave her the map and paddles and she was off. Amanda grabbed her pack and paddles and took off and then Brock and I headed to the halfway point with packs. We found a mid-way-ish point and dropped the packs before returning for the Minnesota III and my pack. Brock took off, I did a quick gear check for anything left behind and headed across the portage. At the end, Sean couldn’t find his water bottle, so he went back again to do another check at the beginning. No luck, we’d have to make do with just my water bottle for the trip. We loaded back up, crossed Townline in a hot minute and unloaded again. The portage out of Townline was repaired last summer and the new wood decking makes it so much easier to load and unload. We did the 1.5 portage technique again with Bianca single portaging and arrived at Polly on the other side around 11am. The view of Polly from that portage is easily one of my favorites I’ve encountered. We all had some snacks quick before loading the canoes back up and heading into Polly.

The paddle through Polly was quick and we commented on how empty the lake seemed. We had yet to see anyone. After a little navigation mishap, we found the portage out of Polly and started our jaunt on the Kawishiwi River. The first two portages went by very quickly. We all just carried what we could as they’re so short. The final portage into Koma was a bit longer, so we again employed the 1.5 portage technique for Sean, Brock, Amanda and me. Koma was a quick paddle to the portage to Malberg. We completed that final portage quickly with everyone carrying what they could. Bianca really enjoyed the big rock at the end of the portage, and we finally saw another canoe with someone fishing by the rapids. We took another look at the map to figure out what campsite we were headed for, loaded up the canoes and took off. By this point it was in the mid-60’s, and none of us had been prepared for the warmth. We were all pretty warm and getting a little sunburned. We arrived at site 1051, our desired site around 1pm, took a quick survey and decided to unload and get settled in.

Amanda and I set up our tents and sleeping pads, bags and clothing sacks while Sean went to hunt for a spot to hang a tarp. Once tents were set up, I got started on the task of making delicious freeze dried lunches while Amanda, Brock and Sean finalized the tarp set-up. We had purchased a new tarp from REI a couple days before the trip and didn’t have much experience with it. Between the 3 of them, they got it figured out and set up nice and high back in the cedar woods, ideal for the rain we expected at some point during the trip. Wednesday afternoon we spent time around camp. Brock and Bianca went fishing, Amanda was working on a friendship bracelet and Sean was scouting firewood. At some point, Sean and I went hunting for a bear tree and were able to track one down kind of on the shoreline away from camp. With the new food storage requirements, we decided to purchase Ursacks, despite always hanging our pack anyway. We just wanted to be dually covered. We found a decent tree, got the ropes set for easy hanging near dark and then continued to search for firewood. Sean was processing firewood, and I got a good fire going so we could start in on our potatoes for dinner. Brock caught a northern pike from shore, so we fileted it up to eat with our potatoes. After dinner, we cleaned up, hung out around the fire and passed around the Jameson until it was nearing dark. We all got our teeth brushed, toiletry bags into the Ursacks and Sean and I went to hang those on our previously set ropes. They went up easy and we returned to camp. Bianca went to bed first, around 9pm. I joined her not too much later than that and Brock, Sean and Amanda hung out around the fire for a bit longer talking.