South Kawishiwi River, BWCA Entry Point
Our 2012 summer Boundary Waters trip was spent entirely on the South Kawishiwi River. The initial planning began last fall. After last summer’s Brule Lake trip, we were looking for an entry point that allowed only a couple of groups in per day that was near the Ely area. We ended up deciding on entry point 32, South Kawishiwi River (op) because they had a limit of two groups that could enter per day. The reservation was made January 26, and a good thing I made it that early too because the entry points were booking up very quickly! Visit this page of recreation.gov to make your reservation.
South Kawishiwi River Map
We left for the trip early in the morning on Saturday, July 21 from the cabin, and made it to the Kawishiwi Ranger Station in Ely before 9AM. If I could, I would live in this ranger station. It is stately, massive, and exudes glorious north woods vibes. All of Ely smelled of smoke, and the rangers informed us that this was because of fires in Canada. Apparently they were getting a lot of calls from people reporting that they smelled smoke. We got the classic talk from the ranger about the rules of the BWCAW, but one of the points mentioned really caught my attention, because I had not heard it described in this way before. Of course, leave all items and sites of historic and cultural value alone, such as the rock painting sites. However, the ranger informed us that any item over 50 years old is considered historic, whether it be a tree or a coke bottle. Interesting!
From the ranger station it was a 21 mile drive to entry point 32. There were quite a few spaces for parking, both right next to the entry point and a bit farther away. The portage in is 147 rods, or a bit less than half a mile (there are 320 rods in a mile, and a rod is 16.5, about the length of a canoe). There were a couple steep(ish) spots along it, and some larger rocks that you have to step up onto. At the end there is a wooden path through a wetland area near the river, two boards wide and very stable. The portage was not at all difficult, but not a cake walk either simply because there were some inclines and obstacles.
The paddling on South Kawishiwi was very easy. There were very few rocks to navigate around, and we enjoyed beautiful weather on the way in so were not hampered by waves. Although this is a river, it is as wide as many lakes we have been on and certainly had more of a lake feel to it than river.
It took us about four hours to paddle up the length of the southern portion of South Kawishiwi. We weren’t paddling at breakneck speed, but kept moving at a steady pace. We have been canoeing together for years, so we have a pretty good rhythm down.
Stay tuned for part 2…