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Boats & Gear

Boundary Waters Gear List

Bell Wildfire (Royalex)

Blackhawk Ariel

Mad River Independence (sold)

Wenonah Prism (sold)
-cane seat installation
-thwart replacement

Custom portage pads

Seat-mounted portage yoke

Outside canoe shelter

Inside canoe storage



Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Isabella and Kawishiwi Rivers, Basswood Lake: Two Trips in One

September 6-19, 2011


Page 1: Overview

The Plan

This trip is the second one for me this year. My original plan was for a 10- to 14-day solo trip on the Isabella and Kawishiwi Rivers with a possible side trip in the Numbered Lakes. Over the summer, my friend Sandy spoke longingly of going back to the BWCA, where she had spend many vacations as a kid. We worked out a plan where I would do a week’s solo trip and meet her to continue the trip tandem. I would enter at EP34 (Island River), do part of the Kawishiwi Triangle, and get a site on Lake One.  She would bring a tandem canoe, we’d switch boats, and spend the next week exploring the Numbered Lakes and maybe Lake Insula as well.

It worked out, but not as we anticipated.

My plan to do the Kawishiwi Triangle involved heading northwest through Clear Lake and then east on the North Kawishiwi River.  I decide not to go there after a few struggles with the Knu-Pac carrier.  It’s an unstable rig that puts the boat’s center of gravity too high and allows it to slip sideways.  I don’t want to risk difficulties on the long and tough portages. I also learn later that the Clear Lake end of the 175-rod portage includes about 30 yards of hip- to waist-deep mud. The Triangle will be there if I come back another time.

The Boats

Solo: Mad River Independence (15’8”, fiberglass with wood trim) with movable center thwart for use with the Knu-Pac portaging backpack frame, totaling about 50 lbs. with two paddles.

Tandem: Wenonah Sundowner (18’, kevlar with red gelcoat and aluminum trim), weighing in at about 52 lbs.

The Gear

  • Paddles: Sawyer Kai 10-degree bent; Bending Branches Espresso straight; Bending Branches Sun Shadow (spare); Bell Voodoo 10-degree bent.
  • Shelters: Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent (6lbs.), REI Taj 3 tent (7 lbs.), CCS 10x12 tarp (3 lbs.), 6x8 lightweight poly tarp.
  • Packs: Knudsen Knu-Pac II pack mounted on an NRS Paragon Pack (4,800 cu. in., starting out at 55 lbs.); Kondos Outfitter Personal Canoe Pack (5,000 cu. in., around 50 lbs.), Cabela’s Boundary Waters dry bag (~40 lbs); day pack (10 lbs.).
  • Water filter: Platypus CleanStream.
  • Cameras: Olympus 720SW (waterproof) and Canon 40D in Witz Sport Locker, 6 lbs.

The Food

Meals are pretty straightforward:

  • Breakfast: granola with dried blueberries, raisins and currants, and a half-and-half mix of instant nonfat dry milk and Nido Milk.
  • Lunch: bannock, beef jerky and trail mix.
  • Snacks: see Lunch.
  • Dinners: Several Hawk Vittles and Mountain House dehydrated meals as well as a few homemade meals using freeze-dried chicken and eggs, and a variety of dehydrated ingredients such as gnocchi, couscous, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes. Several dinners are accompanied by Cache Lake fry breads, a few others with cheese and onion bannock. Desserts are chocolate pudding and Chambord.

We use a BearVault 500 because of the beef jerky, which is aromatic no matter how well it's sealed. An item of good news is that neither of us ran out of TP.

The Map

The bow and stern map cases are hung from thwarts so they're always visible when paddling and don't have to be carried separately on portages. A map of the area can be found here (opens in a new window). Leave the map open and you'll be able to follow along with the rest of the trip.

Trip Statistics (you really want to know this):

Solo Tandem
Total distance: 66 miles 38 mi. 28 mi.
Traveling time: 36:30 23:55 12:35
Portages: 16 (1,077 rods) 12 (737 rods) 4 (340 rods)
Portaging time: 9:22 6:25 3:00
Portages avoided: 5 for 68 rods 5 for 68 rods  
Portage-walking distance: 3,231 rods 2,311 rods (7.2 mi.) 1,020 rods (3.2 mi.)

Note: Campsite numbers are the ones painted on the latrines.  The figures in parentheses indicate the site numbers from this commonly-used file: bwca-camp+port-wpt.gdb, located at this site:

Day 0 – Tuesday, September 6 – Through the Portal Partly

The trip from Stoughton takes the usual 7-1/2 hours with minimal stops and eating lunch while driving.

It’s a gorgeous, sunny day in the 70s when I check in at Canadian Border Outfitters (CBO) overlooking Moose Lake.  Lori shows me the outline of the Pagami Creek fire, which has expanded about to the bottom of Lake Three but has not yet reached any of the nearby lakes.  After steak dinner at the lodge I settle into the bunkhouse.  I’m happy to be most of the way through the portal that transports me from civilization to the real world.

I won't be through the portal completely until I'm paddling.


Trip report by day

Days 1-2: Sept. 7-8 - Island River to Quadga Lake

Days 3-4: Sept. 9-10 - Quadga Lake to Gabbro Lake

Days 5-6: Sept. 11-12 - Gabbro Lake to the Kawishiwi River

Days 7-8: Sept. 13-14 -Kawishiwi River to Ely

Days 9-10: Sept 15-16: Fall Lake to Basswood Lake

Days 11-13: Sept 17-19: Basswood Lake back to Fall Lake

The Pagami Creek Fire

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Last updated July 21, 2016
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