Entry Point 37: Kawishiwi Lake to Fishdance Pictographs

Days: 5-7

Features: Pictographs, Fishing, Pigami Creek fire recovery area

This route features a variety of terrain from old forests, post burn new growth, creek paddling, lakes, rivers, beaver dams, great fishing and most importantly, pictographs.

Day 1 – Kawishiwi to Polly: Kawishiwi Lake entry puts you directly into the wilderness as soon as you get on the water. A first-come-first-served Superior National Forest campground provides no-fee camping right at the entry point.  Paddle North on Kawishiwi and follow the marsh lined channel to Square Lake.  Hug the eastern shore and wrap around to follow the next channel toward Kawasachong.  To the West and North you will see evidence of the Pigami Creek Fire and subsequent regrowth.  The narrow channel paddling from Square to Kawasachong is ever changing due to beaver activity so read the landscape to discern where portages may or may not be. Be prepared to portage over at least one, if not more beaver dams.  Once on Kawasachong, paddle north and take in the stark contrast of an area burned in 2011 that consumed 92,000 acres during several days of hot, dry, windy weather in mid-September. Pass through a narrow section of lake into the north west bay to find the first significant portage of the trip: 275 rods broken up by a tiny lake in between. Your efforts will be rewarded when descending the trail toward Polly.  Take in the view as you part with the burn area and return to the thick growth of the forest.  Choose from any of the numerous campsites and take some time to throw in a fishing line. 

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boundary waters canoe area wilderness kawishiwi maulburg polly pagami creek fire bwcaw pictographs kawishiwi river

Day 2 – Polly to Malberg: Start the day right with a fish breakfast to fuel the next 185 rods of portaging to get you north into Koma Lake.  The portage is broken up into three sections by two small lakes.  The Kawishiwi River in this section is quite scenic and worth a peak along the portage.  From Koma, take the 24 rod portage north into Malberg.  This lake features eight very nice — spread out campsites and excellent fishing for walleye, northern and smallmouth.  With that in mind, cast a line for trolling as you search for the perfect site.  The western most campsite is ideal for launching a day trip toward Fishdance but is often occupied due to its highly inviting sandy beach shoreline.

Day 3 Malberg to Fishdance (daytrip): Directly to the west, follow the 64 rod portage from Malberg into the aptly named River Lake.  Hug the western shore until the lake wraps around to the south. Stay west of a large island with a campsite on both the north and south ends.  The excellent fishing found on Malberg will continue on the Kawishiwi river and the subsequent lakes.  Follow this wild and scenic waterway south until the deep quiet of the wilderness is broken by the sound of water rushing over rocks on its way into Fishdance Lake.  There is a “false portage” that can lure you off the lake too soon.  Don’t be fooled and continue to paddle past some large boulders to the left of the rapids that hide the true portage.  19 Rods gets you into Fishdance and eventually a distinct, overhanging cliff face on the western shore.  Search carefully to find numerous pictographs that many people say take the paddler back in time to the original inhabitants of these lands and waters.  Let your imagination run wild as you try to interpret the images.  Just past the cliff is a short scramble up a rocky slope to the top. This is a great spot to stop for lunch if visiting the area for a day trip.  A lone campsite inhabits the eastern shore just in site of the cliffs across from an island.  If this site is unoccupied, its a nice place to spend the night and dream of the ancient people of the pictographs.

Day 4 and 5 – Return Trip: Take 2-3 days to make the return trip back to the Kawishiwi Lake entry point.  Depending on the time of year, you may see wolves, eagles, beavers, and maybe a moose.