I dream of a place where my family can connect, willingly drop their phones, ipods, and internet connections, listen to stories, have meaningful conversations, and sometimes just enjoy a little silence together. A place that is hard to come by these days. For my family that place is Kawishiwi Lodge in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. A remote place about 4.5 hours north of Minneapolis. It is void of motor boats, cell coverage, internet, phones or television. But full of laughter, love, uninterrupted family time, and memory making.
The beauty of the BWCA is so unique and peaceful. It is sweeping landscapes of towering pines, boulder faces covered in moss, beautiful wild flowers, chalky white birch trees, glimmering waters, raging waterfalls, and the song of the loon at dusk. It’s a vast scene that you cannot capture on film. However, I hope I can give you a little peek into how special and beautiful this place is thru my photos and stories.
Kawishiwi Lodge & Outfitters
Every year in July my family makes the 12 hour trek to this wonderful place in solitude and Kawishiwi Lodge is where we land. It is a remote resort about 30 miles from the nearest town, Ely MN. It is situated on Lake One, the starting point to the most popular canoe routes in the BWCA.
The grounds of Kawishiwi are natural and untouched besides the 19 cabins nestled into the wilderness and the one lane gravel road you drive to your cabin. The accommodations are rustic, simple log cabins with just enough room for a small kitchen, beds, and a screened in porch to enjoy the Northern Minnesota weather and keep the mosquitos out. Each cabin comes with a fire pit, canoe and/or kayaks and a private dock. What you will not find: clocks, internet, tv, or radios… perfect!
Flora & Fauna
Gone are the days when we would be warned upon check in “beware of the bear lurking around the trash cans at night, make sure you lock your doors”. When I was little you could take a canoe ride at dusk to see moose in the reeds near the water or lay in bed at night and hear the wolves howl. It’s seems those days have past.. yet we still get a small glimpse of the wild each year. Now it seems to exist in the sighting of an eagle soaring, or a huge prehistoric looking snapping turtle, or the cry of a loon at dusk.
Last year my Mom and I took a morning paddle board trip. We enjoyed the silence, the beautiful scenery, and were treated to a show of two loons fishing. In the clear shallow waters of a channel between lakes we were able to see their every move. We sat on our boards and watched the birds dart and trun underwater chasing their breakfast. The speed and accuracy at which they swim underwater is AMAZING! It is something I will never forget.
This year we were treated to what seemed like the constant presence of this terrifying little snapping turtle. Our “friendly” turtle, Clettuce (pronounced clet-us), was lovingly named by the kids. One morning I decided to take a kayak ride, upon turning my kayak over we discovered a little frog sitting in the seat. My nephew grabbed the frog, because I wasn’t about to touch it, and threw it in the water… two seconds later Clettuce emerged and gobbled that little frog right up! Needless to say that kept me out of the water for a few days!!!
The jumping cliffs on Lake One. I won’t say too much- I talk about it a little later in this post.
During one of our hikes this year we ran across this little black and yellow snake. I haven’t seen a snake in years- thankfully- because I HATE SNAKES!! But, I was able to gain composure long enough to take this pic. Honestly he was super peaceful and slow (but it still gave me the willies).
Wild flowers abound! Even the ditches are filled with these beautiful flowers.
As far as I know Kawishiwi has been a family tradition since my mom was a little girl, somewhere around 60 years (I won’t give away your exact age, Mom). It was a tradition my Grandparents started when they had a young family. Back then the entire 30 miles from Ely to Kawishiwi Lodge was a one lane unpaved road with the forest creeping in from the sides. I have heard stories of my Mom and her sisters having such horrible car sickness they had to get out and walk in the beams of the car’s headlights. The road is of course paved now… until you get to the Kawishiwi turnoff, then you are on a one lane gravel road for a few miles.
There are stories of the time we stayed for 2 weeks and ran out of food by the last day and my Mom and her sisters fought over the last carrot. Stories of how I cried endlessly when I was a baby (will I ever live that down?!?). Memories of my Dad, Uncle, and Grandpa canoeing out for 3 days to somewhere called South Wilder (sounds dangerous, doesn’t it) where the fish seemed to jump right in the boat. Upon their arrival home we set up a “camp spa” for them and rubbed feet, cleaned nails, and shaved beards while we were treated to all the details of their trip and big fish stories (read fables). My parents even honeymooned at Kawishiwi Lodge! And my son’s first trip to Kawishiwi was when he was just 1.5 months old.
We are now 4 generations into this vacation my Grandparents started. This family tradition runs deep and I hope we continue the tradition into 5 and 6 generations.
A week of uninterrupted family time is priceless and hard to come by today. Even if you do get away for a family vacation it seems to be full of scheduled activities. In the BWCA we take it day by day. All activities are planned by the weather and nature. If it’s a hot sunny day you will find us swimming in the lake or cliff jumping. If it’s a windy day it is perfect for blueberry picking. Overcast cool days are great for a hike or canoeing a picnic lunch out to an island. If it happens to be raining we stay in and play board games, do crafts, and nap. At night we all come together for dinner, up to 20 at a time, have a campfire, roast some marshmallows, have log splitting contests and possibly play a game or two.
It is the perfect place to reconnect with your family and recharge your battery before the lazy summer ends.
There are quite a few hikes around the BWCA. They can be just as intense as a Colorado mountain hike and definitely as scenic and beautiful. The trails are lined with fallen pine needles that perfume the air, huge ancient looking pine trees and birch trees, scenic overlooks to lakes, and access to beautiful waterfalls. Here are a few of our favorite hikes we have taken in the past few years:
Bass Lake Trail
These sweet little berries grow wild in Northern Minnesota. “Hunting” for blueberries is an activity that we love, well, most of us love. If you are not much for thick forest and bugs in the name of few berries this is not the activity for you! But there is nothing more rewarding than 4 cups of berries for a blueberry pie or enough berries to add to a Summer Berry Cobbler! or to make a Blueberry Crumble or Blueberry Margarita.
We go to Kawishiwi at the peak of wild blueberry season, late July. Some years, especially when I was little, the forest floor would be colored a hue of blue from all the berries. There have also been years that because of the weather we have missed the season completely. This year was somewhere right in the middle. There were berries but you had to go deep into the woods to find them.
Sounds crazy, I know! It looks crazy too! A 15 minute canoe ride from our cabin there is a set of flat faced cliffs with deep waters at the base. Perfect for cliff jumping- only for the brave at heart. The pictures do not do the height justice. I went one time and that was it for me. On the other hand my nephews love doing flips and all sorts of daredevil jumps from the rocks!
I love this first picture of my 9 year old niece taking the plunge while my 9 year old daughter runs for her life!!
*sorry for the picture quality here- they are taken with my phone on an island across from the cliffs.
Those are just a few little nuggets from our trip. I hope you enjoyed it!
If you have questions about Kawishiwi Lodge or camping and canoeing in BWCA I would direct you to contact Frank and Nicole at Kawishiwi Lodge. They are the sweet family that owns the resort. Click here to be redirected to their contact page or here to find out more about their resort.