The Complete BWCA Guide to Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37

Kids fishing on BWCA trip starting from Kawishiwi Entry Point

Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37 is in the Tofte District of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA or BWCAW) in Northern Minnesota, at the southernmost edge of the wilderness and is one of our favorite entry points!

General Information

Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point#37 offers access to the heart of the BWCAW via a seemingly unlimited number of routes. The area is made up of mostly small lakes with easy access from the entry point, which makes it great for beginners and families with young children.

The area north of Kawishiwi Lake and south of Lake Polly was impacted by the 2011 Pagami Creek Fire. It is interesting to see how quickly the woods recovers from pure devastation.

Wilderness Entry Point Sign on Kawishiwi Lake
Sign at Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37
PermitsSeven entry permits granted per calendar day (May 1st – September 30th).
AccessLakeside canoe landing with no portage. Forest Service Roads.
GPS CoordinatesLatitude 47.838618 Longitude: -91.102107
Closest Ranger StationTofte Ranger Station, 7355 MN-61 Tofte, MN 55615, 218-663-8060 
Closest OutfittersSawtooth Outfitters (Tofte); Sawbill Canoe Outfitters (Sawbill Lake) 
FacilitiesParking Lot (approx. 40 cars); Vault toilet; maps and signage; Five campsites at Kawishiwi Lake Rustic Campground
MapsFisher F-5; McKenzie #20 
Vault Toiled Bathrooms at Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37
Vault Toilets at Kawishiwi Lake Rustic Campground

Permit Pickup Options

There are several BWCA Permit Pickup options in the Tofte District. You must choose your permit pickup location when reserving your permit.

Permit Pickup Rules and Regulations

Make sure you double-check hours, availability, etc. prior to finalizing your permits at You can call the Tofte Ranger Station and if you need to change your pickup location.

Permits can only be picked up on your entry date or ONE DAY prior. Only the permit holder or alternate permit holder specified at the time of reservation can pick up the permit, and a photo ID is required.

Show up at least a half hour before your permit issuance location closes. You do not want to arrive to find it closed or unable to help!

Our Preferred Permit Issuing Station

Our preferred issuing station for Entry point #37 (Kawishiwi Lake) is the Duluth Pack store in downtown Duluth. We often arrive late on Friday evenings. We like to be on the water by dawn the following morning, so prefer to pick up our permit the night before.

Duluth Pack is close to the Twin Cities and is open until 9PM on Fridays, which guarantees that we can get there in time. Duluth also has plenty of options for last minute shopping and dinner.

Other Permit Pickup Options

Frost River is also a good option (and an arguably better location by Bent Paddle Brewery ?), but is only open until 6PM. Unfortunately, we can rarely make it to Duluth by 6PM.

Sawtooth Outfitters is right by the turnoff from Hwy 61 to County Road 2 and is a good option if you are outfitting your trip. Unfortunately, they close too early for us.

Sawbill Canoe Outfitters is open late and has camping options. They are located at Entry Point #38, which is a 40-minute drive from Kawishiwi Lake. If you are looking for reservable camping, they are your best bet!

Tofte Ranger Station is great if you have questions for the rangers, however the hours are limited.

Issuing StationTelephoneLocationHours (Memorial Day to Labor Day)*
Duluth Pack Store218-722-1707Duluth, MNM-Th: 10AM-8PM
F-Sa: 9AM-9PM
Sunday: 10AM-7PM
Frost River Store218-727-1472Duluth, MN10AM-6PM (Seven days per week)
Sawtooth Outfitters218-663-7643Tofte, MN8AM-6PM (Seven days per week)
Sawbill Canoe Outfitters218-663-7150Tofte, MN7AM-9PM (Seven days per week)
Tofte Ranger Station218-663-8060Tofte, MN8AM-4:30PM (Seven days per week)

* PLEASE double-check hours prior to arrival! These were up-to-date in 2023, but can change.

How To Get to Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point (#37)

Take Highway 61 northeast from Duluth to the town of Tofte (approximately 83 miles).

Cook Country Road 2 to Perent Lake Road

Take a left onto Cook County Road 2 (Sawbill Trail), which goes north and inland from Lake Superior. This paved road turns to gravel after a couple of miles.

Temperance Lake Campground will be on your left 12 miles after your turn. Continue another five miles past the campground until you get to the intersection and sign that says the end of Cook Country Road 2.

Intersection where County Road 2 ends while driving to Kawishiwi Lake
Intersection where Country Road 2 ends.

Veer slightly left and follow the new road (some maps still say County Road 2, others Sawbill Road) for about a mile. Stay left again onto Cook County Road 3/Perent Lake Road when you come to the intersection with Sawbill Road.

Kawishiwi Lake - Veer left again to stay on Perent Road
Veer left again to stay on Perent Lake Road/County Road 3

Continue on Perent Lake Road for another 9 miles. This road is a bit rougher but does not require a 4×4.

Perent Lake Road to Kawishiwi Lake Road

Kawishiwi Lake - Turn right onto Kawishiwi Lake Road
Turn right onto Kawishiwi Lake Road

Take a right onto Kawishiwi Lake Road (Forest Route 354). Continue onKawishiwi Lake Road for about two miles until you see a sign for Hog Creek Entry Point (#36).

Continue past Hog Creek signe to arrive at Entry Point #37
Continue past the sign for Hog Creek

Continue past the sign for another two miles to arrive at Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37 and the Kawishiwi Lake Rustic Campground.

Road Conditions and Google Maps

In our experience, the roads are in decent shape and do not require a 4×4. They can become potholed after heavy rains, and can be blocked by downed trees after a storm.

More importantly, watch for turtles! Each year we go in June and feel like we’re playing frogger trying to avoid their nests in the gravel!

The road signage has improved significantly over the years. Follow these instructions and I promise you will not get lost, unlike us on our first trip!

We also recommend downloading the section of map on Google Maps directly to your phone. This way, you can continue to use Google Maps once you leave the cellphone coverage area, which occurs shortly after you leave Tofte!

Last Stops for Food, Drinks, & Supplies

Tofte is a small town with a limited options for food, drink, and lodging.

Holiday Gas Station  – We always fill up with gas before we head onto the forest roads. We also pick up donuts (Sign says world’s best ?) and iced coffee for the next morning. That way we can wake up, fill up, and hit the water with as little unpacking as possible!

Tofte General Store – Right at the corner of Hwy 61 and County Road 2 is a small grocery store with almost anything you could need. It is perfect for people like me that are prone to forgetting things.

Coho Café & Bakery – Excellent option for real food before or after your trip! Did someone say mimosas?

AmericInn – Great place to stay if you need to end your trip early (i.e. you have young kids and the weather is predicted to be severe).


There is a parking lot for about 40 cars at Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point (#37). You can also park alongside the forest service road. Just make sure you pull over far enough to give larger vehicles room to pass.


Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point (#37) sits adjacent to the Kawishiwi Lake Rustic Campsites (5 in total). If you are lucky, you will find the first campsite of your canoe trip at the campground. Campsites also have picnic tables.

In our experience they are usually full, so we pitch our tent in the parking lot or at any of the small pull offs in the Superior National Forest.

Formal campsites are also available at Temperance River Campground, Toohey Lake Rustic Campground, Fourmile Lake Rustic Campground, Windy Lake Rustic Campground, or at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters.

Of the five mentioned above, only Temperance River Campground is directly on your way to the entry point. The rest involved turn-offs on other forest roads.

Details on Kawishiwi Lake Rustic Campground
Sign at Kawishiwi Lake Campground

Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37 Trip/Route Options:

Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point offers various route options, from day trips to multi-day excursions. We’ve detailed a couple of options below to get your planning gears spinning!

Option 1: Lake Polly Base Camp

A popular option is to paddle to Lake Polly, a larger lake in the area, and use it as a base camp.

This involves a paddle across Kawishiwi Lake. Then you paddle down the Kawishiwi River through Square Lake and onto Kawasachong Lake. There are a couple of short portages and beaver dams, but nothing major.

At the north end of Kawasachong you will come to your first big portage (189 rods). This takes you to Townline Lake. There is another 127 rod portage before Lake Polly.

There are nine campsites on Lake Polly and reportedly good walleye fishing (although that has not been our experience!).

Most groups tend to hang out on Lake Polly for a couple of days before heading back. This route is a great starting point that you can build off later.

Option 2: Malberg Lake

After spending your first night on Lake Polly, continue following the Kawishiwi River to Koma Lake where you will run into three portages (19, 48, and 127 rods). Then it is a quick paddle across Koma and a short portage around the falls (24 rods) to Malberg Lake, which is also a big lake.

Malberg is a decent fishing lake and opens up tons of additional lakes and route options.

You can go west to River Lake, Fishdance Lake, and then on to Alice Lake and the number chain.

The Malberg Lake/Adams Lake/Makwa Lake loop is another option.

You can stay close and fish the Kawishiwi River and some of the smaller lakes like Kivaniva, Pan, etc.

Another option is to go east through Frond and Boze Lakes.

Option 3: Lady Chain Route

Another good option is the Lady Chain Route, which starts and ends at different entry points.

While they are not far away, you will start at Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37 and end at Sawbill Lake Entry Point #38, or vice versa. It follows the same routes above, but instead of going north out of Lake Polly to Koma, you exit out of the lake’s southeast arm.


Lake NameKnown Sport Fish Species
Kawishiwi LakeWalleye, Northern Pike
Square LakeWalleye, Northern Pike
Kawasachong LakeWalleye, Northern Pike
Lake PollyWalleye, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Sunfish
Koma LakeWalleye, Northern Pike, Blue Gill
Malberg LakeWalleye, Northern Pike, Blue Gill, Smallmouth Bass

Many lakes now have smallmouth bass populations and perch are also found in most lakes, but rarely targeted.

If you are looking for a more detailed guide to fishing in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, purchase a copy of Michael Furtman’s The New Boundary Waters and Quetico Fishing Guide. It is a must-have for anyone fishing or attempting to fish in the BWCA.

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The Quill Family

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