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Alice Lake Loop

Skill Level
Entry Point
Portage Rods
Longest Portage

Average Rating

Rated 5 out of 5

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This challenging route takes you in a long loop north and west of Kawishiwi Lake, including a side trip down to faint, but remarkable, Native American pictographs. You will then travel up to Alice Lake, on to mighty Thomas and Fraser Lakes, and then over smaller lakes back through Malberg Lake on your way to your starting point. Due to the amount of portaging, this route is suited for experienced wilderness paddlers who are physically fit and travel light. Or really fit and travel heavy!

Detailed Route Info

Your journey starts at the landing on Kawishiwi Lake and heads over a few beaver dams to Square Lake. The first big challenge, the 189-rod portage from Kawasachong to Townline Lake is in reasonably good shape in most places and almost entirely downhill. From Lake Polly to Malberg Lake, involves a nice stretch of short, easy portages. Malberg is known as a good walleye lake, as are the dark waters of Polly and Koma.

Paddle and portage over to the Kawishiwi River, where you will paddle west before wrapping south and taking a short portage to Fishdance Lake. Well-faded pictographs are located up on a cliff running along the western shore of Fishdance. You should be able to make out a number of interesting figures, including what appears to be a moose.

Paddle north to Alice Lake. Now you are in the heart of a group of large, interior lakes. Alice has over a dozen designated campsites and a healthy population of walleye. There’s a reason it’s popular!

You will now move on from Alice Lake up toward Fraser Lake, which involves a muddy, challenging 237-rod portage into Thomas Lake, where the many bays and great camping will reward you for your efforts. Then there’s the narrow, glacial-scoured channel joining Fraser Lake.

From Fraser Lake to Makwa Lake you’ll be deep in the wilderness, and often be days travel from most entry points. North of Roe Lake is seldom visited Raven Lake, which is in the Mugwump Primitive Management Area (PMA). PMAs do not include any maintained portages or campsites. If you want to stay in a PMA you must get written authorization from the local district office of the Superior National Forest in addition to your regular permit.

The stretch down from Makwa to Malberg Lake is a great journey through remote little lakes where you won’t see many people. The last leg of this journey takes you south to your starting point on Kawishiwi Lake. There are numerous good places to spend the night between Malberg and Kawishiwi Lakes, but be sure to arrive early if you want a campsite on the popular Lake Polly.

*Route information provided courtesy of Dan Pauly, and have been modified from his book, Exploring the Boundary Waters: A Trip Planner and Guide to the BWCAW. University of Minnesota Press, 2004

Like what you see?

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Rated 5 out of 5

Great route, lots of padding!

Rated 5 out of 5
September 22, 2022

My brother and I take a BWCA trip every year and we were looking for a new loop to do. This one was great as it brought us to a lot of lakes we’ve been to and love, like Lake Alice, Thomas, Fraser, and Malberg, but brought us up through the Tofte side which was new. There are some moderately difficult portages but we travel ultralight and knew most of the hard portages from previous trips. This loop has great views, beautiful lakes, and good fishing as well! Beware, this isn’t a trip to bring heavy or extra gear, you need to keep it light or you’ll overwork yourself. Consider detour into Boulder Lake or up to Raven Lake in the Mugwump PMA if you’re up for extra adventure and solitude.

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