Little Gabbro Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage North, 125 rods, down the South Kawishiwi River
  • Paddle East, into Gabbro
  • Portage South, 290 rods, to Entry Point 33
  • Portage West, 288 rods, to Bruin


  • Fisher F-3, Birch, White Iron, Gabbro; F-4, One, Two, Three, Four, Bald Eagle, Insula Lakes
  • McKenzie 18, Lake One


  • DNR Lake No. 380703
  • Lake Map No. B0119
  • Lake Table No. 6B
  • MDH Fish Consumption Advisory - N/A
  • MPCA Water Quality - N/A
Little Gabbro Lake
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Little Gabbro is a rather small, relatively shallow lake on the South Kawishiwi River, 14½ miles WNW of Forest Center, and 10 miles ESE of Ely. Some 2/3 of the lake's 154 acres are less than 15' in depth, while the lake's maximum depth is only 26'. The water level is maintained by two small dams on the two channels of the Kawishiwi which exit Little Gabbro in the northwest and northeast corners. At the latter dam, a 125 rod portage heads north in search of a more navigable stretch of river. The northwestern channel is also navigable, with short liftover portages around the dam and at the north end of the channel. To the east, an open channel connects Little Gabbro to Gabbro, while at the southwest end a 290 rod carry leads out of the BWCAW to Entry Point 33. A 288 rod portage west off the northwestern corner leads to Bruin. Little Gabbro also encompasses the mouth of Nickel Creek which runs down from Nickel Lake, a small lake some two miles to the south and outside of the BWCAW.

Field research by Heinselman suggests that the forests north of Little Gabbro were probably made up of stands of Red and White Pine dating back to 1796 and earlier, before being logged off (1898-1912) by the St. Croix Lumber Company of Winton. The forest to the east, south, and west was not logged, and dates instead from the great fire year of 1864. The Independence Day windstorms of 1999 did no significant damage in the Little Gabbro area.


Little Gabbro supports four established campsites, two on the north shore, on either side of the Kawishiwi River outlet, one on the western shore, and a fourth on an island in the narrows connecting with Gabbro to the east.

Planning Considerations

Little Gabbro serves as a point of entry for the Lower Kawishiwi River as well as a junction offering different approaches to different stretches of the river. To the south and east, it also provides access beyond Gabbro to Bald Eagle and the Isabella River country.


Little Gabbro supports populations of Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Tullibee (Cisco) (Coregonus artedi), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens).

Notes and Comments

Like big Gabbro to the east, Little Gabbro takes its name from gabbro, a dark, massive rock with crystals large enough to be seen with the naked eye. This igneous rock formed from magma flowing up and cooling slowly below the surface. It is the intrusive equivalent of the extrusive basalt, which would form if the same magma cooled on the surface. Gabbro is common in the BWCA.

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004