Malberg Lake, BWCAW, looking south toward the Koma portage
DescriptionMalberg is a sprawling, disjointed lake on the Kawishiwi River, 17½ miles SSW of Gunflint Trail's End and 32¾ miles ENE of Ely. It does not have the appearance of a single lake, whether on the map or on the water. Rather, it is a cluster of four, multi-armed bays connected by narrow channels, one of which is ¾ of a mile long. As a result, while the lake may be said to stretch some 2½ miles from end to end, and has a whopping 14 miles of shoreline, it contains only 400 acres of relatively shallow waters. There is less shoreline on Gabi, which is three times the size of Malberg. This extended lake has one of the highest ratios of shoreline to surface area of any BWCAW lake, much higher even than Little Sag. The Kawishiwi enters at the southern end of Malberg, with an imperceptible flow to the north and east, taking a turn to the west, and becoming much broader just beyond the northeast end of the lake.
Malberg's northern bay is off the route of passing canoe traffic, which tends to stick to the channel between the southern bay, which is linked by a 24 rod, streamside portage to Koma, and the western bay, with its 62 rod link to the mouth of Record Creek and the Kawishiwi River. A much less used 16 rod portage off the west side of the southern bay links Malberg to the long and twisting Louse River. The fourth bay of Malberg, located at the northeast end of that narrow ¾ mile channel, provides access through its northern arm and a 90 rod portage to the Kawishiwi River.
CampsitesMalberg supports nine, somewhat scattered campsites. Two are in the north bay, three in the distant northeast bay, three off the south bay, and one in the west. A popular lake, the sites do fill up during high travel season.
Planning ConsiderationsMalberg's location makes it something of a travel hub, connecting a number of routes, both popular and not so. It connects the popular southern access routes down the Kawishiwi from Kawishiwi Lake, and, through the Lady Chain, from Alton and Sawbill, to the Kawishiwi River and the Boulder/Kawishiwi Loop. It also provides the western access to the Louse River route.
The western portage to the Kawishiwi deserves additional comment on two points. First, a change in water levels, probably due to beaver dam construction, has turned what was once a broad muddy stretch in the middle of the portage into a broad, shallow pond, a foot or more deep. It's not worth putting in the canoe; just wade right in. The bottom footing is sound so long as you stay on the trail. Second, the west end of the portage connects not only to the Kawishiwi River but also to Record Creek. The long, relatively straight creek channel south to Record Lake looks very tempting as a destination for bushwhacking exploration. Anyone given it a try?
Malberg can be deceptively windy. The arrangement of the channels and open water seems to funnel the winds. It's not uncommon to paddle into a strong headwind and, upon rounding a corner, find it still in your face, only from another quarter. Early morning crossings, as ever, are best.
WildlifeMalberg supports a wide variety of fish species, including Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Tullibee (Cisco) (Coregonus artedi), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). Malberg is also known, historically, as a bear lake. Hang 'em high.
Notes and CommentsMalberg is, as I recall, the location of the only BWCAW bear sighting made by any member of our group in some 20 years of BWCA travels. It was seen on the shore, whilst paddling by.
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