Isabella Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage East, 16 rods, to Boga
  • Portage West, 28 rods, to the Isabella River
  • Portage South, 56 rods, to Entry Point 35


  • Fisher F-5, Perent, Kawishiwi, Sawbill
  • McKenzie 19, Isabella Lake; 20, Alton


Isabella Lake
Scale 1:42840
Full image approximately 4 miles square

Lake Isabella, BWCAW


Isabella is a very large, relatively shallow lake on the southern edge of the BWCAW, 25 miles southeast of Ely and less than a mile north of Forest Center. Round in form and three miles across, with a large prominent island in its north end, most of Isabella's 1516 acres are less than 15' deep and its greatest depth but 18'. Rocky shoals are common in the center of the lake.

Isabella is a part of the extensive Kawishiwi River watershed. At the east end of the lake is the mouth of the Perent River, a little traveled and often challenging wilderness river, running down from Perent Lake. A 16 rod, up-and-over portage bypasses the shallow rapids just above the mouth of the Perent, connecting with Boga just upstream. At the opposite end of the lake is the head of the Isabella River (photo above) which flows west from Isabella to Bald Eagle and the Lower Kawishiwi. A reasonably level, 28 rod portage along the north bank bypasses the shallows here. Finally, off the south shore of Isabella, a portage of disputed length (35 rods to Fisher, 56 to McKenzie, and 110 to the SNF; scaling off the USGS map at about 80) climbs nearly 40' to BWCAW Entry Point 35 on Forest Road 377, just north of Forest Center.

The forest around Isabella dates largely from the big Lake Insula fire of 1864, with significant remnants surviving from the earlier 1824 burn. The Independence Day windstorms of 1999 did no significant damage in the Isabella area.


Isabella supports a dozen established campsites. Finding an open site can be difficult during peak travel times, however, owing to the entry point on the southern shore.

Planning Considerations

Isabella is a major lake on the Perent/Isabella Route, running some 30 miles from Perent in the east to Bald Eagle in the west. For all its size, however, Isabella is basically just a pass-through lake, with an entry point on the side.


Isabella supports populations of Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens).

Notes and Comments

Isabella is both a challenge to reach and readily accessible, depending upon whether one comes into the lake off one of the wilderness rivers, or just dropped in from the parking lot off Forest Road 377. Though not on the scale of the Number Lakes, Isabella can create something of a unexpected transition from the relative quiet and isolation of the backcountry, to a popular, and often heavily used lake. But then, it's just a three mile paddle back to the wilderness on the other river, at the other end of the lake.

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004