Cowan Lake
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Nearest Entry Point: Kawishiwi Lake Fishing: Unknown
Maps: Fisher F-5 and F-11; McKenzie #8 and #20 Lake Depth: Unknown
Bushwhack Rating: Lake Size: 13 acres
Campsites: Unknown Wildlife Seen on Visit: Never visited
Last Visited: Never Lake Elevation: 1578 feet
Water Clarity: Unknown Fire History: 1863-64

Cowan Lake

Humpback Lake PMA

I have named the northern most Cowan Lake, Upper Cowan Lake for purposes of the website. Before you head into Cowan Lake, you have to first decide which of these two lakes lying northwest of Humpback Lake really is Cowan Lake. There are two lakes of roughly the same size here. The one closest to Humpback Lake is depicted as Cowan Lake on the majority of maps, including those from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. However, plenty of maps show Cowan Lake as being the more distant lake and this lake is also slightly larger (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency shows the upper lake as Cowan Lake). The lake farthest to the northwest used to be a fair bit larger, but it looks like the eastern half of the lake has drained (perhaps the failure of a large beaver dam?) and is now a mushy peat bog with a creek running through it. The larger lake (the one farthest northwest of Humpback Lake) flows into the other more southerly Cowan Lake through a short channel.

The name Cowan refers to freemasonry. A cowan is someone who pretends to be a freemason but is not. Interesting as one of these two lakes pretends to be Cowan Lake, the other lake is just one of the many unnamed lakes in the BWCA. But which one?

There was a large fire in this area around 1863-1864. This fire is known as the North Kawishiwi River/Alice Lake/Cypress Lake/Saganaga Lake Complex. This burn began south of the current BWCAW's southern boundary near the town of Isabella, Minnesota.

Approach to Cowan Lake

From the back of the easternmost bay on Adams Lake, find the wide creek mouth where the creek from the southeastern most Cowan Lake flows in. To get to the other possible Cowan Lake (the more northwesterly located one), first get to the Cowan Lake closest to Humpback Lake. Next, locate the creek flowing in from the Cowan Lake located farthest from Humpback Lake and head up its channel.

Bushwhack to Cowan Lake

To reach the southern Cowan Lake (closest to Humpback Lake), proceed up the wide and navigable creek from Adams Lake for about 60 rods. There may be a beaver dam lift over or two along this creek, but it should be quite floatable. To reach Upper Cowan Lake, just bushwhack for about 8 rods along the channel that flows into the north shoreline of the lower Cowan Lake. At a prominent rock outcrop, hang a left (west) and paddle (maybe) or bushwhack for 30 rods until you reach the lake.

Exploring Cowan Lake

Both of these lakes are easy to reach so you might as well visit both of them. The northern most of these two “possible” Cowan Lakes is more of a swamp. It appears this lake just recently lost a lot of its water. Many older maps show it as being quite a bit larger (filling in the peat bog that now fills the bowl to the east of what remains of the lake). If the creek that takes you into the northern lake is followed instead to the east, it eventually bends to the north and leads toward Hat Lake, a small lake that has almost completely transformed into peat bog.

PMA #1: Weeny PMA #4: Tick PMA #7: Pitfall PMA #10: Hairy
PMA #2: Canthook PMA #5: Spider PMA #8: Mugwump PMA #11: Weasel
PMA #3: Sundial PMA #6: Drag PMA #9: Humpback PMA #12: Fungus
Birl Lake (Upper) Cowan Lake Hotfoot Lake (Little Jug) Lake
Caveman Lake Hack Lake Humpback Lake Porridge Lake
Churn Lake Hat Lake Jug Lake Scotch Lake
Cowan Lake      
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