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Early Season Wildlife Sightings

This week we’ve been visited by a number of forest friends who seem just as excited as we are that Summer is on its way. We’ve received reports of moose, bear, and owl sightings on the Sawbill trail over the past few days, and have been lucky enough to spot some rare wildlife of our own! A rose-breasted grosbeak hung around at the crew house during our lunch hour on Friday, and a pine martin caused some excitement when it ran into the outfitting porch Saturday afternoon. — Owen S.

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Spring Has Sprung!

This year in many places like the Twin Cities, it’s felt like the seasons have changed unceremoniously from Winter to Summer without any Spring weather to allow folks to acclimate to the heat — but up here on the edge of the Boundary Waters, we’re enjoying a more extended transition to warmer weather. The ice is out on the lakes, the spring peepers are croaking, and the forests are becoming tinged with hints of green as low-lying plants and deciduous trees begin to bud. It won’t be long now before leaves expand and flowers unfurl, adding their hues to the color palette of the North Woods! — Owen S.

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Swimming season is here!

5/16/22 – Yesterday, the 2022 crew continued the tradition of opening the swim season (nearly) as early as possible. Credit for the true first swim of the year goes to the group from Lake Superior College who jumped in a full week before us!

From left to right: Sawyer, David, Owen Jr, Matthew, Owen Sr, Katie, Autumn, Dan, Kit, Clare, Sigurd

To round out the weekend, we sat around the campfire Sunday night looking to the southeast sky as Earth’s shadow slowly engulfed the moon during the blood orange lunar eclipse. Living on the edge of the largest dark sky sanctuary in the world has some perks. – Matthew

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Ice Out!

5/14/22 – Today’s the day! There’s still a little ice persistently hanging on as of this post (11:30am), but a lot of progress has been made even since this morning, so it should be out by the end of the day. -Jessica

Picture taken 11am today by Owen Slater.
First crew paddle of the season yesterday evening. The south end of the lake was still iced in, but we were able to launch further up the lake. From what we could see just past Boundary Island the majority of the lake was ice free. Photo credit: Katie Kelley
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Ice report – May 11 2022

5/12/22 – Last night, after a long day of prepping the store for opening, the crew measured our waning ice coverage. Owen was eager to get his hands on the auger, recording 16 inches total with about 6 inches of rotten ice on the bottom, the rest consisting of a slushy mixture.

Owen measuring the slush.

With about an inch of rainfall overnight, sustained warm temperatures, and constant wind, the lake looks considerably darker and less icy by the hour.

Ice fog blowing across the south end of the lake. 9:30 am 5/12/22
Looking north from the canoe yard. 9:30 am 5/12/2022


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Ice Update – May 10, 2022

May 11, 2022 – The crew headed down to the landing on Sawbill Lake yesterday evening (May 10) for the daily ice check. This time, third year crew member Katie Kelley did the honors. Katie and Owen Slater, who arrived for his 5th season, are here just in time for ice out and beach club opening in a day or two.

Katie Kelley measures 18″ of degraded ice on Sawbill Lake. May 10, 2022

Katie reports that there are 18″ of degraded ice. About 8″ were pretty solid and the rest is slushy. She was able to stand on it, but it was very easy to auger through. The ice is heavily candled and is getting very dark. Lot’s of convection currents visible rising as you look out across the lake. With the warm weather, we are expecting the ice to be out in the next day or two.

The ice is receding west to east, so there are many lakes west of here that are open. We had one customer check out Kawishiwi Lake yesterday and saw enough of an open water path that they were able to launch and head out on a trip. Based on satellite imagery, Baker Lake also appears to be ice free as of yesterday.


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Ice Update May 9, 2022

May 9, 2022 – One of our favorite crew arrival rituals is to have the newly arrived crew drill a hole in the lake. With the late ice out, we are getting a nice rotating cast to do the honors. Today was second year crew member, David Kelm’s, turn. David took a couple year hiatus between stints here at Sawbill. He is rounding out one more “fun” summer before entering law school in Oregon in the fall. There is a long illustrious list of Sawbill crew lawyers, so David will be in good company.

David Kelm “paddles” out to thicker ice for the measurement on May 9, 2022

Anyway, back to the ice update. This evening, the crew measured 22″ total from the bottom of the ice to the top of the surface. There was 8 inches of solid ice and 14 inches of degraded slush.

Looking south toward Sawbill Creek. Lot’s of open water by the fishing pier and the creek is raging.
Looking north from the landing on Sawbill Lake on May 9, 2022. The ice has detached from shore and started to float.

The temperatures are skyrocketing into the high 60’s lower 70’s in the next few days, so ice out is imminent. We think Sawbill will be open between the 12- 14th. We’ll be measuring daily now, so stay tuned!

David, Sawyer and Owen walk back up the now mostly snow-free road to the landing.


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Ice update

5/8/22 – With ice and snow rapidly melting, the crew measured the ice depth again Friday evening. As the newest arrival, I was selected to drill the hole and measure. I recorded 27 inches total with 18 inches of slush/snow atop 9 inches of solid ice.

From the landing looking south. Sawbill creek flows from this southern bay, opening the ice before anywhere else.
From the landing looking north.

The roads are almost clear of snow, the campground is thawing out, and the wilderness is awakening. Paddling season is nearly here! – Matthew

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Pricing ALL the Merchendise

5/4/22 – When we’re not measuring the ice these days we’re busy getting the store ready for the eventual arrival of paddling season. Matthew Campbell just arrived for another season in the northwoods and went straight to work pricing all the necessities of a quality camping trip. Forgot your telescoping fly swatter? We’ve got them!

Matthew and Owen pricing like the wind.

Today I measured an average of 18 inches of snow in the woods so we’re making progress (last week I measured 29 inches)! There’s lots of variation however with some snowdrifts still multiple feet deep, but the open areas exposed to more sunlight are creeping larger and larger each day. -Jessica

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Ice Report

5/2/22 – Today’s ice thickness is the same as the last; 36 inches total from the top of the slush to bottom of the ice with the bottom 17 inches solid ice. The big difference since our last measurement is that the top slush layer is more water logged than it was a few days ago. The slush was deep enough along the shoreline that we were worried it was going to top our boots so we hauled a canoe down to bridge the gap to the firmer slush. Owen Willcoxon, who just arrived yesterday, drilled today’s test hole. There’s still plenty of snow in the woods, but with off and on rain the past couple of days we’ve made a dent in that as well. -Jessica

Owen scooches his way across the slush while Sawyer offers words of encouragement.
Ice measuring technician hard at work.
Teamwork makes the dream work.