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Technical Updates

6/7/19 – We are on day four of running the entire store on a small cell phone hotspot and we are adjusting as best we can. We appreciate your patience as we figure everything out. It takes a bit longer to print permits and fishing licenses at the moment, but at least we can do them! We still have just one working phone line, but feel free to email us with any questions you may have at . There’s no definite date that we will have WiFi working again, but in the meantime we’ll be working hard and playing plenty of cribbage.

In other news, last week’s rainy days have served us well and it looks and feels like summer up here. The forest floor is turning completely green along with blooming trees, shrubs and flowers. The crew has been loving the couple days of sunshine, and those who are adventuring into the BWCA today could not have asked for a better day to do so! Happy Friday!


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Technical Difficulties

6/3/19 – If you’ve been trying to reach us today you may have noticed we are a bit harder to connect with than usual. We are currently down to one phone line, so if you get a busy signal the first time you call please try back in a few minutes. Alternatively you can reach us by email at We are hoping to have things back to normal in the next couple days, but in the meantime thank you for your patience! -Jessica

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Goodbye to old friends

6/2/19 – Winter clung to its grip on the north country this year. Green up was slow to come and small piles of snow still linger on the north side of the outfitting building. This slow close to winter feels appropriate this year as we also mourn the loss of several members of the Sawbill extended family. We feel Mary Alice’s absence daily – even though she moved to Grand Marais in 2008 reminders of her impact on Sawbill and Sawbillians alike are tucked around every corner here.

We are also sad to report the death of Sawbill’s first crew member, Tom Kubiak. Tom arrived at Sawbill in 1956 as a young teenager. He was primarily a guide, but in true Sawbill fashion he did a little bit of everything to help get Sawbill off the ground as a fledgling business, living in the bunkhouse at Sawbill Lodge until the Outfitter buildings were built. Tom paved the way for his two younger brothers who also came to work for Frank and Mary Alice. After Sawbill, Tom joined the Air Force for 24 distinguished years. After his retirement, he resumed camping at Sawbill, introducing his 2 sons and many other Kubiaks to the area. Tom passed away shortly before Mary Alice and, like his brother Bill says, we can’t help but think she’s up there bossing him around once again!

Tom Kubiak in the early days of Sawbill.
Tom (stern) on his last canoe trip before joining the Air Force.
Tom and Mary Alice (2nd and 3rd from right) at Sawbill’s 40th Anniversary.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the passing of two other longtime Sawbill visitors and family friends, Tom Glenny and Dave Schuldt. Both of these men exemplified the kind of character we come to associate with BWCA travelers – kindness, resourcefulness, and generosity. Their presence in our lives will be missed greatly. We take some comfort in the continuing relationships with the families of these fine men.

Spring light in the canoe yard.

Leaves are emerging, baby moose are being spotted in the Wilderness, and the extended Sawbill family is returning for another season – customers and crew alike. The north woods are ushering us out of one era into the fresh beginnings of another. How fortunate we are.


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PSA for Old Crew Members!

5/1/2019 – Calling all old crew members! We need your help. A favorite aspect to customers and crew members alike is looking through the old crew photos posted in the southern hallway of the store. It is so fun to see old members, t-shirts, dogs, and consider how things have changed (or stayed the same)! However, we’re currently missing a few photos from past years or the ones we have are poor quality. We have no photos from before 1978 and we are missing the year 1979. Additionally, we have pretty poor quality photos from 1999, 2009, and 2015. If you are an old member from one of these years and have a crew photo laying around, we’d love to hang it on the wall! Feel free to mail it to us or take a scan of it and email it. Thanks so much!


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Prescribed Burn

5/31/19 – For those camping and canoeing around the Sawbill area this weekend, it is important to know that there will be a prescribed burn happening tomorrow, June 1st in the area. It will be taking place near Baker Lake, directly adjacent to the Baker Lake Campground. The burn will total 40 acres and will not close any roads or campgrounds, as it should not be dangerous conditions for the nearby areas. It is aimed to reduce post-logging slash, which will allow the soil to be more fertile as pine seeds get dropped. Below is a map of the area, located in Township 62 North, Range 4 West. Feel free to ask any questions if they arise!


Vicinity map for the prescribed burn area around Baker Lake taking place on June 1st, 2019.
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New Crew!

5/30/2019 – As it gets warmer and we’re getting busier, we still have a few more crew members on their way to join us for the summer yet. Over the last couple of weeks, Mike, Hannah, and Andie have arrived as well!

While Hannah and Andie are returning crew members, this is Mike’s first season at Sawbill. From New Jersey, Mike recently graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio with a major in music and a minor in math. He loves backpacking and is ready to combine his skills and experiences with some canoeing this summer.

Hannah is returning for her second summer at Sawbill. From Stillwater, she completed her undergrad at UW-Eau Claire in the fall of 2017 for violin performance. She continued on in her schooling and is getting her masters degree at CU-Boulder, with an expected graduation date in just one year! She’s also getting married next summer, so she’s got a big year ahead of her.

Last but not least, Andie is also returning for her second summer here. She’s currently going to school at Texas Tech University after attending Chapman University in California as well. She’s a double major in psychology and English with hopes to move back to sunny California after her summer here.

We definitely have some great, motivated people working here this summer. While we all have our different interests and hobbies, we all share a love for the BWCA. It’s gearing up to be a fun season! Stay tuned and learn more about the crew under the “About Us” tab at the top of the website. Cheers!


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Volunteer in the Superior National Forest

5/26/2019 – The Northwoods Volunteer Connection is seeking out volunteers to assist in various projects happening in the Superior National Forest this year. The organization works hard with its volunteers to help conserve and preserve the forest and the BWCAW. They do this through service projects such as trail maintenance, building boardwalks, planting trees, removing invasive species, surveying, and maintenance of various BWCAW entry points. The activities are happening around multiple parts of the state- such as projects near Grand Marais, Tofte, and Cook this summer alone. Last year, 314 volunteers were active in the Northwoods Volunteer Connection and there’s always room for more when it comes to protecting our public lands and resources. In fact, the Sawbill crew will be partnering with the organization to complete a project around the area in June! If becoming a volunteer interests you, feel free to go to for more information and specific project details.

Trail maintenance volunteers.

In addition to volunteering around or in the boundary waters, there is an option for those who have a special place in their hearts for one specific entry point. Adopt-an-Entry Point is a new program designed for folks who wish to help ensure that the point is consistently maintained and looking good for its next visitors. If you’re interested in the program, feel free to click this link for more information:


The projects utilize teamwork and is a great medium to learn and practice outdoor skills.
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Summer Hours

5/23/2019 – Even though the weather is a bit behind with the seasons, it’s officially summer here at Sawbill! As of today, the store is open from 7 am – 9 pm every day of the week. We now have our water up and running throughout the store area, so if you’re camping here this weekend the showers are in working condition. If you need to use them, please keep in mind they close an hour earlier than the store does, at 8 pm. Additionally, the water throughout the campground has been on for about a week now! We are full-on ready, people.

We are gearing up for a busy few days here with Memorial Day coming up, and then jumping right into summer craziness after that. The weather has been rainy and cloudy the past few days, but will hopefully clear up after tomorrow. We’re just celebrating the fact that it’s rain and not snow. It looks to be getting warmer and warmer as the week goes on! See you all soon.


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Prescribed Burn

5/21/19 – As many of us who enjoy the BWCA know, fire is a natural part of the environment and serves a purpose in reviving and maintaining ecosystems. Perhaps you have paddled west of Sawbill and seen the aftermath of the Pagami Creek Fire of 2011 or maybe you seen the charred remains of another forest fire that has affected the Boundary Waters. The US Forest Service has many ways to help control and prevent these fires, one of which is Prescribed burning. Prescribed burning, otherwise known as controlled burning, or prescribed fire, is the controlled application of fire to a predetermined area. This practice has been a tool of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 1995 and is used widely across the country in forests, flatlands, and prairies to benefit the ecosystem of the area. Here in northern Minnesota, it is mostly used as a prevention for wildfires, burning brush, shrubs, and small trees that would fuel large fires, but it also promotes the new growth of native species, helps the habitats of plants and animals that rely on periodic fires, and removes the slash and debris following forest management activities. There is a prescribed burn scheduled for today, May 21st, at Plouff Creek about 7 miles from Sawbill, totaling 55 acres of burned area if the conditions are correct. So if you are in the area and see smoke rising, don’t panic, but rest assured that the Forest Service is make our area a safer and healthier ecosystem.


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Mary Alice

5/20/19 – It is with great sadness that I share the news of Mary Alice Hansen’s passing here with our Sawbill family. She lived a remarkable life and died a dignified death, and really, what more can any of us hope for? In her last days, stories from and of Sawbill crew and customers brought her great peace and joy.
Below is her obituary, written by her son, and my dad, Bill Hansen. – Clare

Mary Alice Hansen, 95, Grand Marais, died on May 8, 2019 at North Shore Living in Grand Marais. A memorial service and celebration of life will be 1 p. m. Wednesday, May 22 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Grand Marais.

Mary Alice was born to Fred and Alma Grobe in Hutchinson, Kansas on September 1, 1923, their only child. She graduated from Hutchinson High School at the age of 16. She graduated from Hutchinson Junior College in 1941 and the University of Missouri in 1943, Phi Beta Kappa, with a B. S. in child psychology. She was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. She received a Masters degree in child psychology in 1945 from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

While in graduate school, she met and fell in love with her fellow-student, Frank William Hansen, and they were married on August 29, 1946 in Huchinson, Kansas. They remained married until Frank’s death in 2010.

Mary Alice led a life of remarkable accomplishment, as a professional, entrepreneur, historian, author and community activist. She was a school psychologist for the Bloomington, Minnesota public school system from 1961 until her early retirement in 1977.

She and Frank founded Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, on Sawbill Lake, at the edge of what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1957. She managed Sawbill Canoe Outfitters for more than 30 years, living at Sawbill Lake from 1977 until 2008, before passing it to her children and grandchildren.

She wrote and published a popular book, Sawbill History and Tales in 2007 at the age of 83.

She served as Tofte Township Clerk for many years. She was instrumental in founding the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum and edited the museum’s newsletter. She was an active member of the West End Garden Club and was named Tofte Citizen of the Year, among many more awards and activities. She traveled extensively and kept lively and accurate journals.

Mary Alice was told by her father, “You can feel good by helping others,” which she took to heart and passed on to her descendants. She was known for her beaming smile, friendly demeanor and lively conversation. She will be deeply missed by her many friends and loving family.

Mary Alice is preceded in death by her parents and husband.

She is survived by son, Karl Fredrick (Lee Stewart) Hansen; daughter, Ranna (Kevin) LeVoir; son, William Frank (Cindy Lou) Hansen; grandchildren, Adam Hansen, Ruthie Williams, Marie Ljosenvoor, Clare Shirley, Marc LeVoir, and Carl Hansen; and six great grandchildren. She is also mourned by many former Sawbill Canoe Outfitters crew members, who were influenced by her spirit during their time at Sawbill.

Memorial contributions can be made to the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte and WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio, in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Tributes and memories can be left online at CaringBridge.

Mary Alice was grateful to her wonderful and compassionate care-givers at North Shore Living in Grand Marais.