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Wild Blueberries!

The wild blueberries are out! Wild blueberries have started to grow near Sawbill Lake and around areas off the Sawbill trail.

Wild blueberry season in Minnesota starts early to mid July, meaning that the next two weeks are prime time to go blueberry hunting.

If you are searching for blueberries near Sawbill, search in meadows near pine trees. These areas contain ideal soil for wild blueberries to grow. Wild blueberry hunting is a great opportunity for exploration of the wilderness. You never know what kind of wild life you might see along the way!

Paths such as this can be good areas to search for wild blueberries.

It is not uncommon to find an abundance of blueberries around these woods. We have had reports of customers collecting up to thirty six pounds of blueberries! While it may be tempting to utilize and harvest largest quantities, make sure to only harvest amounts that will be consumed. This ensures proper health for the blueberry plants and opportunity for other people to discover.

Happy hunting!

– Nathan

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Fire on the Water


Burnt hues of yellow and vermilion lick the computer screen this morning.  It reminds me of stained glass.  Of entering an aged room:  A fire burning under the mantel, inconceivably tall ceilings and a stillness, as if something were about to happen.  It has been two nights since the race and the brilliance of the sun’s rays remind me of the fire that burned within me.

The three teams assemble.

Three was the size of the crew in each Prism canoe:  A lightweight frame with a keen and mighty motor.  We knew we’d be fast, but most of us had not the experience of 3-manning a solo canoe.  Spirits were high and the anticipation from the crews was thick in their voices.

From the Left: Dan, Meg and Roark position themselves for the start of the race.

Three teams lined up at the end of the landing dock and on Rachel’s count, it began.  A whirlwind of paddles, shouts and calls from the boats and spectators at the landing erupted across the still lake.  The water’s still face now rippled and distorted, vibrant with the color of dusk, cold and smooth as stained glass.

The winners (Roark at the bow, Meg in the middle, Dan at the stern)

My team did not win.  We did not come in second either.  But we were met with smiles and applause as we crossed the finish.  A nod to the great sportsmanship of the people there.

The fire that burned in me that night now burns low.  Stoked by this early morning light, the flame burns a little brighter.  I wish to go again.  To have that fire burn great and bright again.  To spit flames from our paddles in the Dragon Boats.




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Sawbill Engagement Surprise

7/6/18 – Last week a lucky couple got engaged on Sawbill Lake! The engagement occured on a campground in North Sawbill Lake. The engagement ring was hidden within an agate and left for the bride-to-be to discover. What a lovely Minnesotan surprise!

The happy couple following their trip.

It is not uncommon for couples to get engaged on Sawbill Lake. So if your significant other suggests a trip to Sawbill, you might be next!

– Nathan

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Minnesota Loon Monitoring Project

7/2/18 – This week, a volunteer from the Minnesota Loon Monitor Program has come to collect information about loon populations near the Sawbill lake area. The Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program is a project conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The project recruits volunteers to gather information about Loons in different areas of lakes around Minnesota.

The program collects information on Minnesota loons from six different sectioned areas called “index areas”. Index areas are mapped areas containing one hundred lakes each. These index areas are spread all throughout Minnesota, which ensures full coverage of the loon populations. Since there is such a large area of lakes to survey, the DNR benefits immensely from the volunteers generous work.

Map of the six different index areas. Photo taken from

To ensure data consistency, volunteers have an eleven day window from June 29th to July 9th to collect their data. The counting process of loons must occur between 5am and 12pm. Other factors such as weather and shoreline conditions are collected as well.

The MLMP has been conducted since 1994. The longitudinal data collected by this project is used to monitor population health of the Minnesota Loons. The data has shown that loon occupancy, the statistical chance of seeing a loon, has stayed relatively equal for the past eight years. For the greatest chance of seeing loons, head over to the Itasca index area, this area has the highest reported loon occupancy according to the MLMP. 

Kevin, an MLMP volunteer who is staying in the Sawbill campground this week, is currently in charge of surveying five small lakes near Sawbill. He states that loons are territorial birds and groups or families of loons inhabit designated sections of lakes. The smaller lakes he is surveying such as Agnes, Finger and Tomash only have up to one family inhabiting them. On larger lakes such as Sawbill, multiple families of loons inhabit different areas.

The state of Minnesota is blessed with the presence of such a beautiful bird. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect and preserve the precious biology of the wilderness. If you are interested in getting involved with the preservation of wildlife, consider visiting the DNR website link posted below. A link for the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Project is posted below as well.

– Nathan

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Sawbill’s Oldest Crew Member

6/30/18 – He has tirelessly worked on Sawbill Lake for almost eighty consecutive years. He is the oldest, most dedicated staff member at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters. His name is Uno, and he is made of wood.

Uno is a wooden dummy who arrived to Sawbill Lake in 1940 and has never left since. He was originally placed at the Sawbill Lodge. Sawbill Lodge has closed but was once a wilderness resort located at the south end of Sawbill Lake, where a handicap fishing dock now stands. At the old Sawbill Lodge, a wooden mill wheel was installed into Sawbill Creek. Uno’s hands were attached to the crank of this mill, making him appear to be cranking the wheel. This created a silly yet memorable sight that the customers of Sawbill Lodge could return to and reminisce about each summer.

Photo taken from Sawbill History and Tales, a book written by Mary Alice Hansen.
Uno turning the water wheel in Sawbill Creek. Photo taken from book Sawbill History and Tales written by Mary Alice Hansen.

Uno’s unique name is one of a kind. The original owners of Sawbill Lodge posted a sign that read “U NO U R at SAWBILL!” at the beginning of the lane leading to the lodge. This sign (with questionable spelling) became associated with the wooden dummy and and his name became Uno. This name has stuck with him ever since.

An illustration of the sign posted outside of Sawbill Lodge starting in 1935.

In 1980, the Sawbill Lodge closed due to the 1978 BWCAW bill which changed the land around Sawbill Lake into a federally regulated wilderness. This bill turned Sawbill into a no-motor lake, leading the owners of Sawbill Lodge to sell their land to the Forest Service. After the Lodge closed down, Uno relocated to next door and found new work at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters.

Uno has stayed with the Sawbill Crew ever since. Today, Uno resides in the kitchen of the crew house. Here, he watches over crew members cooking and hanging out. Every once in a while, he may suddenly appear in a new room, creating quite a surprise for the crew members. Sparking new crew members’ curiosities, Uno serves as a time capsule and reminder of important history to the area around Sawbill Lake.


Uno showing off his stylish eyeglasses and shirt in the crew house kitchen. He often enjoys switching up his outfits.

– Nathan




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Ladies Night Out in Grand Marais

6/27/18 – Yesterday evening the Sawbill babes had our annual ladies night out on the town.  Festivities included a beautiful view of the Grand Marais harbor from the Gunflint Tavern’s rooftop deck, an amazing meal and dessert from the Angry Trout, all capped off with an evening stroll along artist’s point.  A big thanks to the Sawbill boys for holding down the fort while we were away!  -Jessica

Sawbill babes from left to right; Cindy Lou, Jessica, Katie, Kate, Andie, Claire, Hannah, Meg, and Clare.  Not pictured; the Sawbill boys sitting forlorn at home.  Don’t worry, they’ll get their day in the sun.
Remnants of a great meal followed up with a shot of pure maple syrup, magic.
Andie taking a picture of Kate taking a picture…very artsy.
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North House Folk School Wooden Boat Show

6/24/18 – North House Folk School, located in Grand Marais, celebrated the official arrival of summer this weekend with their annual Wooden Boat Show and Summer Solstice Festival.  Events included a wooden boat display, craft demonstrations, a solstice pageant, contra dancing, guest speakers (including Sawbill’s own Dan Shirley), and much more.  -Jessica

Dan, along with landscape photographer Bryan Hansel, recount their recent trip down the Rio Grand.
North House instructor, Mark Hansen, constructed these pontoons out of 17′ aluminum Grummans he purchased from Sawbill years ago.
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Happy Solstice!

6/21/18 – Happy summer solstice!  Today is the longest day of the year with the sun above the horizon for just over 16 hours, which is almost 7 hours more sunlight than six months ago on the winter solstice.  Here’s hoping everyone is able to enjoy a little bit of the extra sunlight today.       -Jessica

Twilight on Sawbill lake (photo was snapped at 9:50pm yesterday evening).
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Drainage Field Restoration

6/19/18 – If you’ve been up Sawbill Trail in the last few months, you may have noticed an exposed mound of dirt on the right side of the road before turning into our parking lot. This open space serves as the drainage field for our septic system. Soon, this sandy soil base will be a blooming amalgam of prairie grasses, sedge, and wild flowers, thanks to the help of Shoreview Natives, who have spent the last few days preparing and planting the area. Dan Schutte, who serves on Mark Dayton’s Pollinator Advisory Committee, personally locates and collects the seeds in Lake, St. Louis, and Cook Counties, ensuring that everything chosen and planted here is native to the region. He is particularly interested in helping pollinators like bees and butterflies who are facing habitat destruction farther south.

Some of the new species that will soon call Sawbill home include Purple Cone Flower, Tall Blazing Star, Bee Balm, Ox Eye Sunflower, and Swamp Milkweed, in addition to several other kinds of flowers and grasses. Though this type of planting is not technically considered prairie restoration due to the forested nature of the area, the different soil composition of the drainage field (sandier and more arid than the surrounding land) helps to support species that are more commonly found in Minnesota’s prairies. While it will ultimately take three years before the mound reaches full growth, Dan estimates that we will see wildflowers blooming later this fall. Keep your eyes open as you pull in; new plants and flowers await you with every visit!

– Katie

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Welcome baby Louis!

6/19/18 – We are thrilled to announce the arrival of the newest member of the Sawbill family, Louis Jeffrey John Hansen! Adam Hansen and Lisa Burtch welcomed Louis to their family on May 21. For those unfamiliar with the Sawbill family tree, Adam is the grandson of Sawbill founders Frank and Mary Alice, and current owner Clare’s brother.

Adam, Louis and Lisa looking remarkably well rested.

Grandpa Bill and cousin Kit are looking forward to many years of canoe trips with Louis. And of course, he’s already signed on for a spot on the 2036 Sawbill crew 😉