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Fire Ban Lifted

7/2/23 – Good news! Due to the rain we have gotten in the past few weeks the Forest Service has announced that beginning tomorrow, July 3rd, the fire restrictions within the Superior National Forest will be lifted. This means that campfires will once again be allowed across the entirety of the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. However, it is still extremely important to continue to follow safe fire practices by completely dousing all fires until they are cold to the touch. – Anna

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Behind the Scenes: Food Packing

6/25/23 – As the season continues, we are getting more and more outfitting groups! We offer complete equipment, complete food, or complete outfitting (both equipment and food) packages. One of the jobs for crew is helping to pack for these outfitting groups. For food specifically, we offer a wide range of meals which can be selected using the food preferences form on the website. We then package it up with breakfasts and dinners in daily packaged portions and then separate bags for fresh food (such as burgers, steak, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, jelly), lunch components, and miscellaneous items (such as snacks, dishwashing gear, cooking oil and cracker meal for frying fish, paper towels, etc.). All of this gets packed into a canoe pack lined with a cardboard box and trash bag and is all set, ready to go whenever the group arrives! – Anna

Breakfasts and dinner are portioned and individually packaged by meal. Fresh foods can be paired with the freeze dried meals for the first few days and are packaged in separate small, soft-sided cooler containers to stay cold.
All of the food ready for a complete outfitting group of 4 people over 4 days.
Food pack all set to go. The box/trash bag liner is helpful not only to keep the food from getting crushed, but it is also a perfect place to put any trash or food waste in between the box and trash bag to follow the leave no trace principles.
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Wildflower Wonderland

6/17/23 – The flowers are out and blooming here at Sawbill – decided to go for a bit of a wildflower walk around the store and past a few of the campsites on my way down to the landing. Some are not yet in full bloom, so there should only be more in the coming weeks. Very beautiful to spot them all over the property and especially hidden in plain sight on the side of the road. – Anna

Large-Leaved Lupine
Honeysuckle along the Sawbill Trail
Coralroot (a type of orchid) along a trail in the campground
Azalea bush (there is one in front of the store and one along the path to the showers) where we frequently see hummingbirds and hummingbird moths
Several pink lady slipper plants tucked in an unexpected spot between the parking lot and store
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Fire Ban

6/13/23 – We just received the official word that there is a fire ban for the Superior National Forest taking effect tomorrow, June 14th. This doesn’t come as a surprise, and for those of us who make our home in the forest it is something of a relief. Since the snow melted in early May we have had less than 0.5″ of rain total, and things are quite dry out there. Fire bans aren’t anyone’s favorite, but I’d wager that wildfires are even less welcome.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the fire ban:

  • No campfires allowed in the BWCA until further notice
  • Camp stoves that are pressurized and have an on/off switch are allowed
  • Twig burning stoves, charcoal grills, and alcohol stoves without on/off switches are prohibited
  • Campfires are still allowed in fee-campgrounds on the Forest – This means it is OK to have campfires in the Sawbill Lake, Crescent Lake, and Temperance River Campgrounds so long as you are exercising extreme caution

Here’s the official notice from the Forest Service:


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Generator Sendoff

6/11/2023 – This morning Dan and Paul got working on an energy retrofitting project. Generators have been the backbone of energy here at Sawbill since our opening due to us being completely off the grid, however, that all changed in November when we officially got on the grid, so there have been several energy-related projects being done to support this transition. These specific Marathon Generators have been in use for around 15 years and were used not only for energy production, but the excess heat produced by them was used to support the central heating on the property for heating buildings as well as hot water. These generators will get packaged up and shipped away this week, but we will keep two backup diesel generators to power the property in case the power on the grid goes out.  – Anna

Moving one of the generators using the skid steer so that it can be packed up to be shipped away.
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Summer is Here

6/6/2023 – Summer has officially arrived here in the Northwoods. After an unrelenting snowy winter, the cold temperatures and snow/ice covered landscape has given way to warmth and green. We can finally smell the soil again and the forest is teeming with life. During the early stages of the transition, grouse abounded the Sawbill grounds and surrounding points.

A couple of transient bear sittings were exciting, and we’ve seen so many moose recently that we’ve come to expect to see them now, just around the next bend, taking refuge from the heat in road-side bogs.

With the official meteorological transition from Spring to Summer, we’ve also experienced some other markers of this coveted seasonal change. The Shirley kids have rounded out the school year with Kit finishing 1st grade and Sig completing pre-school. They are happy to be at Sawbill all day, every day, and mom and dad are glad to be done shuttling them back and forth to school in Grand Marais – for a little while, at least.

The weather is warm. and the air is sweet. The lilacs have just begun to bloom, and we saw our first dragon fly. Harbingers of good times ahead.

Kit and Sig enjoying a wagon ride on an early summer day.
Kit and Sig out for a walk on the Sawbill Trail, enjoying the sanctuary provided by their bug shirts.
Kit showing off a freshly hatched dragon fly – the first we’ve seen around Sawbill this season!


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Boundary Waters Expo

6/4/2023 – Next weekend (June 10 & 11) is the annual Boundary Waters Expo held at Bearskin Lodge on the Gunflint Trail. This free event is an opportunity to test paddle canoes, browse vendors and attend presentations. At this years expo, our own Clare Shirley will be a member of the Panel of Experts taking place on the 11th at 11:45am. If you are at the expo, make sure to swing by and listen to Clare talk about the Wilderness and tips for having a successful canoe trip.

Clare giving remarks at the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness gala, Sept. 2022 in Minneapolis.


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Welcoming New Canoes Into the Fold

5/22/23 – Before a new canoe can head out for it’s first adventure there are a few items of business to take care of.  To start we license them all at the Grand Marais DMV which is located inside a flower shop (try finding a more pleasant venue for renewing your drivers license).  Back at home we apply the license, our logo, and a unique number to each of the canoes.  Then we install our custom adjustable yoke pads before introducing the greenhorn to the rest of the fleet ready and waiting in the canoe yard. -Jessica

Matthew tests out his best calligraphy.
Holes are drilled into the yoke perfectly spaced for the yoke pad bolts.
Varnish is applied to the freshly drilled holes.
Yoke pads go on.
And it’s off to join the others.
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Crew Opens the “Beach Club”

5/16/23 – Yesterday the crew took the customary plunge into Sawbill Lake to ring in the start of the paddling season. The following are some action photos. -Jessica

Per usual Huckleberry beat everyone into the lake.
The orange sun is a result of smoke from fires in Canada.
Note the absolute joy on Kit’s face. She jumped in more than once.
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Open season, Open water

5/13/23 – Just in time for fishing season, Sawbill lake is officially ice free! Happy paddling!


Sunset paddle last night on Sawbill Lake.
From the portage looking southwest across Alton yesterday 5/12.
Jr and Caid fishing on Sawbill before work this morning.