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Freeze Up

11/9/19 – Sawbill lake is officially socked in with ice. I haven’t ventured out on it yet, but I’ve included a few pictures and a timeline below to give an idea of the conditions. Happy November! -Jessica

November 2nd: Huck inspecting the first signs of substantial ice.
November 6th: Ice as far as you can see from the landing.
November 7th: Open water holding out just south of Boundary Island and into Alton bay.
The above cedar is reluctant to let go of the first ice sculptures of the season, or is it the other way around?
November 8th: Most of the water that was open on the 7th now appears to be frozen.
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Fall Projects

MEA weekend is upon us, and at Sawbill that means the last wave of wilderness-goers is moving through the outfitter. At this point in the season it almost feels strange to have customers coming in regularly, as the remaining crew has spent the last couple weeks working through projects to prepare for the winter. While the amount of customers declines in the fall, there is still plenty of work to do to close down the outfitter and prepare the grounds for the many changes that happen during the winter. Projects such as wood stacking, deep cleaning, taking inventory, and storing canoes can often take days to complete, even with the entire crew working together to get them done. After the last hoorah that is MEA weekend, the real finishing touches can be put on the outfitter and much of the fall crew will begin to head home for the winter. Thanks to everyone for a great season! We will of course be in touch via the Sawbill Newsletter throughout the winter, and we look forward to seeing you all again next year!

– Owen

These piles of wood will soon be neatly organized, as the other stacks nearby demonstrate
The finished product, just before adding a tarp to protect the stacks from the elements… this wood will provide fuel for heat on the premises throughout the long winter months for those who live here year round!
All unsold shirts from this year have been marked down and will be sold at a sale price next season!
Dan and Paul nesting a canoe in the new pole barn for winter storage
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10/12/19 – The Sawbill crew and a few lucky campers woke up to a treat this morning… the first snowstorm of the winter is upon us! As of 8:30am this morning there’s about a half inch of snow accumulated on the ground, and the snow is expected to continue to fall through the late afternoon. The high temperature for today is 34 degrees so the snow may stick around for a few days, but for all who may have loved ones in the BWCA or might be planning a trip in the near future, don’t fret – the lakes aren’t icing over quite yet. For now, we’re just getting a fun and aesthetically pleasing taste of the months to come. Bundle up!


These icicles will be significantly larger come December!
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Cold weather alert!

10/6/19 – As winter approaches, lots of changes are happening in the BWCA. For fall paddlers, this means preparing for colder and wetter weather on the lakes and portages as well as at your campsites. If you’re planning a trip within the coming weeks, it’s important to pack warm, non-cotton clothing and layers that can be easily taken off and stowed. Rain gear is a must, and footwear should be warm, sturdy, and waterproof, as water temperatures are dropping and portages are muddy in many places. Colder weather also means portage packs will be more full. Our outfitter is mostly sending out zero degree sleeping bags rather than the normal 20-30 degree bags used in the summer months. These will take up more space, as will the increased layers and warmer clothing necessary to brave the October cold.

Prepare for bigger sleeping bags and heavier portage packs!

While portaging may be more of a task in October, those who are willing to put in the extra effort to plan for increasingly cold and wet weather will be handsomely rewarded. The fall colors are still going strong here in the wilderness, the bugs are completely gone, and the foot traffic on most routes is way down. As the temperatures at night begin to dip into the 30s and 20s within the next few weeks, a lucky few will have the chance to see snow in the boundary waters while still being able to canoe across the lakes. This time of year, the northern lights are also far more common. We hope to see you here for the last few weeks of the season!


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Canoes for sale!

Well folks, it’s that time of year again – the season is winding down and the Sawbill workshop is hard at work refurbishing used canoes that will be sold on a first come, first served basis to a few lucky customers. The refurbishment process includes installation of new skid plates on all used canoes, as well as a coat of vinyl ester resin on the bottom of each canoe and a fresh varnish to protect from UV rays.

Paul hard at work applying vinyl ester resin to the bottoms of the 17′ Northstar Seliga

Our first round of 17′ Northstar Seliga kevlar canoes are up for sale now outside of the Sawbill store, and more will continue to become available for purchase as the season continues to wind down. We don’t deliver any canoes so if you’re unable to make it up here this fall, all of our canoes are also available for purchase online and can be held for you until next summer. Visit for more information!


Used canoes piled neatly outside of the Sawbill store

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Birthday pizza

Happy birthday Dan!! Our fearless leader celebrated his 35th birthday this week, and much to the delight of the crew he asked to cook a special meal to celebrate the occasion. Using the brick oven in the Shirleys’ backyard, Dan cooked the whole crew a neapolitan feast. What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a wood fired pizza bake! Abbondanza!


Dan baking pizzas with aplomb. Good work Dan!
The first pizza of the night goes in!

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Sig’s first BWCA trip

9/26/19 – How old were you when you first had the pleasure of experiencing the Boundary Waters? This week, at the ripe old age of twelve and a half months, Sigurd T. Shirley entered the BWCA wilderness for what is sure to be the first of many overnight canoe trips to come. Clad in warm fall clothes, an appropriately fitted life jacket, and a strawberry hat, Sig bravely ventured into the great unknown!

Sig fearlessly leading the Shirley family across Kawishiwi Lake

During the summer months, the Shirley family is almost always busy keeping Sawbill up and running. Getting out into the BWCA is a real treat, especially when the whole clan can make it into the wilderness together. Now that the season is beginning to wind down, the Shirleys were able to carve out an overnight at Kawishiwi Lake and experience what Sawbill patrons have had the fortune of enjoying all season – the great outdoors!

Sig reveling in the moment

The Shirleys were only able to make it out for a single night this time around, but they nevertheless fit a lot into their short time in the wilderness; Clare caught a fish off of their island site on Kawishiwi, Kit spotted a grouse near the latrine, and of course s’mores were eaten around the fire. No doubt, a worthwhile and memorable trip!


Kit focusing hard on her fishing technique
“A lovely smokey flavor…”
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Fall Equinox

9/23/19 – Happy equinox folks! While you wouldn’t know it by the warm weather we’ve had this week, fall is in full swing here in the north woods. Driving up the Sawbill trail from Lake Superior, the colors are nothing short of magnificent. Along the Sawtooth mountain range maple trees are exploding in shades of crimson and orange, and here on the edge of the BWCA we’re getting a show as well. While the birch leaves are turning a vibrant yellow, the white pines are dropping their excess needles, making a trip through the campground feel like walking through Oz on the yellow brick road.

White pines drop a large percentage of their needles every fall
Fall colors behind the crew house
A view of the canoe storage area from a canoe

The leaves aren’t the only change in color we’re noticing around here – small game season opened in Minnesota on September 14th, and we’re beginning to see hunters clothed in bright orange stopping by the Sawbill store. While some members of our fall crew prefer to stick to fishing during the fall months, others couldn’t wait to get their hands on a hunting license. Jessica, a long standing crew member, was one of the first to bag a grouse, much to the interest of Kit and the rest of the crew. Here’s hoping Jessica will make some of her famous grouse soup before the season winds down! -Owen

Kit shortly after deciding she wants to grow up to be just like Jessica

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Sawbill Ladies Night

Just before Katie, Amelia, Nora, and Mia went back to college, the Sawbill Babes had a night out on the town! They left Sawbill in the hands of Kit (who assured them that she would keep Sawbill running and the boys in line) before they headed into Grand Marais for an afternoon filled with shopping, fudge eating, and relaxing! Before heading back up the trail, they stopped to eat at the Angry Trout where they enjoyed a waterfront dinner outside on the deck! It was a night to remember for the Sawbill babes and there definitely wont be another one like it!


Left to right bottom: Jessica, Katie, Amelia Left to right top: Nora, Mia, Allison, Clare, Andie
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A seldom explored world

9/11/19 – There is a lot going on under our feet. Tree roots, insect colonies, pixie villages, and the mycelium network. Mycelium is the main body of most fungi. Here in the northwoods we don’t often see the actual fungus itself save for it’s fruit, mushrooms. Mushrooms range from mighty to tiny, from beauty to slimy. What we see as mushrooms are usually the reproductive strategy of the fungus and picking them does not hurt the living part of the organism.

With fall settling in some new specimens are poking up through the piney duff including some edible species such as Lobster and Chanterelle’s. Consult an expert and a mushroom guide if you are interested in identifying these delights.

Lobster Mushroom