Over the last 64 years, Sawbill Canoe Outfitters has always strived to provide friendly, professional, and knowledgeable service to all people interested in accessing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In that sense, this year is no different. While the realities of operating during a pandemic will change the way we do things, we are committed to helping people experience the pristine waters of our beloved Wilderness. 

Above all, we are committed to the health and safety of our staff, our customers, and our community. The following is a summary of our business operating plans during this time. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns, we are happy to discuss any of it in more detail.

General Store/Gift Shop

  • Our store will be open for walk-up window service! We will have a window for asking questions and placing your order, with a separate window for payment and pick up of your order. 
  • Our store will be stocked with all the regular essentials: maps, bait, pop, freeze-dried food, t-shirts, souvenirs, camping gear, coffee cups, etc. We will display many examples of what we have on our front porch and will regularly update our online store. You can shop by walking up to our order window and working with one of our crew or shopping online at and selecting the “in store pick up” shipping option.
  • Our walk-up windows will be staffed from 7am-9pm, seven days a week. Our crew is ready and eager to help you find the right map for your trip or the right souvenir to remember your trip by. 
  • While we prefer credit card payments, we can also accept cash.
  • We have a handwashing station set up out in front of the store, as well as hand sanitizer available for use at our walk-up windows.

Rentals and Outfitting

  • We will be conducting all equipment rentals entirely outside, in order to maintain appropriate social distancing.
  • All of our staff will be wearing masks during equipment rentals and orientations. While we certainly appreciate if our customers can do the same, it isn’t a requirement.
  • We have a desk set up on our screen porch and will assist you with all rental paperwork and questions through the screens. There’s a nice covered area, out of the elements on those rainy days, for customers to stand in while working with our staff. Only one member of your group needs to be present for the paperwork.
  • We will ask your group to wait out in front of our building while we gather your rental gear and canoes. We will come let you know when it is ready and show you where it is. We will conduct any orientations out back in the canoe yard where it is easy to maintain social distance.
  • We will direct folks returning from their trips to place returned gear in a well-signed designated area (just past the RV dump station at the end of the road). Come and let us know you’re back and our designated crew will check in your gear and take payment through a window adjacent to our screen porch. 
  • If you have an Outfitting Package reserved with us, we will be doing all necessary gear orientations in our new canoe storage building. It is a large open space, with a big garage door that will remain open. This is a great spot, out of the elements, with plenty of room to maintain social distance while we orient you with your gear. You will then have access to this building in order to pack your personal items before you head out on your trip. 

Gear Cleaning

  • All returned equipment will be placed in a designated “quarantine” area for 72 hours after it is returned to Sawbill.
  • After 72 hours, every piece of returned gear will be sanitized. The specific cleaning solution is different depending on the type of equipment, if you’re curious about what we use please reach out to us, we’d be happy to share in more detail.
  • Once it is sanitized, gear will be rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry completely before being returned to rental use. 

Campground and Shower House

  • When the Sawbill Lake Campground is allowed to open, we will have hosts on site 17 who will clean and sanitize the outhouses on a daily schedule.
  • The hosts are Kyle and Lida Casper and they are wonderful! 
  • Registration and payment for the campground will be done by filling out payment envelopes, enclosing payment, and dropping it into a pay box located in front of our main store building. 
  • Our laundry facility will be open. The laundry room also has a handwashing sink.
  • We hope to have our shower house open, but it remains closed under governors orders for now.

Transportation to or from other entry points

  • We will be using two designated vans for transporting groups to other entry points.
  • We’ve installed some plastic sheeting behind the driver and front passenger seats in order to provide a barrier between our driver and your group, since social distance inside a van isn’t feasible.
  • We won’t be using circulating air in the vans, but they do have operable windows which will be open!
  • Our drivers will be wearing masks, and we will require anyone riding in our vans to also wear a mask. We really appreciate your help so that we can continue to offer this service.
  • In between each ride, we will be utilizing a sanitizing spray on all high touch surfaces inside the van.
  • Transportation times will be carefully scheduled so that we have appropriate time in between rides to sanitize the interior of the vans. Please let us know if you need to change your scheduled time.

Sawbill Crew

Our staff all live on site here at Sawbill. They are like family to us, more so now than ever. This year, each crew member committed to completing a quarantine at home before they arrived at Sawbill, and completed a second quarantine period once they arrived here. They have all integrated into one household unit for the season, so you may see them interacting with each other in ways that don’t seem very socially distant. This is ok! We are monitoring for symptoms of illness every day, including taking everyone’s temperatures multiple times a day. If anyone shows symptoms, they will be immediately isolated and tested by the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. 

In addition, each crew member has pledged to remain at Sawbill for the entirety of their season and to forgo interacting with their loved ones and friends outside of Sawbill in order to maintain the integrity of our household unit. We could not be more grateful for their commitment to Sawbill and the health and well-being of our customers and community. 

Thank You!

We are so grateful for all the support and encouragement we’ve received. One of the best parts of Sawbill is all of the interactions we get to have with our visitors. Some of you we’ve known for decades, and some we’ve just met, but you are all an integral part of the magic of Sawbill. 

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to discuss any aspect of our COVID-19 operations, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

We can be reached at: (218) 663-7150 or

Clare and Dan Shirley