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Fall Beauty

9/22/20 – While I always find beauty in the Boundary Waters, there is a specialness to the fleeting treat that is fall in the northwoods. With a few nights of cold (26 degrees at 6am!) the leaves have really burst to color seemingly overnight. There are so many ways to enjoy the fall colors. A few of my favorites include hiking to the top of a peak along Lake Superior to see the canopy of colors set against the sparkling waters of the Lake; hiking deep into the sugar maple where the sunlight itself is orange after filtering through the leaves above you; paddling along the shoreline at dusk when the tamaracks are in full glow; collecting favorite leaves and pressing them in books for rainy day craft projects; walking through the soft carpet of golden-retriever colored pine needles.

Kit, Dan, Sig and I snuck out for a quick 45 minute hike yesterday.
Riding the backpack gives you more time for leaf-gazing.
Kit takes a break along the lake path on Sawbill Lake.

The Sawbill Campground is still open and being maintained daily. It’s been busy, but there are generally still first come first serve sites available for those short notice trips. We will keep maintaining the campgrounds until the Forest Service shuts the water off, which usually happens in mid-October. We will be open for canoe rentals until the skim ice starts to form, when it’s no longer safe for canoes.


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Fall Hours

9/9/20 – With night time temperatures dipping into the low 30’s and frost and freeze warnings in the forecast, Fall has blown in quickly here at Sawbill. The underbrush is beginning to change color and our thoughts are turning to squash soups, grouse hunts, and flannel sheets.

There are still quite a few folks heading into the Wilderness, and we are still open. With waning daylight, and waning staff, we are now operating on our usual fall hours. We are open 8am-7pm, seven days a week.

Earlier this summer, Dean Ellis was lucky enough to catch a monster Northern Pike near Sawbill and recently passed the photo along. We weighed this fish in at 12.95 lbs.

Warm summer days are fleeting, but the memories last all winter!


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The “End” of Summer

9/5/20 – It is officially Labor Day Weekend, which traditionally marks the “end” of our summer season. For those who have been fortunate enough to visit this year, you may have noticed that Sawbill has been exceptionally busy. This holds true going in to the holiday weekend. The Sawbill Lake Campground is full, and all of our Kevlar canoes touched the water today. Permits in the area are also mostly booked and many of our canoes are headed for other Entry Points.

All of our crew are trained to tie down your canoes. This, of course, includes Sawbill owner Clare Shirley!

While the activity level has remained the same at Sawbill, these past few days have seen the arrival of both fall weather and some spots of fall color. Sunny days remain mild, but recent windy conditions and chilly nights make jackets and hats a must! The upcoming nights have the potential to dip down to the mid 30s, so make sure to bring a warm sleeping bag if you are camping!

Fall colors begin to move in on the Sawbill Trail

Finally, with the holiday weekend in full swing, we see the return of many former crew members trying to sneak in a final BWCA trip or campground stay before the end of the season. Welcome back all! Among the visiting crew members are this year’s summer campground hosts Kyle and Lyda. We are glad you are able to enjoy a vacation at Sawbill this time around.

Caleb, son of former crew Adam West, enjoys a sunset on the dock while camping over the holiday weekend


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One Woman IT Department

8/30/2020 – This week has been quite busy. For starters, we implemented a floater for the evenings whose job it is to try to catch up on all the gear processing. For those who don’t know, the floater works in conjunction with the dome keeper as a back up for when things get busy.

Today, Sunday, August 30th, the printer decided to not work. Clare, the one-woman wonder IT department, took it upon herself to find the problem and fix it. After a bit of research, she found out the problem was the SD card. Clare then looked up a YouTube video on how the remove SD card. Now, we just need a new card…

~ Sawyer

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Fishing at Sawbill

A frequent question that the crew gets asked is: where is the best place to go fishing? The answer to that is dependent on a number of factors and even then you are never going to be guaranteed a fish. It is not recommended to plan on catching a fish to feed yourself while on a Boundary Waters trip. Always pack enough food to last for your entire trip as if you catch nothing.

In the immediate vicinity of the outfitters, the north end of Sawbill is great for walleye, Smoke and Burnt typically are great for them as well. In Kelso, you will find northern pike generally, and Alton tends to be a good lake for bass.

However, you do not always have to go far to have a good time fishing. Mongo had a great evening fishing off a dock this past Tuesday.

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Moose Sightings

At Sawbill we always appreciate it when people in the wilderness send us their photos they want to share. Pictures are a great way to capture a moment so that it lives forever in your memory. This photo was taken on North Temperance. This lake is part of the Cherokee Loop.

Photo taken by Ryan Walesch

Two miles down the trail away from the campground, a Bull Moose has been spotted for multiple nights in a row grazing just off the Sawbill Trail. He has mostly been spotted around 5:30 pm. He’s been quite the model for the photographer.

Photo taken by Tim Petricek 
Racine, WI
Photo taken by Tim Petricek 
Racine, WI


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Birds in the BWCA

The Boundary Waters is a great place to go birdwatching. Ornithology is an enjoyable pastime for many people who come to the BWCA each year. Being able to know what the species is that you encounter on your trip enhances the experience for many. The iconic Common Loon is always a sight to see. Other bird species, such as the Bald Eagle and other types of owls are also found in the wilderness. 

“Common Loon” by GlacierNPS

Partners in Flight (PIF) and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) — have identified a total of 86 bird species that are of significant “continental concern”. These birds have the highest level of conservation concern in the wide range scale. The BWCA has 13 of these 86 species. 

  1. Snowy Owl 
  2. Long-eared Owl 
  3. Eastern Whip-poor-will 
  4. Red-headed Woodpecker 
  5. Olive-sided Flycatcher 
  6. Wood Thrush 
  7. Golden-winged Warbler 
  8. Connecticut Warbler 
  9. Cape May Warbler 
  10. Canada Warbler 
  11. Harris’s Sparrow 
  12. Rusty Blackbird 
  13. Evening Grosbeak

Partners in Flight:

Minnesota Endangered Species List:


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Saying Goodbye

This week Sawbill says goodbye to two crew members: Kirsten and Nora. As the seasons change from Summer to Fall, many crew members have to leave to start school. This goodbye is always incredibly difficult, as the crew grows considerably close each year. Nora and Kirsten made everyday at Sawbill fun, and they will be missed. See you guys next year!


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Crew Activities

Christmas in July is celebrated every year on July 25th by the crew and any former crew members that are visiting at the time. White elephant gifts were exchanged again this year, and a large batch of frosted sugar cookies made their way into the crew’s stomachs. The celebration could not have been complete without the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and its star on top.

On Saturday, August 15th, the crew went for an evening paddle to Alton. They paddled to the portage from Sawbill into Alton and left the canoe on the Sawbill side. The sky was incredible sitting upon Alton rock. This is a great day trip paddle. For those planning on doing the Kelso loop, leaving the canoe on the Sawbill side of the portage and checking the waves on Alton is always useful to plan out routes on windy days. Alton is best known as a small mouth bass lake, but also contains trophy sized walleyes and northerns.


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Reinforcements Arrive

This August two crew members, Mongo and Mia, returned to help out during the August peak season. The health and safety of the crew and visitors is very important to Sawbill. Therefore, after completing six-day quarantines each, they returned to full time crew member status.

A former Sawbill employee, Nils, sent this image to Sawbill. A moose was spotted between the handicap sites and the store along the Sawbill trail on August 4th at 7 o’clock in the morning. At over 1100 lbs, the North American Moose is the largest mammal in the BWCA. Do not approach a moose if you see one. They will defend themselves if they consider you to be a threat. The Minnesota DNR currently estimates about 2,400-4,320 moose are currently in the state. While this number has been steady over the past years, moose are still at risk. In 2006, the population was more than double at 8,840. If you want to learn more, go to the the MN DNR website here:

As is tradition, the annual dock sleep out occurred on Monday, August 10th. Mongo kept the night entertaining with ghost stories and tales from his time fighting forest fires. Traditions like these are what make the Sawbill experience for the crew so enjoyable. Luckily, there was no rain, and the crew managed to open the store the next morning without too much trouble. 

This time of year is the tail end of the blueberry season for the north shore. On Thursday, August 13th, crew members Jessica, Kirsten, Ema, and Mia went berry picking for the evening. The views around this patch were spectacular, and the berries collected went toward blueberry pies that would be eaten the following day. Blueberry picking is always a great activity in the summer, and the North Shore offers plenty of great spots. The primary picking season for blueberries is July through mid August. Blueberries favor meadows in piney areas with more acidic soil. They can sometimes be found in or around campsites in the BWCA, so keep your eyes peeled.