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Campsite Hunting

6/11/21 – With permits filling up and the busy season shifting early and hard into gear, I’m reminded of an article I came across while exploring the Sawbill archives this past winter.  “In Search of Campsites,” written by Jay G. Huchinson and David W. Lime (autumn and winter 1972 edition of Naturalist), discussed common travel patterns that still ring true today.

After digging into the data from a Forest Service “BWCA Trip Diary” survey of about 1,100 groups of campers; Hutchinson and Lime found that only a few groups break camp as early as 8am, almost two-thirds were gone by 10am, and pretty much everyone else by 1pm.  They also make note that “crowding is seldom seen farther back on the canoe trails.”

“Congestion on some portages helps explain why many groups have difficulty finding an un-occupied campsite.”

For best campsite availability I recommend getting an early start to your trip and traveling at least a few lakes away from the entry point.  Finding a place to land by early afternoon is preferred, as things really start to fill as the day wears on.  This also gives time to deploy a backup plan if your initial destination is already full.  Personally, I like to move camp most days of my trip in order to explore more of the Wilderness and put even more distance between myself and the crowded entry points.  -Jessica

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Meet the Fleet

Stacks of canoes awaiting their next adventure

Over the past couple of weeks, new canoes have been rolling in and it seems only fair to introduce them. While we’re at it, it seems like a pretty good time to introduce the older ones too. Folks are often curious about what canoes we carry and what the pros and cons are of each model. At the end of the day, there is no canoe that is “the best.” Canoe selection and performance is subjective and what might be the right fit for one group might not be the best option for another.

Our canoes come in different sizes, forms, and have varying personalities. They can be clustered into a few different groups. The first group, and oftentimes most popular, are our wider, dependable kevlar boats. We have solos, tandems, and 3-person canoes of this variety. Similarly, we have kevlars, also of the 1 to 3-person varieties, that are a little sportier, a little sleeker, but also require a more technique. The one kevlar boat that gets a category of its own is the B16. This boat has versatility and excels at day trips. Our final category consists of our plastic and aluminum canoes; the old reliables. They can be a lot to carry at times, but their rugged and durable nature make up for it. We recommend different canoes for different reasons, but at the end of the day each of our boats is flexible in its abilities and is up for the task at hand.

Each boat listed below has its standard length, weight, and gunwale width in its description. The image below indicates the points on the canoe from which these measurements are taken.

Canoe measurement guide from

Group 1

Our first group to introduce is made up of our wider kevlars. From smallest to largest, we have our Wenonah Wilderness (solo), Northstar Seliga (tandem), and the Northstar Northwind 20 (triple). These boats are stable and predictable. They’re kind of like the minivans of the canoeing world. These boats tend to be the most popular and are great for beginners. They’re easy to handle and won’t throw you any curveballs. They’re a great all around boat whether you’re fishing, doing a day paddle, or are going out for a longer trip.

Wenonah Wilderness: L 15’ 4”, GW 27”, Weight 30 lbs

Northstar Seliga: L 17’, GW 36”, Weight 40 lbs

Northstar Northwind 20: L 20’ 5”, GW 36”, Weight 48 lbs

Northstar Seligas
Our Wenonah solos- Prisms on the left Wildernesses on the right

Group 2

For those looking for something a little sportier, this second round of boats has you covered. The Prism (solo), Minnesota II (tandem), and the Minnesota III (triple)- all made by Wenonah- focus more on performance, but also take a bit more care and attention. They’re well suited for folks who are ready to take their paddling to the next level. They’re more to handle but have your back if the waters get rough. They’re also well-known for holding a straight line, tracking well in the water.

Wenonah Prism: L 16’ 6”, GW 26”, Weight 34 lbs

Wenonah Minnesota II: L 18’ 6”, GW 33.5”, Weight 42 lbs

Wenonah Minnesota III: L 20’, GW 34”, Weight 55 lbs

A stack of Minnesota IIs

Group 3

Our final kevlars are in a league of their own. The Northstar B16 weighs in at 39 lbs and measures 16 ft long by 35.5 inches wide. This boat can be a solo or a tandem, depending on which way you paddle it. It’s great if you have kids or if you want to go out fishing for the day. It’s small, but mighty and you can count on it to be predictable and dependable.

Northstar B16: L 16’, GW 35.5”, Weight 39 lbs

Alumacrafts (left) and B16s (right)

Group 4

The final group consists of our Alumacrafts and Wenonah Spirit IIs. These are the boats that have been through it all. They’ve been there for the highs, and with you through the lows. They even forgave you when you didn’t see that rock as you were pulling into the portage. No doubt about it, they’re tough and hardy. There’s a lot of reasons to like this canoe. They’re wide, stable, and hold their ground. A lot of folks like them because of their dependability. They’re heavy and not ideal for lots of portaging, but they are still trip worthy. An added bonus: they’re great for early and late season paddles when the lakes run the risk of icing over. 

Wenonah Spirit II: L 17’, GW 35”, Weight 73 lbs

Alumacraft: L 17’, GW 36”, Weight 70lbs

Wenonah Spirit IIs made out of t-formex material
The 3-person canoes- Wenonah Minnesota IIIs on the left, Northstar Northwind 20s on the right


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Bugs, Bugs, and More Bugs

6/5/21 – In addition to the weather, visitors are often asking about the current bug reports. Bugs, to no surprise, are very much a part of Boundary Waters trips. From mid-May to September it’s some kind of bug season. Knowing which bugs are active at certain times of the year and knowing what to do to prepare for them can be key to having a pleasant and successful canoe trip. Tuscarora Lodge has a great article about the summer bug season which can be found here:

A Loon and Black Flies- Image From

Right now we are seeing black flies and mosquitoes. Wearing baggy clothing and bug nets are a great way to protect yourself against them. It can be tempting to dwell on the bugs, but they are just as important to this area as the loons and the moose. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and prepare, that way you can appreciate every aspect of your trip, bugs included!


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Busy Holiday Weekend

Sawbill has seen a large increase in visitors over this past holiday weekend. The campground was full for the first time this year and lots of folks were getting out on the water. We had brief periods of thunderstorms and Sunday’s storm even brought hail! Despite the short squalls of inclement weather, the rest of the weekend had mellow temperatures and an abundance of sun. All in all, it was a pleasant weekend.

Customers weren’t the only ones visiting our store this weekend. A friendly Red Squirrel came and visited crew members at our store-front window. 

A Red Squirrel waits patiently at the front window

Whether you spent time out in the Boundary Waters or close to home, we hope you had a pleasant holiday weekend! 


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Blooms and Loons

5/29/21 – This past week has seen the emergence of numerous species of wild flora. Around the campground and along the road you can find the colorful blooms of Marsh Marigold, Wild Strawberries, and Wood Violet. Additionally, the small blue flowers of Forget-Me-Nots can be seen peeking up above the grass. The leafy stems of Lupines have been seen in multiple locations, but it is still a bit early for their blooms.

Marsh Marigold
Forget me not
Wild Strawberry

In addition to the diverse array of plants, there are many different birds that can be seen and heard at Sawbill. A pair of loons are active on the lake and their soulful calls can be heard across the water on quiet evenings. Additionally, folks have been hearing barred owls in the evenings. It seems that both the flora and the fauna here are excited about the summer!


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New Canoes!

5/25/21 – Today we got a new order of canoes from Wenonah. We have been replenishing our stock of canoes from Wenonah as well as adding canoes to our options. This load gave us new Minnesota IIs as well as Wildernesses. This year we have two new canoes: the Wenonah Wilderness and the Northstar B 16.

The Wenonah Wilderness is a solo kevlar canoe. This canoe is 15′ 4″ long, and its maximum width is 30.5″. Our other solo canoe is a Wenonah Prism, and it is a much longer canoe. Thus, this new canoe gives the option for a much more stable paddle.

The Northstar B 16 is 16′ long, making it our shortest two-person canoe. It is a kevlar canoe and contains no boat thwart. Therefore, this canoe is easily maneuverable and great for solo paddling.

Taken By Siri Martin

Wenonah Wilderness:

Northstar B 16:


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BWCA- Bezhik Fire

5/20/21 – On Monday, May 17th a fire started in the northwest corner of the Boundary Waters. The wildfire was detected northwest of Bezhik Lake on the LaCroix Ranger District of the Superior National Forest. At the moment, a lightning strike is believed to have started the fire.

This is VERY FAR AWAY from Sawbill, and officials have been responding to the blaze. The lake this fire started at is approximately 90 miles away from Sawbill. Crews began to respond and put out this blaze after it began to move closer to private property following its initial start. Superior National Forest spokesperson Tim Engrav said six aircraft and at least 40 firefighters worked to put out the fire, and officials are currently monitoring the situation.

Fires are a natural part of a forest’s life cycle. Low-intensity wildfires burn up fuel, plant debris, and dead trees. Therefore, they make room for younger trees and vegetation to thrive. Also, regular control burns can prevent massive scale forest fires. For more information on wildfires, checkout these articles from the BBC and WWF:

News Articles covering the Bezhik Fire:


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Summer is Here!

5/19/21- It seems that summer has finally arrived here at Sawbill. The birch and willow now have their leaves and the once patchy canopy has finally filled in. Things have picked up a bit as everyone is taking advantage of the wonderful temperatures. Rain is in the forecast for the next few days, but that hasn’t deterred eager paddlers! We’re seeing more and more friendly faces every day and are getting into the summer swing.

A peaceful sunset over Sawbill Lake

There have been exciting happenings at the Outfit as we continue to receive new canoes, including a few new solos! This week has also been particularly notable for crew members. One crew member spotted a Lynx on the road toward Kawishiwi Lake early Sunday morning and, on Monday night, a handful of the crew saw the Northern lights during a night paddle. Crew members have been enjoying their free time by jumping off the dock, catching sunsets on the lake, and, of course, paddling! We’ve been enjoying the start of the new season and hope you are too!


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It’s fishing time!

05/17/21- Fishing season officially started on May 15th and we are excited to see what kind of monsters people will catch this year! The weather has consisted of light showers mixed with warm sunny days which created a slow start to the season. The warm weather has also aligned with the beginning of the black fly season. Their presence has been officially announced and we suggest you bring a bug hat, shirt, and bug net for your tent/ hammock! Clare’s personal bug philosophy is LAYERS! Wearing layers and loose-fitting clothing will greatly help your battle with the bugs.

This is a walleye our crew member Jess caught on Sawbill Lake!
  • -Diana

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Sawbill Update

5/14/21- With the temperatures rising we have officially turned the water on at all three campgrounds that we manage! We have started cleaning all of the campsites and preparing them for campers! Outhouses have been scrubbed, trails have been brushed, and the fire grates have been cleaned out. We have started to see more happy faces in our store which has brewed excitement in our crew who are excited to take on the busy summer season.

We are so excited to see the temperatures slowly rising!
Gabe, one of our newest crew members enjoying the Kelso Loop on a blustery day!

We are excited for our store to be open this season and are providing the best Covid precautions for the safety of our crew and customers!