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Singin’ in the Rain

4/13/24 – Yesterdays wind and this evenings rain continues to do a number on the ice. Dan braved the lake this afternoon, with support crew at the ready, and measured 9 inches of ice. Also of note; rumor has it Kawishiwi Lake is ice free as far as can be seen from the landing.


Sound up for rain drops and happy robins.
Picture taken just before sunset this evening.
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Ice Update from the Landing

4/12/24 – This morning I headed down to lake with auger and measuring stick in hand. Upon reaching the landing I noticed a human sized hole in the ice not far from shore…I stayed put on dry ground.

The ice hasn’t broken away from shore yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens sometime next week.

For more condition updates head over to our Instagram page. -Jessica

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USFS Seeks Public Input

4/7/24 – Recently, the USDA Forest Service has indicated that they are looking into updating the management plan for the BWCA Wilderness. Understanding the world of federal agencies and how it affects the public lands we all love is something people spend their whole careers attempting to navigate. It’s a complex world of bureaucracy and we frequently hear confusion about Parks vs Wilderness, DNR vs USFS, National Forest campgrounds vs State Park campgrounds. However, we know that Sawbill customers have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the history and use of the BWCA. We value your opinions and know that there is immense value in sharing that input with the Forest Service.

The Forest Service is charged with managing the Superior National Forest. To do so, they operate under a Forest Plan. Within the Superior National Forest is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Similarly, within the Forest Plan is a management direction for the BWCA Wilderness. The mechanism for updating this management plan is to implement a Forest Plan Amendment, focusing on the BWCA Wilderness management. The last time this was updated was around 30 years ago.

Here is the letter to the public released by the Forest Service:

Here is the link to more information from the letter above:

There will be two open houses – an in person event on Thursday April 11th from 4:30 – 7pm at Superior National Forest Headquarters at 8901 Grand Ave Place in Duluth. A virtual open house will be held on April 18th from 4-6 pm. Send us an email at if you’re interested in attending virtually and we can send you the meeting link.

We will keep you posted as the process carries on. We look forward to chatting with you about your thoughts and ideas when you visit us this summer!


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Ice Check

4/3/24 – Progress toward ice out has come to a screeching halt as of late. This afternoon the dogs and I ventured out onto the windswept lake to see what was what. We found a very solid 13 inches of ice with about 7 inches of snow on top of that. -Jessica

Ice and snow measurement taken around 2:30pm.
Chile double checking my work.
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Proper Snow at Last

3/26/24 – How fitting that the first real snowstorm of the “winter” comes after the spring equinox. So far we’ve received 10 inches of snow from this storm, and it’s still coming down. -Jessica

Sawbill Lake as seen from the canoe landing around 1:30pm today.
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Cold Snap

3/22/24 – Temperatures have remained below freezing this past week with a few lows dipping down to single digits and one morning briefly below zero. The lake has firmed up nicely and back to being quite slick with the sun working it’s Zamboni magic once again. No slushy top inch like we were seeing last week. Even with the cool temps, it seems we lost a little ice since our last report with four test holes revealing 11-1/2 to 13-1/2 inches. -Jessica

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Let the Countdown Begin!

3/13/24 – This afternoon we happily welcomed a new addition to the ice measuring tool kit. The fresh out of the box auger easily cut through a handful of test holes with it’s razor sharp blade to reveal between 14 and 15 inches of ice on the south end of the lake. The ice seems pretty solid out there still, but the top inch is more slush than ice at this point. Things have been changing quickly the past few warm sunny days and I’m certainly not enticed to go on any long lake walks like I did just a few days ago.

Dan giving the new 4-1/2″ auger a spin.
Another key ingredient to getting the correct measurement is a properly calibrated ice measuring stick.
Official measurement recorded this afternoon at 3:20pm.

Looking at the extended forecast however, this ice melting extravaganza might come to a screeching halt over the weekend with lows predicted in the teens and single digits through early next week. -Jessica

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Tables Have Turned

3/12/24 – And just like that, our shimmering smooth ice has transitioned to crunchy puddles, which will likely loose their crunch by end of day.

Video taken around 9:30am today.

Yesterday we reached a high of 59° which produced just too much water on the ice for this mornings measly 27° low to fully refreeze. -Jessica

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Smooth Ice

3/11/24 – The past handful of days we’ve noticed the higher angle of the sun having a Zamboni like effect on Sawbill Lake. Many of the bumpy ridges that were present a week ago have been smoothed over and refrozen by the consistently cold nights. To give an idea, the lake surface around mid day is not dissimilar to a popsicle that has been recently pulled out of the freezer and licked a few times. -Jessica

It looks like the Zamboni recently passed through this bay on Sawbill Lake. Can confirm it was VERY slippery.
Tinny bubbles frozen in Sawbill.
Artsy polka dot ice on Alton Lake near the Alton to Sawbill portage.
View from the eastern side of Alton looking south.

Coffee was spilled twice in the making of this post. It’s slick out there!

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Supply Run

3/7/24 – Most people get their mail delivered to a mailbox at the end of their driveway, or straight to their door.  In our case mail and other shipments get dropped off in the bustling metropolis of Tofte, either at the Post Office, or at small shed we rent from the Tofte General Store.  On a rare occasion a wayward substitute delivery driver will make their way up the 24 miles of the Sawbill Trail with a wild look in their eye, but for the most part we spend a lot of time with large boxes of t-shirts and merchandise in the back of our vehicles, especially in the lead up to spring.

My favorite white pine leaning out over the Sawbill Trail. Per usual, the picture doesn’t do it justice.

Yesterdays “town trip” included picking up a shipment of vinyl ester resin and other supplies that Dan uses to refurbish the used canoes we sell on the website.  He’s been steadily cycling the canoes through the workshop since mid-November and is getting down to the last couple batches before they’ll all be done and ready for their new homes.  -Jessica

Dan’s canoe refurbishing uniform hangs near the door of the workshop.
Each canoe gets sanded before a layer of vinyl ester is applied to smooth and seal up any scratches. If you squint, you can sort of tell that’s the Sawbill logo under all that canoe dust.