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The Shore

9/27/2018- The north shore has more to offer than just recreation opportunities and outstanding natural beauty. There are also a multitude of neat shops, restaurants and community events to occupy ones times. Recently the Sawbill crew went down to the Birch grove school in Tofte for a woodfired pizza night.

Trevor Huggins of Good Hearth Breads’ stayed open a bit later than usual to welcome the crew after closing up for the night around the store. He runs a permanent wood fired oven at the Birch Grove school in Tofte once a week from June through the end of September. The crust, sauce and cheese is provided. All you have to do is bring your own toppings and a suggested donation of 5 dollars per 11 inch pizza. It’s a fun family oriented atmosphere.

This is one of many treasures you can find along the shore. Make sure you check out the community events calendar before your visit!


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Moose on the Loose

9/23/18- There has been an increase in moose sightings around the Sawbill area over the past few days. Anywhere from the local lakes to the trail itself, they’ve been making appearances. Fall and the cooler temps are a signal for them to begin their rutting cycle. Rutting moose tend to be more active, covering larger areas than normal looking for a mate. It’s an especially good time to observe younger bulls as they try to carve out a more permanent home area for themselves.  While out in the woods this time of year it’s prudent to be aware of your surroundings. Rutting moose show less fear towards humans and have a tendency to defend their territory. It’s especially important to keep your distance and be aware of your surroundings. Safe encounters can add that much extra excitement to your boundary waters or superior national forest experience.



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Little Sig

9/21/2018- Exciting news from the Sawbill trail! Owners Clare and Dan Shirley have welcomed another addition to their family. Sigurd Theodore Shirley was born in the very early hours of Sunday September 16th. He’s a happy, healthy little lunker at 20.5 inches and just over 9 pounds.




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Honeymoon Trail

9/17/18- It’s hard to believe we are already over halfway through September. Lingering summer like temperatures are giving way to cooler days and canoe trippers are pleased. Weekend entry permits still may need a reservation but the weekdays are opening up.

This is the time of year we get a ton of calls from folks looking for leaf color updates. Luckily, crew member Claire and I were able to sneak away from Sawbill duties for a color scouting mission. We drove along the Honeymoon Trail which is the last road on the right before the pavement turns to gravel on the Sawbill trail. The color was phenomenal on the higher ridges and just starting along the trail itself.  

In case you’re having a bad day, here is a picture of Huckleberry.

Let us know where your fall adventures take you!


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Leafer References

9/14/18- Despite the deceptively summer-like temperatures, the changes in the leaves around the canoe yard are getting more apparent by the day. The underbrush is yellowing and the white pine are dropping needles. It won’t be long until we see full blown fall colors on the trail.

If you’re planning a leafing trip around Minnesota, a good reference is the  Minnesota department of Natural resources fall color finder. It’s an interactive map on their website that shows the progress of leaf color throughout the state, among other resources. It will be updated every Wednesday until the end of October.

Map of current fall colors in Minnesota with color coded ranges

In other notable Sawbill news, the fishing is starting to pick up. Walleye are being caught fairly regularly in daylight hours and the smallmouth haven’t quite headed out to deeper water yet. Fall fishing can be incredibly productive as fish try to pack on the pounds before winter sets in. The fishing heats up as the water cools down.


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Aurora Borealis

9/11/18- If you were lucky enough to stumble down to the Sawbill dock last night at about 3 a.m. you could’ve seen a legendary northwoods show. The clouds disappeared and the northern lights came out. With the naked eye we couldn’t discern much color, however, the pulsating and spiking was fairly active for a little while.

Aurora borealis over Sawbill

The boundary waters is a great place to be if you’re planning on doing some aurora viewing. The lack of light pollution is key.


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9/8/18 – With the changing of the guard comes the changing of the leaves. Fall is officially here for the Sawbill crew.  This past week we’ve had a few more arrivals trickle in.

Rubes first year at Sawbill was… a long time ago. He lives and works around Hollywood as a screen writer and producer and tries to get up to Sawbill when he can. You can often find him manning the store or cooking up some good grub for the crew.


Nick just graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and is joining us for the first time in the fall. He’s a veteran crew member whose first summer was 2016. His hobbies include woodburning, reading and taking long walks off short docks. His favorite job at Sawbill is working the store desk. Lukes first season at Sawbill was 2010. He’s works mainly as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and Washington. Between seasons he likes to head up to his favorite place on earth. Sawbill.

Come on up and join us for one of the most beautiful times to be in the north. We are on fall hours now from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. also, the Minnesota DNR will be doing some test netting on Alton Lake 9/10-9/14 and will be using an approved canoe and motor. With any questions please contact the Minnesota DNR at (218) 353-8857



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Fall Crew

9/5/18 – As the season wears on towards Fall, we are sad to say “bye for now” to much of our summer crew. We are excited for them to come back and visit with stories of their travels and studies! Thankfully, the Sawbill network is vast and we are thrilled to welcome some reinforcements for the remainder of our season.

Welcome back Jesse, Paul, and Logan!

Jesse Bergeson worked a full season at Sawbill in 2017 and spent this last summer volunteering with a variety of outdoor non-profit groups in Missoula, Montana. Paul Ryda was a 2017 volunteer with the US Forest Service in the Sawbill area and we are happy to officially welcome him to the Sawbill family. Logan Sheets worked his first season at Sawbill in 2015 and has been calling Missoula, Montana home ever since.

Speaking of fall, Sawbill is now operating on fall hours. We are open 8am – 7pm, seven days a week, from now until the end of October.


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Fond Farewell to the Dome

8/31/18 – This past Monday we said a fond farewell to the iconic Dome.  Ever since it was built in 1974 it has been a prominent presence at Sawbill.  From 1974 until 2001, it served as the epicenter for all things outfitting.  Need a canoe? Head over to the Dome.  How about a permit?  This way to the Dome.  You have a Complete Outfitting trip reserved?  Follow me to the Dome.

Bill and Ranna pose in-front of the Dome shortly after it’s construction (circa 1974).
Betsy Moyer, Annie Strupeck, and Michelle Thieman pose in the Dome just before the rental gear was moved over to the new building (2002).

After an addition to the store was completed early in 2002, outfitting moved to the main store and the Dome became the central location for crew recreation.  For many years it served as a center for wellness (weightlifting, aerobics, yoga), Sawbill band practice, a brewery, and has hosted many a foosball tournament.

Jeff Green and Pat Nash hard at work in the brewery (2005).
Dome sweet Dome (2011).

All the wile, the Dome has been the perfect place to host the annual contra dance, dubbed the “Dome Dance.”  Year after year this event provided a good excuse for campers, Sawbill crew, and anyone else within earshot of contra caller extraordinaire, Terrance Smith, to kick up their heels.

Terrance and his daughter (and Sawbill crew member) Laura swing down the line. (2005)

The Dome has also been used throughout the years to overwinter Kevlar canoes.  The rounded building posed an exciting, and some might say terrifying, challenge in the spring and fall when canoes were brought out of, or put into storage.  In order to fit the many canoes inside, each canoe had to be stood on end and leaned up against one another.  If one canoe moved the wrong way a canoe cascade might ensue (and sometimes did) resulting in a giant game of high stakes pick-up sticks.

Cindy does a happy dance as Bill safely wedges a Seliga in place (2010).

Some of the people who will miss the Dome the most include the many crew members who lived in the loft over the years.  I’ve heard these Dome dwellers recount fond memories of waking up to the comforting sound of the garage door opening just below their room, followed by the soothing sound of the permit video and early morning equipment orientations.  As recent as 2013 crew members lived in this unique structure, but as of late the Dome has been vacant and slowly returning to the earth.

Kit watches on as Dan removes the rental sign, for posterity, just before the backhoe begins the demolition (follow the link to our facebook page to see the backhoe in action).

Over the next month a new structure, specifically designed for storing canoes, will be built in the footprint of the Dome.  Here’s hoping the next building does its predecessor proud.  -Jessica

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Family Canoe Trip to Beth Lake

8/24/18 – ‘Tis the season for making family vacation memories that last a lifetime.  Mark Tade was kind enough to pass along a couple pictures from his recent trip to Beth Lake with his sons and grandsons.  He reported great fishing for the kids, perfect swimming weather, a lynx sighting, topped off with evening campfires accompanied by s’mores, howling wolves, and shooting stars.  Sounds like a successful trip indeed.  -Jessica

Mark’s grandsons paddle along the shore of Beth Lake.
Campfire on a Beth Lake campsite.