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Long Solstice Days

6/29/20 – August has arrived in June, it seems. The summer days are filled with a bustling campground, happy canoers, and sunny days with temps in the 80’s. With open schedules and limited travel options, we are seeing an influx of visitors in the early summer this year. Permits are more booked up than usual, and many are venturing out for their first-ever BWCA Wilderness trips. We are enjoying meeting all these new faces (even through windows and masks) and are honored to help them have successful first experiences in our favorite wilderness area.

Wild irises are blooming along the lake shores.

Whether you are a seasoned canoe-tripper or a first time paddler, you should plan to travel during your BWCA trip. There has been a significant increase in visitors choosing to stay within one or two portages of the entry point lakes and simply base camp there for the duration of their trip. This is putting a big strain on the campsites on or near entry point lakes, and makes it difficult to find a spot during this busy time. However, if you travel four or five portages into the Wilderness you will often find you have the place practically to yourself. Personally, I’m a big proponent of travelling most days during canoe trips.

The water is warm and it is prime swimming season!

The rituals of taking down and setting up camp, eating lunch on the end of a long portage, and scouting new campsites are some of my favorite parts of days spent in canoe country. There is a certain satisfaction in the act of carrying everything you need with you each day. The opportunity to see new land, encounter more wildlife, and taste the water from different lakes is more than enough motivation to get me moving each morning.


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Sawbill Lake Campground Hosts

6/26/20 – We are so excited to welcome our new campground hosts to the Sawbill Lake Campground! After over 30 years of hosting, Jim and Rachel TerBeest have retired to spend more time with their grandkids in Omaha. Hard to blame them, we love the whole TerBeest family!

So, for the first time in three decades, we posted the position. To our delight, former Sawbill Crewmember Lida Casper and her husband Kyle applied! They arrived here in mid-June and will be staying in site 17 until mid-August.

Kyle, Mia, Walt, Lida and puppy Maple

Lida and Kyle are educators in Rochester, Minnesota. Their children, Mia (7) and Walt (4) are at least as excited as their parents to take care of the campground and enjoy all the special people who visit. In their past lives both Kyle and Lida spent several beloved summers working at canoe outfitters on the edge of the BWCA. Kyle on the Gunflint Trail and Lida at Sawbill.

Sawbill kids Kit and Sig have been loving all the playdates with Mia and Walt, they are quite the foursome and will be bopping around the campground all summer. It is reminiscent of the early 80’s when Laura and Nathan TerBeest were the camphost kids bopping around with Sawbill kids Adam and Ruthie Hansen.

The campground has been unusually busy this June. Friday and Saturday nights have been filling up, but there’s a fair amount of turn over each morning as folks head out into the BWCA. Half of our sites are first come first serve, so if you arrive around Noon on any given day there are almost always sites available. Lida and Kyle are cleaning the campground on a daily basis and things are running smoothly up here, summer is in full swing!


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Pictographs on Fishdance

6/24/2020- Last week, I had the pleasure of taking a solo trip to see the pictographs on Fishdance Lake. Not much is know about the history or meaning of the pictographs, but that only further adds to the intrigue. Here is an excerpt from a letter I wrote on my second night.

“I got to fishdance and the cliff surprised me when I came around a point on the western shore. It stands out abruptly, jutting out from the hillside with undeniable authority; I immediately knew this was the site of the pictographs. Perhaps the coolest part of the whole experience is the fact that the cliff stands vertically out of the water so you can paddle directly up to the rock and touch the rock that was first painted by humans hundreds of years ago!”

It is important to note that, when viewing pictographs or petroglyphs, one should never touch the artwork itself so as to preserve the magic for future visitors. If you are interested in learning more, Michael Furtman’s “Magic on the rocks” provides in depth information of every known site of native american artwork found all across the BWCA and Quetico.


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Many Sawbill “Firsts” this Summer

First Time BWCA Paddlers: Aayush, Nabin, Erna, Amyeeta, Tina

06/21/20 – This year’s Summer Solstice highlights many Sawbill “Firsts” : Welcomed increases in people scheduling canoe trips; daily filled entry point BWCA permits; and campgrounds booked to capacity. Also, pictured is a group of friends who realized a first together of having dipped paddles into the Boundary Waters .

Traveling from the Twin Cities area, they exclaimed, “This Boundary Waters experience was our first time. We were so excited and nervous yet Autumn, our Sawbill outfitter helped give us confidence. We had a fantastic day paddling. This wild wilderness is SO special (even the mosquitoes).” So whether a trip to Sawbill is your first or a repeat visit, schedule your trip well in advance to ensure that your BWCA experience, first and foremost, will meet your wildest expectations.


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Welcome Dragonflies!

6/13/20 – Every year we celebrate the return of the dragonflies. It’s an unofficial northwoods holiday! As usual, the hatch happens seemingly all at once. You first notice a dragonfly here and there along the ground or on a low bush. Then, you turn your gaze skyward and there they are, swarms of them criss-crossing the air above you. Within a matter of days the blackfly and mosquito populations are noticeably diminished.

Freshly hatched.
This brand new dragonfly is still drying its wings. Dozens of these adorn the rocks of the canoe landing today.

While we had an exceptionally dry April and May, June has brought a few substantial rain showers. The fire ban was lifted on May 18th and waters levels are about average for this time of year again. During one recent evening rain storm, we noticed several frogs taking advantage of the bugs congregating on our lit up windows and filled themselves with an easy meal.

We ventured out in the downpour to get a closer look at this vibrant fellow.


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Lady Slipper flowers are blooming!

6/6/20 – I was surprised to see today that the lady Slippers had started to bloom for the summer season! it is early for this time of year and I was pleasantly surprised by discovering them between the Canoe pickup area and the parking lot.


Lady Slipper flower on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

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The First Sawbill Campers this Year!

Steve, Halie (age 12), Calie (age 9), Paiten (age 11) and Karin

6/01/20 – Drum roll please . . . . This morning the Gaertner clan registered for camp site #10 at Sawbill Lake Campground.   Clare Shirley welcomed the family and pronounced, “You are our first campers here for the the 2020 summer season.” Traveling with ‘Nana” and “Papa” Gaertner are their three granddaughters who exclaimed, “We like it here!  We like the log cabin store, the people  and the lake.


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Whatever the Weather

5/31/20 –  As you flip or click your 2020 calendar page to the month of June with intent to plan a Sawbill Boundary Waters trip keep in mind as you write your packing list, although summer is only weeks away, seasonal temperatures  in the North Country may vary from  the low 40’s to the mid 70’s. Also consider the  effects of wind, rain and overcast skies combined with these temperatures as you choose clothes for protection and warmth.

On mornings this week, Sawbill crew donned jeans and hoodies, changed to shorts and t-shirts mid-day and by evening wore puffy jackets and wool hats. ALWAYS bring complete rain gear — jacket, pants, hat and footwear– and an assortment of clothes for layering to include shorts, pants and both long and short sleeve shirts.  Seek to have at least one set of dry clothes that also includes footwear and socks.  By packing a variety of clothing options you are better prepared for your paddling comfort as well as possible hazards or emergencies. 


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Dorothy’s Brew, May Your Heart Be Lifted Up. . . .

5/30/20 -At the Sawbill store a  refreshing cold drink is often a first request from paddlers returning after a canoe trip.  And as often, their request includes the query, “Do you have the rootbeer?”  Customers are referring to the beverage of Boundary Water lore,   Dorothy’s Isle of Pines Root Beer, home brewed by the “Root Beer Lady” of Knife Lake.

Dorothy Molter lived on the Isle of Pines in remote wilderness canoe country for over 50 years.  She served up her Secret Root Beer Recipe and provided thirst quenching refreshment to thousands of paddlers yearly.  Dorothy was known to give refuge to outdoor adventurers  (including animals) whether nursing care for physical ailments, a warm cabin to wait out a storm in, or a hot cup of coffee to converse over. Dorothy was a true friend to every visitor who crossed her rustic cabin path located 15 miles from any road accessible only by canoe, dogsled, snowmobile, snow shoe or floatplane.

Presently, the legacy of Dorothy’s remarkable life is sustained through profits from the sale of her Isle of Pine Root Beer that directly  support the Dorothy Molter Museum located in Ely, Minnesota. You can  learn more about the “Florence Nightingale of the Wilderness” at the Dorothy Molter Memorial Foundation website:


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Sawbill First Time Crew

5/29/2020 – At Sawbill, customers and crew are the heart beat of all the action. As the North Country and Sawbill open to customers, onboarding of summer crew continues. Here are some FIRST time crew members joining the 2020 team:

Hailing from Tennessee, Kirsten Todd is excited to experience the unique area. She is eager to learn and awaits to meet your outfitting needs. Autumn Lauer takes the title of youngest crew member having recently completed high school in Edina, Minnesota. Here she tends to post canoe trip sanitizing and cleaning of our boats.

From Northwoods Wisconsin, Trinke Alexander and “Chef Ken” a.k.a. Ken Hall bring their passion for working and playing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. At the Sawbill store, Trinke stocks shelves readying to meet a variety of customer needs. Chef Ken is shown preparing dinner, one of two meals eaten communally by the entire crew. Rave reviews followed his first meal of fish tacos made from Northern hooked from Sawbill Lake. Bright smiles abound!