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Campground Closures

10/13/20 – The Forest Service has officially shut off the water for the Sawbill Lake, Crescent Lake, and Temperance River campgrounds. With temperatures forecasted for lows in the low 20’s and highs in the upper 30’s for the foreseeable future, we have also shut off and drained our seasonal water systems. Due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic, the Forest Service is closing these campgrounds to all camping for the winter. Typically, they would simply go into a “no-fee” status where we don’t maintain the outhouses, the water is off, etc. but folks can still camp. This year, they will be closed until further notice to all camping to reduce risk of exposure in places that aren’t being maintained.

In a nutshell, Crescent Lake and Temperance River campgrounds are closed effective immediately.

The Sawbill Lake Campground will remain open, on a first come first serve basis, until Monday October 19th – with no fees required. We will be maintaining the outhouses this weekend, even though camping is free and the water is off, just to facilitate folks having one last chance to camp up here during MEA weekend.

As always, please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions. Thank you for your support!


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Fall Traditions

10/11/20 – Even though temperatures this week were unseasonably warm we are still feeling festive this fall season. To celebrate the return of cool weather, we had our annual crew pumpkin carving last night.

Mikey is all focus as he works on his masterpiece.
Jessica contemplates her canvas.

Thanks to our crew’s incredible dedication, we’ve been able to quarantine ourselves together all summer. This has limited our exposure and allowed us to provide a safe environment for our customers. But it has also allowed us to have festive events like this, which feels like a welcome dose of normalcy.

Kit wins the award for most enthusiastic pumpkin carver.
Sig wins the award for most thorough pumpkin inspection.

Three cheers for fall!


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Crew Appreciation

10/6/20 – Before we close for the season (sometime towards the end of October) we will be taking a well-earned afternoon off for our crew appreciation event. Sawbill will close at Noon on Wednesday, October 14th so that we can enjoy some time with each other before we all head our separate ways at the end of the month.

We’ll resume our regular fall hours on Thursday morning (Oct. 15th), 8am-7pm. As October wears on, we’ll be doing more work around the property here so if you’d like to rent a canoe, call ahead and check around back for us once you arrive. We are wearing our masks while helping folks out so we appreciate when you do too!

A fall evening on Sawbill Lake.
The canoe washers spotted this little stowaway, a rather large tree frog.

We are planning to be open at least through October 18th. After that, it will be weather and staffing dependent.


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Daddy Daughter Trip

9/30/20 – As we begin to wind down for the season, the crew is taking advantage of any free time we can eek out to venture out into the boreal forest to experience this year’s spectacular fall colors. Dan and Kit were able to head out for their annual father daughter canoe trip last weekend, for two nights and three days.

It was a beautiful calm morning to start a canoe trip.

Four year old Kit is a seasoned camper at this point and has had her heart set on completing the 480 rod Lujenida portage just north of Kelso Lake this year. Dan was happy to oblige so off they went, traveling from Sawbill into Alton, Kelso, Lujenida, Zenith, Frederick, and finally camping on Wine. With Dan carrying a Superior One portage pack, a day pack, and a Souris River 16′ kevlar canoe and Kit carrying her own small backpack, they were able to single portage and make it to Wine in about 6 hours. They also had Huckleberry along, although due to his propensity for constant swimming he didn’t get to carry his own pack.

Kit scopes out some fishing spots from their campsite on Wine.

I asked Kit if she had any advice for grown-ups who might be thinking about doing the long Lujenida portage. She said “Take lots of breaks and make sure to tell jokes!”

Coloring makes for a relaxing way to wait out the rain showers.

With temperatures forecasted to dip into the mid-twenties at night over the weekend, we will be monitoring conditions and plan to put our kevlar canoes in storage once skim ice starts setting in. If you are thinking of coming up for a trip in October, give us a call a few days in advance of your trip to check current conditions, things change quickly up here!


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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