Posted on

Summer Hours

5/23/2019 – Even though the weather is a bit behind with the seasons, it’s officially summer here at Sawbill! As of today, the store is open from 7 am – 9 pm every day of the week. We now have our water up and running throughout the store area, so if you’re camping here this weekend the showers are in working condition. If you need to use them, please keep in mind they close an hour earlier than the store does, at 8 pm. Additionally, the water throughout the campground has been on for about a week now! We are full-on ready, people.

We are gearing up for a busy few days here with Memorial Day coming up, and then jumping right into summer craziness after that. The weather has been rainy and cloudy the past few days, but will hopefully clear up after tomorrow. We’re just celebrating the fact that it’s rain and not snow. It looks to be getting warmer and warmer as the week goes on! See you all soon.


Posted on

Prescribed Burn

5/21/19 – As many of us who enjoy the BWCA know, fire is a natural part of the environment and serves a purpose in reviving and maintaining ecosystems. Perhaps you have paddled west of Sawbill and seen the aftermath of the Pagami Creek Fire of 2011 or maybe you seen the charred remains of another forest fire that has affected the Boundary Waters. The US Forest Service has many ways to help control and prevent these fires, one of which is Prescribed burning. Prescribed burning, otherwise known as controlled burning, or prescribed fire, is the controlled application of fire to a predetermined area. This practice has been a tool of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 1995 and is used widely across the country in forests, flatlands, and prairies to benefit the ecosystem of the area. Here in northern Minnesota, it is mostly used as a prevention for wildfires, burning brush, shrubs, and small trees that would fuel large fires, but it also promotes the new growth of native species, helps the habitats of plants and animals that rely on periodic fires, and removes the slash and debris following forest management activities. There is a prescribed burn scheduled for today, May 21st, at Plouff Creek about 7 miles from Sawbill, totaling 55 acres of burned area if the conditions are correct. So if you are in the area and see smoke rising, don’t panic, but rest assured that the Forest Service is make our area a safer and healthier ecosystem.


Posted on

Mary Alice

5/20/19 – It is with great sadness that I share the news of Mary Alice Hansen’s passing here with our Sawbill family. She lived a remarkable life and died a dignified death, and really, what more can any of us hope for? In her last days, stories from and of Sawbill crew and customers brought her great peace and joy.
Below is her obituary, written by her son, and my dad, Bill Hansen. – Clare

Mary Alice Hansen, 95, Grand Marais, died on May 8, 2019 at North Shore Living in Grand Marais. A memorial service and celebration of life will be 1 p. m. Wednesday, May 22 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Grand Marais.

Mary Alice was born to Fred and Alma Grobe in Hutchinson, Kansas on September 1, 1923, their only child. She graduated from Hutchinson High School at the age of 16. She graduated from Hutchinson Junior College in 1941 and the University of Missouri in 1943, Phi Beta Kappa, with a B. S. in child psychology. She was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. She received a Masters degree in child psychology in 1945 from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

While in graduate school, she met and fell in love with her fellow-student, Frank William Hansen, and they were married on August 29, 1946 in Huchinson, Kansas. They remained married until Frank’s death in 2010.

Mary Alice led a life of remarkable accomplishment, as a professional, entrepreneur, historian, author and community activist. She was a school psychologist for the Bloomington, Minnesota public school system from 1961 until her early retirement in 1977.

She and Frank founded Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, on Sawbill Lake, at the edge of what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1957. She managed Sawbill Canoe Outfitters for more than 30 years, living at Sawbill Lake from 1977 until 2008, before passing it to her children and grandchildren.

She wrote and published a popular book, Sawbill History and Tales in 2007 at the age of 83.

She served as Tofte Township Clerk for many years. She was instrumental in founding the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum and edited the museum’s newsletter. She was an active member of the West End Garden Club and was named Tofte Citizen of the Year, among many more awards and activities. She traveled extensively and kept lively and accurate journals.

Mary Alice was told by her father, “You can feel good by helping others,” which she took to heart and passed on to her descendants. She was known for her beaming smile, friendly demeanor and lively conversation. She will be deeply missed by her many friends and loving family.

Mary Alice is preceded in death by her parents and husband.

She is survived by son, Karl Fredrick (Lee Stewart) Hansen; daughter, Ranna (Kevin) LeVoir; son, William Frank (Cindy Lou) Hansen; grandchildren, Adam Hansen, Ruthie Williams, Marie Ljosenvoor, Clare Shirley, Marc LeVoir, and Carl Hansen; and six great grandchildren. She is also mourned by many former Sawbill Canoe Outfitters crew members, who were influenced by her spirit during their time at Sawbill.

Memorial contributions can be made to the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte and WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio, in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Tributes and memories can be left online at CaringBridge.

Mary Alice was grateful to her wonderful and compassionate care-givers at North Shore Living in Grand Marais.

Posted on

Crew Bonding

5/15/2019 – The Sawbill crew is increasing and there’s plenty of hard work going on around here from everyone. There are 12 of us now (14 including Sig and Kit) and the group is getting pretty big. With a community like this, it’s important inside and outside of the work environment to have a strong team that can work together well. A team that knows each other and connects well goes far in the workplace.

So far, the crew members have been doing a great job organizing small bonding sessions on the daily to get to know each other more. One highlight was when most members went on the first night paddle of the season (and my first ever)! The crew took out two of the new Northstar 20s to test immediately following sunset. After portaging to Alton lake, we stopped at a little island to explore, chat, and watch the stars come out. As the duffer of the group, I can attest that the new canoes are quite comfortable and speedy! It was a beautiful night. Paddles while two or three people have off in the mornings have been happening as well. It’s a great way to practice canoe skills while hanging out with a fellow crew member.

The Northstar 20 pitched on the small island while crew members chatted.
Everyone listening attentively as Paul explains how movement and marching can lower your heart rate! Bonding happens in many forms and conversations.

Another way that team members have been connecting is through many, many games of hockey. The Stanley Cup playoffs have been on constantly most nights the past couple of weeks. While some are huge hockey fans, others are simply learning about the sport and what happens in a game besides fighting. Yesterday night hockey was accompanied by delicious caramel marshmallow brownies made by Mia. Clearly, snacks bring everyone together.

Hockey is a lot easier to watch with some delicious popcorn in your hand. Thanks for making it Jessica!

Foosball is another major sport around here. With a tournament coming up, many crew members have been practicing their skills and learning from the talented professionals, Luke and Jessica. Others prefer competition in the form of cards or cribbage. With a customized 3D printed board of Sawbill Lake, it’s easy to find the motivation and even easier to find another pal willing to play. Additionally, a bonfire and a couple movie nights have been initiated during the colder nights. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of bonding going on and it’s pretty easy when there’s such a good team here at Sawbill. Cheers to more hard work and play!


A beautiful morning paddle on Sawbill lake & Kelso river with Brian.
Posted on

Signs of Spring

5/14/19 – The weather is warming up and the crew members aren’t the only grateful ones. In the last week, there’s been plenty of signs of new life and growth around the Sawbill area. There is a huge diversity of plant life in the BWCA and while the coniferous trees are as green as ever, other floras are starting to catch up. For instance, crew members have gotten the pleasure of watching daffodils persevere through the recent snowstorms to finally bloom right outside of their kitchen window.

Yellow daffodils bloom outside of the crew member house.
In addition to the yellow flowers, one solo white one is seen in the patch as well.

Another rapidly growing plant are the many types of mosses, growing greener by the day. The type of moss seen below, presumed to be sphagnum of the sphagnaceae family, was spotted on Britton peak on the Superior Hiking Trail. There are 33 species of sphagnum moss in Minnesota and that’s just one genus. Think of the variety when considering all categories and families! These little guys play an essential role in our ecosystem. They are food for some, shelter for others, reduce erosion, stabilize soil (especially important after a fire), and retain water and humidity for the habitat. Needless to say, they’re important and honestly pretty cute.

Moss on Britton peak with a couple fingers for scale. So small!

Lastly, the common but classic pussy willows are patiently waiting to bloom, signifying the end of winter. Though I haven’t spotted any of their flowers yet, surely there may be some already blooming. With over 20 species of pussy willows in Minnesota, it’s a pretty common site to see them in the marshy, wet areas of the boundary waters. I expect to see some bees feeding on pollen soon here as the flowers are starting to emerge. Unfortunately, there has already been a noticeable increase in mosquitoes just in the past week. If you’re taking the trip up to Sawbill, don’t forget your bug spray! Happy Spring!


Pre-bloom pussy willow branch on the Sawbill Trail.
Posted on

New Crew!

5/13/19 – This past week, Sawbill welcomed 4 new crew members to the BWCA! Mia Pudas was the first to arrive last Sunday the fifth. Mia is from Eden Prairie Minnesota and she joins us for her first season after a number of family trips to Sawbill. She just finished her first year as an Electrical Engineering major at Michigan Tech. Next, Mathew Campbell joined us from Duluth Minnesota to fill the shoes of his older brother and long time crew member Tyler. Matthew is studying English and Psychology at Dakota Wesleyan University. He has been a camper at Sawbill for many years and is excited for his first year on the crew. Sawyer Laird came next all the way from Lowell Michigan. He is an Outdoor Recreation major at Central Michigan University and is ready to share his passion for the wilderness with Sawbill. Lastly, David Kelm arrived on Friday after completing his first year as a Political Science major at Concordia College Moorehead. Please join us in welcoming the new crew members to Sawbill!


From left to right: Mia Pudas, Matthew Campbell, David Kelm, and Sawyer Laird

Posted on

Opening hours

5/11/19 – This Thursday, the Sawbill store officially opened with spring hours! From now until Memorial Day, the store will be open from 8 am to 7 pm, and after Memorial Day we return to our normal summer hours from 7 am to 9 pm. Mother nature decided to help us celebrate our spring hours with four inches of new snow on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Luckily, it was all melted by the afternoon due to rising spring temperatures! Summer is just around the corner.


Posted on

Beach Club Birthday

5/7/19 – Today is Kit Shirley’s 3rd birthday! She celebrated by eating cupcakes with her friends and listening to her favorite musician, Bob Marley. The crew also made Kit a treasure map, which led her on a fun scavenger hunt around Sawbill – thanks team!

Kit contemplates her next move on the treasure map.

Former Sawbill Crew Jessa Frost and her son Owen help Kit celebrate.

Another cause for celebration was the annual opening of the Sawbill Beach Club! A quick dip was followed by a toasty sauna.

Jessica, Luke, Dan, Huckleberry, Paul, Allison, Mia, and Drew. A brave spring crew!


Posted on

Ice Out – May 5, 2019!

May 6, 2019 – Yesterday evening we watched as a steady north wind blew the remaining floating chunk of slushy ice south to Sawbill’s outlet at Sawbill creek. Kawishiwi and Baker Lakes are also out. Brule and Alton are still locked up with ice. Welcome to paddling season!


Final remaining ice on Sawbill Lake, blowing south, leaving an open lake.
Posted on

Here Comes the Sun

5/3/19 – Cold and snowy would aptly summarize the past few days, but lucky for us the tides seemed to have shifted, at least for now. Current conditions include sunshine, a steady warm breeze, and a temperature of 45 degrees. We still have a few inches of snow on the ground, but it is dwindling fast. -Jessica

The ice is still holding out, but each day we see more and more open water creeping in from the shorelines. We’ve stopped venturing out after our 3″ measurement of solid ice on April 28th.
In recent days we’ve noticed an uptick in the amount of waterfowl paddling around just south of the canoe landing. If you squint really really hard you can see a male common merganser (white speck in the water). Also floating about was a male hooded merganser.