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Dachshund puppies!

9/4/22 – The last few weeks we’ve been charmed by several visits of brand new baby Dachshund puppies. Dave and Shawn who supply us with our bundled firewood, just had a litter of puppies. As the little fur balls are growing and getting ready for their new homes, Kit and Sig and the Sawbill crew have been happy to oblige in the task of socializing the few weeks old pups.

A pile of puppies ready to bound out and play on the back deck of the Sawbill store.
Puppies and packs. 5 week old Dachshund puppies checking out a pile of dirty packs.
Kit is smitten by all the puppy love.
Sig is all grins with a lapful of pully.

– Dan

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Fall Hours

8/13/22 – Typically at Sawbill, we shift to our fall hours of business on Labor Day. This year, however, we find ourselves with a staff stretched thin thanks to factors outside of our control. In order to maintain a reasonable work environment, we’ll be starting fall hours effective today.

For the rest of the season, you can catch us open from 8am – 7pm, seven days a week. Of course, we’ll still be glad to set you up with your permit and gear at no extra charge the night before your trip – just come on in between 5pm-7pm. As usual, you are welcome to pick up/return your gear anytime during our open hours, no need to call and adjust your arrival time.

Sawbill is run by an INCREDIBLE crew of the nicest, hardest working, funniest, and most sincerely good people around. We really appreciate everyone’s understanding as we adjust things in order to give our hard workers the breaks they need in order to keep facilitating everyone’s BWCA vacations. Being open 11 hours a day, 7 days a week still leaves plenty of time for chatting around the map 🙂

Longtime Sawbill campers Rick and Mary enjoy the quiet evening.


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Off the Beaten Path

8/12/22 – For me personally, one of the hardest parts of planning a trip in the Boundary Waters is figuring out where to go. I usually start by opening up a map or Google earth and pouring over the countless lakes, streams, and bluffs. There is so much to see, that it is overwhelming in the most wonderful way possible. It’s what keeps so many people coming back. 

A great part about working at Sawbill is that you get time off to explore. I love Sawbill and Alton as much as the next person, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t curious to find out where the creeks led to, or see what’s on the other side of the beaver dams. Luckily, many members of the crew share that same curiosity and intrigue of what lies down the paths less traveled. On a crisp, yet sunny Tuesday morning, my coworker David and I decided to use the break in our schedules to explore somewhere we’d never been.

Although technically out of the wilderness boundary, the junction of Swanson and Koski Creek still offers the same atmosphere as the BWCA. Intertwined with the better-known Temperance River, it’s as much of this area and experience as Ada or Hog Creek. A section of it is visible from the Sawbill Trail and its subtle beauty has captured the attention of those who pass by it.

We had always wondered where it led to and finally decided to grab a Minnesota II and check it out. Upon arrival, we joked about how we’d probably paddle 300 feet just to find it too shallow to paddle or have it dead-end altogether. To our surprise, we made it a lot farther than planned. Around each narrow bend, we’d find another up ahead. The creek was surprisingly deep, the full length of our paddles couldn’t even touch the bottom in most spots. The water was a deep mahogany color and flowed gently through the meandering streambed. It was so still that you could see a perfect reflection of the trees ahead glowing in the soft morning light. Once we were away from the road, it felt quiet and remote. There were delicate flowers floating along the edges and little patches of flattened grass where a beaver chewed the bark off of a stick or a moose came to drink from the stream. It was a secret world that we would have never known existed had we not set out to answer our questions. 

We agreed to paddle downstream for an hour or until the creek’s natural end, whichever came first. To our surprise, we reached an impassable beaver dam close to the time we needed to turn back. We set the canoe in the tall marsh grass and clambered over the swampy tussocks that separated the creek from the solid ground of the shore. Eager to see what lay on the other side, we pushed our way through a dense patch of forest to find a small, rocky stream on the lower side of the dam, not quite passable by canoe. It was a satisfying end to a nice little morning adventure.

As we paddled back upstream, the sun was high above us. Areas that were previously shadowed by the trees were now easy to see. That’s the beauty of out-and-back paddles. It allows you the opportunity to see a place from two different perspectives and perhaps notice things that you missed before. 

On the way back to the car, we took a brief break at one of the few beaver dam crossings to romp around a mossy clearing in the woods. We watched as our shoes sank deep into the fluffy sphagnum, and admired a little brown frog toddle along the moss. We made it back to the car in good time and reminisced about the little world we had just discovered.

There are so many wonderful things to see in the Boundary Waters and oftentimes we’re intent on seeing the bluffs and waterfalls found in magazines and on postcards. Those things are indeed awe-inspiring and wonderful; they deserve to be seen. However, little trips like this remind me that there is also magic in the unassuming places. And there is something very special to be said for that too.


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Out for an Evening Stroll

Sawbill Lake on a calm, cloudy night

Nothing beats a sunset paddle, but a sunset stroll might be pretty close. One of my favorite walks at Sawbill combines part of the Sawbill Trail with our lakeshore path. This little loop allows for a nice array of scenery. The road offers lots of trees and plants, even some blueberries if your lucky, while the lake path grants one some lovely views of Sawbill Lake. On a quiet night, you can hear the wind through the leaves, the chorus of white-throated sparrows and common loons, and the gentle lapping of water against the Sawbill shoreline. And just because you’re out for a walk doesn’t mean that you have to walk the whole time! My ideal “walk” includes quiet moments sitting by the lake just taking it all in.

Whichever way you choose to spend your evenings here, I hope that you get to enjoy and witness all of the wonderful little things that this place has to offer. This place is truly magical.


Where I like to turn off from the Sawbill Trail
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Saturday Night Naturalist Programs

Any night of the week is a special time to be at Sawbill Lake, but Saturday nights are particularly special. Each Saturday at 7:30pm the Forest Service puts on a free naturalist program at the picnic area near the landing. Everyone is welcome to attend the event and a fire and s’mores are provided! The topic of the program varies week to week, but so far this season there have been talks on bogs, beavers, wolves, and more. If you’re looking to learn more about this beautiful place and happen to be in the area on a Saturday night, swing on by! We’ll see you there!


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Kit learns what it’s like to be a wolf! Grey wolves have warm coats, impressive intelligence, and are great runners!
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Meet the neighbors

8/1/22 – Living on the edge of the wilderness, we are so fortunate to see a lot of fascinating wildlife in our backyard. If you hope to see these awe-inspiring animals yourself, be aware of your volume and always keep a safe distance. To be an unobtrusive observer of the wilderness is such a gift. Long time camper and friend of Sawbill Tim Petricek captured some amazing photos of our neighbors for your enjoyment! -Matthew

Larry the Loon teaching their child how to fish.
Gertrude the Grouse posing for their close up.
Steve and Sue enjoying an evening swim together for date night.
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Merry Christmas in July!

7/31/22 – Friday was the 18th annual Christmas in July! Since we spend Christmas in December scattered across the country, we choose 1 night every July to transform Sawbill into a winter wonderland. Carols are sung, cookies are decorated, a tree is erected, mistletoe is hung, homemade gifts are exchanged, and a proper feast is prepared. It is my personal favorite Sawbill holiday because everyone brings a piece of their family tradition and shares it with the crew. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good summer! -Matthew

From left to right: Clare’s blueberry chutney tarts, David’s Manicotti and quinoa blueberry salad, Clare’s Challah, and Jr/Diana’s cardamom bread. Not pictured: Desserts and the hours of labor each of these dishes took.
The whole crew gathered around the table as gifts are passed out by Kit, Sig, and Mia.
Special shout out to Walt and Kyle for this INCREDIBLE homemade birch bark visor.
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UPDATE: Luigi the Dog Has Been Found

Luigi was found alive and well near Seagull Lake on 7/25. For those reading different BWCA forums alerting paddlers to look for him near lakes Kawishiwi and Polly, please note that he is no longer in the wilderness.

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It’s Berry Picking Season!

7/27/22 – All the rain up here in the north woods has brought at least one good thing with it – a fantastic berry haul!

The blueberries and strawberries are out in force, and some shy raspberries are starting to ripen as well. Berry patches are all over the place near the Sawbill Trail and are food sources for lots of wildlife during the late summer and early fall. Bears, squirrels, moose, and various birds all frequent berry patches, so if you pull over to gather some, make sure you do a quick scan of the clearing to see if you have a picking partner you didn’t plan for!

Some pickers like to bring plant books with them on their outings to help identify the fruit and plants they see. Blueberries and strawberries are widespread and easily identifiable, but when in doubt, check to make sure a berry is edible before picking it! The north woods are home to several varieties of berries that are better left to the wildlife and shouldn’t be eaten by humans.

When you go, make sure to bring a big picking bucket, especially with the huge number of blueberries that are ripe right now. If you do end up with an overflowing blueberry emergency, you can always eat some to clear up space:)


Berry picking in a patch near the Sawbill Trail last week.
Crew member Katie and her bucket – still needs some filling!
Some small north woods strawberries that were quickly eaten after this photo was taken.
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Sawbill Instagram Takeover!

This week, Clare and Dan have made the terrible mistake of handing control of the Sawbill Instagram account over to members of the crew. The crew will be recording their day-to-day activities via Instagram story for the next couple of weeks, so if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a crew member up here, now’s your chance to find out more! You can follow along at @sawbillcanoeoutfitters on Instagram — and for you die-hard blog readers, don’t fret! We’ll still be posting updates here on the newsletter as we always have. Enjoy! — Owen S.