Recommended maps for this route: Sawbill Area East, Fisher F-5, F-6 and F-12 or McKenzie Map 21.

Day 1

Your paddle flashes and the canoe surges forward through the waves as you head due north up Sawbill Lake. It is exciting to know that you could keep paddling north through virtually unbroken Wilderness all the way to Hudson Bay. As you portage and paddle through Ada Creek, Ada Lake, and Scoop Lake, you can reflect on the ancient footsteps that fell on these very trails. The 180 rod (16.5 ft = 1 rod; 320 rods = 1 mile) portage into Cherokee Creek takes you over the Laurentian Divide. These hills which are causing you to grunt and sweat under your pack are also dividing the watershed between the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Cherokee Creek is narrow, but easily navigable and is a favorite feeding spot for moose.

Day 2 (optional layover day)

Cherokee Lake is renowned for its beauty. Dotted with islands and surrounded by steep hills, its outstanding campsites have been used and enjoyed since prehistoric times. Bill Magee, the famous surveyor, outfitter, guide, and storyteller, claimed Cherokee as his personal favorite in all of canoe country. Spend this day exploring Cherokee or take a side trip to Frost Lake for a swim on the golden sand beaches. Lake trout and northern pike are found in Cherokee, Gordon and Frost Lakes.

Day 3

Your first portage today is the most difficult of the trip. You are once again crossing the divide. Even though it is only 140 rods long, not one of those rods is on flat ground! The portages from here on are relatively flat by comparison. Admire the huge hills to the north of North Temperance Lake as you pass through. You can eat lunch on South Temperance Lake and wet a line for some walleyes or small mouth bass. You now head down the Temperance River through Weird, Jack, and Kelly Lakes. There is no discernible current in these lakes and you portage streamside around the fast water. Camp for the night on Kelly. It is not unusual to hear wolves howling, especially at dusk and dawn.

Day 4

On to Burnt and Smoke Lakes, both fine walleye lakes. Both also have small mouth bass, some of which run to the five pound class. The portages will seem shorter by this point in the trip, thanks to lighter food packs and hardened muscles. You’ll be back to Sawbill in plenty of time to make the transition back to civilized society.