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Mail: 4620 Sawbill Trail
Box 2129
Tofte, MN 55615

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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: June 2003
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « May 2003 | July 2003 »
6/30/03 - Our friend, Brian Tofte, has sent us a small treasure trove of historical photos of the Sawbill area. We will gradually post them here. The first is a picture of the rail road portage between Sawbill and Alton Lakes. The narrow gauge rails went down into the water on both sides of the portage so a loaded boat could be floated on to the little hand car and pulled across the portage. The rails were removed in the early '70s due to safety concerns. There was also a rail portage between Alton and Kelso Lakes. They were built in the early '30s to haul the materials to Kelso Lake that were used to construct the fire lookout tower on Kelso Mountain. A phone line was also strung, just two bare wires on 12' cedar poles, al the way from Tofte to Kelso Mountain, a distance of about 30 miles.

The old rail portage between Sawbill and Alton Lakes - on the same path as today's portage.

6/28/03 -While walking down the trail yesterday, I was interrupted often by tiny, vibrant red stop signs along the roadside. The wild strawberries are ripe! The sweet and incredibly juicy little berries are lining the trail right now.

We seem to be getting a break from the rain today and the sun is cheerfully poking through the few whispy clouds in the sky, quickly warming up the morning from our unusually cool overnight low of 37 degrees. -Beth

6/25/03 - The persistent drought that has worried us for the last 6 or 8 months seems to have broken at last. We have received substantial rains in the last few days and weeks, bringing water levels back to normal and turning the forest into a verdant, green grotto. The blueberry bushes are loaded with blossoms, which bodes well for future pies and pancakes. - Bill

6/20/03 - The fishing continues to be good around here. Yesterday John Brickner of Apple Valley brought in a 3.5 LB bass that he caught on the south end of Sawbill Lake using a leech and a Lindy Rig. He wanted to say hi to his buddy Chuck Aase and the UMS crowd. -Beth

John Brickner shows off his 3 1/2lb. bass caught on Sawbill Lake.

6/18/03 - Greg Ciolek was fishing at the accessible fishing pier on Sawbill Lake last week when he heard a commotion in the woods nearby.

Moose at the mouth of Sawbill Creek within a stone's throw of the Sawbill Campground.

6/16/03 - David Cole, who has introduced many young people to wilderness canoeing over the years, writes to us about his incredible encounter with wolves last week:

I have been lucky enough to have been on more than a dozen canoe trips in
my time. They have all been wonderful and memorable experiences.
The best usually include taking youngsters who are new to the wilderness.
This past week I and my son had the opportunity to introduce two 12 and 13
year old "Little Brothers" to the beauty of a wilderness canoe trip.

From the very start it was a charmed adventure. The weather was great, the
fishing was fabulous, and the wildlife was abundant.
The boys were delighted with the fighting bronze backs and pike, and
thrilled to see eagle, loons, otters, and moose.
The paddle up to Beaver Lake from Kawishiwi was filled with memorable
sights and sounds.

Our first evening on Beaver Lake, we were fishing from our canoes and
enjoying the calls of loons when the song of howling wolves joined the
It had been many years since I had heard their soulful call and was almost
as thrilled as the boys. The youngest said " Wow, what a special night this
has been!" It certainly was one we will all remember. What happened the
following morning, however, is something I never dreamed I would witness.

I rose with the dawn and sat quietly on an overhanging boulder while my
partners slept. The birds sang their greeting to the new day and I drank in
the peacefulness of the pristine setting. My meditation was interrupted by
a loud racket in the forest a hundred yards across the lake. I could here
large animals struggling, branches breaking, and finally a moose moaning.
After a few seconds the commotion raced toward the shore line and I
strained to see the players. Suddenly a moose calf and two wolves burst
from the forest and into the shallow water of the lake shore about 200
yards from where I sat. The cow chased after the calf with two more wolves
at the heals of the cow.

I raced the short distance to our tent and roused the sleepers. By the time
I returned to the water's edge, the wolves had taken the calf down just on
shore. The cow continued to alternatively charge at the wolves and then run for
safety as the wolves counter attacked. The sight quickly shook the sleep
from those so rudely awakened. We all stood awe struck as the drama
continued and shared our one pair of binoculars. At times the cow would be
driven far back into the forest, and we could follow her position from her
crashing though the dense thicket and her load moaning / grunting "moo".
Then she would come charging back to the shore and into view scattering the
wolves briefly from the spot where the calf was taken down. The wolves
would quickly take the offensive and drive her back into the woods,

This scene repeated itself for about an hour. Each time the cow's charge
would become less aggressive and energetic. Between her charges, the wolves
could be seen tearing at the flesh of the calf. We could hear their
growling as they tugged at the meat and jostled for position. The wolves
were also aware of our presence across the lake and would occasionally
stand in the open looking in our direction.

Finally the cow returned only to stand quietly near the sight where her
calf had been. After a minute of so, she turned and disappeared into the
forest. Two raven came loudly to the scene as the wolves seemed to finish their
task. Once the wolves left, the raven flew down to find what was left.

We waited another hour before venturing to the scene ourselves. When we
arrived, all was quiet and hardly a sign could be found of the drama that
had only recently been completed. The wolves had apparently carried the
pieces back into the forest and the ravens had cleaned up the stage.

To have been witnesses to this natural struggle, is nothing short of a
wonderful gift that we all will be thankful for our entire lives. I am
especially thankful to those who worked so hard to establish this
wilderness and to those who continue to work to protect it.

The only "down side" to this story is how will my young partners ever match
the adventure of their first visit to the BWCAW. However, I am confident
they will return with their own children someday.

Thanks again to you and your crew for your part in outfitting the trip. I
hope to see you all again next summer.


6/10/03 - Fishing was hot yesterday. After Bob had his trophy safely cooling in the freezer, several Sawbill crew members headed out on Sawbill Lake for some walleye fishing. We bumped into a couple of guys who were returning from Alton with an impressive stringer holding three bass over 4 LBS and a 4 LB rainbow trout. Alton was stocked with rainbows a couple of years ago, but very few are being caught. The lake census crew was on Alton all last week and found lots of walleyes and bass, but no rainbows. The one we saw was a gorgeous, colorful and chunky creature. Due to an impending staff meeting, we only had about 40 minutes to fish. We landed 11 walleyes in that short time with numerous bites in between. Clare was never able to set her rod down, as her bobber seem to submerge almost immediately after being set out. - Bill

6/9/03 - Bob Kangas, from Schroeder, brought in a 19 LB northern a few minutes ago. Bob is a recently retired conservation officer whose territory included Sawbill for nearly 20 years. He now has time to fish instead of watching out for poachers. We immediately accused him of using dynamite to bag the monster, but he actually caught it on a small jig while fishing for walleyes.

Former Minnesota Conservation Officer Bob Kangas is enjoying his retirement.

6/8/03 - There is nothing quite as happy as a kid with fish.

Carl Hansen, Clare Hansen, Anna Hutchinson, Will Hutchinson after a flurry of action. Can you see Carl's trophy catch?

6/4/03 - Three new crew members have joined us for the summer. Missy Peschmann, originally from Maple Grove, recently graduated from the University of Minnesota at Duluth with a degree in plant sciences and a minor in dance. She will stay at Sawbill through the fall. Lida Storch, from Appleton WI, will be a junior at the U of M majoring in art education. She is on the rowing team at the U. Kristin Mjolsnes just graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Studio Art and Geography. She is originally from Bloomington, IN and will also be staying at Sawbill into the fall. After leaving Sawbill she plans to take an extended trip traveling around the world.

Returning crew members Nathan TerBeest and Emily Stewart also have arrived this week. Both just graduated from college, Northwestern College and Catholic University respectively. Congratulations! Our long time campground hosts at Crescent Lake Campground, JoAnne and Bill Koski, have also arrived and begun to settle in for the summer. Its good to have the familiar faces back at Sawbill and fun meeting the new ones. -Beth

Missy Peschman brings her green thumb to Sawbill and plants violets in the sod house that covers the well pump. Lida Storch (on the left) and Kristin Mjolsnes take a break outside the store.

6/3/2003 - This interesting press release just arrived from the Forest Service:

Scientists confirm hybridization of Canada lynx with bobcats in Minnesota

USDA Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station's
Wildlife Ecology unit's genetics laboratory in Missoula, Montana.,
discovered through DNA analysis the first scientific evidence of
hybridization between the bobcat and Canada lynx in the wild.

Forest Wildlife Biologist Ed Lindquist of the Superior National Forest in
Northeastern Minnesota collected tissue and hair samples from 19 cats
believed to be Canada lynx. Two of the cats had external physical
characteristics resembling both species. Lindquist asked the research
scientists to conduct DNA analysis to confirm species identification.

Dr. Michael Schwartz, leader of the genetics laboratory, designed a test to
detect hybridization between lynx and bobcats. Analysis of the 19 cats'
DNA identified three hybrids. All three were from male bobcats mating with
female lynx. This is the first scientifically confirmed hybridization
reported in wild populations of these species.

As a result of this finding, the Forest Service has already conducted a DNA
analysis of most of the lynx hair samples collected as part of the national
lynx survey to help determine if hybridization has occurred elsewhere. So
far, no additional instances of hybridization have been detected.

Because so little is known about lynx and lynx ecology, further research is
needed to determine what implications these findings may have on lynx
conservation. Dr. Len Ruggiero, leader of the wildlife ecology research
unit in Missoula, states that additional analysis is needed to determine
the extent of hybridization. Additional hair and tissue samples will be
collected where Canada lynx and bobcat populations are known to overlap.
DNA samples from bobcats in those areas should also be studied to identify

The Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to use
the Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy to guide conservation of the
lynx on federal lands. These guidelines identify actions that will reduce
or eliminate harmful effects or risks to lynx and its habitat.

"We are interested in factors which may contribute to the occurrence of
hybridization, what the long-term impacts on the lynx populations may be,
and how this may affect future recovery efforts," Fish & Wildlife Service
Regional Director Ralph Morgenweck said, after learning about the
hybridization. "The Fish & Wildlife Service will closely follow future
studies to determine the extent of hybridization and its impacts on lynx

The Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which
administers the Endangered Species Act, listed the Canada lynx in the
United States as threatened in March 2000, in portions of the lower 48
states. A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered in
the foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of its range.

Note to editors: Questions and Answers regarding this issue can be viewed

6/1/03 - We've been getting encouraging fishing reports from people returning from trips. The walleye, northern pike, and lake trout have all been biting well and, according to a couple of groups that just came back today, the small mouth bass have also started biting. -Beth
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « May 2003 | July 2003 »


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