Contact Us:
Phone: (218)663-7150
Fax: (218)663-7980
Mail: 4620 Sawbill Trail
Box 2129
Tofte, MN 55615

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Sawbill Newsletter

7/25/17 - Hot off the press; a shipment of shiny new Alumacraft canoes. Although the majority of our fleet now consists of lightweight Kevlar canoes we still offer the classic aluminum option. -Jessica

Tyler and Laura untying the load.

We were the last stop on the drivers route. At one time this trailer was packed full.

Laura, Nick, and Megan demonstrate teamwork to get the canoes safely off the truck.

7/22/17 - Blueberry season is upon us!...well, its almost upon us. Yesterday I conducted some berry reconnaissance and found they are coming along nicely. Its pretty early in the season, but blueberry pancakes could be on the breakfast menu if you're heading out on a trip in the next few weeks.
A lot of the plants I found had a sprinkling of ripe berries, but many had reasonably sized, mostly green berries.

7/18/17 - Christy Prediger and her husband visited Sawbill last Friday to do a day canoe trip. During their time here, they spotted some wildlife. Christy was kind enough to send some videos our way, and we are so happy to be able to share them with you.

This loon family has taken up residence on Sawbill Lake. Loons will return to the same lake year after year, so this loon couple and their babies could be part of a long legacy.

Christy and her husband saw this young moose on their drive down the Sawbill Trail. Animals use the roads as corridors for their travel since the brush is often thick, so keep your eyes peeled on your drive up and back!

Thanks, Christy! - Elena

7/16/17 - Sawbill played host to a wedding this past weekend, between long-time campers Mike and Pam. Early in their relationship, Mike brought Pam up to Sawbill, so it was a fitting location for the beginning of their next chapter together. The wilderness treated them with good weather and a beautiful sunset.

Congratulations from the whole crew! - Elena

7/12/17 - Taking a stroll through the woods is always a good time, but sometimes it can be a little tricky to motivate when the weather doesn't seem to cooperate. Today I decided to throw on my rain gear and get outside despite the persistent rain. - Jessica

The walk along the lake path provided a close up look at this moss, complete with sporophytes (the reddish stem releases spores, not seeds like an ordinary plant).

Along the way I spotted this beautiful porcupine sedge (ID courtesy of Dan Seaman).

As you can see, the dock is currently floating higher than the landing which is not the norm for this time of year. Fast moving high water will be something to keep in mind while approaching portages if this rainy trend continues.

7/8/17 - Co-owner of Sawbill Dan Shirley, crew member Jesse Bergeson, and Huckleberry the dog recently completed the "Lady Chain," one of the more popular routes in the Sawbill area.

Jesse and Huck at one of the portages

One of the benefits of crew members going on trips is that they are then able to provide first-hand information and advice to customers traveling the same route. Below is Dan's report:

Paddling east from Kawishiwi to Sawbill is the common direction for paddlers to take - normally the upstream flow is inconsequential. However, with high water levels and the copious rain falls recently, the creeks were raging. Between Polly and Phoebe, we had to paddle up small rapids in order to reach the traditional portage landings. It was high adventure, for sure! While this was challenging, we appreciated that paddling down stream would be equally so as missing a portage and getting sucked farther down stream could be a possibility. Be safe our there, keep a level head, and have fun!

Dan and Jesse ran into fellow crew-member Nick and Nick's dad Dale along the Lady Chain!

Huckleberry's report: "The lakes are perfect for swimming this time of year... now please let me out of this canoe!" - Elena

7/6/17 - Sometimes you only have to travel as far as your backyard to see the wonders of the natural world.

Yesterday, a sharp-eyed Sawbill crew member spotted a snake engaged in a fierce battle with a bullfrog. After a long struggle, the snake proved victorious.

Snake vs Frog

Kit Shirley, the littlest outfitter, found this scene fascinating.

The snake, which was hanging out behind a shed, was spotted later that afternoon slithering along at an impressive speed, despite its bulging belly. A little slice of the circle of life! - Elena

7/4/17 - Instead of shooting off fireworks or having a cookout to celebrate the 4th of July, Sawbill celebrates in the best way we know how - with canoes!

The annual Dragon Boat Races took place this year on July 3rd to accommodate the travel schedule of Adam Hansen. Three teams of 4-6 piled into Minnesota IIs and raced from the Sawbill Landing to the Forest Service Dock and back, a distance of 1 mile.

And they're off!

The teams competing this year were:
Team Flower Power, led by captain Heidi Sarazen
Team Flannel, led by captain Jessica Hemmer, and
Team Super Sawbill Shooting Stars, led by captain Laura Hoppe.

Team Flower Power paddled victorious in the 2017 Dragon Boat races, finishing several canoe lengths before the next competitors.

Flipping canoes at the end is another essential feature of the Dragon Boat races

Is this not how you paddle a canoe?


Many thanks to all the visitors who came out and watched, either at the landing or along the lake shore. We hope you had as much fun as we did! - Elena

7/1/17 - The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna that grow and live in a variety of ecosystems - swamp, forest, rivers, and of course lakes.

The Kelso Loop, a popular day paddle out of Sawbill, is an excellent introduction to the biodiversity the BWCA holds.

Pictured above are two wildflower species: The red pitcher plant flower, and the purple iris.

The pitcher plant is carnivorous, relying on protein from insects to feed itself. The deep red flowers that rise above the pitcher-shaped leaves attract insects, which then fall down the sloping hairs before being digested in the enzyme liquid held in the pitcher. Spiders sometimes build their webs across the entrance of the pitcher, having adapted over time to this readily available source of food.

The iris is widely regarded as one of the more elegant wildflowers. Its name comes from the Greek word for rainbow, a nod to its brilliant colors.

Karlyn Russell, visiting from Madison, WI, takes a closer look at an iris.

Sawbill has a number of wildflower reference guides on hand, so please ask one of our staff members if you need help identifying a floral find of your own! -Elena

6/28/17 - Former crew member Jitesh Pattini popped the question to Kali Knudson on Sawbill Lake last Wednesday, June 21, who happily said yes!


We can only imagine how carefully Jitesh must have been carrying the ring out on open water.

Witness to this momentous occasion was their niece, Adaya (age 4), who in addition to being on her inaugural canoe paddle, was visiting Minnesota and the Boundary Waters for the first time. Quite a day for all!

The Sawbill crew extends their congratulations to the happy couple - we are so honored to have played a small part in this part of your life! - Elena

6/27/17 - Christmas comes but... twice a year? This past week, the Sawbill crew decked the halls, whipped up a batch of sugar cookies, and rang in the holiday season six months early in our annual Christmas in June celebration.

Spread over two days (June 24th and 25th), this event is a time for the crew members to show their love and appreciation for each other through sharing a meal and exchanging gifts after the outfitters shuts down for the night.

The Sawbill crew digs into a delicious Christmas feast

Bill with his gift from Heidi

Christmas is all about love and joy - this picture captures both!

Brian acted as our resident Santa - he already had the beard, so it was a natural role to fill.

All in all, it was a wonderful night. Delicious food, good company, and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" on repeat - what more could you want?
Merry June-mas, folks! Less than 6 months to the real deal! - Elena

6/24/17 - One of the main draws of a BWCA trip is the possibility of seeing wildlife. Northern Minnesota is home to a wide variety of fauna, from wolves to weasels. Most commonly spotted are loons, eagles, and other birds. Moose are also frequently seen, while bears are the most elusive, due to their shy nature.

Tim Petricek from Racine, WI sent us some wonderful wildlife photos from his most recent trip to the Sawbill area. Thanks, Tim!

Tim spotted this loon on Sawbill Lake

This eagle was seen perched in a tree on Boulder Lake


Young bull moose feeding in a pond just off The Grade

Trumpeter Swans on the Temperance River

When you see wildlife on your next trip, remember to keep your distance - the BWCA is their home and we are guests, lucky enough to travel through their lakes and woods for a brief period of time. - Elena

6/13/17 - When on a Boundary Waters trip, it is often tempting to cover as much ground as possible each day. Longer portages and the uncertainty of campsite availability can often lure visitors into a destination mindset. The journey, however, is often the true experience and reward of a visit to the BWCA.

We encourage you to slow down and take a look around the next time you're out in the wilderness. You never know what you might see!

Photo by Patrick Shroba, a longtime customer at Sawbill

Photo by Patrick Shroba

Moose Tracks - photo by Pamela Collins

Photo by Steve Collins, of his wife Pamela. Steve and Pamela came to Sawbill all the way from Hawaii!

6/11/17 - Crew members Heidi and TC recently went on a trip from Kawishiwi back to Sawbill, a route known as the Lady Chain. Heidi brought along her GoPro and snapped some amazing shots along the way.

Water lilies have an interesting life cycle - after they bloom, the stem contracts and pulls the lily into the water. After the seeds in the seedpod mature, they float the surface, and then sink again, starting the life cycle of the lily all over again.

An eagle feather found at one of their campsites with TC's thigh for scale. In true Leave No Trace fashion, Heidi and TC left this treasure for others to enjoy.

Crew members all have the opportunity to go out on trips during the summer and are excellent sources of first-hand experience with many of the routes visitors are interested in. If you're curious about the best campsites or special sights, please don't hesitate to ask! - Elena

6/6/17 - We get a lot of visitors through Sawbill with varied and interesting backgrounds. A few days ago, we had a visitor who was out of this world.

Loren Acton is an astronaut, who flew in space for a week in 1985 on the STS-51F/Spacelab-2 Challenger which launched from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. His area of specialty as a researcher and professor at Montana State is solar x-ray physics.

Loren and Evelyn visited Sawbill from Bozeman, MT.

After being in outer space, the BWCA must have seemed pretty tame for Loren, but both he and Evelyn reported having a lovely stay in the campground. - Elena


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