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

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Sawbill Newsletter


6/29/16-It's a girl! The crew would like to officially welcome Kit Floriselle Shirley to the Sawbill family. Kit, daughter of Sawbill owners Clare and Dan Shirley, was born on May 7th weighing 8 lbs. At 7 1/2 weeks old she continues to grow and is smiling often! -Alissa

6/26/16- Minnesota's extraordinary north shore with its lush forests, expansive lakes and hilly terrain, attracts campers and adventurers from all parts of the country and even around the world. Although the state lacks major mountain ranges Minnesota has many great hiking trails near Sawbill. To name a few, Temperance River, Eagle Mountain, and Carleton Peak all make excellent day trips!

The Temperance River State Park is located in Tofte just south of the Sawbill Trail. The trail winds along the edge of the river gorge and on your hike you will experience rushing waterfalls amidst the abundant forest. Hike up the trail as the river widens to find the Hidden Falls or venture downwards to enjoy the view of the river feeding into Lake Superior.

Waterfall at Temperence River State Park.

Crew member, Laura, enjoying a hike on the Temperance River

Following the Temperance river northeast you will happen upon Carlton peak, rising 924 feet above Lake Superior. Originally well-known as a navigation landmark for commercial fishermen this peak is now distinguished for its great rock climbing opportunities and spectacular views.

Crew members, Elena, Claire, Laura and Megan, atop Carleton Peak.

For some of the more adventurous hikers we recommend the trek up Eagle Mountain, the highest natural point in Minnesota. Eagle Mountain is located just west of Sawbill Lake on Forest Rd. 170 ("The Grade"). A state highpoint topping at 2301 ft. this mountain has many unique characteristics. It resides in isolation, 437 miles from other high peaks and is only 15 miles from the lowest point in the state (Lake Superior). The hike begins with a gradual 2 1/2-3 mile climb and concludes with a steeper 1/2 mile climb to the top where you will be greeted by picturesque views of the surrounding area.

So grab your hiking shoes, a backpack and some sunscreen and go enjoy the wonderful landscape northern Minnesota has to offer! -Alissa

Former crew member, Rube, getting ready for a paddle.

6/21/16 - Each year Sawbill is greeted by thousands of campers/paddlers, each with their own unique background and experience level. Meeting such a wide array of customers and listening to their BWCA experiences is a highlight during my day working at Sawbill. Among the many people I meet some of my most enjoyable encounters are when customers double as former crew members. This past month Rube Rubinstein, former crew member, came for a week long visit to Sawbill. After his time working in the Boundary Waters Rube moved to Hollywood and now works as freelance writer/producer. It is always fun to reunite with and meet past crew members and to hear about their experience working at Sawbill! Thanks for coming to visit Rube!

We are counting down the days until Sawbill's 60-year reunion celebration and looking forward to visiting with many more former crew members! -Alissa

6/20/16 - The Boundary Waters is home to over 52 species of mammals and 150 species of birds. Animals native to Northern Minnesota include moose, gray wolves, loons, bald eagles and beavers.

If you hear a rustling or crashing in the woods, sit quietly and be patient. By traveling silently and attentively you may be fortunate to catch a glimpse of the illusive Canada Lynx, hear a beaver slapping its paddle-shaped tail against the water or view a moose snacking on fresh lily pads at the water's edge. Paddling on an early morning or late evening will provide you with additional opportunities to encounter wildlife.

A big thank you to customer, Tim Petricek, for sending in these excellent wildlife photos from his most recent trip to the BWCA. -Alissa

Canada lynx hiding among the trees.

Bull moose feeding on some tree leaves.

Bull moose running through the mud.

Gray tree frog perching on a canoe rack.

6/12/16 - School is out and the summer session is in full swing at Sawbill. Now that our last crew member has arrived we are eagerly gearing up for a busy, fun-filled summer.

If you have a love for the wilderness and are looking to get more involved in the BWCA we have a great opportunity for you. The Northwoods Volunteer Connection is looking for volunteers to help clean and restore popular portages. Each wilderness project will involve installing log and rock bars and checking dams in order to reduce erosion and create a more sustainable tred. The Gunflint Forest Rangers will be leading a portage rehabilitation trip July 13th-July 17th. This is an excellent opportunity to give back, relax and enjoy the pure wilderness of the Boundary Waters.

For more information, visit their website or facebook page:

Whether you're planning your first trip up north, helping restore portages with other Northwoods Volunteers, or leaving for your annual fishing adventure, remember to slow down, take a step back and appreciate the unique beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Summer Sunset 6-12-2016.jpg
Enjoying the beautiful sunset over Sawbill Lake this past weekend.

It comes as a surprise to many that Sawbill's crew is more than 50% female. The rugged, outdoors-y nature of the work up here conjures up the image of strapping young men hauling canoes around all day, and while that was once the case, it is no longer.

This year's Sawbill Babes are a strong and scrappy bunch. We all found our way to Sawbill in different ways - family connections, visits as children - but we came here for the same reason: We wanted a fun and exciting job in a beautiful place with endless opportunities for adventure.

Front row (L to R): Alissa, Emma, Elena. Back row (L to R): Meg, Laura, Claire.

Recently the Sawbill Babes went on adventure - after sprucing up and putting on our Town Clothes, we headed to Lutsen Resort to watch our boss Bill play in the Plucked Up String Band. We had a wonderful time and danced the night away to some very high quality music.

(And if you're worried how the Sawbill Boys fared in our absence, fear not - they were treated to delicious food by some lovely customers who were staying in the campground)

The Sawbill Babes are always there to lift each other up.

On a more serious note, the Sawbill Babes represent a changing time, where women in the wilderness are no longer a novelty. In a way we are following in the footsteps of the legendary Dorothy Molter. I like to think she'd be proud. - Elena


One of our greatest pleasures at Sawbill is getting to work with Brian Henry. Brian has years of experience in the area, and is always willing to lend a hand. Although he may fall on the more senior end of the crew age spectrum, his youthful energy and delight in dance parties makes Brian an integral part of life here.

Below are some photos Brian took on some of his recent explorations.

Immediate Seating Available, No Waiting

Eagle at Baker Lake

Brian spends part of his summer at Sawbill and part at home with his family. Sadly for us, his first shift at Sawbill has drawn to a close. We celebrated by throwing a party in his honor - complete with costumes!

From L to R: Front Row - Brian and Brian. Second Row - Brian, Baby Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, and Brian. Back Row - Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, and Brian.

Bon voyage, Brian! We'll see you in August.

Each year, Sawbill hires a number of short-term, summer staff members. These individuals, usually college students, help Sawbill run smoothly during the busiest months when some extra hands are needed.

Some crew members come back year after year, but there are always new faces as well. So, without further ado, here are (some of) the Summer 2016 crew!

Nick is new to the Sawbill crew this year. He attends the University of Northern Iowa. Nick's favorite job so far is Trash and Recycling. Emma is back for her third summer. She attends Xavier University, and is an excellent cook!

Alissa is also new this year. A Minnesota native, Alissa has been coming up to the BWCA for many years. She attends the University of North Dakota. Alissa's favorite job is canoe washing. Kevin is back for his third summer and will be a senior at University of Minnesota-Duluth. His favorite job is canoe repair.

(From Left to Right) Claire is a second year returnee. She attends University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and her favorite job is Outfitting Manager. Megan is also back for her second year, and attends University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Her favorite job is PBI (Pop, Beer, & Ice). Laura is our most senior summer crew member, here for her fourth year. She recently graduated from University of Minnesota-Morris. Her favorite job is Food Manager. Elena is another second year returnee. She attends Macalester College in St. Paul. Her favorite job is Outfitting Manager.

Several crew members will be arriving later in the summer. We can't wait to introduce them to you, too!
- Elena

5/14/16 -
Opening of fishing 2016... 'nuff said. - Bill

5/5/16 - Today is our very own Bill Hansen's birthday! He is celebrating by working hard all day to get our canoe fleet ready for the season. We'll make him take a break this evening though for a picnic down by the lake to enjoy the lovely spring weather we are having this week. If you want to wish him a birthday greeting, you can send it to

5/3/16 - Just in time for the open water, Sawbill's new Wenonah canoes have arrived. For excited paddlers, this is better than Christmas! -Clare

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Another sure sign of spring in the northwoods.

4/28/16 - It's official, the ice is out on Sawbill Lake! One small holdout sheet of ice is being blown around the south end of the lake, but it's not big enough to impede travel. There's still some snow in the campground but paddling season is upon us.

Ice Out 4_28_16.jpg
Cindy and Dan jump for joy after seeing the first loon on Sawbill this afternoon.

4/27/16 - It appears the sun is finally setting on another winter season here at Sawbill. Sawbill Lake, as you can see below, is nearly free of ice. I expect we'll be able to make it official sometime tomorrow. We also stopped in at Homer Lake today, which is ice free. Brule, on the other hand, is still covered but shouldn't be more than a couple days behind. The ducks are back in full force, and we heard the first loon of the season on Homer. -Clare

almost ice out 4_27_16.jpg

4/25/16 - Paddling season is so close you can almost smell it. That's what Huckleberry tells me anyway. The ice technicians are reporting that there are 8 inches of ice on Sawbill, but that it is better described as "8 inches of mush." It is so deteriorated it won't hold a person anymore and they have resorted to measuring from a canoe. -Clare

Huck Ice 4_25_16.jpg
Huck anxiously awaits the opening of the Sawbill Beach Club.

4/24/16 - Grey skies and light rain is the name of the game at Sawbill today. While the rest of us retreated to focus on inside jobs, intrepid crew member Brian headed out to check the ice. -Clare

Grey Ice 4_24_16.jpg
Looking North from the canoe landing, ice is measuring at 9". Open water is creeping in from the South though, and quacking ducks can be heard urging it along.


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