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

5/25/17 - Over the next weeks, new crew members will be rolling in to Sawbill to start their summer. In the past two weeks, we have welcomed back three crew members: Heidi, Nick, and Elena.

Heidi, Nick, and Elena take a break from their busy schedules to pose for a photo in front of the store.

Heidi comes to Sawbill from Colorado. She has worked the fall season before, but this is her first summer at Sawbill! Heidi enjoys campfires and good conversations.

Nick is returning for his second summer up north. He hails from Iowa, and enjoys long walks on the beach - but along the lake will do.

Elena is back for her third summer at Sawbill. Having recently graduated from Macalester College, Elena is working through the fall in order to put off entering the "real world" for as long as possible.

Working at Sawbill makes these crew members jump for joy! - Elena

5/23/17 - Are you interested in taking a trip to the BWCA and helping out the Forest Service at the same time? If so, Wilderness Visitor Monitoring is the volunteer gig for you!

The BWCA receives more than 150,000 visitors each year, so it is important to track that activity. Visitor Monitoring is an crucial component in determining opportunities for solitude while visiting the BWCA.

Visitor Monitoring must be done in groups of two and follow the schedule below:

- AM: Spend 2 hours in camp documenting any people you heard or see at campsites or on the water.

- Travel the designated route (either around the lake you are camped on or to one or more adjacent lakes) documenting any people you see or hear.

- PM: Spend 2 hours in camp documenting any people you heard or see at campsites or on the water.

Best of all, when you sign up to be a Visitor Monitoring Volunteer, you get a waived entry permit fee and food reimbursements for monitoring shifts of two days or more!

Opportunities for volunteering in the Sawbill area are listed below. Visit to sign up today! - Elena

Tofte/Gunflint Ranger Districts

06/01/17 Seagull
06/03/17 Long Island
06/27/17 Lizz to Winchell
07/04/17 Tuscarora
07/22/17 Long Island
09/18/17 Kawishiwi to Malberg
09/21/17 Long Island

5/22/17 - Kit Shirley, age 1, can usually be found toddling around the Sawbill premises, waving to customers and pulling magnets off the fridge. Recently, Kit has moved onto a more prestigious line of work: General Manager.

Seen here on the job, Kit recommends that you rent the "da da da" canoe and reports that the fishing is "buh buh."

As you can see, Kit takes this job very seriously.

While it will be several years before Kit can portage her own canoe, she has already taken several trips into the BWCA. If you see her around, don't be afraid to say hi! - Elena

5/20/17 - Former crew member Leif Gilsvik took his family, including nephew Jasper, on a paddle a few weeks ago. This was Jasper's first paddle, so we were honored that Sawbill was a small part of that momentous event. We hope that Jasper and co. come back for many more paddles this summer and in the summers to come!

Could Jasper be a member of the 2037 Sawbill crew? Only time will tell... - Elena

5/16/17 The sunsets over Sawbill Lake have been particularly spectacular the last few days! The spring peepers are awake for the season, bringing a beautiful chorus of song each evening.

Huckleberry always enjoys an evening swim.

5/14/17 It's always exciting for us to hear about the trips that people take from here at Sawbill. Last week Oliver and Kristyna Hulland reported excellent weather on their six day trip along the Cherokee Loop. It was Oliver's first trip in the Boundary Waters! We hope to see them again soon.

Kristyna and Oliver along Cherokee River.

A beautiful shot of their canoe resting along the edge of Burnt Lake.

In other news, yesterday marked the start of fishing season! Permits are available for sale in the Sawbill store.

Fishing is on.


5/13/17 A great day-trip option from here at Sawbill Lake is the Kelso loop. It takes about three or four hours to do and navigates sections of Alton, Kelso and Sawbill Lake. The Kelso loop is a wonderful way to experience a small dose of the BWCA Wilderness!

Out on a sunset run of the Kelso loop, Dan paddles at the bow.

The canoes rest on Kelso Lake after the portage from Sawbill.


5/11/17 New Wenonah canoes arrived yesterday! The crew excitedly pitched in to get them unloaded in the back lot. Soon the canoes will make their way out on Sawbill Lake and beyond!

The Sawbill crew unloading and processing the new boats.


5/8/17 Another beautiful spring week has passed up here at Sawbill. The last patches of snow are quietly disappearing as more sunlit days steadily march in. While the Sawbill crew-members happily threw themselves into a full week of work, they had plenty of opportunities for celebration and fun.

Cindy and the rest of the Sawbill Crew helped Bill celebrate his birthday over the weekend. A few competitive games of cornhole were followed by delicious rice-crispy bars for dessert!

Cindy presenting Bill with special birthday bars.

Also this week, the full crew grabbed a canoe and went out on Sawbill Lake together. The paddlin' is great- come see it for yourself!

From bow to stern: Brian, Jesse, Tyler, Jessica, & Mark.


5/6/17 - As the final flurries of snow fell among the pines, three more crew members made their way up the Sawbill Trail. After a few years away from Sawbill working in Alaska and Colorado, Tyler Campbell is back for a full season as a returning crew member. Also back for another year is Brian Henry. New to the Sawbill crew this year is Mark Streeter, most recently from Forest Grove, OR. The three of them have happily jumped into action as more excited paddlers continue trickling in.

Tyler, Brian, and Mark.

Potential boy band? Time will tell.


4/23/17 - The ice is out on Sawbill Lake! We also had our very first customers the next day! Canoe season is upon us with the Loons already singing and Grouse are drumming away.

It seems like only yesterday that the sun was setting at 4pm and there was 32 inches of ice. Come take advantage of the early thaw with a dip in the lake just like the Sawbill crew!

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Beach Club 2017

4/21/17 - It's official, the ice on Sawbill is out! We are too busy opening the beach club and paddling around to other area lakes to post a photo today, but we'll put one up soon. Kawishiwi beat Sawbill with ice out yesterday. Alton lake is still frozen, but the ice is slushy and dark and will likely be out soon. -Clare

4/18/17 - The uniquely Minnesotan season known as Sprinter has taken hold here at Sawbill. Not quite willing to relinquish its hold to Spring, Winter is having a (hopefully) last hurrah. In the last two days we've had day time temps in the low 40s, with overnight lows around 27 and a mixture of hail, freezing rain, and even a dusting of snow. Sawbill Lake is still ice covered, although it has detached from shore and floated up. A few hardy merganser ducks have found their way to the small area of open water by the Sawbill creek outflow.

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A chilly Sprinter morning at Sawbill.

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This star nosed mole fell victim to the icy water between the landing and the ice. We found him right at the canoe launch a few days ago. His interesting nose and huge feet were fun to inspect up close! -Clare

4/14/17 - The days are flying by up here as we quickly prepare ourselves for the arrival of excited paddlers. We've been hard at work scrubbing the store, pulling things out of storage, and refurbishing for-sale canoes as we prep the new ones for their first year in the rental fleet.

The days are warm, but it is still freezing overnight. The lake has about 8 inches of ice still, but it is honeycombed and no longer safe to travel on (just ask Huckleberry, he's ok but has taken several unintentional swims).

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Kit watches as Dan, Jesse and Huck walk the plank to measure the remaining ice.

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The sun sets on perhaps one of ice's last days on Sawbill.


4/6/17 - A big welcome to returning Sawbill crewmember Jessica Hemmer! This is Jessica's seventh season with us and we are SO GLAD she's back for another summer of Wilderness fun. Jessica reports that the ice is 17 inches thick on the lake as of yesterday afternoon, it's going fast!


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