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

Powered by
Movable Type 3.15
Sawbill Newsletter

3/28/17 - Let the ice measuring begin! When we encountered a lake covered in large puddles at the start of our daily cross country ski, we thought it prudent to measure the ice before venturing too far. Lest you worry about us, there are still 24 inches of solid ice with about 4 inches of hard packed slush and snow on top of that. Our ski was a sloppy one, with soaking socks to prove it. With temperatures in the high 40's and the sun shining the sky was reflected perfectly in the large pools of standing water. It felt for all the world like we were skiing on the sky.

Clare Auger.jpg
Who needs pushups when you can auger through 24" of ice?


3/16/17 - It's still winter up at Sawbill. The lake ice is thick, and the surface is pretty slick thanks to the warm weather and freezing nights. There is a nice ribbon of windswept snow along the eastern shore though, allowing us to squeeze in some skiing.

dan lake.jpg
Dan, Kit and Huck enjoying some much needed Vitamin D.

3/3/17 - If you got your permit through us last summer, chances are we asked you to fill out a short survey. The survey was studying the economic impact of visitors to the BWCAW, commissioned by Friends of the Boundary Waters in partnership with Conservation Economics Institute and Quetico-Superior Foundation. The results are in, and they are astounding! The study, conducted during the 2016 summer tourism season, found that out-of-region visitors spent $57 million in the three surrounding counties: Cook, Lake and St. Louis. This spending led to the creation of nearly 1,000 jobs and overall economic output of $77 million in one summer season.

Joe Friedrichs, of our local radio station WTIP, recently did a great feature on the study, which you can listen to here.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out and return the survey! We are happy to know that the data supports what we've always known to be true; visitors to the BWCA are a major economic driver in our region.

2/20/17 - With temps in the 40s these past few days it's been feeling more and more like spring. With about three feet of snow on the ground before the thaw, we still have quite a bit of the white stuff even with the warm days. Here's hoping that we get a few more days of good cross country skiing before the summer season. Dan measured lake ice yesterday and there was about 25 inches, with a big layer of slush on top of the ice. Sawbill Creek and Alton pond both have open water, so if you're out recreating on the lakes, be mindful of any moving water.

hare 2_20_17.jpg
This backyard snowshoe hare is pretty happy there is still snow covering the ground. He blends in pretty well, I'd say! You can see a video of his quick getaway on our Facebook page.

2/9/17 - Shoveling roofs...
One common winter chore is shoveling the roofs on buildings that can't bear a full snow load. Jessica is working on the roof of our crew housing. The peak of the roof is to her right and the solar panels are overhead. There is 32" of snow on the ground here at Sawbill. - Bill

1/31/17 - This January, the hearty Bear Paulsen and his wife Claire spent a little over two weeks winter camping up on Cherokee Lake. Cherokee is a popular lake in the summer, and Bear and Claire had no shortage of visitors skiing up to stay with them this winter. One such intrepid visitor was Irmeli, who is 85 years old!

Cherokee 1_31_17.jpg
These happy campers had Cherokee all to themselves.

Longtime Sawbill campers John and Pam Chapman sent along this great photo of their grandson, Elliot, sporting his new Sawbill hoody. Pam and John bought this for him before he was born and have been anxiously awaiting him to grow into it.

Elliot 1_31_17.jpg
Elliot breaks in his new sweatshirt on a hike with mom and dad.

Entry permits for the BWCAW are now available to be reserved. Get yours at, or by giving us a call. It's a good idea to reserve one sooner rather than later, especially if you are hoping to enter on a holiday weekend.

1/12/16 - Sawbill is hiring!

For the past 60 years, Sawbill Canoe Outfitters has provided its customers with high quality outfitting services. Our success, in large part, is due to the wonderful crew members we have had over the years.

We are looking to round out our crew for the 2017 season, which runs from May 1 - October 31. We will work around your school schedule, but we are busiest during July and August and we need some people who can work the early and late season, so your availability is a strong consideration for us.

You are not hired for a particular job. We reschedule all the jobs on a weekly basis and you are generally able to choose the actual work you do. Inherent to our unique "work credit" system is a strong commitment to trust and cooperation.

Sound like something you are interested in? Fill out this form online, or request an application by emailing

As always, feel free to give us a call if you have any questions,

Clare & Dan Shirley

1/2/17 - We rang in 2017 with a whole host of visitors this year. Sawbill crew members Alissa, Owen, Britta, Claire, Kevin, Megan, Brian, Betsy and crew by association Amy, all came up to visit Dan, Clare, Jessica and Kit! Huckleberry was arguably the most delighted to see everyone.

With splendid blue skies and temperatures in the 20's we spent the daylight hours skiing and snowshoeing, saving the feasting and saunaing for the evenings. The lake ice is measuring at a very solid 15 inches of clear strong ice. There is about a foot of snow on top of that, and some large pockets of slush on Sawbill. A good set of snowshoes will keep you on top of it, though. -Clare

sign 1_2_17.jpg
Welcome to Wilderness, in the winter!

winter trees sun 1_2_17.jpg
Brian Henry captured the glorious last day of 2016.

dan kit lake snow 1_2_17.jpg
Kit loves to nap while snowshoeing (she has warm water bottles to snuggle in there).

winter camp crew 1_2_17.jpg
Claire, Megan, and Kevin winter camping on Sawbill.

new years crew 1_2_17.jpg
Happy New Year from (l-r) Clare, Kevin, Owen, Dan, Jessica, Britta, Claire, Alissa, Megan, and baby Kit. Thanks Brian for the photo!

12/29/16 - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Joyous New Year from us all at Sawbill!

Dan, Clare, and baby Kit flew the coop to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the holiday but are back in the frozen north now. Bill and Cindy along with crew member Jessica Hemmer graciously watched after Sawbill and Huckleberry while we were away. There is a lot of snow on the ground up here and winter campers have been making their way out onto the lakes. We'll update you on the conditions after we dig out from the underneath the pile of mail and snow awaiting us. -Clare

christmas pic 12_29_16.jpg

12/19/16 - A good old fashioned Minnesota winter freeze set in this week and the lake ice is measuring about 9.5" around 50 feet out from shore. The cold has helped the slush to freeze solid from what we've experienced. Unfortunately, the windchills of around -20 to -30 have mostly kept us off the lake. Tomorrow though, it is supposed to be back on the above zero side of the thermometer. There isn't much snow on the ground, still only around 7 inches. Things are shaping up for some great lake skiing in 2017! -Clare

12/15/16 - Sawbill is enduring, and even enjoying, the first real deep freeze of the winter. Yesterday the high was -6. The last ice measurement, two days ago, was five and half inches of clear ice and no slush! I expect that it will be thicker every day with these sub-zero temps. -Clare

12/10/16 - Dan braved the questionable early season ice yesterday to get a thickness measurement. He reports that there are four inches of clear ice with about three inches of slush on top of that with an inch or so of snow on top of the slush.

Slush is formed when water flows up from cracks in the ice or around the edges of the lake. Often, a blanket of heavy snow on new ice will push the ice down and cause water to rise up. This water mixes with the snow and creates the slush layer. That slush is then insulated by any snow that remains on top of it. Snow is a remarkably good insulator and thus slushy conditions can persist even in the coldest parts of winter.

Slush is a bummer for outdoor enthusiasts. Slush stuck to your skis quickly freezes when exposed to the air leaving you lugging along heavy ice chunks on your feet instead of gliding over the surface like you'd hoped.

Slush doesn't occur in predictable patterns, so we have our fingers crossed that only the landing area is so slushy. With a new baby and dog in tow we didn't dare venture out any further to test the ice conditions. As this cold snap continues, we'll sneak farther and farther out to auger holes and keep you updated. -Clare

lake sunset 12_10_16.jpg
We were treated to this sunset at 4:30 PM while we drilled a test hole in the lake ice.

11/30/16 - Reporting on ice out status is usually a spring job, but this fall the weather keeps us guessing. Warm temps and lots of rain have caused an interesting phenomenon on the lake. The ice is still there, but there is now an inch or more of water floating on top of it. This causes a strange appearance of open water that doesn't have any waves, regardless of how windy it gets. -Clare

lake 11_30_16.jpg
Bill snapped this photo showing the strange occurrence of Sawbill lake simultaneously frozen and open.

11/25/16 - The lake has officially frozen over here at Sawbill. As of two days ago, there was a skiff of ice covering all that we could see from the landing. We've had a bit more snow though, and day time temps are hovering around 34, with nights in the high-20s. So while we are impatiently waxing our skis, conditions are not yet safe for lake travel. -Clare

lake ice 11_25_16.jpg
The first delicate ice on south Sawbill.

11/20/16 - Winter arrived at Sawbill, literally overnight. Similar to much of Minnesota, we experienced quite the storm this past Friday. High winds and snow accumulation of 7.5" has turned the Wilderness into a sparkling snowglobe. One large tree came down, narrowly missing one of our buildings. The lake is still open, wavy waters are hard to freeze. We have our fingers crossed for some calm nights ahead; with temperatures forecasted to be in the single digits we could end up with the elusive "wild ice" which is perfect for ice skating. -Clare

Store 11_20_16.jpg
The Sawbill store is looking snug in its first winter coat of snow.

Lake 11_20_16.jpg
High winds and freezing temperatures have created many ice sculptures on the shores of Sawbill Lake.


Home I Trip Planning I Rentals and Outfitting I Reservations I Campgrounds I Sawbill Store I Sawbill News I Contact

© 1997 - 2017, Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, Inc. I Privacy Policy