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

9/18/14 - It is the end of the season, which means that it is time to phase out some of our older but still perfectly useful equipment. We now have a large assortment of lifejackets, packs, tents, and miscellaneous gear for sale at our online store.

As for used canoes, we know that many of you are anxiously waiting for our annual canoe sale. Don't worry, we are hard at work prepping the sale canoes and will post them online in the coming weeks once they are ready! - Peter

Electric shears are handy for cutting out a new skid plate for one of the Wenonah Minnesota II sale canoes.

Here I am using a popsicle stick to saturate the skid plate with epoxy. All of those air pockets need to be worked out!

Once the skid plate is ready, I gently lay it in place to protect the stern of the canoe.

A gouge in the bow gets filled with kevlar paste. Any excess can be sanded off after it dries.

All done! Once these repairs have dried, we will recoat the hull with a fresh layer of epoxy and post it online for sale.

9/13/14 - Former Sawbill crew member, Beth Lynch, visited us a few weeks ago. She took a short canoe trip with some friends and had some great wildlife encounters. - Bill

Beth's group was walking a portage when they heard wolves howling nearby. Beth knew that wolves sometimes use the portage trails for travel so they stepped off the trail and waited. They were rewarded by seeing this little guy trotting down the trail.


Beth Lynch is comfortable in a canoe.

9/12/14 - We've been remiss in failing to introduce our newest Sawbill crew member. Brian Henry comes to us via a full career in the U.S. Forest Service. After retiring a few years ago, he terrorized the walleyes in area lakes before offering to help us out during our busy season. We threw him into the deep end of the pool on August 1st and he never looked back. His deep knowledge of the area and unflagging good cheer have been a welcome addition! Thanks Brian. - Bill

Brian Henry in a rare moment when he doesn't have a smile on his face.

9/10/14 - Today is the unofficial first day of fall. A cold, steady rain fell all last night and the temperature was in the low 40s with a cold, gusty north wind and steel-grey overcast skies. It's days like this that make the bluebird days so fine.

Not to worry though, the forecast for the next five days is sunny, calm and cool.

The fall colors are just beginning, but the light frost predicted for the next few nights will ignite a storm of leafy reds, oranges and yellows. It's going to be a great year for color! - Bill

This is not the most enticing invitation to canoe country, but tomorrow promises blue skies and calm winds.

9/8/14 - Here are a few more pictures of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association camping trip at the Sawbill Lake Campground last weekend. - Bill

Wood and canvas canoes on Sawbill Lake.

Canoe ballet, solo style.

A happy group of wooden canoe fans, led by Alex Comb of Stewart River Boatworks.

9/7/14 - This isn't something you see every day in the Sawbill Lake Campground boat storage area.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association is having a camping gathering here this weekend. It's been a treat to see so many beautiful and functional wooden canoes gracing the waters of Sawbill Lake. - Bill

Six hand crafted wooden canoes at peaceful repose in the Sawbill boat storage area.

9/6/14 - Last week, we enjoyed the 35th visit from a group that calls themselves "The Consortium." They took the name because several of them were in business school together back in the day. The annual wilderness canoe trip started as a school reunion.

All have gone on to varied and distinguished careers, but their annual canoe trip provides the opportunity, in their own words, "to relive adolescence." - Bill

Consortium XXXV, 2014. Trail name (l-r): Portager, HMFIC (His Majesty First in Command), Sugarbear, and Marmaduke.

All good consortia have a great logo.

9/5/14 - The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a spectacularly beautiful area with rich diversity in species and habitat. From the calm, blue glacial lakes spanning across two continental watersheds, to the exposed, colorful, granite and basalt rocks painted over with ancient Native American pictographs, the BWCAW offers no shortage of dramatic scenery.

With all this rich and beautiful biodiversity comes some of mother nature's most excited reactions, one of these being wildfires. Many of the areas in the boundary waters that you can paddle through show the remains of a recent fire, and these areas can be some of the most picturesque. Here at Sawbill, we have close access and transportation to some of these gorgeous areas. If you are worried that burned areas may be a little lackluster, then let your worries be put to rest.

A recent crew member of ours took a 5-day/4-night trip through some of the burned areas and photo documented her trip.

Burned areas of the boreal forest allow you to see the rich flora hidden on the forest floor. Carla took a series of pictures of several wildflowers growing in the burned area. This picture depicts one type she saw on Townline Lake.

Portaging through burned areas can also be quite the adventure. Though we absolutely love being shrouded in a sea of green, burned portages offer a more unique portrait of the land. Carla described the portage from Townline Lake into Kawasachong Lake as "hands down" her favorite portage. You can view the rich colors and foliage, while also seeing farther off in the distance through the trees and witnessing the changing rise and slope in the land.

Another great feature is that lakes often provide as halts for the burns. This means lakes in burned areas usually offer distinct sides, one that is burned, and one that is flourishing with the rich boreal forest. Seeing these gradients can be surreal, as this picture from Crooked Lake shows.

And, let's not forget the sunsets over these areas.
A beautiful sunset sky begins over Kawasachong Lake

Seriously, they are gorgeous.
A red sunset, reminiscent of the fire that shaped this scene over Crooked Lake

A big thanks to Carla for sharing her experience with us. Come check out some of the burned areas in the BWCAW the next time you come to Sawbill. Ask the crew about some of our favorite spots, we have a whole list of them.
Carla and her crew, Catie and Eric, on Kawasachong.

Happy paddling folks! - Mark

9/4/14 - The leaves are beginning to change up here at Sawbill as the cool fall air rushes in, and the busy season starts to slow down. Thank you to all who came and helped make this a successful season and we hope to see you again in the future.

Now that fall is on its way here, this a great time for exploring the boundary waters. The changing leaves makes some of your favorite lakes even more beautiful, and the calmer whether makes for some superb paddling. So come up and enjoy the fall here with us. This time of year is great for our crew as well to take a moment to enjoy the beautiful surroundings we have.

Happy paddling and we hope to see you soon. - Mark

Sawbill Canoe Outfitters' Bill and Cindy Hansen enjoy the end of the Labor Day rush with a peaceful stroll down to Sawbill Lake with their dogs Roy and Phoebe.

9/2/14 - There are trade offs for each type of weather that we experience here in canoe country. This year, the weather has been mild and wet. The disadvantages included lingering mosquitoes, chilly swimming and muddy portages. The advantages included good fishing, low fire danger, abundant blueberries, and no bears looking for camp food.

Another, more recent advantage, is the proliferation of mushrooms, including this beauty.

This perfect specimen is growing right in front of the Sawbill Store.

8/31/14 - Terry Olson is a retired Forest Service employee who lives in Finland, Minnesota. A few years ago, Terry got interested in sport flying and bought a small float plane.

Every once in a while, Terry quietly glides into Sawbill Lake for a visit. He chooses his weather carefully, waiting for mornings with calm winds and blue skies.

He is kind enough to give rides to his friends and awards each rider a little wooden model of his plane as a keepsake. - Bill

Terry's plane looking pretty at the Sawbill Lake canoe landing.

8/30/14 - Jan and Grant Friberg have been Sawbill Lake Campground campers for many years. They also take an annual trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. Last season, they got a coveted invitation from the National Park Service to be seasonal campground hosts at the beautiful Many Glacier Campground. They haven't forgotten their Sawbill roots though, as this picture attests. - Bill

Jan and Grant Friberg representing Sawbill at Glacier National Park.

8/29/14 - Here is the Cook County West End News for 8/28/2014 and 8/21/2014 from WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio. - Bill

8/25/14 - Our incredible Sawbill guides, Dave and Amy Freeman, are embarking on another big canoe adventure. They are paddling from Ely, Minnesota to Washington, D.C. This time, they are not only teaching wilderness values as they go, but lobbying for clean water and maintaining the diverse, vibrant economy in northeastern Minnesota.

You can find out much more at:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single paddle stroke. An enthusiastic crowd encourages Dave and Amy as they paddle petitions (including the canoe itself) from Ely to Washington, D.C.

The portage trail may be rocky, but Dave and Amy will complete their mission to keep the BWCA Wilderness safe.

Amy and Dave in their native habitat.

8/23/14 - There is a research project underway here in Cook County that examines the impact of international workers in the local communities.

Part of the project is a survey of visitors, in which you are welcome to participate.

Former Sawbill crew member, Lee Stewart, started camping at Sawbill with her parents in the 1950s. Her mother, Lizzy Millard, would have been happy to see that her descendants are still camping at Sawbill. - Bill

Lizzy Millard's descendants, Emily Elizabeth Stewart Thomas, Lee Stewart, Jane Elizabeth Thomas - 60+ years of family tradition and counting.


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