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

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

6/4/17 - One of the draws of a trip to the Boundary Waters is the opportunity to go fishing. For some visitors, this is the main activity of a canoe trip, while for others it's a nice way to close out the day.

Andrew Hershey and Sam Coleman came up on May 30th, and Sam hooked a beautiful 14", 1.5 lb Brook Trout right here on Sawbill Lake.

Sam with his catch.

Andrew and Sam are all smiles with their trout - hopefully it made for a tasty meal!

The Sawbill crew is well versed in all the best fishing spots, so if you're interested in scoping out those areas, feel free to ask! - Elena

6/2/17 - We're looking to redesign our website and want to hear from the people using it most - you! Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. Your feedback will be immeasurably helpful in making sure that visitors like you can access the information they need with ease.

Thank you! - Elena

5/31/17 - We love hearing from our customers about their visits to Sawbill and the greater BWCA area. Liz Pudas was kind enough to send us photos from her May 19th-22nd visit.

Enjoying the nice weather down at the landing

Sunset on Sawbill Lake

It's often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so thank you Liz, for 2,000!

If you have photos or a story from your trip to the BWCA and would like them featured on our newsletter, please send them to - Elena

5/30/17 - The Northwoods Volunteer Connection program is offering a new opportunity for Cook County residents to get involved in their community.

Within their Adopt-an-Entry-Point program, individuals, groups, or businesses can "adopt" these wilderness gateways and ensure they are easily available for the enjoyment of others. Duties include keeping the entry point areas and access roads clear of vegetation and litter.

Photo from the MNNVC website

To sign up, visit Volunteers must commit to a minimum of two years and visit their entry point at least twice each year. - Elena

5/28/17 - The Sawbill crew spotted their first Northern Lights of the summer last night at around 12:00am. It is unusual to see them this early, which serves as an excellent reminder that the wilderness works in unpredictable ways. Those of us who are lucky to bear witness to its motions often leave with a feeling of having been reminded of how small we really are.

Sawbill crew members enjoying the Northern Lights down at the landing. Photo by Brian Henry.

From crew member Elena's journal:

We stayed out there for almost two hours, the lights changing their pattern often enough to keep us glued to the dock. A single star blinked out at us from the northern horizon, reflected in the lake's glassy surface. The lights danced around us like a ghostly forest.

The next time you're up here, take a glance at the sky late at night. It just might surprise you. - Elena

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.



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