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

3/24/15 - A couple of weeks of warm weather have transformed Sawbill from deep winter to an extended spring season. Around here, I've always heard this season referred to as the "crusted snow moon." That is certainly the case at the moment.

Skiing down the Temperance River on crusted snow a few days ago. Right after this picture was taken I saw moose tracks on the river and even the moose was being held up by the crust! Photo by Nickie Dietz.

Here I am with the great group of friends that skied down the Temperance River. Photo by Nickie Dietz.

These warm, early spring days bring out an insect know locally as "snow fleas." They are actually a species of spring tails that jump long distances when they feel threatened. They move so fast, they give the illusion of just disappearing.

Sawbill Lake is like a big open field for Phoebe and Roy this time of year. They love to run joyfully and bark at ravens flying overhead. What looks like slush is actually frozen solid.

Here are the last few weeks editions of the West End News from WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio:
March 19th, 2015
March 12th, 2015
March 5th, 2015
February 26th, 2015

Last but not least, let's not forget that the canoeing season is just around the corner.

Canoeist, Craig Nathan, was nice enough to send along this evocative early morning shot of the Sawbill Lake canoe landing as he began is trip to Cherokee last June. - Bill

3/9/15 - Today is a big day for news from two of the Hansen kids.

Ruthie (Hansen) Williams is celebrating her birthday today. It's been awhile since she was a Sawbill crew member, but she is fondly remembered by many Sawbill campers. Happy birthday Ruthie!

Adam Hansen, who you may remember had a petition heard at the Supreme Court of the United States back in December, received a unanimous ruling in his favor this morning. Congratulations Adam!

For you legal nerds out there, here is the reference to the Supreme Court's ruling: [13-1041 Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Assn. (03/09/2015)] - Bill (proud father)

3/6/15 - Gary Hamer was kind enough to send the link to this beautiful YouTube of his trip through Sawbill last fall. For many more gorgeous photos and videos, visit Gary's website: Bill

3/5/15 - As promised, here are some YouTube clips of my recent television appearance on WDSE's "The PlayList" with my musical partner, Eric Frost.

If you are really interested, here is a link to the whole episode. Eric and I start at about 13:00. Many thanks to Karen Sunderman, Steve Ash and the whole "PlayList" crew for including us in their efforts to highlight the booming music scene up here in little ol' Cook County!

Two other bands from the area will be featured on upcoming episodes. I've played with both of them in the past, so I'll post the links when they become available. - Bill

3/4/15 - You may have seen some recent news reports about a proposed "Sawbill" radio tower. The tower in question is actually located 3.5 miles southeast of Sawbill, near Marsh Lake. It's part of a statewide public safety radio network known as the ARMER network.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is in charge of building the system and they requested a lease of county land to erect a 330' tower on the site. The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted last week to restrict the tower to be less than 200'. Not only will the lower height make the tower much less visible, but it will not be lighted.

The 330' option would have been visible, both day and night, from many lakes, campsites and portages within the BWCA Wilderness including Alton, Sawbill, Smoke, Burnt and Kelly lakes.

It was gratifying to watch the county commissioners carefully study the issue, listen to their constituents and settle on a solution that everyone can live with. - Bill


2/25/15 - It's real winter here now, with roughly three feet of pure white snow on the ground and consistently cold temperatures. The Sawbill Trail is beautiful, but mostly snow covered. Here is a picture of what happens when a long, snowy road is combined with -20 degree temperature.


The most common question we get during the summer months is "What do you do in the winter?" For me, playing music with my friends is one of my favorite winter (or any season) activities. Recently, Eric Frost and I were taped for appearance on the "PlayList" on WDSE - Channel 8, the public TV station in Duluth. Our set will be broadcast tomorrow, at 9 pm and repeated at 3:30 pm on Sunday. I'll post the YouTube version here on the newsletter as soon as it's available. - Bill

Here is last week's edition of the Cook County West End News from WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio.

2/14/15 - Here is three week's worth of Cook County West End News on this cold, windy Valentine's Day! - Bill

West End News 2/12/2015

West End News 2/5/2015

West End News 1/29/2015

All from WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio.

2/3/15 - Jeanne and Wayne Dezell have been camping at the Sawbill Lake Campground since they were kids back in the '50s. Jeanne sent along this photo that she found among her parent's things. She recalls taking the picture with her new Kodak Instamatic when she was a little girl.

This is "Uno," the industrious Finn who kept Sawbill Creek flowing by turning his water wheel 24/7. He was a reflection of Sawbill Lodge owner Dick Raiken's (his birth name was Toivo Raikenen) sense of humor. "Uno" was located between the walking bridge and the driving bridge which is visible behind him in the picture. I think he was on duty from the mid-1940s until the mid-1960s. He always had a red bandana and a pint whiskey bottle in his back pockets. We still have Uno's head, torso and arms in storage here at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters.

1/22/15 - We received this note from or friend Becky Rom. Becky is the daughter of Bill and Barb Rom, who were canoe outfitting pioneers in Ely.

Hi - As you know, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness/Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is hosting a series of talks this weekend in the Twin Cities about the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining to the Boundary Waters and surrounding area. Would you please send out the invitation to these talks to your friends and family, and perhaps your customer list? Would you post this on your website? Three of the talks are described on the attached postcard. In addition, the Izaak Walton League is hosting a talk at REI on Saturday.

We are also asking that people contact Congresswoman Betty McCollum's office in St. Paul with a request that she permanently protect the Boundary Waters. Betty is the ranking member of a key committee in the House, and can influence Boundary Waters policy. Phone calls and emails to her office are best. We will be putting up more detail on our website in the next day or two, but calls and emails can have a very simple message (why you care and please protect) and should start right now.



Thursday, January 22
Ridgedale-Hennepin County Library, RHR Room
6:30 pm Open House
7:00 - 8:30 pm Presentation
12601 Ridgedale Drive, Minnetonka

Saturday, January 24
Bachman’s Floral Gift & Garden, Heritage Room
1:30 Open House
2:00 - 3:30 pm Presentation
6010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

Saturday, January 24 - Sponsored by the Izaak Walton League
REI Bloomington
6:00 Open House
7:00 - 8:30 pm Presentation
750 W. American Blvd., Bloomington

Sunday, January 25
2:30 pm Open House
3:00 - 4:30 pm Presentation
Turtle Lake Room 110
4580 Victoria St. N., Shoreview


1/21/15 - This is the time of year when we recruit new Sawbill crew members for the coming season.

We look for people who have experience in canoe country, passion for wilderness, personal optimism, enthusiasm, good personal adjustment, and demonstrated willingness to work. We usually only consider applicants who are 18 and have finished a year of college, or equivalent.

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. As a result, very little of the traditional employer/employee relationship is necessary.

We work around crew members school schedules, but we need at least some employees from April through October, so your dates of availability are important.

There are more details and an application available on our website.

Sawbill Crew 2014

1/10/15 - Longtime Sawbill paddler, Mary Bart, sent along this little note a few days ago. - Bill

Hiya Bill,

I don't know if you had a part in this or not, but son Chris & his brothers got me this framed 3-D topographical map of Sawbill Lake for Christmas, and blew my mind away with it. Boy, is it COOL! It's got water depths, and campsites marked on it - we can see where we've been, and it's just so neat! Chris got one too (or his wife got it for him, I don't know which) of Cherokee Lake, and we've been comparing depths, sizes of the lakes, campsites we've been to etc - the very first trip we took our kids on when Chris was 9 or 10 years old was to Cherokee, so it's a special lake to him. Come to think of it, MY very first trip up there was also to Cherokee! I thought I was gonna die on the 180 portage, but one of the other adults kept assuring me that there was really a BAR at the end of the last portage and I could get a beer there. I believed him. Anyway, we are both enjoying our cool maps of lakes we love!

And I am in the preliminary planning stages of putting together another ladies trip up there this coming summer - I think we can pull it off! We'll see.

Hope you're keeping warm and dry.

1/5/15 - Honoring a long standing tradition, numerous current and former Sawbill crew members returned to celebrate the coming of the new year. - Bill

The traditional midnight toast on the frozen surface of Sawbill Lake.

Tess transports champagne to the lake with a technique she learned in Botswana.

How to chill champagne - Sawbill style.

Jess' first act of 2015 is creating a snow angel.

1/2/15 - Happy New Year from the Sawbill crew!

Here is the Cook County West End News from January 1st, 2015 and December 24th, 2014 from WTIP-FM, North Community Radio.

12/23/14 - Happy holidays to the entire Sawbill extended family!

It is absolutely gorgeous here right now with 14"+ of snow on the ground and the forest draped with a festive layer of snow. - Bill

Deputy of Outfitter Security, Roy and Chief of Outfitter Security, Phoebe, use the fresh snow to track terrorist squirrel activity in the wilderness.

The view down to the Sawbill Canoe Landing from the front of the Sawbill Store.

The canoe yard behind the Sawbill Store. The canoes are sleeping in the Dome.

Here is last week's edition of the Cook County West End News from WTIP, North Shore Community Radio.

12/16/14 - After a few days of melting, winter has returned in the most pleasant way here at Sawbill. We now have an honest foot of snow on the ground, the trees are snow covered and the lake is frozen solid. It is enough to put you in the holiday spirit!

Here is last week's edition of the Cook County West End News from WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio. - Bill


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