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March 04 2024

Entry Point 38 - Sawbill Lake

Sawbill Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 25 miles. Access is a boat landing at Sawbill Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 11
Elevation: 1802 feet
Latitude: 47.8699
Longitude: -90.8858
Sawbill Lake - 38

Water World

by bradcrc
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 14, 2009
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 8

Trip Introduction:
My first BWCA trip in many years. I was looking forward to this for months, but it didn't quite turn out as well as hoped.

Day 1 of 6

Friday, August 14, 2009

Northward Bound As we pass the lift bridge on HWY 35, I'm wishing we could spend some time in Duluth

maybe walk through canal park, but we don't have time.

They say be careful what you wish for.

A flat tire is a good excuse to spend a couple hours exploring.

Eventually we are on our way north again.

We stop to camp for the night at a great campsite right on Lake Superior. A great dinner, and everyone lies on the shore of the lake watching for satellites on this beautiful night.


Day 2 of 6

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A bit of exploring in the morning,

then a quick breakfast and pack up camp, then we are on our way to EP #38 to pick up some canoes and get started.

There is a nest of young eagles on Alton, very cool to watch the young eagles fight for food. When on of the adults lands near the nest, a faceoff with a loon is the result. The loon didn't back down one bit, I had no idea they were so brave. Heading south to the portage on Alton is a battle, it's pretty windy, so we are fighting the whole way. The GPS is working great, and leads us right to where we need to be. At the end of the portage to Beth Lake, a large group of kids has gathered and is jumping off the cliffs.

It looks pretty fun in this warm weather after the long portage, but it's lunch time, so we need to find a campsite and eat. The first 3 sites are already taken, but the last on the lake is free, so we stop for lunch.

After lunch, everyone has gotten pretty comfortable and it's looking like it might rain, so we decide to camp for the night. Just as we make camp, it starts to rain.


Day 3 of 6

Sunday, August 16, 2009 Morning brings more rain and mist.

I spend some time talking to a pair of loons on the lake. They couldn't figure out why the crazy man was whistling at them, and came across the lake right over to me. Then they became bored and left.

The camp has become a swamp overnight and everything is very wet. Most of the tents are sitting in water with gear soaked.

There are some short breaks in the rain, just enough to get our hopes up, but just before anything can start to dry, more rain comes.

Brian and I take the portage over to Grace just to check it out, but the group decides to stay put for today.


Day 4 of 6

Monday, August 17, 2009 More rain today. We get a bit of a break in late morning, and decide to day trip over to Grace for lunch. The wind is pretty strong, but we start to look for a campsite for lunch. I left the GPS in the tent since it was just a day trip, but the mapkeepers were having a tough time figuring out where we were in the lake. Eventually we find a campsite and pull in for lunch. There are a few mosquitos here, but nothing too bad, it's a nice site overall.

As I look around the campsite, it's feeling very familiar. I know this place. I swear it's the same campsite I spent the night at on a high school trip almost 20 years ago. Guess I'll have to check.

Yep, same place. Strange how the brain can remember such things. After lunch, Brian is talking to other members of the group, and we are given permission to take the alternate portage route we were forbidden from taking on the way in. I tell them I'm not doing it since the GPS is back at camp, and I don't have a map. After a bit of studying the map and some convincing, I agree to go. Brian and I part ways with the rest of the group and head off to the "hard" portage which nobody else in the group will take. As we head across the lake, the wind gets very severe, the whitecaps are almost coming up over the sides, but we are going with the wind, so it's pretty fun, almost like surfing with the waves. We pull into the first bay where I think the portage will be. It's nowhere to be found. Must be down farther, so we continue along the lake to the next bay, still no portage can be seen. I joke to brian that we are really screwed if it's not in the next bay at the end of the lake, because there's no way we're getting this canoe back upwind if it's not there. So we pull in to the final bay in the lake to find the portage. It's not there.

oh crap.

We make our way back upwind across the lake. I am reminded of how much big light canoes do not like going into strong wind. It's a lot of work, but we make good progress considering what we are working against. We look again for the portage, and still don't find it. We make our way back to the campsite and then back to the "easy" portage where we had entered the lake, and then back to camp.

The sun is out, and it's a perfect time for a swim. I manage to slip on some rocks and smack my arm pretty good. I conclude that it's very easy to get into the lake, and almost impossible to get out of it. It starts to rain again. This time there is a nice rainbow.

It stops raining, then starts again, then stops, then starts again. Someone, somewhere, is having fun teasing us. Most everyone just ends up in their tents for the rest of the day to stay a bit drier and warmer.

It's another wet night. My sleeping bag is now wet and I am cold.


Day 5 of 6

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 We pack up camp and head back towards alton to make camp for the last night.

It's another rainy, cloudy day. Everyone is getting kind of crabby after such a long cold wet trip.

In the evening, the weather clears up. It's beautiful. Brian and I paddle around the lake a bit to explore.

As we are paddling, out of the corner of my eye I see something crash into the far side of the lake. It is moving very quickly and I see it splash down in the lake. WTF? What just happened? It's starting to get dark, but we can see something very much out of place across the lake. It's a large white object that is very visible from over a mile away. We decide that we HAVE to see what has crashed into the lake, and begin to paddle.

As we get closer, the object becomes more of a mystery. This object is getting larger as we approach, but still takes on no recognizable shape. Our conversation in the canoe turns to UFOs, I begin to whistle the "X Files" theme.

As we reach the object, it's true composition becomes clear.

Pelicans. They aren't happy to see us, and it's now getting dark. We've got to get back before we get an earful from the group, so we bee-line back to camp to report on our discovery.

That evening was beautiful. The stars were out in all their glory. We lie in the cold wet sand on shore marveling at the galaxy for a while. Eventually, a few of us take 2 canoes out into the middle of the lake to simply float and just stare up at the truly amazing sight.


Day 6 of 6

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 It's a beautiful morning.

We pack up camp and head home. Time to return the canoes and take some hot showers.

We get to stop in Duluth again for a while, this time intentionally, to eat at Angies and let the tire shop work on the car some more. The route home was a rough one, though strangely fitting as a severe thunderstorm fought against us the rest of the way back from our trip.


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