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June 23 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

Group of 9 Basecamping at Burnt

by shoreviewswede
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 15, 2010
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Exit Point: Baker Lake (39)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 9

Trip Introduction:
5 parents camping with 4 of our kids. Some fishing, some portaging, some exploring... much enjoyment.

Day 1 of 5

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

After work, 5 of us leave the Twin Cities in minivan with 2 canoes atop for the North Shore. Stop at Subway in Cloquet for supper. Isaiah (2nd son) calls on phone to declare: "You moron, you forgot the food!" And I did. I really did. The 5gal bucket with all of my repackaged food is next to the piano... and a few refrigerated items are still in the fridge. I can't believe I did that; beside myself. I was so proud of myself, for how easy our departure was... for how organized I was. And now I did this to the rest of the group. Uff da x 8. Lisa (my wonderful wife) agrees to drive north while we drive south; we meet at Rock Creek... we grab the food... then head north again over 2 hrs delayed. Lisa saved the day. We arrive at Sawbill Campground after midnight, where the remaining 4 of our group of 9 wait. Pitch tent fast and start sleeping.


Day 2 of 5

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Our group consists of the full 9 with 4 BW rookies. Me, my son Christian (16) plus friends Scott, Becky, Rich, Gina and their kids Zach (14), Elise (12) and Nicole (10). After breakfast we listen to The Video, get permit, park my vehicle at the Baker Lake entry point..., then put in before noon.

Our destination is Burnt Lake. 100 rod Portage to Sawbill>Smoke is easy to find; we portage across smoothly; now we all know what portaging is like. I learn something; portaging my not-made-for-the-BWCA 16' Mad River Adventure is even harder than I anticipated. With middle seat on my shoulders, stern is heavier than bow, and keeping bow down tires my arms more than I anticipated. After carrying it alone for a while, I give up... and choose to portage by handles, 2 people.

Entry shoreline on Smoke is a bog; walk planks to get to water; neat experience.

Smoke>Burnt portage is 90 rods; no problems... though Burnt side is awfully rocky; no dry footing here.

We check out a few campsites on Burnt; some are occupied; some are nice, but not meant for large group. We settle on peninsula site centrally located on NW side of Burnt. It is a great site for this group, with private tent pads and nice triangle of trees to hang hammocks from. Rocky mini peninsulas are kid bait. Weather is great, kids are happy and the evening weather is beautiful. We fish. Elise catches a large Smallie! Christian hooks a keeper Walleye. It is a beautiful dusk; day ends at campfire with clear sky and stars. ***Breakfast was breakfast tacos. ***Supper was red beans n rice with chicken… with instant pudding.  


Day 3 of 5

Daylight really comes early up here, only a couple days short of the equinox. I'm awake long before the others. Don't have watch, so don't know the time; before 6am, I guess. This was the calmer day, wind-wise. There is enough breeze to keep bugs down. We portage to Flame midday. We're catching fish there... Pike mostly. We have lunch on the big rock. Portaging without packs was really easy, most of us say. Back at Burnt, after supper, rain threatens... and then comes. We spend last hours of evening huddled in hammocks and stools under the Tyvek tarp... reading trivia questions aloud. It rains during the night, but we all have good tents... so we care not. A note about Burnt: it was busy… as in, we saw other canoes crossing the lake much of the time… but no one invaded our “personal space”. ***Breakfast was oatmeal with all the extras. ***Supper was fresh fish + Thanksgiving Dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy…) with Sesame Snaps for dessert.


Day 4 of 5

Friday, June 18, 2010

It is windy today... all day. We hang close to the campsite. Leeches with bobber and split shot (we'll call it the TGO method) catches pike. Tossing crankbaits offshore into the channel hooks Walleye. Huh? Got that backwards? Nope; that's what happened.

Before entering the tent after midnight, Christian and I look south across the lake; there is still light on the horizon; I bet it is never really dark here this time of year

After supper the wind dies, and I go paddling/fishing shorelines with Christian (son) and Scott; most excellent. They both hook fish... Smallie, Pike and and an Eye. I paddle and troll; they cast. Day ends at the campfire with cloudy sky, Shiraz, Pinot Grigot, cheese, crackers, bad jokes and laughter… but no stars. ***Breakfast was pancakes with syrup and walnuts. ***Supper was fresh fish + teriyaki noodles & rice with pink M&M’s for dessert.


Day 5 of 5

Saturday, June 19, 2010

4 of nine must head home today, fairly early; after breakfast, they break camp... then 2 adults and 2 kids load into canoe and head back to Sawbill. After some discussion, we determine that the rest of us need to head home today, a day early; plans in the outside world dictate. We break camp. Packing to leave is always so much easier than packing to go; “just put it in any bag, and we’ll sort it out when we get home.” After checking the campsite for cleanliness, we head towards Baker Lake. Portage from Burnt>Kelly is 230 yards. It's a doozie. I devise a plan to carry my canoe on my own though; I hang my son’s day pack from the bow so the that bow & stern are balanced; it makes all the difference, and I portage the canoe (in 2 shifts) myself. The trail is hilly and muddy… but clear.

Kelly makes a great impression on me; it is pretty, and I think I prefer this size of lake. No other party is in site; paddling thru is great.

We line our canoes thru the Kelly>Peterson rapids… and we line our canoes thru the Peterson>Baker rapids.

I’m thinking… I wouldn’t mind coming back just to camp on Peterson or Kelly.

The van is waiting for us at the Baker Lake entry; we throw it all in… then head for home. ***Breakfast was Bacon Smash. ***Supper was Perkins, in Duluth.


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