BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 29 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 11
Elevation: 1802 feet
Sawbill Lake - 38
Sawbill to Phoebe
June 09, 2011
Sawbill Lake (38)
Number of Days:
We started out at Sawbill Lake, setting off northwest on calm waters from EP#38. We paddled across the lake to the easy 30-rod portage into Alton Lake. We paddled down Alton to descend a comfortable 140-rod portage to Beth Lake. Beth was beautiful with picturesque views all around. We heard there was great fishing to be had there as a fellow paddler reported he caught 100 little bass the day prior. From Beth we embarked on a 285-rod portage to Grace Lake, thankfully this portage was relatively flat and rock free. After catching our breath, we paddled across Grace to a connective stream bringing a series of three short portages and paddles, a couple of which were difficult to find on the way in due to new beaver dams and fallen trees, but thankfully more clear on the way out-mucky appropriately describes this leg of the trip. After a swift 85-rod portage into Phoebe Lake, we began looking for our new home for the next couple nights. We landed a great site on the southwest shore of Phoebe with a view of numerous scenic islands. It was a bit difficult finding a proper tree for the bear pack; we went past the latrine, and with my husband’s skill got the rig setup.
Rest day. We did not fish much, but did catch one smallie from the shore of our site. We paddled around and checked out the lake, seeing a couple cormorants, as well as two other canoes who were fishing. The weather was perfect, down in the high 30’s at night, and sunny in the low 60’s during the day. A fearless loon came and visited our shore that evening. It rained during the night, nothing terrible, but enough to bring the rest of the mosquitoes out.
On the way out, after portaging the 85-rods out of Phoebe toward Grace, and jumping through the hoops of the three short portages to get to the lake, we veered north on Grace Lake to the more northern 147-rod portage to Ella Lake…Damn Ella! The shore of the portage was rocky and jagged; make that the entire portage!! It was quite steep in some areas, horribly buggy, and rocks galore!! My husband had been double portaging the entire trip with the canoe, and a pack, with myself carrying the other pack, paddles, and a small seal line bag. This was a trying portage; I ended up rolling my ankle twice (29 years and I had never done that)! We were eaten alive, and a bit winded after all gear was on the shore of Ella. Once paddling, we were only in the canoe a matter of minutes before reaching the southern shore where the next 90-rod portage awaited. This portage was thankfully less buggy and rocky, and all over more manageable. This brought us to the northwest shore of beautiful Beth Lake, where had my ankle not been throbbing and growing in size, I would have insisted we stay a night. Many sites were taken; no doubt due to the great fishing and scenic well positioned sites. After paddling the length of Beth to the eastern shore, we portaged a comfortable 140-rod descent to Alton Lake. We paddled up the east side of Alton to the easy 30-rod portage back into Sawbill Lake, where it was immediately evident we were coming into civilization.