BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 11
Elevation: 1802 feet
Sawbill Lake - 38
Sawbill to Cherokee Lake and back
August 31, 2013
Number of Days:
After spending the night at the Sawbill campground, we hit Sawbill around 7:30am and enjoyed a slight breeze from the south to help push us all the way to the Ada Lake portage 5 miles up the lake. It rained lightly most of the night and the morning was cloudy.
The first two portages into Ada Lake and Skoop Lake were pretty easy, with the second portage having a little more elevation. It took us a few minutes to find the second portage as it's hidden behind a corner around some weeds but if you trust the map, you'll find it no problem.
After paddling through Skoop Lake, we were able to paddle right into Skoop Creek, which was shallow but passable, all the way up to the 12-rod portage before hitting the 180-rod portage into Cherokee Creek.
The portage had about 10 muddy spots, and while it was up and down the entire way, none of the hills were terribly steep. Just a long, moderately difficult slog over to the creek-side landing.
Cherokee Creek is a nice paddle, and after about a mile on the creek, we were pleased to catch our first glimpse of Cherokee Lake, which is beautiful.
We had passed 4 groups going the opposite direction all coming from Cherokee Lake. I made a point of asking all of them where they had camped trying to scout out from the Boundary Waters Journal campsite ratings from this spring which sites were open. Labor Day Weekend-I was expecting at least decent crowds on Cherokee. One group had been camped at the second site north along the west shore, which was one of my top 3 targets, so after spotting the nice looking point of what was obviously the campsite, we decided to just take it not knowing what else might be open on Cherokee.
The site has a great view east over the southern portion of Cherokee with a couple islands, a nice bay to the north, and three nice tent pads. The grate is very scenic with two jack pines right near by. The only drawback of the site is marginal log seating, and no west view for sunsets, but there is nothing to complain about with this site.
After setting up the tents and enjoying some mac and cheese for lunch, we took a dip in the lake and swam to the trio of points the jut out into Cherokee south of the campsite. The water was unseasonably warm, perfect for a refreshing swim.
The weather radio indicated we were under a severe thunderstorm watch and rain was forecast for the next day and a half, so I spent some more time rigging a couple tarps. Then we took a paddle around the big island adjacent to the Sitka Lake portage and saw a couple groups camps in that area of the lake, but I was still surprised at the number of sites open for Saturday of a holiday weekend.
Upon returning to our site, it was starting to look a little ominous to the west, so we made tacos over the stove under the tarp as it started raining off and on. Just as we finished eating, the a storm hit and we each took up refuge in our tents to wait out the storm.
Once the storm cleared, we did the dishes, packed up camp and enjoyed a campfire. After dark, we were lucky to have some clear sky blow through so we could enjoy the stars. Sawbill Lake, Ada Lake, Skoop Lake, Cherokee Lake
The morning started sunny and I was eager to try out my new GSI French Press, so the coffee was on early, followed by oatmeal.
After packing up lunch and some stuff for a day trip, we paddled up the west shore of Cherokee checking out campsites and exploring. Each campsite was empty as we made our way north before paddling to one of the island sites about halfway up Cherokee for lunch. Hot dogs and trail mix made up lunch, and we tried to wait out some light rain before finally resigning to the fact that it wasn't going to stop raining soon, and paddled back to camp.
Not wanting to spend our only entire day in the BWCA under a tarp or in my tent, I donned my rain gear and went off with my hatchet and saw in search of fire wood since we were going to need a fire to make pizza with the reflector oven that night. Thank goodness for the saw. Fire would not have been possible without it. We enjoyed a 20-minute stint of sun before dinner, and were relieved to have a nice fire going for pizza and cookies on the oven.
The anticipated cold front finally moved in following dinner and we enjoyed our second campfire that night as temps dropped into the 40s and the wind howled pretty good. Again, we were lucky to get some clear skies after dark for star- gazing. Cherokee Lake
After a chilly evening, I got out of the tent around 7am to begin packing some stuff up before breakfast, but after being greeted to temps in the 40s and wind in shorts, I decided to hit the tent for a little longer. Once I built up the courage to actually get up, I took down my tent first so I could lay it out to dry a bit before packing. French press coffee hit the spot again.
We hit the water after packing up camp and eating breakfast about 10am to head out the same way we came in. We passed two groups going the same direction on the way out, and three groups headed in from Sawbill. Once on Sawbill, the clouds cleared and it was absolutely beautiful for the 5-mile paddle back to Sawbill, with a mostly helping wind from the north. We were back to Sawbill around 1:15 and on the road back to the Twin Cities by 2.
All in all, it was a nice short trip despite so-so weather. Cherokee is a beautiful lake, with lots of islands, some elevation, a lot of nice campsites, and great views almost anywhere you turn.