Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 22 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

Out To Jack and Back - Father and Sons First Trip

by rdgbwca
Trip Report

Entry Date: September 03, 2019
Entry Point: Baker Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 3

Trip Introduction:
I took my two oldest sons (age nine and twelve) on our first boundary waters trip. Previous canoe camping experience consisted of a few overnight trips on the lower Wisconsin River (and one two night trip on the lower WI River.)

I chose Baker Lake to stay on smaller water. We had a slight head wind for three days and a slight tail wind for one. Overall, the wind was favorable. We did have rain on two days.

We made it to Jack Lake, five miles into the wilderness paddling over four lakes and hiking over three portages.


This is a summary and lessons learned report.

The full narrative is at my personal site.

The trip was made possible in large part due to research on this forum. I also bought plenty of equipment including my kevlar Old Town Canadienne from members of this forum. Thanks to everyone who shares information about the bwca.


If I could give a one word summary of the trip it would be rocks. Rocks everywhere. Shin banging child tripping rocks. Different size rocks. Boulder fields after the portage. Protruding rocks smack dab in the middle of the portage trail. Odd angled rocks at the camp site landing. Rocks under my tent. Rocks of all different shapes and sizes.

Songs have been written. People mention “Canadian shield.” I never truly understood the uneven rockiness until I experienced it myself. I don’t know if words do it justice.

We moved every day. This gave us practice packing up and portaging. As I packed, unpacked and repacked each item in our outfit, I had the chance to question is this item worth it? Would I bring it again? Did I even use it on this trip? Is there a smaller lighter version of this?

The highlight of the trip was the fishing. We found fish and caught enough to have a fish dinner. It seemed like all the boys wanted to do was more fishing.

Gear That Worked Well

I was very pleased with the platypus 4 L gravity water filter. I was even happier when I handed it to my 12 year old son and told him to read the instructions and get it set up. He was able to perform this camp chore for the entire trip. This ensured our water supply and offloaded a chore from me.

I now know why people rave about their CCS tarps. We waited out a thunderstorm underneath one on our trip. We were dry while it poured down rain and thundered in the distance. The weather changed rapidly and I was glad I prioritized rain fly and tarp set up when we got to camp.

The sea to summit collapsible bucket was very useful. It helps gather water for the filter. It helps wash the dishes. It was by my side when filleting fish. It packs down compactly for transport.

The ugly stik fishing rod. I slipped on a rock and fell with this rod in my hands. (I think all members of our group slipped at least once on the rocks.) It survived seemingly unscathed and was good to reel in small mouth bass. I am not worried about fish breaking this rod.

Things to do Differently

I wet footed and portaged in my keen water shoes with darn tough wool socks. I was concerned before the trip that the water would be too cold, but the water temp was fine for wading. I would definitely wet foot again. This allowed the boys to keep their feet dry in their knee high rubber boots and helped save damage to the canoe.

The keens were three years old. I only wear them when canoeing, going to the beach or wading a river. I probably wear them ~20 days a year. They fell apart on day three. Luckily, I was leaving the next day and made it out with the shoes mostly intact. Based on my experience, keens are not BWCA portage trail approved.

I wanted to bring a back up to my MSR Pocket Rocket stove. I packed in a Trangia alcohol stove with the full cook kit and a bottle of fuel. I never used the cook kit or the stove. Next time, I will just bring another pocket rocket and an extra canister of fuel.

We never figured out how to make a nice camp fire. Everything I have read and heard recommends paddling away from camp, landing the canoe on shore and walking into the woods. I am not sure if it was the area I was in, but there was no obvious place to land a canoe other than the portages or camp sites. The forest was a tangled jungle of under brush that would have been madness to bush whack through.

I left home uncertain whether my 12 year old could carry the solo canoe himself. Practically, this meant that he could not carry it himself on the portage trail. It would have been better to find this out in the comforts of home rather than in the wilderness.

I set up my tarp using the knots I knew before the trip. Namely the bowline, taut line hitch and truckers hitch. I got even more practice with these knots on the trip. However, I wished I would have learned and practiced the prusik before the trip as I thought my tarp set up would have benefited.

~Baker Lake, Peterson Lake, Kelly Lake, Jack Lake


Lakes Traveled:   Baker Lake, Peterson Lake, Kelly Lake, Jack Lake,