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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

December 10 2023

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

From A Father to A Son

by Buck47
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 26, 2006
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
After a very memorable 6 day trip a couple of years ago with the PE teacher and 6 high school boys I wanted to give the same experience to my own son. I also wanted to plan and equip the trip myself because it is a special part of the father/son bond I was looking for. After a lot of great advice from members on this site, friends that travel to the BWCA, and reading well written books I felt confident we could handle this. The trip report "A Journey to Manhood" was very inspiring even though Jr. is not ready for the Manhood speech yet. But when that time does come it will be so much easier to work that in to a father/son trip. My brother-in-law passed in an accident a few years ago and if that day ever happens I want to make sure I leave my family with as many special times as I can. I also hope this helps anyone that is hesitant in planning a trip to the BWCA with children for the first time prepare and enjoy the experience.

Day 1 of 4

Monday, June 26, 2006

Father and Son Temperance River Loop

Early Morning Excited Boy

4:00 AM and Jr. wakes the house announcing it is time to go. Jr. is 8 1/2 years old and has not seemed overly excited about this trip. Last year he was with 6:20 AM the first morning of turkey hunting when I shot a big tom. That was exciting! This year he hunted one day and decided Grandma’s house was more exciting than getting up at 5:00 AM.

He is excited now to get this canoe trip started. I took a shower, loaded the truck, we kissed our sleeping Mom/Wife and we were headed north by 4:30 AM. The ride went fast with 101 questions from Jr. First stop is McDs in Two Harbors, for sausage biscuits, hash browns, OJ, and coffee. Filled the tank with gas for $2.81 and bought a couple things at the bait shop next to the gas station.

Tofte Ranger Station 8:00 AM, watched video, answered 20 questions, took a picture of Jr. with the stuffed wolf and filled water bottles. The ladies at the station were really great with the kid.

Sawbill Lake 8:35 AM, paddling by 9:00 AM. My Timex, compass watch died. Junk!! Left it in the truck. Beautiful morning, the lake was glass and temp was in the 70s. It seemed like it took a long time to get to the first portage. It is 80r. to Ada Creek and then 92r. to Skoop Lake. The Scoop Creek is a trickle of water and does not seem possible to float. After taking the Warden/Wife a couple of weeks ago I had a good idea of how to take care of Jr. He had a water bottle of Tang and a bag of trail mix with some extra goodies, like Gummy Worms, Bears, and Sour Skittles. I would send him first with his Mason pack to scout the trail. I would then put on the Army pack with food and supplies, and the canoe and catch up with him or if the portage was short enough he would be waiting for me at the end. I gave him a coaching whistle to wear and we discussed that the only time he could blow it was if it was an emergency. No cry wolf. If anything would happen to me he should blow it until some one found him. He was good about that and I felt good about it also. He would wait with the canoe and packs while I went back and portaged my Mason pack, fishing poles, and paddles. His Mason pack had his clothes, sleeping bag, 2 sleeping pads, water bottle, and the 6-pound Eureka Tetragon 5 tent. The pack weighed in at 25 pounds. We practiced carrying the pack up and down the drive the night before. After the first portage Jr. was left alone with the canoe and when I came back he was crying that he wanted to go home. I didn't understand until I saw all the welts around his neck from the mosquitoes that were attacking him. I sprayed him down with some good bug dope and he noticed they were going away. He was ready to push on. On the second portage we crossed paths with a family heading out. Dad was carrying the big packs and a big cooler, the teenage boy carried the canoes, the 10 year old had the paddles and life jackets, and Mom had a pack. We crossed Skoop Lake and started the 180r. portage into Cherokee Creek. Jr. took this one in stride knowing it was the last one of the day and next stop was camp. Cherokee Creek is narrow but very pretty. We had to do a pull over of a beaver dam. Jr. thought this was cool and the beaver dam amazed us how they are constructed. Jr. saw a bear go through the brush over the ridge I just saw the black, furry butt end for a second. Cherokee is a busy lake and a lot of the camps we could see were full but we were lucky and the one we scouted out on the map was free. It is the fourth site northwest of Cherokee Creek. It is on a rocky point. We set up camp, and found some firewood just in time for a downpour. While waiting the storm out under the tarp I pulled out the GPS to mark our spot and see what time it was. 3:45 PM. At 5:00 PM the rain stopped and Jr. was in charge of fire building. I started supper, 4 venison franks wrapped in tortillas, two packs of Simple Easy Mac, and hot apple cider. His lips were orange all day from the quart of Tang he drank. I cleaned dishes and organized gear, Jr. fished off the rocks without any bites. We then took a swim to the rock island and back. We dried off and Jr. crawled into his mummy bag and was snoring soon after. I took a look at the GPS and it was only 6:30 PM. The night was young and my partner was sawing logs. After 8:00 PM I was writing in the journal and Jr. wakes up asking if it was morning. I fetched him some Tang and he went back to sleep. Four different groups floated by looking for a campsite, one after supper. After the rain it cooled down but we managed to keep everything dry. What a special first day


Day 2 of 4

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

South Temperance Lake

8:00 AM we slept in. Jr. slept almost 13 ½ hours. I guess we needed it. We took down camp, and packed bags. We made 3 packs of oatmeal and brown sugar over the single burner with apple cider and green tea to wash it down. Oatmeal tastes better camping. 10:30 AM paddling across Cherokee looking for the portage to North Temperance. He wanted to be the first to spot portages and camps. We missed it the first time and beached it on a narrow sandy shore where the second campsite up the east shore is hidden. It is back in the woods and cannot be seen from the water. No one had used it in a while but I am sure a group last night looking would have taken it if they could find it. We paddled back and found the 140r. portage. This is probably the most challenging hike of the trip. It is rugged with rocks to climb and seems to go uphill the whole time. We crossed paths with a family with four canoes going into Cherokee. They did a double take seeing Jr. carrying a big pack. He would find places to sit or lean the pack against to take breaks. I did notice any time he saw people he didn’t stop. Sitka Lake is short and the 105r. portage at the end is a little steeper than I anticipated. Jr. was wearing out and we still had one more portage until South Temperance where we would stay the night. North Temperance is a pretty lake and we did not see any campsites taken as we paddled by. The 55r. portage was easy and flat but as we started paddling on South Temperance it was thundering in the east. It looked like it was backing up from Lake Superior. We checked the first two campsites but they were taken and we took the one on the northwest end. We put the tarp up and waited the weather out before putting the tent up. It was 2:00 PM. The tent pads all looked like they would pool water so we wanted to make sure to get the tent where we wanted it. Jr. caught a big fat leech after collecting some firewood. We went fishing for a while but Jr. was a little impatient. He did loose his leech to a fish but we didn't get it. I managed to catch a real short Smallie. We shared some beef jerky, pumped water, and Jr. paddled me back to camp while I fished. We made it back in time as the sky let loose. It flooded most of our campsite as the rain came down. Jr. messed around in the rain while I watched under the tarp. We were lucky we didn't put the tent up. The spot he choose for the tent was ankle deep with water. But we did find a nice spot high and dry. I cooked supper on the single burner about 6:30 PM. We had cheesy rice and broccoli, peanut butter on tortilla, salami and cheese on tortilla, and hot cocoa. As we were finishing up four canoes were headed our way but saw Jr. smoky attempt at getting a fire going and turned around. Jr. cleaned up in the lake, found some clean clothes and hit the sack. He started snoring in record time. He will have a tough time finding a girl that will put up with that snoring. I cleaned the dishes and camp, hung the food, and fished in the bay for a short time. I managed to catch a couple of nice Smallies, a short Northern and another Northern pushing 10 pounds. One Walleye chased the Rap to my feet. All fish were released. It would have been a nice night to paddle and fish a little but I don’t dare go too far from camp. The rainy afternoon sucked but it was another great day Father and Son.


Day 3 of 4

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Hungry Boy and Sunrise on South Temperance"

The Trip to Jack

8:00 AM we started a new day. It was cold and damp from the evening storms. It didn't look like it was going to get better today but the sun broke through the fog about 10:00 AM and things started to clear up. With the sun out it didn't take long to warm up. The first portage out of South Temperance is 240r. flat and easy, but long. Jr. tripped and fell, and I found him sobbing. He is getting tired out. The Temperance River was shallow and small. The 80r. portage to Weird Lake was easy. Weird is a pretty lake, with one campsite. Jr. ran the 12r. portage to make sure it was as short as I said it was. The channel between the two lakes is about 4’ wide and drops off some rocks 2’-3’. Some aluminum canoes took the channel but it was probably easier to portage. We took some pictures to give Mom. Jack Lake is nice quiet area. We were able to get the campsite on the point. We set up camp and hung everything to dry. Jr. is starting to loose interest and not as helpful today. We were set up by 2:00 PM and we went for a paddle to try to catch some fish and pump water. No fish and Jr. wanted to go for a swim, so first we gathered some wood. We swam off the north side of the point where there is a little rock slide going into the water. Jr. could see the other campsite and a rock bluff. We took the canoe over and checked out the campsite. There was an old moose skull on a log.  Jr. had his picture taken with it and we left it where we found it. The campsite was large enough for a big group. We paddled to the bluff and hiked to the top. The moss and lichens were thick and we sat and looked over the lake for a short time before Jr. was getting an itch to move on. As we were on the bluff Jr. started talking about how Mom would like this spot and we should take her here. He is starting to get lonely for home. It is a good thing we are going home tomorrow. Back at the campsite there were some very friendly chipmunks running about and Jr. thought it would be fun to share some trail mix with them and see how close they would come. I warned him about them but the best way to learn is by making the mistake. He turned his back after he put his trail mix back in his bag and one of the critters went into his bag to feed. The war was on. For the next hour Jr. was throwing things at them and plugging holes in the ground. Finally we had supper and Jr. was ready for the sack. He had a tough time getting to sleep. Missing home. He wanted me to go to bed at 7:30 PM with him but I needed to finish cleaning up camp and I wanted to cast from the rocks for a little while. The fish were popping bugs on the surface but they wanted nothing to do with what I was casting.


Day 4 of 4

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sawbill and Home

8:00 AM awake and ready for oatmeal, and peanut butter on soft shells. Sprinkled in the night but the morning is beautiful. On the water by 10:00 AM, pumped water and saw our first people since South Temperance as we finished our first portage into Kelly Lake, a young family with two canoes. I was a little worried about the dreaded 230r. portage into Burnt Lake with a tired boy. It was not a bad portage. Jr. handled it great. It was busy with people and I think that kept his spirits up. We had to paddle into the wind on Burnt and the 90r. portage was good. Burnt and Smoke Lake were very crowded. The 90r. portage out of Smoke was tricky to find. It is a dock and boardwalk crossing the bog. We made it to Sawbill and back to the truck by 2:30 PM. We loaded the truck and then stopped at Sawbill Outfitters for some treats. A t-shirt, Gatorade, and ice cream for Jr. and a Killian’s Red for Dad. We stopped at the Two Harbors Pizza Hut and were home by 8:00 PM. We had another great day together and even though Jr. was tired, just knowing it was time to head home kept him moving. I believe the trip was just the right length for his age.


I received a lot of good advice from the Internet and people that have taken young children into the BWCA. I believe the two most important things to remember is that plan the trip like it is a solo trip, because you are not going to get much help. The second thing is to think of the trip as the their trip, not your trip. By keeping these two things in mind, the trip was a very positive experience for both of us. We never needed the whistle but I was glad he had it and it was a security blanket for him when we were out of sight of each other. One time he accidentally put it in his pack and he had to unpack and find it before he was ready to leave. Next year I am going to have him pick out his own fishing lures, help me shop for groceries and we are going to stay two nights on one lake, hopefully we can catch some fish. I was very hesitant at first bringing him on a trip like this. When he was seven we took an over night trip down the St. Croix River and he loved it. He has recently asked to do that trip again this summer as well as the BWCA. He loves the sand bars on the river. We brought an old football to play catch with and he could get out and walk in the shallows. The river offers a different experience but very similar.


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