Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Sawbill 7 day loop
by BigBooter

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/25/2018
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
7 Day loop beginning and ending at Sawbill
Day 1 - Lakes, Sawbill, Ada, Skoop, Cherokee Creek, Cherokee, Gordon, Long Island, Karl.

My wife and I got an early start after staying overnight at the Sawbill campground. I like this entry point, it is easy access and even has a dock where you can load your canoe. Sawbill Outfitters has a nice little store that is well stocked with most anything you would need. We had a southwest wind so we made good time. Portages were OK. Most campsites were full on the south side of Cherokee. We found a nice site on the northwest shore near the portage, but we decided to press on. We ended up staying at a site on the back bay of Karl Lake. Not the greatest site but OK.

Day 2 - Lakes, Lower George, Rib, Cross Bay, Snipe, Copper, Tuscarora. Paddled in light rain and westerly winds all day, tough going. We found a nice site of the east side of Tuscarora, put up the rain tarp and set up camp. Cool weather and damp and we were hit by rain squalls on and off all evening. Portages had a good path, but were brushy and overgrown. The Fisher map shows a portage all the way across Howl Swamp, but that is not the case. A beaver dam has raised the water level and you have to paddle across a pond. The Beymer book states that there is a boardwalk across the swamp, but it is long underwater, and I could see no evidence of a boardwalk, but we made it across. Saw very few people today.

Day 3 - Lakes Owl, Crooked, Tarry, Mora, Little Saganaga. The weather was better today. We missed the turn to the west arm fo Mora and got lost for a short time, but we soon found our way and ended up on an island site on the west end of Little Sag. Not the greatest site, but OK for one night. It hadn’t had much use due to to a fallen tree that partially obscured the landing. We had a nice paddle across Little Sag. Saw two other groups, but but the lake was not busy. Portages were OK but overgrown.

Day 4- Lakes, Elton, Makwa, Panhandle, Pan, Anit, Kivaniva, Kawishiwi RIver, Malberg. Lots of lake hopping today. Not many people around. Note that the portage on the north end of Pan Lake that goes to Panhandle has two nearly parallel paths. We took the east path and it was rough going. Later upon arriving on Panhandle we found the west path that looked a lot better. Found a nice campsite on the East arm of Malberg. Got set up just in time as it started raining, but the worst of the storm went east of us. Saw one group of scouts today heading north.

Day 5 - Koma, Polly. Decided to take an easy day today. Found a nice site on the Peninsula on the north end of Polly. Spent the afternoon swimming and lounging around. We checked out the other sites on the east arm of Polly, but they did not look that nice. One had not been used in a while. Met a young family with 2 kids. They looked like they were having a good time.

Day 6 - Lakes, Phoebe River, Hazel, Knight, Phoebe, Grace, Beth. Slow going on the Phoebe River due to some beaver dams, and shallow rocky areas. Interesting paddling though with wide marshy areas then narrow rocky channels. We had to be careful not to beat up the canoe on the rocks. Ran into a young guy with and aluminum canoe on a solo trip heading west. He had a TON of gear. Evidently he was staying out for a while. The long portage between Grace and Beth has good path and is well trodden, and I made it across with the canoe without stopping. There were a lot of people on Beth. We lucked out and got the last campsite on the east end.

Day 7 - Alton and back to Sawbill. Had an easy out and we had to go to the Sawbill store for some ice cream snacks that tasted great.

Overall Comments We did the trip and a half method of portaging with me carrying the canoe and the light pack all the way across. My wife took one heavier pack halfway and went back for the second pack. Then I go back to get the other pack pack at the halfway point. This works well for us. A nice loop but a lot of portaging, Portages were not too hilly, but overgrown on the north and west parts of the loop, Did not see many people once we got away from the lakes near Sawbill, Plentiful Blueberries, Did not try fishing, Overall a nice 7 day loop, not bad for a 50 + couple.