Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Sawbill Paddleboard Day Trip
by mcward1989

Trip Type: Paddling Kayak
Entry Date: 09/14/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 1
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
30 miles on a stand up paddleboard (SUP) in one day!
I had the idea to plan a big loop day trip in the BWCA on my paddleboard this summer and finally pulled it off as my window of opportunity closed in! I don't have much experience in the Boundary Waters, one small overnight trip and a winter camping excursion 7 months ago.

I've done a fair amount of paddling on my SUP, which is a Surftech Generator 11'6" "all around" model. I did one 17 mile paddle last summer on the Saint Louis River, some paddling on Lake Superior, and a couple other lakes around Duluth and NE MN.

I am a big fan of long days and big miles, having completed a handful of ultramarathon runs, 100k+ gravel bike rides and races, a speed-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail, so my goal was speed and distance, but also to see some sweet lakes and get a taste for paddleboarding in the BWCA.

I initially wanted to go today, as I write this, because of a brief warm spell, but decided to go back one day because the wind forecast was much more favorable. I think it was a good idea.

I plotted a loop from Sawbill, north to Ada Lake, Cherokee Creek, across Cherokee Lake, through Town Lake to Gasket and Cam Lakes, then the very northwest corner of Brule Lake, onto S Temperance Lake, snaking south to Kelly Lake, then back northwest through Burnt and Smoke Lakes. Back to Sawbill and I was home!

My GPS plotted 30 miles with the paddling and portaging all in one. It took me 12 hours and I barely made it with the daylight available. The distance was really difficult, plus I had my 70lb dog Diamond with me on my board the whole time!

Given that I don't have much canoe experience, I am looking forward to trying an overnight trip on my paddleboard. It is definitely do-able to paddle big miles and portage on a stand up paddleboard. If I did some grip strength training, the portages would be substantially easier, and my hand/forearm burning on the portages was the hardest physical challenge, I think.

Luckily I didn't experience too much wind. Based on my estimates, and historical weather data, I think I dealt with a few hours of 7-10mph winds, and that made paddling in a direct headwind fairly difficult. Really, not that bad, but to check my map or briefly stop would cause me to float backwards.

All in all, I averaged 2.5 miles per hour. Here is my GPS data: I'll post a full trip recap with pics on my blog site:

~Sawbill Lake, Ada Lake, Skoop Lake, Cherokee Creek, Cherokee Lake, Town Lake, Vesper Lake, Gasket Lake, Cam Lake, Brule Lake, South Temperance Lake, Temperance River, Weird Lake, Jack Lake, Kelly Lake, Burnt Lake, Smoke Lake.

Lakes Traveled:   Sawbill Lake, Ada Lake, Skoop Lake, Cherokee Lake, Town Lake, Vesper Lake, Gasket Lake, Cam Lake, Brule Lake, South Temperance Lake,