Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places

Back on Sawbill

By Ken Orwoll Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:August 27-30, 2020
Entry Point:38 - Sawbill Lake (BWCA)
Lakes:Ada, Sawbill, Unnamed

It had been four years since I had been to the boundary waters and I needed to get back. My son and I have made annual trips for years but the last four years things just didn’t work out. Busy with life I guess. The cabin we purchased needed major repairs and my back injury seemed to put trips on hold. Well, we decided we had to get back, so we planned a short trip with no portages to the north end of Sawbill Lake. We had finished a couple of trips on Sawbill and did well fishing there. We planned a three night stay in late August. We had never stayed at one camp for an entire trip, it felt like we were cheating. And we were. We did bring a few extra items, like bag chairs and a bug tent. I wasn’t sure how my back would do sitting on the ground, rocks or logs and with no portages why not bring chairs. We also chose this trip to introduce the BWCAW to my daughter-in-law, Lauren. The remainder of our crew was son, Ryan and my daughter’s father-in-law Andy, both skilled and experienced fisherman. A fish dinner was guaranteed.

IMG_6739.jpgCampsite 1

I don’t know what it is, but just getting ready for a trip was exciting. It was not the same as preparing for a 6 or 7 day trip with challenging portages and new lakes to explore, but close. I still had to make a menu, buy and pack the food. We do have all our own gear, including two canoes. So we had plenty of packs, tents, sleeping pads and kitchen supplies for the four of us. I just had to gather what we needed and get them in packs.


We left the north metro area at 5:00 am and headed north to Duluth. We made our stop at the Ranger Station in Tofte. Picked up some bait and lunch and headed down the Sawbill Trail and Sawbill Lake. Sawbill Lake entry point has one of the nicest landings in the boundary waters and we were soon unloaded and on the water just before 11:00. We knew there were 13 campsites on the lake and the lake was a little over 4 miles long, but we wanted a campsite at the northern end. Worried that we would have difficulties finding a campsite we decided to send one canoe up the west side and one canoe up the east. We had a couple of walkie-talkies to communicate when we found something. I was in our new Northstar canoe on its first voyage in the boundary waters traveling along the east shore. We did find a nice campsite, the second to last one on the east side. We had stayed here before and were able to catch walleyes and bass from shore. We found two nice tent pads and set up camp quickly.


Soon we were on the water fishing for a walleye or two. It felt right to be on the water again, enjoying a warm sunny afternoon. We drifted with Lindy rigs and spinners in a light breeze. Lauren caught her first boundary water’s walleye. We added her walleye to our steak dinner that evening. We had nice weather the whole trip and little or no bugs. Overall fishing was good if you worked at it. We still caught some small walleyes and bass from shore , but most of our fishing was from the canoes. Besides the fishing we did take a day trip so Lauren and Andy could take a portage or two. We went north of Sawbill Lake, two portages to Ada Lake and back. Hoping to give them a taste of our trips from the past.


Although it was a short trip, we were still in the BWCAW I had missed our trips. I was worried how my back would do sitting in a canoe for hours. It got a little sore but I was fine. I believe I’m ready to tackle more in the future. I didn’t realize how nice it was to sit in a chair and eat a fish dinner overlooking the lake and later the sunset. I guess I have discovered another way to enjoy these waters for a few days at a time. Everyone had a great time and we plan on making this trip an annual event.

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