Sawbill Canoe Outfitters - Review

Still haven't made a trip up to the Boundary Waters (BWCA) this year???  What's stopping you?  If you are looking for a way to "start off in the shallow end of the pool" I have a perfect solution for you.  Sawbill Canoe Outfitters has a set-up unlike anything I have seen in the BWCA.
My experiences in the BWCA up to this year have always been great, but they were always work.  Stop in town, pick up your gear, drive 30+ minutes to the Entry Point, unload and start hauling gear down to the water which could be as far as a half a mile from the car.  At Sawbill, it's a whole different story.

From Duluth we followed scenic Highway 61 along the coast of Lake Superior to the town of Tofte MN.  Here we hung a left and 30 seconds later we all felt as though we had just left civilization behind and our adventure was officially under way.  We pulled into Sawbill Outfitters about 30 minutes later to a sight I was not expecting.  There sat a beautifully landscaped log cabin structure.  Inside was a fully loaded store with everything from bait to beer, and this is where Sawbill sets itself apart.  You can literally pull into the parking lot here with NOTHING and be headed into one of the wildest places in America within an hour.  From filling in the holes in your gear list to complete outfitting, Sawbill can hook you up with whatever you may need.

Once we picked up the few supplies we were missing, we were headed into the woods.  This took literally 10 minutes.  A short walk from the lodge (less than 100 yards) and we were at the docks loading gear into our canoes on Sawbill lake.
As I said before, this area is perfect for rookies and families to experience the BWCA, you can still be "close to home" if you want to be.  There are a number of nice campsites right on Sawbill, meaning no portages...  You could camp here, and if you get a hankering for ice cream after dinner, hop in you canoe and be back at the Sawbill Store in 20 minutes.  This is not usually an option for a BWCA adventure.

If, like us, you want to get away from people and have a lake all to yourself, options abound.  Head North, East or West and you find numerous lakes ranging in size from huge to tiny, all within a day's trek from the Sawbill Entry Point.  We opted to head West, over to Alton lake.  The portage was a microscopic 30 Rods (450 feet) long, you could see the other side when you started.  It was more work getting our food pack on your back than carrying it the football field's distance.  Normally we would continue on deep into the back country, but this time around we decided to make a base camp on Alton and day-trip to the adjoining lakes. This ended up being a great plan.  We had great fishing just off shore from our camp site and several fun excursions at our disposal.

On our last day there we headed further west to Beth Lake.  It was HOT and the water was dead calm.  This made for difficult fishing, but we found a school of Smallies to keep us busy for a few hours.  To cool off there is a perfect cliff jumping spot just steps from the portage entry from Alton.  About 10 feet off the water is all, so we were able to get our entire group to jump a few times, even those that are a bit, um...  tentative...

Once our trip was over, heading back to Sawbill Outfitters was not an all-day event.  We made it out in under 2 hours.  Again, this is not typical of our BWCA trips.  We were back to reality, hitting the post trip showers before our gear was even dry.

I can't say enough good things about the staff and services Sawbill has to offer.  Great people with even better advice on the area.  No one knows the lakes, fishing and campsites around Sawbill like the Bill Hanson and the crew he has assembled.  Their suggestions and tips made for a much more enjoyable trip.  Helping us put fish in the boat every day we were up there.

So, if you are still "thinking" about making a trip up to the BWCA, stop thinking and just book it.  Give the good folks at Sawbill Outfitters a try and I promise you, you will not be disappointed.  Young and old, first timers and veterans, Sawbill Outfitters can help create a BWCA adventure for everyone...

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Anonymous said…
under BWCA regulations, If you are using an overnight permit you are not allowed to leave the BWCA for ice cream or any other reason and the return back into the BWCA. I'm sure you don't want yo cost a newbie a fine,
Anonymous said…
Where does that water from the showers go anyway?
Ryan Weber said…
I guess I never thought about the permit rules. You may be correct.

As for the water from the showers, I am sure they have a proper septic system at the lodge. They are not going to pollute the pristine lakes that they base their entire livelihood on.