Sawbill Lake
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Nearest Entry Point: Sawbill Lake #38 Fishing: MN DNR; Northern Pike, Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye
Maps: Fisher F-5, F-12; McKenzie #21 Lake Depth: MN DNR; 45 feet
Fire History: Near 1727. Around 1864; logging as recent as the early 1960's
Lake Size: 834 acres
Campsites: 13 (1 visited)
Campsite 1
Wildlife Seen on Visit(s): Loons, Waterfowl
Last Visited: October 8, 2019;
Previous Visit(s): May 27, 2016
Lake Elevation: 1787 feet
Water Clarity: MN DNR

ROUTES/PORTAGES FROM SAWBILL LAKE:
To Ada Creek: Walk the 80 rod portage
To Alton Lake: Walk the 30 rod portage
To BWCA Entry Point 38: Canoe Landing on Sawbill Lake
To Java Creek: Paddle In (leads to Handle Lake)
To Kelso River: Walk the 13 rod portage
To Smoke Creek: Paddle In (possible to bushwhack this route if you seek adventure)
To Smoke Lake: Walk the 100 rod portage

Sawbill Lake

Tofte Ranger District

SAWBILL LAKE CAMPSITES:
Campsite 1: Campsite nearest to the Ada Creek portage

Sawbill Lake is most likely named for a species of duck; in particular the merganser species.

Sawbill Lake is located at the end of the Sawbill Trail. BWCA Entry Point 38 is found on the lakes south end along the east shoreline. Also found here are the Sawbill Canoe Outfitters and the Sawbill Lake Campground. Sawbill Canoe Outfitters includes a nice lodge and an outfitting company. It is located right on the lake so is a nice place to stay and outfit from since it allows you to get an early start into the BWCA. It is a nice place to stay even if you are not doing a BWCA trip. If you don't want to stay at the lodge, you can stay at the Sawbill Lake Campground which is run by the National Forest Service.

Sawbill Lake offers four different routes. The route from the north tip of the lake is into Ada Creek. This route leads up to Cherokee Lake and Long Island Lake beyond. There are two portages on the west side of the lake. The nearest to the entry point is the one to Alton Lake which is 30 rods long. Alton Lake is a similarly large and long lake like Sawbill Lake. Further up the western shoreline is a short 13 rod portage leading into the Kelso River. You will be paddling upstream to Kelso Lake from here. Finally the east shore of the lake has a portage of 100 rods to Smoke Lake. This portage is well trodden and easy for its length.

Sawbill Lake collects water from four primary sources: Kelso River, Ada Creek, Java Creek and an unnamed creek from Smoke Lake. Sawbill Lake drains out to the south through Sawbill Creek. Sawbill Creek is a tributary of the Temperance River. The Temperance River eventually flows spectacularly into Lake Superior in Temperance River State Park along the North Shore.

Paddlers through Sawbill Lake will notice the short height of the trees. This area was logged fairly recently (1960's). The logging operation in this area was known as the West Tofte (Heinselman). It was sold to St. Regis Paper Company in 1959.


Exploring Sawbill Lake

Routes to locations on Sawbill Lake are shown below:
Paddling Sawbill Lake from BWCA Entry Point 38 to the Alton Lake portage
Paddling Sawbill Lake from the Kelso River portage to BWCA Entry Point 38
Paddling from BWCA Entry Point 38 north along east shoreline to the Smoke Lake portage
Paddling north from the Smoke Lake portage to the campsite closest to the Ada Creek portage
Paddling from the campsite nearest to the Ada Creek portage to the Ada Creek portage

PADDLING SAWBILL LAKE FROM BWCA ENTRY POINT 38 TO THE ALTON LAKE PORTAGE

Sawbill Lake 1
Western shoreline of Sawbill Lake in the southern end of the lake.



From the dock at BWCA Entry Point 38, paddle along the west shore of Sawbill Lake until reaching the portage to Alton Lake.



Portage landing leading to Alton Lake. This portage is located at the back of the bay.
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PADDLING SAWBILL LAKE FROM THE KELSO RIVER PORTAGE TO BWCA ENTRY POINT 38

Sawbill Lake 2
View toward the east of Sawbill Lake from the Kelso River portage.


Sawbill Lake 3
The mouth of the Kelso River where it flows into Sawbill Lake. The portage from Sawbill Lake to the Kelso River is just to your left out of view.


Sawbill Lake 4
The point created where the small bay where the Kelso River portage is located meets the main part of Sawbill Lake.



A fairly long paddle from the Kelso River portage to BWCA Entry Point 38.


Sawbill Lake 5
View to the southeast of the east shore of Sawbill Lake. To the far right in the distance you can just make out a large private dock. This view is just south of the boundary line for the BWCA. North of the line is the Boundary Waters. The BWCA Entry Point 38 landing dock is another half mile or so south of that distant dock you can just see here.
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PADDLING FROM BWCA ENTRY POINT 38 NORTH ALONG EAST SHORELINE TO THE SMOKE LAKE PORTAGE

Sawbill Lake in BWCA
A shore ways up the eastern shoreline from BWCA Entry Point 38. You are looking south.



Starting from just offshore of the BWCA Entry Point 38 dock, paddle north along the east shore of Sawbill Lake to the Smoke Lake portage.


Sawbill Lake in the BWCA
Looking south from the shore of the small island where the BWCA boundary sign is posted. This is where you "officially" enter into the BWCA.


Sawbill Lake BWCA
View to the north from the BWCA boundary marker. This sign is located on a small island about a half-mile north of the entry point landing.
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PADDLING NORTH FROM THE SMOKE LAKE PORTAGE TO THE CAMPSITE CLOSEST TO THE ADA CREEK PORTAGE

Sawbill Lake in the Boundary Waters
Sawbill Lake does not have large cliffs lining its shoreline. It is a relatively shallow lake as evidenced here by the boulders sticking out of the middle of the lake up ahead. Most of the forest along Sawbill Lake is relatively new, so trees are not that tall.



Paddling from the Smoke Lake portage northward along the east shoreline of Sawbill Lake. The final destination is the northern most campsite on the east shore of the lake near to the Ada Creek portage.


Sawbill Lake BWCA
The east shoreline near the campsite located by the Ada Creek portage. View is toward the north.
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PADDLING FROM THE CAMPSITE NEAREST TO THE ADA CREEK PORTAGE TO THE ADA CREEK PORTAGE


A short paddle from the campsite to the Ada Creek portage landing.
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Route Connections for Sawbill Lake

From Sawbill Lake, you can portage to Ada Creek, Alton Lake, the Kelso River and Smoke Lake. Also, Sawbill Lake is the location of BWCA Entry Point 38 - Sawbill Lake where you can enter or exit the BWCA. When water levels are good, it is probably possible to paddle up Java Creek to Handle Lake with some effort.

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