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-12; McKenzie #21 Lake Depth: MN DNR; 45 feet
Fire History:
Lake Size: 834 acres
Campsites: 11 (1 visited)
Campsite 1
Wildlife Seen on Visit: Loons, Waterfowl
Last Visited: May 27, 2016 Lake Elevation: 1787 feet
Water Clarity: MN DNR

Routes from Sawbill Lake:
To Ada Creek: Walk the 80 rod portage
To Alton Lake: Walk the 30 rod portage
To Kelso River: Walk the 13 rod portage
To Smoke Lake: Walk the 100 rod portage

Sawbill Lake

Tofte Ranger District

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.

Exploring Sawbill Lake

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 up to the BWCA boundary sign.

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.

Paddling north up the east shore of Sawbill Lake from the BWCA boundary sign to the Smoke Lake portage.

Paddling north along east shore of Sawbill Lake beginning from the bay where the Smoke Lake portage is located.

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.

Continuation of the paddle northward along the eastern shoreline of Sawbill Lake. Pass through an area where rocks in the middle of the lake stick out above the lakes surface.

Sawbill Lake sure is long...

Continue paddling, now in the north end of Sawbill Lake.

Sawbill Lake BWCA
The east shoreline near the campsite located by the Ada Creek portage. View is toward the north.

You finally land the canoe at a campsite on the east shore of the lake. This campsite is the one furthest north on the lake.

Route Connections for Sawbill Lake

From Sawbill Lake, you can portage to Ada Creek, Alton Lake, the Kelso River or Smoke Lake. Also, Sawbill Lake is the location of BWCA Entry Point 38 - Sawbill Lake.

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