Campcraft Tip

Back from 5 nights in the BWCA co-leading a bird ecology class with Sue Plankis. I had a chance to try out my new Cooke Custom Sewing small barrel pack. Instead of a small blue barrel I use a 7-gallon “paint bucket” with a gamma lid. It fits perfectly and inside the pail I have my complete kitchen. The campers loved the simplicity and cleanliness of this slick system and the bucket carries very easily in the CCS harness. These larger “paint buckets” are available at home brewery retail stores for less than ten bucks. Watertight gamma seals can be bought for about $8 at Home Depot or online at Instead of a kitchen, this pail/pack combo could also make for an excellent small rodent-proof, bear-resistant, grub pack.

We had a very successful class. A great group. Excellent weather and close to 60 species of birds. More on … Continue reading

Still Room Memorial Day Weekend Bird Trip

There are still at least two spots, maybe three, open on the Uncommon Seminars LLC Bird Ecology of the Northern Forest class/trip this coming Memorial Day Weekend. Sue Plankis is doing research on owls, as that was a special request of one of the participants. We hope to get some good views of  Saw Whet and Barred Owls and maybe more. The moon will be full which will be great for owl viewing. With the late spring we should be ahead of leaf-out up there, and also ahead of the spring bug season. Everything is coming together for an outstanding weekend of camping, paddling and birding. The first night we stay at the Sawbill campground at the end of the Sawbill Trail. People can work on Friday and … Continue reading

Big Fork River Trip Paddlers Welcome

June 7-10

Big Fork-Big Falls 85 miles so far: Sue Plankis Dave Burkhart Rob Kesselring are in We have space for 8 anyone is welcomed up to a maximum total group size of 8 I have applied for a DNR grant for this trip, and if approved, it will cover half of our travel/shuttle/food costs. This a a total non-profit venture to help collect some birding data and to explore a river that will likely be new to all of us. Even if we don’t get the grant, expenses will be modest, mostly just the drive up there. This is not exactly a Hawaiian vacation. On the recommendation of Tim Eaton, we are working with River North Outfitters for shuttle and, if needed, bunkhouse and canoe rental. Sue is experienced in Citizen Science through the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas and will help the group gather data along the way down the river. A … Continue reading

BWCA Lynx on YouTube

Bill Hansen, whose parents began Sawbill Canoe Outfitters in 1957 and who has built his outfitting business into one of the most respected in the BWCAW, had the pleasure of spotting two conversing lynx last week while driving down the Sawbill Trail. Lynx are seclusive but iconic predators of the boreal forest and rarely seen in the Quetico Superior. Quick thinking Hansen had the resourcefulness to pull out his smart phone and video the encounter. It is an amazing clip and the caterwauling lynx epitomize wild nature. Toward the end of the video viewers can observe the unusual gait of this astonishing creature. Lynx populations are linked to the population cycles of the snowshoe hare. In recent years, I have seen more snowshoe hares in the vicinity of Sawbill Lake than I have seen anywhere in the BWCA and that may explain this unusual sighting. Thanks to Hansen for putting … Continue reading

Cormorant Control Approved on Lake Vermilion

According to the Ely Timberjay newspaper the DNR recently announced their decision to kill ten up to 10% of the Double Crested Cormorants on Lake Vermilion this summer. In addition, cormorant eggs will be spread with vegetable oil to prevent them from hatching and at the same time not stimulate the birds to renest.  Cormorant populations are skyrocketing in the Midwest. The Timberjay cites one example on Lake Vermilion’s Potato Island where there were 32 nests in 2004 and 424 nests in 2012. Anglers and Lake Vermilion lodge owners believe increasing numbers of the fish-eating cormorants will result in diminished gamefish populations in the lake. The DNR has already recorded reduced numbers of perch in Lake Vermilion which they believe could ultimately affect walleye populations. The Audubon Society of Minnesota believes Double-Crested Cormorants are often unfairly blamed for decreasing game fish populations and adamantly oppose cormorant control programs that have not been … Continue reading

Campcraft Tip

You have likely heard the admonition, “Always do a site check before shoving off from camp.” But it bears repeating and with a twist. Some of my best friends have left important articles behind. On a long trip, it can undermine your success downriver when you are missing a key piece of gear. On a short trip, it can take a bite out of your wallet. Or if you’re stubborn it can create unneeded risk. Rockstar paddler and German friend Jan Detmer left behind his wet suit top on an island campsite on the arctic Thelon River. He noticed the omission an hour (and 5 miles) later.  Rather than fight the current in his canoe, he hiked back upstream to retrieve it. A twenty yard swim in icy water was almost more than he could handle but he retrieved the wet suit (and put it on). Just last month my … Continue reading