BWCA closure map of Sawbill area from August 20, 2021. Image courtesy of US Forest Service
US Forest Service

Popular ‘lady chain’ near Sawbill Lake closes as Whelp Fire burns in BWCA

Superior National Forest officials closed a popular area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Friday near Sawbill Lake as fire danger continues to mount in the region.

The popular ‘lady chain’ near Sawbill Lake is now closed to all access. This includes Alton Lake just west of the Sawbill entry point. The closure area moves west toward Grace Lake and north toward the previously closed Louse River area. View the photo on the left for a full image of the closure area.

Tofte District Ranger Ellen Bogardus-Szymaniak told WTIP Aug. 20 that the Whelp Fire is about four miles northwest of Sawbill Lake.

As of Friday morning, the Whelp Fire was about 30 acres and smoldering and creeping, according to Bogardus-Szymaniak.

Sawbill Lake remains open for day use activity. The Sawbill Campground remains open. However, all overnight permits for the Sawbill entry point will be canceled effective Aug. 21.

Canoe campers who are currently in the closure area are being told to leave at this time. Wilderness rangers were paddling the closure area Friday to inform them they needed to pack up and exit the area, Bogardus-Szymaniak said.

Also burning in the BWCA is the John Elk Fire near Little Saganaga Lake. Both fires are in remote areas and challenging to reach on foot, so there aren’t currently firefighters on the ground fighting those fires, Bogardus-Szymaniak said.