to get there:
Duluth, Minnesota, drive to Tofte on Hwy. 61, turn left onto Sawbill
Trail and drive to Sawbill Lake (about 24 miles). At the
Sawbill Lake is USFS
multiple site campground,
parking lot, Sawbill
Canoe Outfitters ( with
a supplies store and showers), and canoe landing.
portion of the route (5 miles):
the canoe landing at Sawbill, paddle north, then west to Kelso River
(30 rod portage) upstream on Kelso River (don't worry about
negligible current) and continue north on Kelso Lake and into Kelso
River again. Kelso River winds and splits into two streams.
Stay to the left. Eventually, you will approach a remnant of a
beaver dam with a clear channel going through. On east side of
the BD is a large boulder, called dolmen, perched on three small
rocks. The landing and trailhead is on the west side, of the
river, opposite and across from the dolmen. Remains of a small
dock are still visible under the water near shore.
portion of the route (1.25 miles to the peak)
goes straight uphill, around boulders and then turns right through wet
spots (depending on season and rainfall) Trail winds around, and
at one spot the path will drop ahead of you in a small valley.
You will cross an old beaver dam and on your right will be dried up
lake. After the old BD the trail veers off to the left for a few
yards (don't trip over the stiff telephone wire on ground) and then to
the right and uphill. In fall, this is the most colorful part of
the trail because of the mixture of birch, aspen and maple.
Eventually you will reach Oriole Lake. At Oriole Lake, cross the
beaver dam, and then follow the shore for about 50 yards. Keep
an eye on right for opening in the brush. The brush may have
overgrown the trail, but you should be able to see a pattern where it
has been cleared years ago. Seventy yards up you will see four
birch trunks on the right (with orange flagging, if not taken down).
The trail turns left, and you might be able to spot an old telephone
pole or two. From now on the trail has been made scenic only by
the big strom of 1999 which opened few vistas on the left. After
twisting and winding you will reach the top. There is an
outhouse, woodshed and few relics of the past. The tower has
been long removed, the cabin burned down in name of wilderness but the
tower footings still remain, bearing witness that people have lived
there, along with few garden type variety flowers that have survived
Mountain Trail is officialy off the USFS wilderness trail inventory
and has been so for number of years. It is hoped that the US
Forest Service will restore the trail. Kelso Mountain Trail has
been recognized by the White House Millennium Council and designated a
"Community Millennium Trail" in a proclamation signed
by Hillary Clinton in 2000. Presently, the trail is passable
except for a few treefalls, but it is not maintained by the US Forest