Boundary Waters Canoe Area – Minnesota

July 2018 — Visiting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) was a dream that Hank had had for over 30 years. While we didn’t feel up to a 2-week canoe-packing trip (nor could we have left the cats alone in the motorhome), we still wanted to experience this outdoor adventure close to the Canadian border.  

Driving up Minnesota Highway 1 in a 31-foot motorhome was its own adventure, as the road definitely had some challenging sections. But it was a beautiful drive (first along Lake Superior on Highway 61, and then inland on the 1, so worth the bumps.

We camped for three nights at Fall Lake Campground in the Superior National Forest, one of the nicest national forest campgrounds we’ve ever encountered. Hookups were electric only, but we had a lovely pull-through site, with lots of shade and privacy.

The campground has canoe rentals ($10 for 12 hours—what a deal!), so we explored Fall Lake for a few hours on our first full day in the BWCA, enjoying a relaxing paddle around a portion of Fall Lake (it’s huge), paddling near several loons (Minnesota’s state bird), and relishing the quiet beauty of northern Minnesota.

A fun adventure in Ely is the International Wolf Center, which gives you a great viewing window to watch their wolves.

After dinner, we headed out for a hike to Stub Lake, which proved to us that canoeing is to be preferred to hiking when in Minnesota. The trail was only partially cleared after the winter, so we had to bushwhack through a number of sections. But the real challenge was the mosquitoes—the worst we encountered on this whole trip. Fortunately, we were prepared with head nets and Buggins’ insect repellant.

The next day we headed into Ely and linked up with our guide from Ely Outfitting Company. The guide put the canoe on top of our car and we drove about 20 minutes to our entry point at Lake One. There are lots of places to enter and lots of directions you can go on the water, so we were glad to have our guide do the navigating (and the portaging 😊). 

While we didn’t see big animals, it was still a lovely day of canoeing among lily pads, mini rapids (that’s where we did the portaging), beaver dams, turtles, and tons of birds, including loons and ospreys, with a quick otter sighting (alas, no pictures).

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