Boundary Waters Canoe Area
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area near Ely, Minnesota, is considered by many to be North America’s premiere canoeing venue. It is a series of hundreds of lakes on the border of Minnesota and Ontario. The Canadian counterpart is Quetico.
It is not possible to give a description of the Boundary Waters in this space. Suffice it to say that it is pure wilderness. Most of the area is off-limits to motorized craft of any kind. It is best to acknowledge that a trip in to the Boundary Waters should be planned as a camping and fishing trip rather than as a canoe voyage. The lakes vary in size but many are extremely large and can make for rough canoeing in windy conditions. Campsites are plentiful and come equipped only with a fire grill and a latrine. It is against the rules to take cans or glass bottles into the area. Nearly any trip will require some portaging from lake to lake so light gear and light canoes are a godsend. Carrying in ice and water is simply foolish so meals should consist of food needing little cooling. The water should be purified before drinking. If this word does not convince you then try sitting a bucket of water down and look at the mosquito larvae in the water thirty minutes later.
The scenery is absolutely beautiful. The water is clear and the lake floors are rock. Rock outcroppings adorn the shoreline. Firs, cedars, and other evergreens are interspersed with hardwoods including the birches with the beautiful white bark.
Wildlife is abundant. The bald eagle is anything but rare. Loons, ducks, geese, seagulls, and scores of varieties of songbirds float through the clear skies. Beaver, moose, white-tail deer, and wolves populate the area. Field mice and red squirrels are at every campsite. So are mosquitoes and biting black flies. Ticks can be a problem. There are few snakes and no poisonous ones in the area.
The lakes vary in size, depth, and temperature. All are noted for abundant fish but the species vary with the differences in lake characteristics.
Permits are required but they are not difficult to acquire. Once a permit is obtained it requires entry at a specific point but it is not limited as to time. Campsites are plentiful and the camper is free to use any unoccupied one.
Most people canoeing the Boundary Waters will be well-served by using the services of one of the many outfitters in the Ely area. Aluminum canoes are common among the outfitters but it should be worth the difference in price to opt for a lightweight Kevlar model.