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Old 04-14-2009, 07:41 PM   #1
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Let's talk Boundary Waters

Well, we booked into Fall Lake Campground near Ely, MN for late July. I need all the Must Do and Must See information for that area as well as the west shore of Lake Superior. Those of you experienced with the Boundary Waters, can you enlighten me?

This will be our first trip to the BW. We will be using the campground as our base and exploring by canoe, bike and car. We will not be doing any portages unless they are very very short and easy. And how big are those mosquitoes anyway??? Do you really need to coat yourself with mud as I have heard in tales??


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Old 04-14-2009, 08:06 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Caryl View Post
And how big are those mosquitoes anyway??? Do you really need to coat yourself with mud as I have heard in tales??

No need to coat yourself with mud, a SAM battery will suffice. If they get close enough in, you can shoot out their landing lights with a shotgun, they won't be able to see, and will crash.

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Old 04-14-2009, 08:12 PM   #3
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I wouldn't miss the Soudan Physics Experiment. It's close by Ely. You can usually catch a ride on passing mosquito, just stick out your thumb and they will pick you up.
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Old 04-14-2009, 08:30 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by markdoane View Post
I wouldn't miss the Soudan Physics Experiment. It's close by Ely. You can usually catch a ride on passing mosquito, just stick out your thumb and they will pick you up.

Unfortunately you will be there pretty much at the peak of the mosquito season. Just bring good bug repellent and plan to use it. When they are worst we like to use the head nets that go over a hat. It all depends on the weather; if it's cool and breezy it will help immensely.

Ely is a nice little town, getting tourist-ier every year. I second the Soudan Physics Experiment, also the Soudan Underground Mine tour, at the same place.

If you want to hear a first-class story teller in action and learn some local history, take Emily Wahlberg's Burntside Heritage Tour over on Burntside lake. The Dorothy Molter Museum just west of Ely is worth seeing.

Mostly, get out on the lakes and woods and smell the pine trees! If you like to fish, Fall Lake is as good as any, with Northern and Walleye Pike, Smallmouth Bass, and assorted panfish.

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Old 04-14-2009, 09:09 PM   #5
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Hi Caryl -- You're going to make the jump? Great! It looks like they're still arguing over the Jul 30 to Aug 1 blues fest location. Miners Lake is west of town. If they move it back to Winton you'll not get to sleep before 1:00AM. The heavy bass gets right through earplugs. Stay tuned...

You'll see plenty of bald eagles. Find a cocktail rock down by the lake for sunsets. Nice!

We camped at Fall Lake about that same time in 2006. It was a dry summer so our experience of low bugs may have been unusual. There are fewer bugs anyway by about the 2nd week of August. We've done a number of Boundary Water trips at the end of July and the numbers are intermediate between the June high counts and August's decline. Our normal BWCA fishing strategy of canoe trolling with perch colored Rapalas (for smallies, walleye & northern) didn't find any fish on Fall Lake. I couldn't figure out where they were.

I agree with markdoane's recommendation to visit the Tower-Soudan mine. Take warm clothes and a jacket for the tour. It's a most unique experience. Fun eating in Ely can be found at the Hungry Moose. Take a couple pieces of blueberry pie back to the campground! Piragis right next door is a fun place to outfit yourself for canoing -- including sunblock so you'll look just as white as we denizens of the north. Burntside Lodge west of Ely is a fancier place to eat and worth strolling around for a bit of north country charm.

There's no dump station at Fall Lake; it's back in town at the Chamber of Commerce -- intersection of Hwys 169 & 1.

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Old 04-14-2009, 09:20 PM   #6
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Check out this link for a great list of recommended Ely activities
Ely, MN Attractions and Activities at Fenske Lake Cabins
Make sure and follow the links on the top left covering Hiking Trails, Mountain Biking, Museums and shopping. Check out the Canoe Day Trips just below Fishing. I highly recommend renting a canoe and going to the pictographs on Hegman Lake. Also the Bass Lake Trail Hike. Both of these activities will get you 100% away from any man made sounds.
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Old 04-14-2009, 09:40 PM   #7
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We made four trips into the BWCA last year. We absolutely love it. I have an '05 19' Bambi and bring her up to the end of the Sawbill Trail every year to Sawbill campground. Great spot, but hard on the camper... 26 miles of gravel road (occasionally washboard). We make two "Camper trips" each year and at least two canoe trips each year. We also spend time portaging the lakes and fishing our favorite spots. The fishing is terrific! If you have the pocketbook for it, hire a local fishing guide. If you really want to have a top notch fishing trip/experience, you really need some local guidance. I always get a kick out of the guys that just fish as they are passing through and think the fishing isn't very good. Truth is, the lakes get very little fishing pressure, and as a result the fishing is fantastic, but you have to know where to go and how to fish for what you want.

My STRONG RECOMMENDATION... Find a short easy portage and do it. I promise you'll be glad you did. It's not hard to do! Many of the portages are easy and not a tough hike (honest). The result in taking one is that you have an entirely different experience than what you can have any other way. This will take you at least one lake deeper into the BWCA wilderness and give you a real sense of adventure. It is NOT at all tough to do, and it is something you will forever bring home with you and talk about for ever. Bring a small backpack and load it with some good food and a few treats. Consider bringing some food you'll really enjoy, but remember the BWCAW motto: "Leave no trace". Treat yourselves to a nice picnic on a neighboring lake by hiking over. The scenery will amaze you. You'll be back!

The restaurant in Ely is called the "Chocolate Moose". It's great food and a wonderful ambiance. There are other terrific places to shop (make sure you take the time to walk Main Street - it's a wonderful way to ease through a beautiful summer day in Northern MN. If you have cold feet in the winter, stop and see Steiger Mukluks! My wife and I bought a pair years ago and just love them... They are unbelievable. Warm and comfortable for the coldest winter Duluth can dish out. They were designed by Will Steiger's wife to support his Dog Sled excursions and are amazing. You will not want for a nicer place to just relax and enjoy.

I hope you have a wonderful time. If you find yourself in Duluth and want some other thoughts, just drop me a message. I don't have time to get on the forum that often, but would be happy to visit with you more.

Hope you have a terrific trip!
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Old 04-14-2009, 09:57 PM   #8
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Caryl, Here is the YouTube movie we made from last year's trip in May, 2008. We had real cold conditions. Unusually cold. Ice had just gone out a few days ahead of our trip and the fishing was not as robust as usual, but as you can see, it was still more than what most guys would ever hope for out of a four day trip... Hope you enjoy the video...

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Old 04-15-2009, 06:08 AM   #9
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Hello! A wonderful trip awaits you! We were in the BW area last year for the first time, it is beautiful and remote. We hired a terrific guide and went fishing on Rainy Lake, caught lots of fish which he cleaned and fileted for us. A little pricey, but for 7-8 hours on the water, all the equipment, etc., worth it for the adventure. Chris Granrud was our guy,, 218-290-6102. Very nice, very knowledgeable young man.

The drive down the North Shore of Lake Superior is beautiful, lots of pretty towns and some great antiquing & shopping if you are interested. Grand Marais is a favorite of the regulars, but the whole area is spectacular. We stayed at Golden Eagle Lodge campground, right on a lake, where we saw loons for the first time. It is small, and busy, everything is up there in season, so make reservations. Have a great trip!
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Old 04-15-2009, 07:53 AM   #10
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Climate change has had some unforseen effects on the mosquito population .....

Enjoy your trip.

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Old 04-15-2009, 08:03 AM   #11
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In Ely, Wolf exhibit at the East end and the Bear exhibit at the West end are worth seeing.
In Duluth, the ore boat tour and the Glensheen mansion tour are great. By Two Harbors, Gooseberry falls and Split Rock lighthouse. If you are into water falls there are several state parks along the North shore. Some are close to the highway, Devils Kettle falls has a lot of stairs to climb.
Grand Marais has a city run campground on the lake.
At Grand Portage there is the old trading post. A campground is close to it.
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Old 04-15-2009, 09:17 AM   #12
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That sounds great. And CanoeStream was MOST helpful with our preparation. If you have a cup of coffee and/or beer ready, here's our story:


Sometimes I wish I were living in the stone age. Then I would know I'm the smartest person in the world.
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Old 04-15-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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You guys are great. This thread has been so helpful. Thanks for the video, pictures and description of your experiences. I will certainly report back on the trip. I thought Fall Lake campground had a dump station, but I see no reference to it. Anyone know?

I am armed with a bug shirt, jungle juice, citronella, bug hat and a screen house. But if you hear a cry for help, you know the skeeters have carried me off.

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Old 04-15-2009, 06:00 PM   #14
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DougandMaggie, Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail was our first destination in the BW's area, and like you, we fell in love with the place and its hosts during our week's stay, over 25 years ago! Since then, we've explored all over the surrounding lands and waters, including an excursion on Saganaga to the cabin of friends on the Canadian shore. Our long time "home" on the North Shore became the municipal campground on the harbor in Grand Marais where we've stayed in everything from a worn out Sears canvas tent to a pop up to a hybrid trailer to finally...and best...our Airstream. When we miss a summer or fall's trip to the NorthShore, Grand Marais or Golden Eagle Lodge, we feel our year has a hole in it! Thanks for awakening loved memories ~G

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