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In addition to various lodging options, Portage Trail Outfitters offers full service outfitting and guide services for your wilderness trip. Do you have the majority of your own gear, but forgot something? No problem, you can rent equipment à la cart.

At Portage Trail Outfitters, keep your eyes open for rare moose sighting, ears open for the soothing evening song of the Minnesota loon, and your heart open for one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Enjoy your stay!

Rare Moose Sighting at Portage Trail Outfitter

History of the BWCAW

wilderness [wil-der-nis]
noun
  1. a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland.
  2. a tract of land officially designated as such and protected by the U.S. government.
  3. any desolate tract, as of open sea.

Within it’s designated 1 million plus acres, the BWCAW contains over a thousand lakes and attracts visitors with its reputation for canoeing, canoe touring, fishing, backpacking, dog sledding, and remote wilderness character. The BWCAW has nearly 2,200 backcountry campsites and is one of Minnesota's top tourist attractions, drawing visitors from all over the United States as well as abroad.

The Boundary Waters area contains both the boreal forest (taiga) and a mixed conifer-hardwood forest known as the North Woods, which is a transition province between the northern boreal forest and deciduous forests to the south. The ranges of the plants and animals continue north into southern Canada and south into the rest of the upper Great Lakes region. Trees found within the wilderness area include Conifers such as Red Pine, Eastern White Pine, Jack Pine, Balsam Fir, White Spruce, Black Spruce, and White-Cedar, as well as Deciduous Birch, Aspen, Ash, and Maple. Blueberries are common in many parts of the BWCAW, as are Raspberries. The BWCAW is estimated to contain some 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of old growth forest, woods which may have burned but which have never been logged. Forest fires were a natural part of the Boundary Waters ecosystem before fire suppression efforts during the 20th century, with recurrence intervals of 30 – 300 years in most areas.

On July 4, 1999, a powerful wind storm, or Derecho, swept across Minnesota and southern Canada, knocking down millions of trees and affecting about 370,000 acres (1,500 km2) within the BWCAW. This event became known officially as the Boundary Waters-Canadian Derecho, commonly referred to as "the Boundary Waters blowdown". Although campsites and portages were quickly cleared after the storm, an increased risk of wildfire continues to remain a concern due to the large number of downed trees. The U.S. Forest Service has undertaken a schedule of prescribed burns to reduce the forest fuel load in the event of a wildfire.

Area Attractions

Located 8 miles northeast of Ely, MN there are a variety of activities only a short drive away.

International Wolf Center

Did you know that Red Wolves are larger than Coyotes and smaller than Gray wolves or that Red Wolf packs are generally smaller than Gray wolf packs? Find out much more about these interesting and intelligent species at the International Wolf Center.

North American Bear Center

Wolve’s not your thing? Visit the North American Bear Center to find out why male bears can lose over 100lbs over the winter months, and to see bears live in captivity.

Dorothy Molter Museum

Known as the Root Beer Lady, take a guided tour of the home of the last resident of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Widerness. Find out why she was a beloved host to countless travelers prior to 1987.

BWCAW Tips

We are continually adding more tried-and-true tips to our list. If you have anything to share, please email them to info@portagetrailoutfitters.com.

  1. Boil your water! – Gary F. from Milwaukee.
  2. Bring plenty of food – Sally W. from Los Angeles.
  3. Bring a current map – Bailey C. from Flint.
  4. Camp with the people you get along with – Steph from Ontario.
  5. Bring a current map – Bailey C. from Flint.

Ely, MN Weather

Ensign Lake, Ely, MN

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