Welcome to the BWCAW blog of Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service!

See our websites at ElyOutfittingCompany.com and BoundaryWatersGuideService.com.

We are a Boundary Waters canoe trip outfitter, Quetico outfitter, and guide service in Ely, Minnesota. This Boundary Waters blog shares photos, stories, humor, skills, and naturalist insights from guiding in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Most entries are from our founder and head guide, Jason Zabokrtsky. He is the Boundary Waters Blogger.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Special BWCAW Bear Alert - Pipestone Bay near Back Bay Portage

Two bears (a sow and her yearling) are habitually seeking food from campsites and portages in Pipestone Bay of Basswood Lake on the east side, near the Back Bay Portage.  Safeguard your gear and food from bears.  If a bear is persistent about coming to your campsite, you may want to move to another campsite.  Remember bears are good swimmers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Paddle North: Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico Wilderness" Wins Top Honors

Congratulations to photographer Layne Kennedy and author Greg Breining.  Their new book on our beautiful region received top honors in the General Nonfiction category at the NE Minnesota Book Awards last night.

We are exceptionally pleased to sponsor a Boundary Waters Photo Workshop with photographer Layne Kennedy on August 16-21, 2011.  Space is still available.  Click here for more information. 

In addition to his award-winning photography skills, Layne is a gifted teacher, kind person, and fun companion on trail.   Point and shoot newbies to professionals learn to take better photos while immersed in our special wilderness on the Photo Workshop. 

We have copies of "Paddle North" at Ely Outfitting Company in Ely, MN.  Feel free to stop in and browse through or buy a copy.  They make great gifts for people who love the Boundary Waters.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What lure caught lake trout in the Boundary Waters this week?

We sell only guide-recommended fishing tackle, such as this Dardevle Five of Diamonds shown above, at Ely Outfitting Company in Ely, MN.  The lakers were hanging out in the transition from deeper water to about 17 feet deep.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Early Season Solo Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

I enjoyed a five-day early May solo canoe trip this past week. The temperatures stayed pleasantly warm, even hot during the middle of the days (especially with my wool pants!). The Little Indian Sioux River flowed calmly north. After a few portages through Pawness Lakes, Shell and Little Shell, I enjoyed dinner on Lynx Lake, and portaged on over to Ruby to stay the night, arriving right at sundown.

Having seen a forecast of rain, I was pleased to find Day Two dawn sunny. On the mile-long portage from Hustler to Oyster, I spied lots of wolf traces, mostly scat. Clearly the wolves have been active up and down this trail all winter. Some people are surprised to realize that many wild animals use human trails. In fact, it's often the other way around for many paths. Animals are in the woods full-time and naturally pad around on easier paths, and so the humans traveling an area will often unknowingly track the same path kept open by deers, wolves, and moose.

I traveled past the newly-green grass along the Oyster River, and over to Agnes Lake, seeing lots of moose scat and tracks on the portage. Then it was up to Lac La Croix, where I camped across from Warrior Hill, a historical location where young native men ran to the top as a rite of passage. Clouds were moving in from the west as I went to bed.

Day Three dawned sunny again, despite the previous night's clouds and more rainy forecasts. My route took me across Iron Lake and past Curtain Falls onto Crooked Lake. The waterfall here is one of the most picturesque in the Boundary Waters, and it was brimming this spring.

The winds stayed unusually calm while I paddled along the largest part of the lake, past Sunday Bay and Saturday Bay. With the long vistas of this sizable lake, it is unusual not to see another canoe. Yet no one else was around --- I had the lake all to myself. I paddled into a head wind on Friday Bay and camped on a nice site on small Chippewa Lake.

Day Four I woke to raindrops on the tent, but fortunately the rain held off actually falling until the afternoon. On Niki Lake, before the first portage of the morning, I saw a large north-facing wall of white, which looked like a small greenhouse set up in the middle of the wilderness. It was so large, I couldn't believe it was actually icy snow. But indeed, as I got closer, I saw water running next to it, and saw it dripping as it slowly melted. I found it amazing that such a large bit of ice lasts well into the spring.

By mid-afternoon and a long portage, a fairly strong head wind had picked up, along with some precipitation. After skirting the shores, I decided not to fight it and instead waited it out at a protected spot on a campsite where I could keep an eye on the wind. I relaxed the whole evening there, and enjoyed some fresh-popped popcorn (a welcome, warm diversion on a rainy day!).

My last day, I headed out early in anticipation of wind. Several hours, and a few lakes and (challenging!) portages later, I landed on Mudro Lake and was back to my parked car before I knew it.

One of the most interesting aspects of this trip was using a SPOT (Satellite Personal Tracker). This easy little device allowed me to send an "OK" message to friends and family. It is a device without a screen and just four buttons. I simply turned it on and pressed the "OK" button, which then beamed a message with my latitude and longitude coordinates as well as my pre-recorded message to those on my contact list (and our Ely Outfitting Company Facebook page). This way, anyone could follow where I was located, and see what route I had been on so far. The SPOT offers two other two buttons for emergencies of different levels. The beauty of the SPOT is for the person in the woods, since the device is a fairly unobtrusive way to let folks know that you're ok and see where you are.

During those five days, I saw many loons, spooked many ducks and mergansers, and had a number of bald eagles watching over me. I saw a total of six other people over my five days, and according to Google earth, where my brother tracked my SPOT points, I traveled approximately 50 miles. I saw grass becoming greener and leaves as they started to bud out. For a solo trip in May, it proved to be ideal conditions in the woods.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Newton Portage Wildfire Update - No Visible Flames and No Smoke

Newton Portage Wildfire Update from USFS

UPDATE: May 13, 2011
FIRE NAME: Newton Portage
CAUSE: Lightning start discovered May 11, 2011
CURRENT SIZE: 2 cedar trees and some low flames on the surrounding ground
LOCATION: 100 yards east of the Fall Lake to Newton Lake portage at the most northern end Township: 63 Range: 11 Section: 34
AGENCY: Superior National Forest, Kawishiwi Ranger District
STATUS: There are no visible flames and there is no more smoke on this fire. The fire did not carry far. It will be monitored until it is declared out. This will be the last update on this fire unless there is a significant change.
SMOKE CONDITIONS: There is no smoke visible today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Small Wildfire Near Newton Portage in the BWCAW Near Ely, MN

USFS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       
UPDATE:  May 11, 2011 
FIRE NAME:  Newton Portage
DATE OF DETECTION:  May 11, 2011  
CAUSE:  Lightning start discovered May 11, 2011
CURRENT SIZE:  2 cedar trees and some low flames on the surrounding ground
LOCATION:   100 yards east of the Fall Lake to Newton Lake portage at the most northern end Township:  63 Range: 11 Section: 34  
AGENCY:  Superior National Forest, Kawishiwi Ranger District
STATUS:  We will be closely monitoring this fire
SMOKE CONDITIONS:  Smoke is visible on Fall and Newton Lakes

Monday, May 9, 2011

BWCAW Ice Conditions - Ice is Out on Ely Area Lakes

As of May 8, 2011, the Forest Service reports that most all lakes in the Ely area are open.  The full Forest Service report follows:

Overview: With few exceptions, roughly any lake that is of any size east of a line running south of Big
Saganaga Lake still has quite a lot of ice.

Lakes in LaCroix and Kawishiwi Districts: Most lakes are open including Basswood and Knife Lakes.

Lakes in Tofte and Gunflint Districts:

Open: Ogishkemuncie, Sea Gull, Little Saganaga, and the western half of Gunflint, Little Cascade; Sawbill; Perent, Isabella.

Some Ice: Tuscarora (floating scraps), Loon (south of Gunflint Lake) is mostly ice, Homer has scraps of ice.

All Ice: Cherokee, Frost, and Brule still have ice tight to the shore—and mostly any lake of any size east of these lakes ; Gabimichigami, Gillis, Cherokee, Winchell, Brule, Loon and Davis; Cascade, Tait, and Clara; South Temperance; Alton, Beth; Devil’s Track.

Couldn’t see: Dumbell and Silver Island Lakes.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Latest Report on BWCAW Ice Conditions

Kawishiwi Area Ice Report as of 5/4/11 at 10:00 from USFS:
Main lakes with 50% ice: 
Knife, Kekekabic, Ima, Thomas, Frazier, Alice, US Point area, Trout, Snowbank.
Main lakes that are open: 
Moose chain, Birch, Carp, Ensign, Vera, Lake 1-4, Hudson, Insula, Most of Basswood/Bailey Bay/Jackfish/Pipestone, Vermilion, Burntside, Gabbro, Bald Eagle, S. Kawishiwi River.  

No info on Lac La Croix

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BWCAW Ice Conditions as of 3PM on May 2, 2011

Boundary Waters ice conditions report from USFS pilots:

Open:  Crooked, Horse, Fourtown, Basswood/Pipestone, Moose, Ensign, Lakes 1-4, Bald Eagle, Gabbro, So. Kawishiwi River.

Some Ice Still:  Bailey Bay area of Basswood,  Prairie Portage area of Basswood, Snowbank, Ima, Frasier, Thomas, Alice

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pussy Willows Welcome Spring Near Ely, MN

Before the snow has fully dissipated in the wetlands, a furry white harbinger of spring appears on the willow trees.  The snow-white and silver-gray pussy willows have emerged around Ely. The flowering catkins are said to have received their name from their resemblance to tiny furry pussy-cats.
I photographed these pussy willows near Ely this week.  They were later weighted down by several inches of wet heavy snow that has since dissipated.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Summer Hours at the USFS Kawishiwi Ranger District Office in Ely, MN

The Kawishiwi Ranger Station on the edge of Ely has new hours for summer 2011.  Beginning May 1, they are open for BWCAW permit issuing from 7AM - 4:30PM seven days per week.  Last year they stayed open until 5PM, so be aware of that change if you have the old hours stuck in your head or smart phone.

Boundary Waters Guide Service is a Cooperator with the Kawishiwi Ranger District and can help you reserve your required BWCAW entry permit, and conveniently issue your permit at our building in Ely. 

The new Kawishiwi Ranger District building has attractive displays with local and naturalist information and is worth a visit whether your permit is issued there or elsewhere.