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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nina Moose Lake

We finished up the BWCA canoe trip today by paddling across a glassy Nina Moose Lake under picturesque blue skies with poofy white clouds.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lac La Croix Pictographs

One of my favorite BWCA pictograph sites is on Lac la Croix. The mystery surrounding the origin and meaning of these Indian paintings has interested me for some time. A friend who grew up in the Chippewa village on Lac la Croix once told me that the Chippewa do not know the origin or meaning of the pictographs, but consider them a spiritual place to be respected.

I have seen tobacco offerings at some of the pictograph sites, including this one, in the past. The tobacco offerings are made as a symbol of respect for the paintings.

For extensive information on BWCA pictographs, Michael Furtman has authored the book on them, titled "Magic on the Rocks."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Walleye

Bob and his son Ben spent father's day in the BWCA. I can't imagine a more fitting place to spend quality time with your son. Ben caught his dad some walleye and smallmouth bass and we celebrated with a delicious boundary waters fish fry.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Coffee and Bacon

Bacon and a cup (or 3) of Gene Hicks coffee makes the Boundary Waters an even better place.

If you want to add some Ely flavor to your BWCA mornings, then bring along Gene Hicks gourmet coffee. The Good Morning blend shown above is my favorite coffee in the world. We pack it with all of our guided BWCA canoe trips. You can buy it at an Ely grocery store, or directly from Gene on his website at http://www.genehicks.com/.

We awoke today at the sole campsite on Boulder Lake. This photo shows how we started the day in a perfect way.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Flooded Portage Near Oyster Lake

The portage trail between Hustler and Oyster Lakes in the BWCA is challenging. It is about a mile long. And it is known to be flooded for about a hundred feet at the Oyster end. Some recent rains meant a particularly deep wade for us today. We decided to put the canoes down, load them with our packs, and then wade them across the flooding. This photo shows Bob and Ben rising to the challenge and traveling the long and very wet portage.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

White-tailed Buck on the Little Indian Sioux River

I launched a six day BWCA canoe trip with father and son guests from Chicago today. Bob snapped this photo of a white-tailed buck grazing near our entry point on the Little Indian Sioux River. This young buck has velvet on his antlers, and hardly seemed to mind us paddling past him. The buck appears to be malnourished with obvious rib lines after the long, cold winter.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Smallmouth Bass Spawning Bed

The smallmouth bass are on their beds now. The male smallmouth bass have recently created visible beds in shallow waters along the shores of BWCA lakes and rivers. The male bass makes the bed by fanning the sand and gravel away from an area near a rocky shoreline. If a female bass is impressed, then she will lay her eggs in the bed. Then, the male swims guard over the eggs.

Both the female and male smallmouth bass will aggressively defend the nest.

I took both of these photos of the same smallmouth bass bed today on Crooked Lake. The above photo shows the bright ring made when the male brushes away the sand and gravel. The below photo shows a bass in the same bed, just closer up.

Casting topwater lures such as a Heddon Torpedo near these beds results in a fierce strike for the bass now. This action won't last long, so grab a pole and practice catch and release. You will want to do like we did and release any female bass that have eggs. It is an important conservation practice to allow these fish to reproduce for healthy populations.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Beatty Rail Portage

An option for people who want to enter the BWCA or Quetico from the west end is to take a motorboat tow to Lac La Croix. The motor tow is an adventure in itself. During the trip to La Croix from Crane Lake, the motorboat is twice loaded onto a cart and pulled across portages on railroad tracks.
Zup's Resort gave us a motor tow today, as we started a seven day canoe adventure. This photo shows Zup's boat on the cart at Beatty Portage between Loon Lake and Lac La Croix. The motor tow shaves a day or two of paddling if you are accessing Crooked Lake or the Quetico Park lakes in that vicinity.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dragonfly Nymph

I turned over some submerged stones in a BWCA lake this week looking for crayfish. Instead of crayfish, I spotted this dragonfly nymph.

Dragonflies spend most of their lives under water in a nymph stage. As nymphs, they are aggressive predators. They are carnivorous and primarily eat insects, but are known to eat vertebrates such as small fish and tadpoles.

An interesting fact about dragonfly nymphs is that they breath by sucking water into their abdomen and moving it over internal gills. The water can then be expelled under pressure to propel the creatures forward.

This find reminded me of a trout caught several winters back. After filleting it, I discovered two dragonfly nymphs that looked just like this one in its belly.

BWCA Tombstone of Ella Hall

I know of one tombstone in the BWCA. It identifies the grave of Ella Hall. Over a century ago, the teenage Ella died on the lake that bears her name. I took this photo recently at the grave site.

In the million-acre-plus BWCA it seems there should be more marked grave sites. I would enjoy hearing from anyone with information on other BWCA grave sites and historical info.