Imagine these wonderful Boundary Waters truths: waking up to the call of a loon; sitting by a lake of glass while you eat blueberry pancakes; paddling next to shore wondering what is around the next bend; portaging all your gear while seeing the footprints of a wolf; fishing for the biggest one you've ever caught; watching the sun sink into the forest over a lake; sitting around the campfire telling stories of the day and planning for tomorrow; laying your tired yet refreshed body down in your tent as a million stars are above. These are the images of the BWCA and we would love to share our passion and knowledge of the best canoe country in the world.
We offer discounted rates to large groups of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Church Groups, School Groups, Non-profit groups and other canoe campers. Please call us today at 800-223-6565 so that we can customize a trip and go over routes with you. We'll meet your canoe trip outfitting needs and lend our expertise in planning your wilderness adventure.
Full or Partial Outfitting Needs
Let us handle all or as much of the canoes, gear or food that you need. You can enjoy the best gear out there with our Full Outfitting package or rent only the items you need with Partial Outfitting. We are happy to take care of you in any way necessary.
We can help you with lodging at a few of the places we work with on our end of town. Let us know early - space is limited.
There are also a number of Superior National Forest Campgrounds where you can make reservations. Check out www.recreation.gov for more info.
- Fall Lake
- South Kawishiwi River
- Birch Lake
- Fenske Lake
Another option is Bear Head State Park.
You can always take care of your motel rooms in Ely as well.
Getting to Ely, Minnesota
You can find directions to Ely by using our handy map at the bottom of just about every page.
For groups that are flying up here: The main airports that are used for getting to Ely are Duluth and Minneapolis. From either of these, you can rent vehicles or we can supply shuttle service to and from these airports.
Things to do around Ely
If you have the time before or after your canoe adventure, there are some great things to see and do around Ely.
- International Wolf Center
- North American Bear Center
- Dorothy Molter Museum
- Shopping in Ely
- Swimming at Semer's Park
- Great hiking at a few of the trails around Ely
- Stop by Sustainable Ely and learn about important issues concerning the BWCA
Large Groups - Forest Service Tips
If you are planning a trip for a non-profit organization, there is a limit of no more than 3 permits in a season to be reserved using the nonprofit organization name as the group leader. Please contact any Superior National Forest office for more information, or visit www.recreation.gov under general rules for the BWCAW.
Keep these tips in mind when planning for large groups to reduce environmental and social impacts:
- If your group is more than nine people, no matter what the age, you may not enter the BWCAW. You should consider other options, such as camping at a primitive or developed campground and boating on lakes outside the designated wilderness area.
- If your group of more than the maximum size wishes to break into smaller groups to enter the BWCAW, each smaller group must have its own permit.
- Each group should have an adult who will be responsible for the leadership and safety of the group.
- Each group must travel and camp separately. This means each should have its own food, first aid kit, and essential gear. To make it easier for the groups to travel separately, consider reserving different entry points or planning separate routes.
- And if you do know other visitors in the area, don’t purposely congregate in a group larger than 9 while traveling, visiting a destination area, or camping.
- Portages and waterways can become very congested. Wait for another group to cross the portage before you begin, portage your gear efficiently, and find another place for your break. Keep your distance from other groups on the waterways.
- Begin looking for campsites early in the day, since many wilderness sites only have one or two good tent pads.
- Encourage your group members to use campsite areas that have already been hardened rather than trampling vegetation and causing erosion.
Being considerate of other wilderness visitors is one of the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. A courteous group can do wonders to minimize the impact of noise. Sound carries a long distance over water, mostly in the evening when people are listening more than moving. Try to avoid banging pots and pans, dragging canoes over rocks, shooting guns, singing loudly, and screaming, especially in the morning and evening. If your group is rambunctious, consider staying in a more isolated area such as a lake with only one campsite. When you keep noise down, your group and others will have a better chance of experiencing wildlife and a sense of solitude.
What some of our scout groups have to say about us:
"Our trip to the Boundary Waters was the highlight of the year for many of our scouts and we are already discussing a return trip. This was my fifth trip to Ely and the fifth time using Piragis Northwoods. This is not a coincidence, but a tribute to you and your staff for the excellent service and gear you provide time and time again. It is with much gratitude that I tip my hat to everyone at Piragis." - Dave Herbster, Sabetha, KS
"I can't tell you how much we enjoyed our High Adventure in the Boundary Waters, and how smooth and easy you guys made it for us. We appreciate all of your work on our trip, too. The packs, canoes, paddles and vests were all top-notch and the price was right on. Your facility if great, especially the showers! Rest assured I will ABSOLUTELY recommend you in the future and when (not if) we return to the BWCA you will be our first and, most likely, only call." - Tony Anaya, Cincinnati, OH
"Drew, I cannot tell you how much our scout troop loved the trip. As we watched all the other troops from other outfitters come through the Quetico portage, our boys turned to me many times and said, Thank you, Dr. Jones, for picking Piragis." - David Jones, Atlanta, GA
Always a Scout
I often get asked what got me interested in the outdoors. I always answer: My Dad and Boy Scouts. I grew up in the hills of central Massachusetts, a part of the East where progress was slow to take over the land. My dad took me trout fishing the streams in the deep woods when no trespassing signs were rarely seen. Good old Troop 18 met in the basement of the Catholic Church but the big fun was on camp outs and at summer camp on the lake. Scouting was about all the good things in the Scout Oath but the fun was out in nature. Hikes, campouts and paddling around Sandy Lake or up on the wild part of the Connecticut River.
Scouts in the 1960’s didn’t have the best of equipment. In fact it was really pretty primitive; canvas tents, no sleeping pads, heavy aluminum canoes and splintered wooden paddles. I’m still amazed that any of us made it to middle age without major back issues and crooked spines. The Scouts of today have all the gear available to make even better memories. They should be safer in their outdoor adventures and a whole lot more comfortable. We forgot long ago the misery of sleeping on cold ground and the weight of the portage packs but there is no need to make any trek or paddling trip a endurance test for young bodies.
I’m proud today to be able to outfit the Scout groups that come through Piragis Northwoods Company for their Boundary Waters/Quetico canoe trips with the lightest gear and canoes available. Boy and Girl Scouts of the 21st Century of course don’t know how really good they have it but we can smile and know they will grow up to know and love the outdoors perhaps even more than we did.
Eagle Scout: Steve Piragis