North Country Canoe Outfitters, Ely, Minnesota

The NCCO Advantage in a Nutshell

  • Location: Our outfitting base is located on a strategic lake with direct access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area versus in town on Ely's main street.
  • Custom Trip Planning: Prior to deter-mining an Entry Point for your canoe trip, we offer an in-depth reservation request form, which, when completed, outlines your ability levels, travel expectations, goals of your canoe trip, and fishing preferences, so as to better plan your canoe trip.
  • Lakeside Accommodations: We offer private dorm style and motel style rooms for handy lakeside accommodations.
  • Lightweight Canoe and Camping Equipment:  We offer ONLY Ultra-Lightweight Outfitting equipment through our Silver and Gold packages.
  • Best Food:  We offer two top quality menus featuring both freeze-dried and fresh foods, including Certified Angus Beef® steaks as a regular menu item.
  • Discount Youth Trips: We offer significantly discounted package rates to non-profit youth groups, while using the same high quality canoe and camping equipment as for our private parties.
  • Fly-in Trips: We offer Fly-in Canoe Trips on a flat rate cost per person basis
  • Entry Transportation Included:  We offer both land transportation and towboat service from our base to all of the Ely area BWCA entry points (included with our Gold and Silver Packages), PLUS towboat service from Moose Lake to the Quetico Ranger Station at Prairie Portage.
  • NO HIDDEN FEES: Our brochure booklet lists all pricing information. Options which may result in an extra charge are all up front and transparent. No surprises later.

Why Outfit with North Country?


Naturally, we at North Country Canoe Outfitters want you to take your BWCA canoe trip with us. We also fully realize that no one individual canoe outfitter can be all things to all people. For that reason, we have outlined a few areas you might want to consider when selecting the Ely, MN outfitter that's right for you.

For every person that dips a paddle into one of our sparkling lakes, there is a particular set of reasons for taking a canoe trip. Quite often members of the same party want different things from their wilderness experience. And that is how it should be. The outfitter you choose should be in a position to take all of those reasons into account, and be able to discuss them as he plans your trip with you. There are thousands of lakes in the north country; each one is unique. Some are good on one occasion, others may be better for another trip.

When you initially talked to a canoe outfitter (whether at a sport show or on the telephone) did he actually ask what you were looking for? Did he start talking about beginning a canoe trip from a particular lake, or into a specific area, without really knowing your unique circumstances? How close is he going to be when it comes time to design your canoe trip route around your expectations and ability level?

We hope you will take the time to check out some of the things that we think make outfitting with North Country the best decision you can make. Based near Ely, MN, we are one of the finest canoe outfitters in North America, with thousands of satisfied customers. Many return year after year.

No, we are not the cheapest. If you are looking for a rate that is at the bottom end of the scale, we simply cannot help you at this time. If, however, you are looking for a BWCA canoe trip worth paying a little extra for ... one that will live in your memory for years to come ... an outfitter that you can recommend to your best friends .. come see us. We can give you just that kind of experience!

Read our article "How to Find the Best Canoe Outfitter"

Ely Minnesota location

Outfitting canoe trips into the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park since 1984 ... now Ely's premier standard of outfitting excellence

Our canoe outfitting base is located on the Minnesota/Ontario border, six miles from the little town of Ely, Minnesota, on White Iron Lake (the majority of which is uninhabited). Being one of only a very few BWCA outfitters in our immediate area, our parties may begin their wilderness experience without the heavy canoe congestion found on a few of the entry lakes. The smaller, narrow lakes leading away from our dock insure safe, easy paddling, even on windy days. Short, direct canoe access to three BWCA entry points, lead to some of the more remote lakes in the area. However, should you want to go into Canada, or begin your travel through the north country from one of the other U.S.-side entry points, we will be happy to transport you and all of your equipment ... whether that be by van and trailer ... tow boat ... or float plane.

Fly-in canoe outfitting

North Country Canoe Outfitters Lakeside Base and Services

Although the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Park are "friendly" wilderness areas, they sometimes pose insurmountable obstacles to the uninformed and novice visitor. We are here to serve you with the highest degree of professionalism, and good old fashion honesty and integrity. We will provide invaluable assistance in securing the required governmental permits (US or Canadian), transportation to & from outlying landings, route suggestions, and general background information on the area which you intend to travel (no one is more familiar with the canoe country than we are -- we live here and have traveled the many lakes and streams).

Light canoes, the right gear expressly designed for BWCA canoeing

Complete, Professional Outfitting

We offer complete, professional canoe outfitting and can provide everything that is necessary for you to enjoy a wilderness canoe trip. As Ely, Minnesota outfitters, we are uniquely equipped to supply canoes and equipment designed expressly for this area. Much of today's "high tech" backpacking equipment is not suited to canoe country travel. Conversely, canoe camping equipment tends to be single purpose gear: ideal for canoeing, but not well suited for other types of camping.We also do partial outfitting for those having some of their own equipment. Our food packing and outfitting complies with all federal regulations as they apply to both Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Canada's Quetico Park.

Quetico approved outfitter

Industry Leader with Unique Outfitting Privileges

We were one of the first, and remain one of a few select outfitters in the Superior National Forest to be granted full outfitting operations under federal permit by the US Forest Service. We are also one of only two Minnesota outfitters who have been granted a provincial outfitting permit in Canada. These permits assure you of quality outfitting and full insurance coverage. NCCO is the industry leader, dealing with the newest equipment (including our "Expedition Grade" gear).

The Best Food

Certified Angus Beef brand steak

Menus should be viewed under the same bright lights as equipment lists. "A fresh steak" for the first night on the trail may not be the same size or cut as "An 8oz USDA Certified Angus Beef Steak." Increased quality and variety goes hand-in-glove with trip costs.

Read each menu item as if it stands alone

It will at mealtime out in the woods. Is one brand of food used exclusively? If so, this could imply cost cutting through quantity discounts from the manufacturer. There is nothing wrong with cost control. It may, however, indicate leaning away from variety with the best-tasting individual items and towards a higher profit margin.

Certified Angus Beef Brand Steak

Check to see if items are repeated on the menu in order to make the menu appear longer.

One listing of peanut butter and jelly and a second for jelly and peanut butter are NOT two different selections. How many ways are you expected to fix macaroni and cheese? Hot dogs are fine for a picnic lunch ... but they may be lacking in the nourishment department when served as a main course after a long day on the canoe trails.

North Country uses only the highest quality foods, a variety of brand names, and a combination of freeze-dried and fresh foods. We know you will see, feel -- and taste -- the difference a top quality menu can make in your trip.