Fall Lake Campground and Boundary Waters Canoe Area

July 15-20, 2018

Fall Lake

Ely, Minnesota (Gateway to the Boundary Waters) was the lengthiest stay in one area for the whole summer trip. While browsing for things to do on the way to Voyageurs National Park, we came across a summer camp opportunity at the International Wolf Center (see separate post). What kid wouldn’t want to spend a week with wolves? Chloe certainly did so we signed her up and scheduled the rest of the trip around those dates. That meant we needed somewhere to camp nearby for that week.

Room to stretch out

We booked a spot at Fall Lake Campground (NFS) outside of Ely for six nights. It was only 15 minutes from the International Wolf Center and sits right on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We had a beautiful wooded site with electric. They had nice shower houses, spigots around the campground and a dedicated water fill station at the office. The closest dump station was 20 minutes away in Ely so we were in water conservation mode (more so than usual). We dumped on the way in, watched our water usage, used the campground showers and managed it so we didn’t have to dump again until we were on our way out. And Chloe swam in the clear lake – that counts as a shower so no water used there.

Boat launch

Who wants a canoe?

Fall Lake Campground has a boat ramp that is one of the launch sites into the Wilderness Area. They have canoes that campers can rent for $20.00 for 24 hours. We took advantage of that and went for a paddle. John tried convincing me we didn’t have time but I just couldn’t be that close to the Boundary Waters and NOT go in. We decided to go around the little island just off shore. Since we were only going out for a short paddle (and being frugal) we opted to not purchase their map… bad move. We later discovered that the little island is called “One Mile” island… as in one mile long. We paddled around it and pulled in to explore one of the backcountry sites that was empty, then paddled some more. Every time we rounded what we thought was the end of the island, another section stretched out before us. We saw eagles and loons and herons and campers and kayakers and canoeists and motor boat people. We did not like the motor boat people. Fall Lake allows motors but there is a “line” on the map where they have to reduce speed. Some of the outfitters transporting people out to camp or fish were definitely ignoring that line. On the upside, Chloe learned to turn the canoe into the boat’s wake and hold on while we were tossed around.

We paddled and paddled (and sang) and paddled and FINALLY made it around the (much bigger than we thought) island. When I refer to this paddling, the “we” is actually John and Holly. Chloe was in the middle and it’s difficult to do much in that position, especially for someone with little canoe experience. We decided lessons were in order. We beached the canoe at the Fall Lake Campground swim beach and did a quick discussion of paddling strokes before sending John and Chloe out to maneuver. I (Holly) had qualms about this as I have the canoe experience, John is the power paddler and Chloe was the initiate. The plan was for them to go a short way out and, paddling together, practice forward, back and turns. I called out directions from shore and they practiced for a few minutes… then they rolled out. Chloe figured she had it figured out so off they paddled to explore the blooming lily pads and look for turtles on logs. They were in a protected bay area so I figured even John couldn’t get too lost and settled onto a bench until they returned.

Fall Lake is a beautiful, quiet campground with lots to do and places and to go for those that want to.


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