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Ely, Minnesota, is a small town located in northeastern Minnesota. The town is known for its beautiful lakes, fishing opportunities, and museums. The town is a popular tourist destination for those exploring the outdoors and learning about the area’s history. Certainly, you will find the area’s activities and attractions well worth the visit. Want to go back to the overview Northern MN post? (“Where the Mississippi River Begins,” take the link.) Or you can jump ahead to the Table of Contents. Overall, the most popular attraction is the International Wolf Center Ely.
Read more about lakes later in the post, another big attraction in the area.
In addition to the lakes, several museums showcase the history and culture of the area. But the International Wolf Center, North American Bear Center, and Dorothy Molter Museum are just a few of them. Generally, Ely offers many activities to share with family.
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Ely Table of Contents
- International Wolf Center Ely
- North American Bear Center
- Ely MN Attractions
- Area Lakes
- Ely Winter Festival
- Downtown near the International Wolf Center Ely
- Museums near the International Wolf Center Ely
- Fishing and other places near International Wolf Center Ely
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (And take a hike!)
- Summary of the area, especially the International Wolf Center Ely
International Wolf Center Ely
The International Wolf Center, located in Ely, Minnesota, remains a popular attraction for visitors interested in learning about wolves and their habitats. The center owes it’s existence to preserving wolf populations and habitats and aims to educate the public about these magnificent animals that may well be the most misunderstood predator in North America.
Five live wolves highlight the center. They make up the Exhibit Pack. Visitors can observe these wolves in a beautiful north woods habitat and learn about their behavior, social structure, and ecology. The Exhibit Pack varies as wolves age and new wolf pups are socialized, providing visitors with a unique and ever-changing experience.
In addition to observing the wolves, the center offers interactive exhibits and live programs in the auditorium. Several times daily, staff naturalists introduce the pack through captivating programs for children and adults. Visitors participate in wolf howls, guided hikes, and other educational activities.
North American Bear Center
The Bear Center is a popular attraction in Ely. It is the only black bear and wildlife educational facility dedicated to replacing old myths with facts. Visitors can learn from the bears about their behavior, ecology, and relations with humans.
The center is a nonprofit museum with beautiful indoor and outdoor viewing areas for visitors to watch live black bears. The 2.5-acre enclosure is home to four resident bears – Ted, Tasha, Lucky, and Holly- always within view of the large windows and balcony.
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Visitors also participate in daily programs, including presentations by naturalists and bear experts. The center also offers educational and interpretive programs for schools, scouts, senior groups, and bus tours.
Visitors see the bears up close and learn about their behavior and habitat. It’s a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in nature and wildlife.
Ely MN Attractions
One of the most famous museums in Ely is the International Wolf Center. (See above.) Also. is the North American Bear Center. (Also more above.)
The Ely area is known for its beautiful lakes and excellent fishing opportunities. Some of the most popular lakes in the area include Lake Vermilion (link to another page,) Shagawa Lake, and Burntside Lake. These lakes offer a variety of fish species, including walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass. Visitors can rent boats and fishing equipment from local outfitters or take guided fishing tours. Watch here for popular fishing spots.
For those who prefer to explore the outdoors on foot, Ely offers several hiking trails and nature preserves. The Trezona Trail is a popular hiking trail that offers scenic views of the town and surrounding wilderness. The Soudan Underground Mine State Park is another popular destination for nature lovers. This park features guided tours of an underground mine, hiking trails, and picnic areas.
There are over 100 lakes in the area, making it the perfect place for fishing, boating, and other water activities. Visitors can rent boats or canoes and explore the lakes on their own or take a guided tour to learn more about the area. However, old-growth forests around the lakes in the area gave way to timber cutting years ago. But here’s more detail on one of the lakes.
The lake lies three miles from Ely, MN, and has mostly forest surroundings.
Like many northern lakes, it’s a great fishing and boating lake. All the bays and channels make for excellent boating adventures.
Two historic resorts call Burntside home. Burntside Lodge opened for business in 1913 with mostly hand-built log cabins. Twenty cabins on the grounds feature one- two- and three bedrooms for their guests’ pleasure. Also, the Lodge offers a highly rated restaurant with modern American cuisine with a rustic European influence. Also, all of the ingredients are locally sourced, and everything is made from scratch in the kitchen. While many guests are here for the fishing, it’s also a great place to just relax and enjoy the forest, the lake, and the peaceful surroundings.
Second, Camp Van Vac offers both log and fieldstone cabins along the lake. And this one offers 25 cabins for your stay. Camp Van Vac began welcoming guests over 100 years ago. Its cabins continue to be maintained and updated for modern conveniences.
Burntside offers access to the “next door” BWCA (above) and lies in the Superior National Forest.
Ely Winter Festival
The Ely Minnesota Winter Festival is an annual event that takes place in the city of Ely. It usually takes place in February and features a variety of winter activities and events, such as snow sculpting competitions, ice fishing contests, dog sled races, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing races, live music, food and drink vendors, and more. The festival is a celebration of winter in northern Minnesota and attracts visitors from all over the region.
Downtown near the International Wolf Center Ely
Ely’s downtown area is a charming and quaint small-town atmosphere that belies a bustling hub of activity. Visitors can stroll down Sheridan Street and explore unique shops and boutiques offering a variety of locally made crafts, clothing, and gifts.
Several available dining options “appear”, from casual cafes to upscale restaurants. One popular spot is the Chocolate Moose, which serves delicious homemade ice cream and other treats.
The Ely Arts and Heritage Center showcases the work of local artists and craftspeople’s work. It offers classes and workshops for those interested in learning more about traditional crafts and skills associated with Ely’s cultural heritage and wilderness legacy.
Ely Farmers Market
Ely features a farmers market that occurs every Tuesday from 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm at Whiteside Park. The market usually runs from June through September and features a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, homemade baked goods, jams and jellies, honey, and artisan crafts.
If you happen to be there on a Tuesday, it’s a great opportunity to support local farmers and businesses while enjoying fresh, healthy, and delicious produce.
Museums near the International Wolf Center Ely
Ely is home to several museums that offer visitors an opportunity to learn about the area’s rich history and culture. One of the most popular museums is the Dorothy Molter Museum, which celebrates the life and legacy of the “Root Beer Lady,” who lived in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness wilderness for over 50 years.
Another must-visit museum is the International Wolf Center, featured above.
For those interested in the history and culture of the local Ojibwe people, the Bois Forte Heritage Center and Cultural Museum is a must-see. The museum offers exhibits and programs about the history, life, and ways of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe.
Dorothy Molter Museum
Known as “the root beer lady.” The museum features a memorial to the last resident of the BWCA. She became known for her famous homemade root beer! Her residency in the area that became the BWCA led to her eventually receiving lifetime tenancy.
Her mother gave birth to six children. (Dorothy came along in 1907.) Her mother died when Dorothy was seven. Her father separated the children into pairs to live with family members until he could move to Cincinnati in 1919. Shortly after that move, her father remarried and moved the family to Chicago. Dorothy attended nursing school and accompanied family members to northeastern Minnesota one summer.
Dorothy fell in love with the area and moved back after graduating from nursing school during the Great Depression. She never left. She worked for the owner of the Isle of Pines Resort, eventually, she inherited the property and ran it as a resort until the BWCA came into being. When the state refused to allow her to rent cabins, she continued to serve her guests and put out “donation jars.” She continued to make a living.
Initially, the state tried to force her off the land, but her many friends petitioned the state to let her stay. Therefore, she lived in the same place until her death in 1986.
Art & Culture – Even an Art Tour
Ely Art and Culture
Ely, Minnesota, is a town rich in history and culture. Visitors can explore the town’s arts and culture offerings by visiting its museums, galleries, and theaters.
Interestingly, one of Ely’s most popular cultural attractions is the Ely Art Walk. This annual event showcases local artists’ work and allows visitors to purchase unique, handmade pieces. The art walk takes place in various locations throughout the town, including the Ely Folk School, the Ely Greenstone Public Art Park, and the Ely Arts & Heritage Center.
In addition to the art walk, visitors can also explore the town’s museums. The Ely-Winton Historical Society Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the town’s history. The museum features exhibits on the town’s mining and logging industries and displays on the area’s Native American history. Another popular museum is the North American Bear Center and Wildlife Art Museum, which features exhibits on the area’s natural history and showcases the work of local wildlife artists.
Folk art and Sacred Music
For those interested in performing arts, the Ely Folk School offers a variety of classes and workshops on traditional arts and crafts. However, you won’t see much fine art in the area. Visitors learn everything from woodworking and blacksmithing to knitting and basket weaving. The Sacred Heart Music Center is another popular venue for performing arts in Ely. The center hosts annual concerts and events featuring local and national performers.
Overall, Ely offers a rich cultural experience for visitors. Whether you’re interested in the visual arts, performing arts, or local history, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this charming town. The area is filled with arts and crafts. These place feature local and regional artists.
Visitors can also check out the Ely Arts and Heritage Center, which annually hosts various events and shows. Also nearby is the Halfway Ranger Station Historic District. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fishing and other places near International Wolf Center Ely
Ely is known for its excellent fishing opportunities. With many lakes in the surrounding area, there is no shortage of places to cast a line. The most popular fish in Ely are walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass.
Little Long Lake is an excellent spot for those looking to catch walleye. The lake is thick with them, and they’re big, averaging over 19 inches. Little Long Lake also has smelt that feeds those walleye well; veteran anglers consider that and use lures that imitate the forage to hook a lunker.
Overall, if the northern pike is what you’re after, Burntside Lake is a great option. This lake is known for producing trophy-sized pike. In fact, the Minnesota state record for northern pike was caught in Burntside Lake in 1929, weighing in at 45 pounds.
Although Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass can be found in many of the area’s lakes, but Shagawa Lake is a particularly good spot. Additionally, this lake’s healthy population of smallmouth bass provides great fishing, and they bite throughout the summer months.
Moose Track Adventures, a popular outfitter, offers guided fishing trips for walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass. Of course, checking with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the most up-to-date regulations and guidelines is always good.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (And take a hike!)
But, of course, another post explains all about the BWCA. Here’s the link to that one. Again for those who love the wilderness and going off the grid for a few days, a week, or even more, here’s the place to go!
Summary of the area, especially the International Wolf Center Ely
Although the Wolf Center and Bear Center become the focus of your visit, most likely, remember there is more here! Ok, remember the lakes, hiking, and boating. And winter activities as well.
Therefore, if you are here to begin or follow up on your BWCA visit, I’m sure you’ll love it!
Indeed, off we go!
Classic Rock Recollection
“Wolf Moon” by Neil Young
Wolf moon thank you for rising
Big sky I’m grateful for your parting clouds
I know some hearts were broken
Big crows still flying in your sky
Written by Neil Young
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