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North Country Canoe Outfitters

Guide or Outfitter
The splendor of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – John Schiefelbein

For over 30 years North Country Canoe Outfitters, Ely, Minnesota, has been one of the leading Boundary Waters canoe outfitters for high adventure wilderness experiences into the BWCA in Minnesota and Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.

Types of Experiences and Trips Provided

Northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters is truly canoe country! If you enjoy a little physical exertion and the unique feeling of dipping your paddle into the water to propel your canoe, then Minnesota canoeing just might be for you.

The combination of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Ontario, Canada's Quetico Park forms one of the world's great wilderness areas: the largest international area set aside for wilderness recreational purposes in the world. For thousands of years, the area has served as a travel corridor for native peoples and, more recently, as one of the main routes to the west for European explorers and fur traders. The so-called Voyageurs' Highway ran through what is now the BWCA and Quetico Park. Today its quiet waters and non-mechanized mode of travel serve as a haven from the pressures of modern-day living

Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA)

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - BWCA, protected as a true American wilderness, has changed little since the glaciers melted. Canoeing, and fishing opportunities are nearly endless on the more than 2,000 lakes and streams found within the forest. With 1,500 miles of canoe routes, nearly 2,200 designated campsites, and more than 1,000 lakes and streams waiting, the BWCA boast some of the country's finest fishing for walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass.

Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario makes up the northern half of this international canoe country. At 1.2 million acres, Quetico Park is also Ontario's second largest wilderness park. Routes here differ slightly from the U.S. side (not better and not worse). Portages and campsites are a little more rugged because the park does not have portage crews managing the area as is done in the BWCA. With few exceptions, whatever can be found on one side of the border, can usually be found on the other: wildlife, fishing, and both isolated solitude as well as busy areas. The biggest difference is the nightly, per person, camping fee charges to visitors of Quetico Park. North Country is one of only two Ely Minnesota outfitters to have been granted the ridged Outfitter / Guiding License by Manitoba.

Areas of Service and Expertise

Our BWCA canoe trips feature fishing, camping, and fly-in adventures from Ely Minnesota. Our BWCA canoe trips are designed for groups of friends, business partners or clients, honeymooners, families, and Boy Scout Troops or other youth groups. Our canoe trip parties explore the Boundary Waters for wildlife and see fantastic scenery of lakes, rivers and streams, waterfalls and forests.

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.

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).

Locally or Family-Owned Business Notes

When John and Kathy Schiefelbein started North Country Canoe Outfitters in 1984, their goal was to provide the finest customer service and the most in-depth trip planning and mapping available anywhere in the border lakes region. That aim, coupled with the best equipment, abundant portions of top quality foods and fair pricing, is the hallmark of their operation today.

Tiring of corporate life with the marketing arm of IBM and relying on his proven outdoor experience and one-on-one people skills, John was ready to make an entrepreneurial leap. He and Kathy located their new business in the center of the world's most unique canoeing area. The two of them have grown their business from one employee and 20 canoes, to a staff of 16 and over 150 watercraft. However, John still personally maps every party's canoe route ... one-on-one ... just like they set out to do.

John has always been an avid outdoorsman: guiding his first canoe trip in 1965 as a Boy Scout camp staff member in northern Wisconsin. Since that time, he has not only paddled the the northern waters of Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, but the rivers and streams of the Ozarks, and the backwaters of south Florida. He has climbed the icy 14,500' summit of Mount Rainier, and scuba dived the islands and reefs of the Caribbean.

Accessibility Notes

The Boundary Waters Canoe area is part of the Federal Wilderness System, and as such there are no improvements or other accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, as a world class outfitting company, we are in a position to make individual considerations and recommendations for some challenged individuals. Please call us to discuss specific situations.

Pet Friendly Notes

The U.S. Forest Service, in managing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, requires that pets be quiet and under control at all times. While we discourage taking pets along on a canoe trip due to the possibility of wandering, they are in no way prohibited. However, pets are regularly reported as missing throughout the summer to the local radio station and the U.S. Forest Service

Nearby Places