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Spirit of the Wilderness Outfitter & Outdoor Store

Guide or Outfitter
Hegman Lake. Your journey starts here to visit ancient pictographs. – Steve Nelson

Remember the last time you watched the sunrise in the quiet of the morning or caught that big fish? How about sitting next to a crackling campfire on a summer night and hearing the call of a loon across the lake? Recreate your memories and create new memories in one of the best wilderness areas in the world...the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Spirit of the Wilderness, a world-class canoe outfitter, provides sumptuous meals, light-weight canoes/kayaks, high quality equipment, live bait and tackle, retail outdoor clothing, gifts and more. We provide services for groups, solo travelers and fly-ins for the BWCA and Quetico Parks.

At Spirit of the Wilderness we start with you and your vision, tailoring our outfitting services to meet your expectations of a memorable trip into the wilderness by canoeing or hiking.

Call us today to start planning your wilderness trip.

Types of Experiences and Trips Provided

Wilderness travel by canoe or hiking the BWCA and surrounding area. Travel with up to 9 people in your group or experience the solitude and challenge of a solo trip.

  • Single day or multi-day trips available
  • Guide service available, by the day or for extended travel
  • Fly-in Quetico canoe trips

Areas of Service and Expertise

Spirit of the Wilderness provides:

  • Complete or partial outfitting
  • Canoe/kayak/SUP board rental
  • Professional customized routing and planning
  • Guided day and multi-day trips
  • Bunkhouse lodging before and after your adventure
  • Ground and towboat service to over 30 entry points in the BWCA and Quetico Park
  • Live bait and tackle shop. We talk fishing!
  • retail outdoor store with sportswear and footwear, camping gear, canoe accessories
  • Kevlar canoe repair and reconditioning. We repair canoes the right way
  • BWCA seminars. Contact us to make a presentation to your group; planning your trip, fishing the BWCA, Unique BWCA Sites You Should Visit
  • and more

Locally or Family-Owned Business Notes

Steve Nelson, owner and guide of Spirit of the Wilderness, started canoeing the Boundary Waters when he was in Boy Scouts. He has a passion for traveling and introducing others to the BWCA. Steve started out as a high school science teacher in Mankato, MN. After budget cuts left Steve out in the cold, he moved on to sales and marketing in the animal health field. As a self proclaimed “Corporate Dropout” Steve and Kathy decided to purchase Spirit of the Wilderness, formerly Hill’s Wilderness Trips in 1999.

Kathy Nelson, owner of Spirit of the Wilderness, the brains behind the scene, has been traveling the BWCA since her first trip with Girl Scouts in the 1960's. Having grown up in near by Chisholm she found many opportunities to canoe and fish northern Minnesota. Kathy enjoys holding hands, long walks on the beach and a fine bottle of wine. Kathy is also the master-mind behind her US Bancorp district manager. She keeps the reports in order and keeps the branch managers in line.

Ginny Nelson, owner and manager of Spirit of the Wilderness, grew up camping and canoeing during family vacations. It just took one trip to the BWCA to get her hooked on wilderness adventures. She paid her tuition and dues at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and decided to go into business with her parents. Before heading to Ely, Ginny worked for Eastern Mountain Sports for half a decade and learned about retail and the finer side of selling and merchandising outdoor equipment. Married to Rob Nelson, Ely area fishing guide extraordinaire, she can talk fishing with the best of ‘em!

Accessibility Notes

Visit Spirit of the Wilderness at;

Email us at:

On-line store at:

Or stop in at 2030 E. Sheridan Street, Ely MN.

We are open 6 am - 9 pm daily, May 1-October 15

Nearby Places