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Family Vacations in Minnesota

Family Vacations in Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service The miles of untouched riverfront at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness let vacationers paddle their cares away.

If your family's idea of a cruise is paddling along a peaceful waterway, the Boundry Waters Canoe Area could be the perfect vacation for you. Located in northern Minnesota, near the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, this stretch of pristine wilderness is one of the largest areas of protected wilderness in North America. Glaciers have carved out a breathtaking series of more than 1,000 interconnected waterways linked by portage trails.

This labyrinth of lakes served as a travel network for Native Americans for thousands of years and was once one of the main routes to the west for European explorers and fur traders. Known as the Voyageurs' Highway, it ran through what is now the Boundary Waters and Quetico Provincial Park.


There are more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, and motorized boats are not allowed. There are paddle-in campsites throughout the park. The rugged terrain is populated by moose, beavers, otters, minks, and loons. Fishing is superb, and lake trout, smallmouth bass, walleye, and northern pike are plentiful.

Entry points are established to control the flow of visitors and protect the wilderness area. The town of Ely is considered the gateway to the Boundary Waters, and here you'll find outfitters of all kinds that sell supplies and specialized equipment, rent canoes, and provide guides.

During your visit, stop by the International Wolf Center to meet the center's resident wolf pack and take a wolf-howling lesson. After dark, you can practice what you've learned to exchange calls with the wild wolves.

In winter, the area is known for ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Dogsledding is also popular, and special trails have been created just for that sport. Several outfitters operate sleigh rides in the evening to take advantage of the crystal-clear view of the starry sky and the northern lights.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Information

Address: 118 S. 4th Ave. E., Ely, MN

Phone: 518/885-9964 877/550-6777

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $ 10 adults; $5 kids

Check out the next page for information on the frozen fun available at St. Paul's Winter Carnival.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Minnesota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Minnesota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.