The North Country Advantage

The NCCO Advantage in a Nutshell

  • Location: Our outfitting base is located on a strategic lake versus in town on Ely's main street.
  • Custom Trip Planning: Prior to deter-mining an Entry Point for your trip, we offer an in-depth reservation request form, which, when completed, outlines your ability levels, travel expectations, goals of your canoe trip, and fishing preferences, so as to better plan your canoe trip.
  • Lakeside Accomodations: We offer private dorm style and motel style rooms for handy lakeside accommodations.
  • Lightweight Equipment:  We offer ONLY Ultra-Lightweight Outfitting equipment through our Silver and Gold packages.
  • Best Food:  We offer two top quality menus featuring both freeze-dried and fresh foods, including Certified Angus Beef® steaks as a regular menu item.
  • Discount Youth Trips: We offer significantly discounted package rates to non-profit youth groups, while using the same high quality equipment as for our private parties.
  • Fly-in Trips: We offer Fly-in Canoe Trips on a flat rate cost per person basis
  • Entry Transportation Included:  We offer both land transportation and towboat service from our base to all of the Ely area BWCA entry points (included with our Gold and Silver Packages), PLUS towboat service from Moose Lake to the Quetico Ranger Station at Prairie Portage.
  • NO HIDDEN FEES: Our brochure booklet lists all pricing information. Options which may result in an extra charge are all up front and transparent. No surprises later.

Why Outfit with North Country?

Naturally, we at NCCO want you to take your canoe trip with us. We also fully realize that no one individual outfitter can be all things to everyone. For that reason, we have outlined some areas you may want to consider when selecting the outfitter that's right for you.

For every person that dips a paddle into one of our BWCA lakes, there is a particular set of reasons for taking a canoe trip. Quite often members of the same party desire different things from their wilderness experience. And that is how it should be. The outfitter you choose should take all of those reasons into account, and be able to discuss them as they plan your trip with you. There are thousands of lakes in the north country and each one is unique. Some are good for one occasion, while others may be better for another trip.

When you initially talked to an outfitter (at a sport show or on the telephone) did they actually ask specifically what you were looking for? Did they start talking about beginning your trip from a particular lake, or to a specific area, without really knowing your unique circumstances? How close are they going to be when it comes time to create your route around your expectations and ability level?

We hope you will take the time to check out the things that we think make outfitting with NCCO the best decision you can make. We are one of the best outfitting businesses in North America, with thousands of satisfied customers. Many return year after year.

No, we are not going to be the cheapest. If you are looking for a cheap rate that is at the bottom end of the scale, we  cannot help you at this time. If, however, you are looking for a trip worth paying a little extra for ... one that lives in your memory for years to come ... an outfitter you can recommend to your best friends and family ... come see us. We can give you that kind of experience!

Read our article "How to Find the Best Canoe Outfitter"

Ely Minnesota location

Outfitting canoe trips in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park since 1984 ... Ely's premier standard of outfitting excellence

Our outfitting base is located on the Minnesota/Ontario border, six miles from the town of Ely, Minnesota, on White Iron Lake (a largely uninhabited lake). Being one of only a few outfitters in our immediate area, our parties may begin their wilderness experience without the heavy canoe congestion found on a few of the entry lakes. The smaller, narrow lakes leading away from our dock insure safe, easy paddling, even on windy days. Short, direct canoe access to three BWCA entry points, lead to some of the more remote lakes in the area. However, if you want to go into Canada, or begin your travel through the north country from one of the other U.S.-side entry points, we are happy to transport you and all of your equipment ... whether that be by van & trailer ... a tow boat ... or a float plane.

Fly-in canoe outfitting

North Country Canoe Outfitters Lakeside Base & Services

Although the BWCA and Quetico Park are "friendly" wilderness areas, they will sometimes pose insurmountable obstacles to the uninformed or novice visitor. NCCO will serve you with the highest degree of professionalism, and good old fashion honesty and integrity. We provide invaluable assistance in securing the governmental permits (US or Canadian), transportation to & from outlying landings, route suggestions, and general background information on the area which you intend to travel (no one is more familiar with the canoe country than NCCO -- we live here and have traveled the many lakes and streams).

Light canoes, the right gear expressly designed for BWCA canoeing

Complete, Professional Outfitting

We offer  a professional outfitting service and can provide everything that is necessary for you to enjoy a wilderness canoe trip. We are well equipped to supply canoes and equipment designed expressly for this area. Much of today's "high tech" backpacking equipment is not appropriate for canoe country travel. Conversely, our canoe camping equipment tends to be single purpose gear: ideal for canoeing, but not well suited for other types of camping.  We also offer 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.

And finally when you return from your canoe experience, you can leave behind a pile of dirty gear that needs cleaning and requires storage space. All you really need to bring to Ely is your personal clothing and your fishing tackle, along with your spirit of adventure. Even the most well equipped Scout troops tend to leave their own gear home and avail themselves of the quality and convenience of North Country Canoe Outfitters.

Quetico approved outfitter

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 that are granted full outfitting operations under federal permit by the US Forest Service. We are also one of only 2 Minnesota outfitters who have been granted a provincial outfitting permit in Canada. These permits assure you of quality outfitting and full insurance coverage. As the industry leader, dealing with the newest equipment (including our "Expedition Grade" gear).

THE ONE SINGLE REASON, however, that most of our customers cite as to why they chose us as their outfitter, is individual service. We make every effort to match up your trip expectations to the areas and lakes that will produce the  best vacation experience for you. We will pick your entry point and design your trip route around your needs; we don't fit you into an "off the shelf" trip that is convenient for us.

The Best Food

Certified Angus Beef brand steak

Menus should be viewed under the same bright lights as equipment lists. "A fresh steak" for the 1st night on the trail may not be the same size or cut as "An 8oz USDA Certified Angus Beef T Steak."Higher quality and increased variety goes hand-in-glove with trip costs.

Read each menu item as if it stands alone

It will at mealtime out in the woods on your trip. Is one brand of food used exclusively? If so, this could imply cost cutting through quantity discounts from the manufacturer. There is nothing wrong with cost control. It may, however, indicate leaning away from variety with the best-tasting individual items and towards a higher profit margin.

Certified Angus Beef Brand Steak

Check to see if items are repeated on the menu in order to make the menu appear longer.

One listing of peanut butter and jelly and a second for jelly and peanut butter are NOT two different selections. How many ways are you expected to fix macaroni and cheese? Hot dogs are fine for a picnic lunch ... but they may be lacking in the nourishment department when served as a main course after a long day on the canoe trails.

NCCO uses only the highest quality foods, a variety of brand names, and a combination of freeze-dired and fresh foods.  We know you will see, feel -- and taste -- the difference a top quality menu can make in your trip.