Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ely Minnesota

July 23 - 26, 2017:

It was a smooth ride on Minnesota route 53 east through the Kabetogama State Forest to Orr where I stopped to check out the roadside attractions. It was absolutely crazy there with pickup trucks and boat trailers jammed into this gas station and convenience store.  I took a few photos and then moved on passing through Cook where I turned east onto route 1.  I managed to pass through the town of Angora, but the town of Tower stopped me.  I had to check out the Tower Railroad Depot with Steam Locomotive and cars and stopped again in the very scenic downtown area.  Finally, I came to the city of Ely, Minnesota and took route 169 north to the Fall Lake Campground.  We came to this campground mainly to visit with Tucson friends Gary and Karen who we originally met at Desert Trails RV Park.  They are work camping at Fall Lake Campground for the summer and it is a convenient and interesting place for us to hang out for a few days.  This is the first National Forest we have been to with such a developed campground. It is situated on Fall Lake with abundant fishing, boating and hiking everywhere.  It’s almost the end of the road or the last town before the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Canada.


Orr Minnesota sign, it seem that every town here is the home to some fish

This general store in Orr has store has it all

A vintage Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railroad passenger car at 
the Tower, Minnesota train museum

Baldwin Locomotive 1218 built in 1910 at the museum

Love the way they left the ghost signage on the building

On our first day we went for a short hike to the Kawishiwi Waterfall that was far better than expected.  As we were getting there a Bald Eagle flew out over the river followed by a great blue Heron.  There is a hydroelectric Dam just upstream from this waterfall.

The Kawishiwi Falls were pretty special

as was the view downstream

It's unusual to see a dam just upstream from a beautiful waterfall

Kawishiwi Falls sign, try saying that fast

We next rode into the town of Ely which is a vibrant outdoors mecca for canoeing, fishing, guide service, outdoors clothing.  The majority of the early 1900’s buildings remain in the central business district and are utilized for various restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores.  I would rate it as one of the nicest small towns we have been to this year.  Ely is the largest jumping off place for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.,_Minnesota#North_American_Bear_Center

Downtown view

The State Theater

Ely Folk School has amazing classes on how to do as sorts of
crafty things like building a birchbark canoe, a log cabin and
many, many other things

The most unusual and interesting building in town was this former hospital, now vacant, but
hopefully will attract a wealthy restorer to renovate it into something great again.

Ely has the absolute best selection of tee shirts anywhere

I always love a good neon sign like Dee's Bar

This Kwazy Wabbit sign was also interesting

The Northern Grounds coffee house was another great one

An interesting tree mural taking you through the seasons

The Ely city hall and fire department

Wilderness mural in Ely Post Office by Elsa Jemne Orrin 1941

Iron Ore Mines mural in Ely Post Office by Elsa Jemne

My favorite mural in Ely

Another favorite sign in Ely

In 1884 a early prospector discovered what he thought was gold, which started a brief gold rush, but it turned out to be just fool’s gold. Shortly after however, a massive iron ore deposit was discovered and Ely really did become a boom town.  The town, initially called Florence, was established in 1887 and renamed Ely in 1888.  That same year the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad reached Ely allowing the mines to ship the iron ore by rail and Ely became a thriving community.  The Timber Industry also developed in this time period with the town reaching it’s peak in 1930 with a population of 6,151.  The mines closed 1967 and outdoor recreation and tourism now drive the economy.

The remains of the Chandler Mine, now turned into the Ely Arts and Heritage Center

There are several attractions in Ely such as the North American Bear Center, the International Wolf Center, the Chandler and Pioneer Mines, the Dorothy Molter Museum and the Ely-Winton History Museum.   Of course the main attraction is the lakes and rivers, hunting, fishing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and wildlife viewing.  

The Dorothy Molter “the Root Beer Lady” Museum was our first choice and it was highly inspirational.  Dorothy Molter lived alone in a cabin for 56 years on Knife Lake near on US-Canadian border.  Each year as many as 6,000 visitors from al over the world would stop and visit Dorothy at her cabin.  She started making Root Beer for personal consumption, to share with visitors and make living expenses.  It became so popular that she eventually made up to 12,000 bottles per year gaining her the nickname of the “Root Beer Lady”.  She fought to stay at her Knife Lake cabin after the area became part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and was granted rights by a special congressional act.  After her death at age 79, a group formed calling themselves “Dorothy’s Angels”  to save her cabin and move it to Ely where this museum was established.  Dorothy’s Root Beer continues to be bottled and is sold all over town for fundraising.

Dorothy's High School graduation photo

Map showing location of Knife Lake

The Dorothy Molter Museum

A favorite saying of Dorothy's was was on the wall of her cabin
meaning, "Quit your belly aching".

Dortohy was a tough lady

Dorothy's Root Beer bottling equipment

Dorothy was a registered nurse and came to the aid of many sick
and injured people in the North Woods

We go with Gary and Karen to the Tuesday evening farmers market in downtown Ely.  We found several good bakery items there !

The Farmer's Market in the beautiful town park

Not sure what this person was doing ?

Twinkles  Karen and Gary

Gary and Karen took us to the North American Bear Center where Karen is a founding member.  It is a remarkable organization which does much research on bears and has a several bears in captivity at their compound.  They give a guided tour which takes you around the compound to see the bears and learn about them.  They also have very interesting exhibits on bears which dispel most common myths about bear behavior.

The North American Bear Center entrance

This place is huge and full of interesting exhibits

There is a guided tour outside where you meet the Bears

All that separates you from them is a flimsy electric fence

The Bears will eat out of your hand

We really enjoyed Ely and would definitely return here again, there is much more to see and do.  

Our next stop is Grand Marais, Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior.

Twinkles and Slick

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