Recommendations for Dulth, MN & Fargo ND


I have taken up canoeing this year and would like to learn more about it. Where I live (northern AL) doesn’t have that active a paddling scene.

I am going to be in Fargo, ND and Duluth, MN on business in July and would like to check out stores, classes, and day trips as I am able.

If you are familiar with either area and know of places that are worth checking out the advice would be very much appreciated.

Also, if at all possible I would like to put in at least a half day at the BCWA when I am in Duluth. It will be really hard for me to get more than a day with work. If you have any suggestions for most bang for the buck for a one day trip that would be awesome.

Thanks in advance,


The Red River goes through Fargo, but you will find considerably more canoe culture on the Minnesota side. I’ve not spent much time in Duluth, but Fargo doesn’t really offer much for canoeing and kayaking. Duluth will, but I don’t know where.

north alabama
You might need to look a little deeper. You guys have great lakes and some really cool wilderness rivers. Not to mention the blueway that traverses your whole state.

Ryan L.

Paddling Duluth
Contact the Duluth Pack store, they may rent boats, they are down near Lake superior.

The Ski Hut in Duluth sells canoes, I am not sure if they rent.

Paddle on Lake Superior depends on Weather.

Hwy 61 up to Toftee then up to Sawbill Outfitters and rent into the BWCAW.

OR off to Ely and there are many Outfitters as you roll into town.

You will spend a fair amount of the day driving from Duluth to get to the BWCA

Paddle the Bois Brule river just east of Duluth in Wisc.

Dan Cooke

Good luck
I spent three days in the Days Inn in Fargo in the summer of 04 with a brand new canoe on my roof. The canoe stayed there the whole time. The Red River may be in flood now, but it didn’t attract my eye that summer.

Nothing really did until I crossed the Mississippi and finally arrived in Ely.

Duluth is of course on Lake Superior. I was there that summer, too. I was afraid to put in on Superior because the entire town was blanketed by fog even at noontime and the lake looked like the Atlantic Ocean in the midst of a smashing, bashing Nor’easter. Scary.

I did find an interesting health food store in Duluth.

Bois Brule
The Bois Brule is a great trip in the area.

But I’m not sure if there is a vehilce liverie service on the river.

No one in their right mind is going to try to paddle upstream on the BB in a canoe.

There are stretches with some pretty good rapids.

Bous Brule / Lake Superior
Bois Brule outfitter will shuttle or rent

Lake Superior / St Louis Estuary off hwy 23 south of Town. There are Many Places to Paddle around Duluth.

It’s going to be a haul for you to hit the BWCA from Duluth. The closest entry point that’s easy to get to from there is Sawbill, which is up the Sawbill Trail from Tofte. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive from Duluth. You can rent canoes from Bill and Cindy at the Sawbill Outfitters which is right on the lake.

If you have a bit of time, you can crank out the Kelso River route, which is one of the best day trips on this side of the BWCA. It works as a short overnight, too. I’m not sure who’s guiding there this summer, because their regular guide is on a 3-year paddling, backpacking, dog sledding trip. If you need a guide, I might be around depending on the dates and I could meet you up there. I live in Grand Marais and am a kayaking guide/instructor. I’ve taught canoe lessons, too.

Don’t haul a canoe from Duluth for the BWCA, because it’s so much easier to get one up here.

when in July?

– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 10:51 PM EST –

The Red River is in my backyard, I paddle it nearly every week. From fargo, there are several decent launch areas, and landings with decent take outs. It's muddy, but one of the cleanest rivers you will find regarding garbage and runoff pollution. It also offers great catfishing. It's flooded heavily now, but in a couple weeks it should offer some nice paddling conditions. Are you bringing a boat?
There are a few sporting goods stores here that have paddling stuff, Scheels, Wholesale Sports, and Gander Mountain.
No classes I know of. Myself and friends take day trips on weekends on the Red, but nothing formal.

Sawbill and Ely
I’ll agree with lot’s of this. We just got back from Sawbill and we made the right choice to rent and did not take a boat. The biggest problem with Sawbill is there is nothing else there. If you’re looking for a daytrip or quick overnighter than this is the place to go though. Start at Sawbill, paddle/portage to Beth, return the next day.

But if you want shops than drive the little bit farther (maybe no extra the way the highways go up there) and head for Ely from Duluth. Not something you’re gonna spend all day walking around shops but there’s enough there to keep you looking for a half day or more and some great canoe shops.


Grand Marais
Grand Marais (where I live) is about a 30 minute drive from Tofte, and we have lots of shops. Did you head up there from Tofte?


– Last Updated: Jul-03-11 12:52 AM EST –

Much prefer Grand Marais to Ely.

"The biggest problem with Sawbill..." - what else do you need??


– Last Updated: Jul-03-11 1:37 AM EST –

Best forget canoing the BWCA if you only have a day. You can take a day drive from Duluth and loop up through Ely and back in a few hours, and glimpse some of it though. Or you could take that day and drive up the North Shore. Grand Marais is a pretty long day drive though, if you want to be back in Duluth that same night. There is a lot to see and if the tourists are out it could be slow going. Its July so the tourists are out.

UMD offers some canoe classes, and you can arrange individual classes if you give plenty of advance notice.
It looks like that's what you'd have to do because they already had their introductory canoe class in June.

I'd also recommend the Brule and the outfitter mentioned above. If you are tempted to kayak Lake Superior (dont even try it in a canoe if you are a beginner) be aware that the water is still dangerously cold and is probably best avoided if you are not an experienced kayaker. Someone here will be happy to take your money to "guide" you out there though, but I'd stick to the Brule.

Another idea for a longer day trip is to drive to Bayfield WI and take the ferry to Madeline Island. Or, you can get basic kayak lessons, rent boats and hire guides at Trek-n-Trail (next to the ferry terminal in Bayfield) and a couple other places there.

Ely v. Grand Marais
We actually stayed in Grand Marais the first night we were there. A motor lodge on the south end of town run by and English gentleman which both his name and the name of his motel escape me. Nice guy though.

We had pizza in the afternoon at a downtown pizza shop and went looking for a watering hole that night. We drove all over Grand Marais trying to find a few drinks and the town was dead as could be. Then we found a bar open downtown. Seems like the whole town was there. They had a 2 man band playing and we had a good time. We were corrected (harshly with good humor) about not using the silent “S” on Marais and then again for leaving the “E” of of Tofte. Let’s see, silent S but no silent E? Had some fun with the locals on that one.

Overall we had a good time , wouldn’t hesitate to go back and it was a good jumping off point but I can’t agree about the shops. Ely is the better drive and go see town. Sorry.



– Last Updated: Jul-05-11 2:01 AM EST –

That's the Grand Marais Inn and the owner is David Parsons. (Edit: Pssst... That's actually the west end of town. The shoreline in Grand Marais is almost completely east and west, and highway 61 runs east and west through town.)

Ely definately has a few shops, and Piragis is far better than any outdoor shop in Grand Marais, but as far as places to eat and other shops, Grand Marais is far better than Ely. That's just a fact. :)