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Getting There

Boundary Waters

Boundary Waters
Getting There
Burntside Lake
Guided Trips

If you live in Kentucky, Ely is a long but straightforward drive. From Lexington, it is 1200 miles. Wisconsin Dells is almost exactly the midpoint, so we recommend it as your overnight stop. The drive is interstate the whole way except for the last 40 miles. Setting the cruise control at 70 would give you a nine hour drive each day. Leaving at 9 am and stopping only for gas and/or lunch, you should arrive at the Dells and then Ely at 6 pm.

On the first day, we recommend taking I-64 to Louisville, I-65 north to Indianapolis, I-74 west to Bloomington (Ill.), I-39 north to Madison (Wisc.) and I-90 northwest to the Dells. Take 465 around the southwest corner of Indianapolis. We like to stop for lunch at Champaigne Urbana, which has several exits of fast food outlets and gas stations. You'll see one of the nation's largest wind farms on I-39 (shown at right). Be sure to have change available at Rockford (Ill.), where they charge tolls on the interstate.You may look at the map and be tempted to drive through Chicago, but we strongly urge against it. There are too many stretches of standstill traffic, even on the eight lane interstate.

On the second day, leaving The Dells, take I-90 and I-94 northwest to Minneapolis-St. Paul., 694 around the northeast corner, and I-35 north to Cloquet. Some guidebooks send you through Duluth (left), up the Lake Superior shore, and across Superior National Forest to Ely. That scenic route takes too long. At Cloquet, we turn north on 33 across Fond Du Lac Reservation, pick up four lane state 53, at Mountain Iron taking 169 northeast and then route 1 into Ely. As you approach Ely, watch the signs. When the sign points left to Tamarack Resort, be alert. The next major left turn will point you to Shagawa and Burntside Lake. Take that turn. If you are going to Camp Van Vac, look for the sign at Camp Van Vac Road and turn left. In only a mile you will come to the entrance to Camp Van Vac on the right. If you are going to Burntside Lodge, drive on past Camp Van Vac Road and look for the boulders on the left which welcome you to Burntside Lodge. If you are going to Fenske Lake Campground, drive several miles on past Burntside Lodge, past Shagawa Lake on your right, and you will come to the Arrowhead Trail Road. Turn left, drive 10 miles and look for the Fenske Lake Campground entrance on your right.
There are some very attractive options on this trip. There is Minneapolis (top left). It offers North America's largest mall, with hotel, amusement park, and other features inside. It offers the University of Minnesota and one of the nation's best zoos. There is Duluth (above). Famous as the lumber and iron center for two centuries, Duluth has an interesting waterfront, modern downtown, and museums and parks proclaiming its old mining, timbering and shipping heritage. And there is Chicago (right). Fighting the traffic might be worth it if you were actually going to stay two nights. The Sears Tower, Aquarium, waterfront, Navy Pier, railroad station, Northwestern or Chicago U., riding the "El," visiting one of the tv shows (with advance arrangements), and one of the famous museums would be a great addition to an Ely trip. Any of these options would require an extra day, but if you have your own children or a youth group it would certainly be worthwhile.
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