Canoeing is life. Just ask Fletcher Freeman, founder of the Minnesota Canoe Museum. Though it doesn’t have a permanent space to call its own yet, the MCM has set up a rotating display of historic birch bark, wood-canvas, and cedar-strip canoes at the charming Ely Folk School, located in the Boundary Waters gateway town.
Pictured above is a traditional Ojibwe birch bark canoe measuring 13 feet long and 12 feet deep. The 50-pounder was built in 2016 by members of the folk school under the guidance of instructor Erik Simula and blessed by elders of the Lac La Croix First Nations in Ontario.
Also on display at MCM this past winter: an 18.5-foot Quetico Tripper cedar-strip canoe constructed mostly by middle and high school students participating in ADAPT, a program designed to teach mental health skills like socialization, organization, and communication. The canoe was a bit tipsy on the water but still got the job done.
The MCM exhibition is free to visit, but it makes good sense to couple your tour with an immersive crafting or wilderness workshop at Ely Folk School. Like kindred spirit North House Folk School in Grand Marais, EFS offers classes for every interest: canoe building, of course, but also pine needle basketry, moccasin making, orchid photography, rosemaling, and more.
Minnesota Canoe Museum
Ely Folk School, 209 E. Sheridan St., Ely, MN; 218-235-0138.