Fall Lake to the Canadian Border and Return is a 28 mile trail located near Ely, Minnesota. The trail is primarily used for canoeing and is best used from May until September.
This is a primary canoe route into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). This is part of the Superior National Forest an is administered by the United States Forest Service (USFS). Permits are available from USFS and camping is at designated sites. The two portages involved are well used. Limited motor use is allowed up into Pipestone Bay of Basswood. Portages are able to accomodate up to 16 ft boats on portage wheels and thus very easy to follow and always clear. The route starts at the USFS campground/boat landing on Fall Lake. Once you pass Mile Island on Fall Lake, you are in the BWCA. The first portage is where Fall Lake out flows into Newton Lake. The outflow is actually a low head dam. It is under water and you won't normally see it. It is a hazard. Stay clear. Strong currents are present. Follow Newton to it's outflow which is a rapids that enters Pipestone Bay. Steep hill (for those pulling boats, it is known as Heart Attack Hill) as portage drops into Pipestone. NO MOTOR line starts part way up Pipestone. This puts you in position to access the Basswood River several nice water falls an rapids. Beware of current. Basswood River is border between US and Canada. Canadian side is Quetico Provincial Park. You need seperate permits to enter Quetico Park and must clear customs. There is a Canadian custom's an Quetico Ranger station on the east end of Basswood. This is a headwaters for a watershed that ends in Hudson Bay! It is an easy route but use caution near rapids and falls. They have been deadly. They can suck unsuspecting people into danger before you know your in trouble.
I completed this route for one of my classes, for an group with a variety of skill levels, it is a perfect experience. You get the entire BWCA experience from this route without having to go very deep. I went in September which I would highly recommend, the early frosts have already killed off any pesky mosquitoes, tourist season has wound down leaving the lakes open and tranquil, and the weather is beautiful. Watch out for water levels though, low levels can lead to you having to walk your boat through a few parts.