Ely MN Fishing Resorts – and then there’s Wood Lake

I grew up going to Wood Lake as a young kid with my brother and dad.  I also began gudding fishing trips at 14 on Wood Lake when we could use outboard motors.  I lugged many a 3  HP Evinrude down that 180 rod portage over many years.  When the government came in and closed down all motor access due to environmental activism gone amok, we were forced to switch to rowing on Wood Lake.  Over the years they drew the BWCA lines avoiding influential properties while disregarding smaller entities like us who relied upon Wood Lake for our lodge guests along with other businesses who did as well.  I’ve pretty much concluded that their goal was to wipe us out and they darn near did.   When we lost motors on Wood Lake (for the so-called greater good on an obscure lake like Wood lake), we also lost 50% of our returning lodge guests by the following season in 1979.

We had to completely rebuild our business and convince new customers that rowing was much easier than it looks. Well, despite the enemy’s attempt to fold our business, we prevailed. Supporting national environmental causes always wipes out, displaces, or causes hardship to some little family trying to earn a living.  Please remember that.  “Greater good”, my butt.

Animosity towards those who would happily ruin us aside, we found that rowing on Wood Lake actually allowed us to travel further than motors did, all in one day.  With motors, we had a limited amount of  gas.  If we ran out of gas, we’d have to row home!  Is that even possible?  Gasp!  Well, yes – it actually is and it’s a LOT easier than it sounds.  To date, I have rowed myself and two other people (many different folks) for thousands of miles for about 20 years or so.   I ended up actually preferring rowing over using an outboard.  Carrying the oars down to Wood Lake is easier and I never, ever worry about how I’m going to get home.  With oars, I have complete control over the boat far moreso than with a motor.   Plus, as a result of rowing, one develops strong back muscles, impressive arms, and improved confidence about one’s abilities.  Trust me, NONE of this was figured into the 1978 BWCA law and the RARE II rider that closed Wood Lake down to motor travel.

Now, are there times when one wishes a motor was handy?  Sure.  When it ‘s windy and you are caught in 3 foot waves a motor would be excellent to have.  But, you don’t have one, so you have to plan your day, your route and your escape plan.  Sometimes your escape plan is to park it on shore and wait until the wind dies down.   No motor makes you smarter and stronger which is another thing the Sierra Club never planned on happening. To go to Wood for a day, plan on packing a lunch, (no aluminum cans – plastic is fine for pop).  You should have a small pack to carry stuff.  We can get you one here at the lodge.  You’ll need the key for a boat and also the oars.

Things you need to remember:  a landing net, stringer, tackle box, rod/reel, rain gear, hat, sunglasses, sun screen, bug dope, no flip flops or Teva-style sandals unless you like tearing your toe nails off on rocks, camera.  If you have or can access AT& T, your cell phone will work on Wood. Here’s a video from Wood Lake when it was pretty rough out.   It’s not always like this, but it can be, so remember that planning your day can be helpful.