Bear Head Lake State Park, Ely, MN

Good Monday morning!  I woke up this morning to rain and dark skies here in the Netherlands.  This week I will focus on my kayak adventures to Bear Head Lake State Park in Northern Minnesota.   I visited the park for the last two years in the fall.  The first was to “recon” the area for my (which became our) BWCAW canoe trip.  The second time was with my husband as we started and ended our BWCAW adventure at Bear Head Lake State Park camping.  You can read about that trip here. I broke these down into two parts for my readers.

PART 1 Solo trip August 2016


Late August, the weather was beautiful on Bear Head Lake State Park located just to the west of Ely Minnesota.  I was still experiencing a huge high from a four day fishing trip to Lake of the Woods . I experienced a once in a lifetime catch where our guided boat of MN women veteran’s landed a 41.5 inch northern pike.  That full weekend of successful fishing I had high hopes for Bear Head Lake.


I travelled through Canada from Lake of the Woods and entered back in at International Falls, MN headed for Bear Head Lake State Park.  I tented for 2 days at the State Park and used my 8 foot Old Town Otter kayak.

20160829_191431847_iOSI picked one of the campsites located with close lake access. Campsite 51 was only a short walk to the launch/fishing piers located along the lake shore.  With several of these small easy access points it was easy and simple to put in early each morning.  Paddling out to observe the lake as the sun came up.

canoe/kayak launch site on Bear Head Lake

This is one of many launch sites along the lake shore

This lake is contained totally within the park boundaries. It also has a 10 mph speed limit for motorized boats making it a great place to canoe, kayak or just troll along in a smaller motorized boat. I saw several families enjoying the water in the afternoons but in the mornings it was very quiet and I had the entire lake to myself.

Heading out in the early morning or at dusk is a great time to view nature on this lake. I saw loons, ducks, kingfishers, and eagles while I was paddling.  The best was the family of beavers that swam right in front of me.


I always wish someone was there to experience this sort of moment with me as it is so unexpected.  I was very lucky to catch it on my camera as most paddlers can maybe explain, we are usually not ready with the camera when these moments happen. You never know what you will see when you start your paddle.

As I continued on that morning, I saw the sun peak over the horizon and the reflection off the lake blinded me as I paddled along the shoreline.  An incredible feeling of being one with the universe washed over me as I stopped to capture the moment on my camera. I was happy that I was here to experience this solitude.


Bear Head Lake State Park offered all I needed for an almost close to a BWCAW experience.  It has remote campsites, hiking trails, a very large open lake and a wonderful campground that was surprisingly not busy for the last weekend of August.  The colors were just starting to turn and the air had a crisp hint of fall but the days warmed up quickly to offer mostly clear sunny days of paddling.  Close to Ely (10 miles) it was easy to run to the store or to load up on replacing my lost fishing lures.

BearHeadLake State Park map0001

kayak paddle trips on Bear Head Lake August 2016

I once again was reminded that weather conditions can change quickly while paddling.  I started trip 1 in the sun and before I headed back to the start point and entered into the protected bay I was fighting 2 foot waves, dark skies, and windy conditions.


There are fish in Bear Head Lake, sadly I did not catch any on this trip. I did donate a few to the trees and to the lake in my efforts to catch a fish.  Great practice for my future fishing efforts.

My suggested places to visit while visiting Bear Head Lake State Park:

Front Porch Coffee House, Ely – Great place to get a cup of coffee on main street Ely.  I think they have the best homemade apple pie too! Also the free WIFI was great to send pictures and updates to family and friends. Updates are always important when I travel solo.

Grand Lodge Ely – the restaurant overlooks Lake Shagawa and is a gorgeous view of the fall colors.

Spirit of the Wilderness Outfitters– I spent a good deal of time in this shop buying new lures and getting advice on good places to fish and paddle around Ely.  The wonderful experience I had on this trip in this store lead me to use them as my outfitter for the trip into the BWCAW in 2017.