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Ely (pronounced ['iːli], rhyming with "freely") is a city in St. Louis Countymarker, Minnesotamarker, USAmarker. It was once named "que quam chep", which means "land of the berries" in the Chippewa language. The population was 3,724 at the 2000 census. It is located in the Vermilion Iron Range, and was historically home to several Iron ore mines.

Today the city is best known as a popular entry point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildernessmarker and is home to the International Wolf Center and The North American Bear Center.

It's also home to quirky, eclectic, community-oriented stations WELYmarker AM & FM. Boundary Waters Radio, is based here. It's an internet-based radio station with an eclectic mix of talk, salient talk, and music. Boundary Waters Radio also serves as host for the Boundary Waters Blues Festival, now in its ninth year.

The city's main street is lined with outfitters, outdoor clothing stores, and restaurants. State Highway 1 and State Highway 169 are the main routes in the city.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.7 square miles (7.0 km²), all of it land.

The famed Echo Trail St. Louis County Road 116, a former logging road running north and west out of Ely and providing the primary access to the lakes of the western Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), is a 72-mile roller coaster ride on asphalt and gravel through the untrammeled wilderness of the Superior National Forest and Kabetogama State Forest. Numerous trailheads and canoe portages along the Echo Trail provide access to the BWCAW. A sidetrip presses north to the resort village of Crane Lake, a gateway to Voyageurs National Park. Special attractions: Unmatched views of sharply rolling forest, lakes, wetlands, rivers, and granite crags in one of the most remote areas in the Continental U.S.; canoeing, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and primitive camping in the Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters; opportunity to see wildlife such as bald eagles, ospreys, moose, bears, wolves, and beavers; blueberry picking and wildflower viewing.

Famous hoaxes

People from Ely have created various hoaxes as a way of garnering free publicity for the city. The most recent hoax was that of a fictional family that "paints the leaves" of trees in the fall. The fictional family was retiring from the business and wanted people to send in a "color application" if they wanted to help carry out the tradition. The video is also on YouTube. Previously, they released a story about Ely seceding from the U.S. to be part of Canada.Both hoaxes were featured on Ely's Chamber Of Commerce website Ely has also made an international bid for hosting the winter Olympics. This hoax became widely known throughout the entire state of Minnesota, and was often reported on radio stations.


As of the census of 2000, there were 3,724 people, 1,912 households, and 916 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,369.5 people per square mile (528.6/km²). There were 1,912 housing units at an average density of 703.2/sq mi (271.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.86% White, 0.86% African American, 0.54% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.30% from other races, and 1.26% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.67% of the population. 21.8% were of German, 12.2% Slovene, 11.7% Finnish, 8.7% Norwegianmarker, 6.4% English, 5.6% Swedish and 5.4% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 1,912 households out of which 21.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.6% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.9% were non-families. 39.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.05 and the average family size was 2.72.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.8% under the age of 18, 16.2% from 18 to 24, 21.6% from 25 to 44, 22.9% from 45 to 64, and 21.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 101.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,615, and the median income for a family was $36,047. Males had a median income of $34,559 versus $18,833 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,855. About 9.5% of families and 14.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 12.5% of those age 65 or over.


Chippewa, or the Ojibwe were the first to inhabit the Ely area. They are believed to have sought refuge with the abundance of blueberries, which is why the townspeople hold the Blueberry Festival every year in late July. Trappers and voyagers made their way to the area in the 1700s in search of new land and abundant furs. Later, in the mid-1800s while explorers and prospectors were entering the area, the gold rush began. Although no gold was found in the Ely area, large deposits of iron ore was. Iron ore was first discovered in Ely in 1883, near the west end of what is now called, Miner's Lake. As the mining of the iron ore began, the population of Ely began to boom.

The town was first named Florence, but after discovering that another town in Minnesota was already named Florence, the name was changed to Ely. This name was in honor of Samuel B. Ely, a miner from Michigan who never saw the town.

After the addition of the railroad in 1888, the mines began shipping the iron ore to the docks of Lake Superior in Two Harbors, MN. Originally, the mining was an open pit operation since there was an abundance of iron ore on the surface. Later, deep shafts were made to start mining underground.

With the addition of underground mining, support beams made of logs were put in to prevent tunnel collapsing. This in turn started the logging and milling industry for Ely.

In 1967, the Pioneer mine closed. It was the last of 11 mines located in the Ely area. Logging still takes place today in Ely, but on a limited basis.


Notable residents

See also


External links

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