Wilderness Outfitters, the oldest established outfitter in Ely, began operation in 1921.The outfitter began as a corporation owned by a group of shareholders; since the outfitters inception several long-time Ely residents, including the current owner, Gary Gotchnik, have owned the business. Gary's history with Wilderness Outfitters began long before becoming owner, as a wilderness-fishing guide. In 1985 Gary became part owner of WO with partner, Jim Pascoe. Since 1995 Gary and family (wife Marcy, and 2 children Maren and Krista) have been sole owners of Wilderness Outfitters.Image

Over its 80 year history, Wilderness Outfitters has seen and adapted to many changes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Canada's Quetico Provincial Park. In 1964 the Federal Wilderness Act was passed, an act that was responsible for much of the far-reaching acts of protection for the BWCAW, greatly restricting motor use, lumber activity, and eliminating lodges and private residence in the park. With the 1964 Wilderness Act legislation, Wilderness Outfitters' historic Basswood Lodge ceased operation. Some of our long-time guests may remember Basswood Lodge in its heyday when up to 18 fishing guides took groups out to fish for trophy Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike, and Lake Trout on Basswood Lake.

Wilderness Outfitters was also responsible for the operation of the historic 4-Mile Portage, a mechanized portage connecting Ely and nearby Fall Lake to Basswood Lake. The 4-Mile Portage began in the late 1800's as an important logging route, making it possible to transport logs from the Basswood Lake area across Fall Lake to 2 logging mills located in the town of Winton (3 miles North of Ely). In 1995, Wilderness Outfitters experienced an end of an era when the second major BWCAW legislation was passed, permanently closing the 4-Mile mechanized portage.

Today, Wilderness Outfitters, the oldest and one of the largest canoe outfitters in Ely, is home to over 15 employees, with an inventory of greater than 125 canoes. Wilderness Outfitters has successfully adapted to the changes in the Park and continues to recognize and respond to the needs of our customers. In addition to being the foremost leader in outfitting wilderness canoe trips, we also offer exciting fly-in canoe trip packages, deluxe fishing tent camps, and remote Canadian Outpost Cabins.

Mission Statement
Wilderness Outfitters, Inc. is committed to...

  • Giving our customers the absolute best wilderness adventure experience, while maintaining the lowest impact to the canoe country environment.
  • Providing personalized, friendly, knowledgeable service, tailoring every service to fit the knowledge and experience of each individual client.
  • Outfitting every customer with the highest quality gear and equipment thereby insuring  the safest, most enjoyable wilderness experience.
  • Offering our customers the fairest, most competitive prices, giving everyone the opportunity to experience the North Country Wilderness.