Ely Explorers Embark on Environmental Expedition

The Freemans and the signed canoe they’ll paddle to the nation’s capital. (Photo by Layne Kennedy)

A married couple from Ely who have traveled more than 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled in recent years left this week on a trip to Washington, D.C. Dave and Amy Freeman’s trip seeks to celebrate the Boundary Waters’s 50th anniversary and protest proposed copper-nickel mines in the region.

The Paddle to D.C. expedition will take them 2,000 miles from Basswood Lake near Ely, along the the Border Route to the Grand Portage, carrying their gear across that 8.5-mile trail, and by sailboat to Lake Huron. From there, they will paddle and portage down the Eastern Seaboard, arriving in Washington on December 3.

The trip is intended to bring attention to the Boundary Waters, as well as threats to its wilderness character.

“It’s been the most visited area since the national wilderness system has started,” Dave Freeman, told the Pioneer Press. “Our goal is to tell as many people as we can how special this place is.”

The couple’s canoe is covered in signatures of people opposed to new mine proposals in northern Minnesota. Highlighting the 18,000 people that work in the region’s recreation and tourism businesses, their website says, “We don’t want the BOOM, BUST, BOOM economy that mines create and we don’t think sulfide mining makes sense in Northeastern Minnesota.”

The Freemans were recently named National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year, recognizing their three-year, 11,647 mile North American Odyssey, during which they connected with 85,000 school children. Dave Freeman recently joined Arctic explorer Paul Schurke on a canoe trip re-tracing on Theodore Roosevelt’s “River of Doubt” trip in the Amazon.

Numerous events and presentations are planned along the way to Washington, D.C. They will be in Duluth September 5-7 for the Lake Superior Wilderness Conference, celebrating the anniversary on September 3 of President Lyndon Johnson signing the legislation that created the Boundary Waters and the National Wilderness Preservation System.

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