Ely ( EE-lee) is a city in Saint Louis County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 3,460 at the 2010 census. It is located on the Vermilion Iron Range, and is historically home to several iron ore mines.
Today the city of Ely is best known as a popular entry point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; the International Wolf Center, and the North American Bear Center.
The main street of Ely is lined with outfitters, outdoor clothing stores, and restaurants. State Highway 1 (MN 1), State Highway 169 (MN 169) and County Road 21 (Central Avenue) are the main routes in Ely.
The first Europeans to explore the area were fur traders who made their way into the wilderness in search of furs. But it was the Lake Vermillion gold rush that brought the first large numbers of pioneers to the area in 1865. Although hardly any gold was ever found, it was discovered that the area did contain large deposits of iron ore. Thousands of new immigrants were arriving in America at that time, and many of them came to the area later to be known as the Minnesota Iron Range, looking for work.