North Country Canoe Outfitters

North Country Canoe LOutfitters staff, ready to serve you
John, Kathy and the Staff of NCCO, ready to serve you!

When John and Kathy Schiefelbein started North Country Canoe Outfitters in 1984, their goal was to provide the finest customer service and the best trip planning and mapping available anywhere in the border lakes area. That aim, coupled with great equipment, abundant portions of excellent quality foods and fair pricing, is the hallmark of their operation today.

Tired of corporate life with IBM and relying on  proven outdoor skills and one-on-one people skills, John was ready to make an entrepreneurial leap.  He and Kathy located their new business in the center of the world's most unique canoeing area. The two of them have grown their business from one employee and 20 canoes, to a staff of 16 and over 150 watercraft. But, John still personally maps every party's canoe route ... one-on-one ... just like they set out to do.

John is an avid outdoorsman: guiding his first canoe trip in 1965 as a Boy Scout camp staff member in northern Wisconsin. Since that time, he has not only paddled the the northern waters of Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, but the rivers and streams of the Ozarks, and the backwaters of south Florida. He  climbed the icy 14,500' summit of Mount Rainier, and scuba dived  the Caribbean.

US Forest Service Logo

He served in Vietnam as an electronic intelligence pilot, John taught the skills of Survival, Escape, & Evasion as his unit's training officer. Following his military service and prior to moving to Ely, he actively instructed adult Scout leaders on working with youth, and in the skills needed to successfully take boys on extended wilderness canoe trips. Read more about his Scouting background

John has been elected several times as President of the Ely Chamber of Commerce, as well as Vice President of the Ely Outfitter Association. He has served in several advisory positions to the United States Forest Service concerning wilderness use and ethics, and has been honored by them for his professionally superior efforts. Information about North Country and its owners have appeared on multiple TV programs as well as in many books, newspapers, and magazines.

NCCO Staff

The staff here at North Country has been hired with one primary attribute in mind: Will this employee help make our customer's canoe trip a better experience? We look for high school and college students, and young adults, who have demonstrated excellence. We have hired people who have excelled in the classroom, the athletic arena, on the stage, and in music.

Among our North Country Staff members:

  • Most excelled in music, speech, debate, and/or drama on the regional and state level,
  • Several have been high school state athletic finalists and on Minnesota all-star teams,
  • Yearly, several graduate as National Merit Finalists and National Honor Society members,
  • Several have received college academic scholarships,
  • One was named as a university departmental student of the year, 
  • One received an Athletic Letter and competed in the Big 10 Conference Championships,
  • One received a post graduate medical fellowship,
  • One graduated first in his graduate school Master's program,

Our staff is continuously monitored by the owners, as well as each other, to ensure accuracy and a warm, welcoming, service-oriented attitude. Normally about seventy to eighty percent of our staff have worked for us in previous summers. Our section lead employees usually have three to five years of North Country staff experience.