Ely is located in St. Louis County in the Lakes of the Northern Lights Region of northeast Minnesota where Hwys 1 and 169 meet near Burntside Lake. The population estimate for July 1, 1998 was 3,753, a decrease of 215 since 1990.
The late Charles Kuralt, former CBS correspondent, considered Ely one of his favorite "On the Road" destinations.
Ely is the major western gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, known as one of the greatest wilderness canoeing and fishing areas in the world.
Ely is part of the Duluth-Superior, Minnesota-Wisconsin metro area.