Voyageurs National Park
3131 Highway 53 South International Falls, MN 56649-8904
Named for the voyageurs -- the trappers who traveled by canoe from Montreal to Alberta -- this national park is rich in both cultural and natural resources. Modern visitors should be prepared to get wet because Voyageurs National Park is a water-based park -- access to nearly all of its shoreline is by watercraft. Located on Minnesota's northern border, the park is 15 miles east of International Falls and 300 miles north of the Twin Cities.
Entrance fees: Admission is free.
Visitor centers: Rainy Lake Visitor Center is open daily from mid-May through September; it's open Wednesday through Sunday from October through mid-May. Ash River and Kabetogama Lake visitor centers are open from mid-May through September.
Other services: One hotel and backcountry boat-in campsites
- Multiple campsites, as well as backcountry camping, are available year-round throughout the park on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Kettle Falls Hotel is open from early May through late September. 888-534-6835.
Visiting Voyageurs National Park
Visitors canoeing on a lake in Voyageurs National Park are likely to hear the haunting cry of a loon echoing across the water. A bald eagle may fly in circles high overhead. At night, the eerie howls of wolves resound through the forest.
Throughout this wilderness, great blue herons stride confidently on their long legs, and mallards swim in and out among the grasses near the lakeshore. Great ospreys soar through the sky, their sharp eyes scanning the water for fish.
Voyageurs National Park encompasses a land of large lakes, with their shorelines cut by bays and inlets too numerous to count, as well as hundreds of small lakes, ponds, swamps, and one of the last remnants of the great wilderness forest that once blanketed this region.
More than 35 percent of Voyageurs National Park is covered by water, most of it contained in four large lakes linked by narrow channels and small streams. There are many smaller lakes, as well as marshy areas and bogs. Visitors traveling through the park by canoe, motorboat, or houseboat often slip easily back and forth between the United States and Canada without knowing it.
Whether you're an angler or you just love the outdoors, Voyageurs is the place to be. It has camping, hiking, canoeing, and more. Go to the next page to learn more about sightseeing at Voyageurs National Park.
Sightseeing at Voyageurs National Park
No one should visit Voyageurs National Park without first reading one of esteemed naturalist Sigurd F. Olson's classic nature books, The Singing Wilderness or Runes of the North. Olson, the resident spirit of the Quetico-Superior region, wrote that Voyageurs National Park "is the most magnificent and beautiful lake and river country on the continent, possibly in the world."
Voyageurs National Park is home to beautiful landscapes, including the lovely Kabetogama Peninsula and other wild lands west of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Here, one may paddle up streams and across lakes to areas where moose, mink, deer, black bear, wolf, and otter still live in abundance.
In the fall, the berry-picking (strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry) is wonderful, and the leaves on the red maples and paper birches are as bright as any found in New England. The fishing in the Voyageurs is legendary for its walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, trout, and even the rare lake sturgeon.
Voyageurs is a large enough park that one can slip away across the waters, as if back down the stream of time, and visit this part of North America when the modern age was still far off and the world was young.
Voyageurs National Park Photo Opportunities
Voyageurs National Park has plenty of breathtaking scenes for taking photos, including:
- Kabetogama Peninsula This 75,000-acre roadless land mass is a great example of the topography of most of the park, with rugged, rolling hills interspersed between bogs, beaver ponds, swamps, and smaller lakes.
- Historic Kettle Falls Hotel and Dam: Visitors to the Kettle Falls Historic District can look south into Canada from the international border. Be sure to also check out the dam, the dam tender's cabin, and the Kettle Falls Hotel (built in 1912).
- Echo Bay Trail: This 2.3-mile path will lead you through aspen forests, rocky pine-covered ridges, and beaver ponds. You may also catch a glimpse of great blue herons, warblers, woodpeckers, and the occasional great gray owl.
- Blind Ash Bay: Travel a scenic 2.5-mile loop through rolling forest out to a lakeside view of Blind Ash Bay. Blueberries are abundant at this spot in mid-summer.
A Trip to Locator LakeVisitors can get to know some of the natural delights of Voyageurs National Park by taking a ranger-led trip from the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to Locator Lake.
The weekly trip includes travel by boat, canoe, and on foot. A boat takes visitors across Kabetogama Lake to a dock near La Bontys Point. From there you walk on a two-mile trail through a spruce bog and past a fascinating beaver dam and lodge. After you climb the ridge, the trail drops down through pine trees to the shore of Locator Lake.
The Park Service keeps several canoes cached at the site. With a ranger in the lead, visitors board canoes and paddle around the lovely woodland lake. The reward for this effort is the chance to see bald eagles, loons, ospreys, blue-winged teal, and, occasionally, herons.
Take a look at the next page to learn about the history of Voyageurs National Park, including interesting information about the land's Native American inhabitants.
The History of Voyageurs National Park
Except for a brief gold rush in the area of Rainy Lake at the end of the 19th century, which left behind a mine shaft and tailings on Bushyhead Island, the region that makes up Voyageurs National Park has always been wilderness.
First the Cree, Monsoni, Assiniboin, and then the Ojibwe paddled their canoes through the wetlands to fish, hunt, gather cranberries, and harvest wild rice. Later, during the 18th and 19th centuries, French-Canadian voyageurs, or coureur-du-bois (runners of the woods), traveled through the region in large canoes piled high with furs and trade goods. The voyageurs followed a route between northwest Canada and Montreal, often paddling their birch-bark canoes 16 or more hours a day.
Portaging, the carrying of canoes and gear to get around water that was not navigable, was the most difficult part of their lives. The annual trading route of the voyageurs included 120 separate portages. The most arduous, appropriately called Grand Portage, was a nine-mile haul over hills and through swamps.
The route of the voyageurs, celebrated by the park's miles of waterways and portages, became so important that it was used to define the border between the United States and British-held territories in the treaty that put an end to the American Revolutionary War.
Land-dwellers, beware! Voyageurs National Park can't be explored properly without getting wet. But that only adds to the adventure of a trip to this scenic wilderness in northern Minnesota.
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