Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park has been a boater’s paradise ever since French Canadian explorer Jacques de Noyon first ventured along the Rainy River in 1688. With 55 miles of interconnected waterways to meander, today’s visitors have ample opportunity to explore the park’s 30 lakes and 900 islands.
During our 100th anniversary, we supported the Teen Ambassadors of Voyageurs National Park as they camped, hiked and paddled their way to discovering the park’s diverse history. Their growing passion for the outdoors inspired us to take out our canoes and kayaks, and explore Voyageurs as part of our National Parks Series.
As a water-based national park, Voyageurs spans over 200,000 acres, and remains relatively undisturbed since functioning as a major fur trade route in the late 18th century. On a clear day, paddling through the serene waterways is not only peaceful, but an essential way to experience all that the park has to offer. We prefer using the L.L.Bean modular sit-in kayak to get around but guided boat tours, chartered rides, and canoe and kayak rentals are all available to visitors.
When visiting by boat, make sure to learn how to navigate the lakes properly. A GPS device is a helpful tool, but knowing how to find your location with a compass is a necessary skill in case of emergency.
Out of the Boat
Though water is a predominant feature of Voyageurs National Park, hiking and camping are great ways to experience more of Minnesota’s wilderness. Whether or not you plan to paddle, a stop at any of the three visitor centers (Rainy, Kabetogama, and Ash River) will lead you to a variety of hiking trails and scenic outlooks. Our favorite, the Kab-Ash Trail, is a 27.9-mile interconnected system and offers an in-depth view of the park. Between Lake Kabetogama and the Ash River, you’ll find fantastic lake views, opportunities for birding at Beaver Pond Overlook and the famed Ellsworth Rock Gardens.
Planning to Stay
Those who choose to stay overnight at Voyageurs can find campgrounds around each of the four major lakes (including over 200 tents and houseboats), or can lodge at the historic Kettle Falls Hotel. Native American fishermen, European trappers, 1800s gold miners and Prohibition-era bootleggers all take part in the rich history of the Kettle Falls region, and in 1976 the hotel was registered as a National Historic Place. Nearby at the Kettle Falls Dam, visitors can take advantage of the unique geographical location and stand on US soil while looking south to Canada.
Did we miss any of your favorite parts of Voyageurs National Park? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to use our ParkFinder to locate your next outdoor adventure!