Our National Park Series: Voyageurs National Park

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.

Outdoor lovers can enjoy fishing in the expansive lakes of Voyageurs, as well as views of the northern lights on a clear evening. Credit (clockwise from bottom left): USFWSmidwest/Flickr, Joe Calhoun/Flickr, Wikimedia Commons.

Getting Around 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.

Credit: National Park Service

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.

The Ellsworth Rock Gardens. Credit: National Park Service.

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!

  1. Betsy | April 7, 2014 | 8:12 am

    Voyageur’s is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Ellsworth Rock Gardens, featured here in a photo, is a fascinating example of what creativity and perseverance can achieve. It is a park for all interests–history lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, naturalists, and artists. Plan a visit this summer!

    • Laurie | L.L.Bean | April 7, 2014 | 1:48 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation Betsy! ^LB

  2. Becky | April 7, 2014 | 8:54 am

    The rocks are billions of years old! Exposed bedrock everywhere! Magnificent foldings and scrape marks reveal a wild geologic history. And these rocks are literally covered with mosses and lichens! Pack a magnifying glass or hand lens in your picnic basket. You’ll have endless opportunities to immerse in the ancient and the primitive!

  3. smiley | April 8, 2014 | 3:29 am

    Beautiful area but limited..ban on pwc should be overturned,more xc ski trails needed..old logging roads should be opened up for hiker and bikers to see interior of park..if you dont have boat or snowmobile you may be disappointed with few roads and no mainland camping or RV sites..sad it isnt more user friendly..esp being MN only National Park..very pristine and scenic but too limited

  4. drail1313 | April 29, 2014 | 4:31 pm

    Sorry to say but the info that smiley is not valid. On the waters edge of VNP it has two state run campgrounds that are very near the park. A small one located on the Ash River and the larger one is called Chief Wooden Frog on Kabetogoma.
    As for no personal water crafts I am all for it!! The point is to camp and enjoy the beauty and relax, not here those things running around the lake all day.

    • Laurie | L.L.Bean | May 5, 2014 | 2:36 pm

      Hi Drail1313 – Thanks for the information. Best, ^LB

  5. bernie Ballard | April 29, 2014 | 5:04 pm

    Not crazy about the new Fees coming out for camping there.. $20 a night ??

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