This northerly haven on the edge of Minnesota is a must for boaters, but you don't have to be an expert sailor to appreciate it. Take a guided day tour or charter an adventure to experience this serenely beautiful lake system and the state's only national park—if you're lucky, you might even catch the Northern Lights.
Facts and Figures
- Park campsites are only accessible by watercraft
- The park occupies 218,000 acres, or 341 square miles
- More than 40 percent is covered by water
- The park got 237,250 visits in 2017
- Voyageur is French for "traveler"
The French-Canadian fur traders who traveled these waters in the 18th and 19th centuries lend Voyageurs its name. During the same period, the Ojibwe people became the main residents of the region before being forced onto reservations by the U.S. government.
Fishing, mining and logging businesses subsequently moved in, as did tourists. A national park was first proposed in 1891, but the movement wasn't successful until Voyageurs was officially established in 1975.
Things to Do and See
If you won't have your own boat or rental to explore Voyageurs, reserve one of the park's guided boat tours, which run from summer through early fall. From the visitor center at Rainy Lake, the tour stops at Little American Island, where you can see remnants of an 1890s gold rush. On Kabetogama Lake to the southeast, visit the Ellsworth Rock Garden to see the remarkable rock sculptures and flowerbeds created by a Chicago contractor who vacationed there from 1944 to 1965.
Many places in the park nod to its industrial and resort history. Have lunch and explore at the Kettle Falls Hotel and dam, both built around 1910, and check out Hoist Bay, a former logging camp that became a resort in the 1930s. If you want a break from bobbing on the water, get around on the many easy hiking trails and overlooks available.
In winter, you can go ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. A number of gateway communities, such as Crane Lake and Ash River, add to your options with shopping, museums, tours and restaurants.
To camp at Voyageurs, you'll need a reservation and a permit for a campsite, which are all only accessible by water. If you won't have a boat, there are several campground options nearby, from Woodenfrog State Forest to privately owned facilities.
Best Time to Go
Peak season runs from May through September, when weather is mildest and the waters are open, but Voyageurs is open year-round and every season has its own appeal.