Voyageurs National Park was our primary destination last week when we explored northern Minnesota. We had been wanting to go there all summer but couldn’t get reservations at any of the hotels / lodges in the area until the end of August. So we had to wait.
Even though Voyageurs National Park is almost directly west from Grand Portage, there are no roads that go directly west, so we had to take a more circuitous route. We drove southwest for two hours before we could drive the three hours northwest to get to Voyageurs. The first day we stopped at Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center, saw the movie, and I stamped my National Parks Passport book.
We asked about hiking trails but Voyageurs National Park is a water-based park so it doesn’t have many hiking trails. It is 218,054 acres with 655 miles of shoreline and over 500 islands. All of the campsites are accessible only by water. There are houseboat campsites as well as tent sites on specific islands.
Rainy Lake is the largest lake in Voyageurs National Park. Other lakes include Kabetogama, Namakan, Sand Point, and Crane. There is also the Kabetogama Peninsula that is all part of the park and surrounded by these lakes. You cannot get to any of the Peninsula or the islands by road. It is the perfect park for canoeing or kayaking and many people see the park this way. In recent years, as the roads to the park get better, the number of power boats has increased. During our time in Voyageurs we were constantly saw boats speeding by. I think it would be difficult to enjoy the solitude you seek by canoeing or kayaking with all the noise and the huge wakes.
The lodge where we stayed two nights had a canoe and a paddleboat that we could use for free (more on the lodge in another post). Wednesday morning we took them both out. Tom and I started in the paddleboat and Val and Johnny paddled the canoe. We paddled out to Little American Island where there was gold mining at the turn of the 20th century. We walked the short path and saw the remnants of the mining on the island. Then we switched and paddled back.
In the afternoon we went to the Rainy Lake Visitor Center and took the two and a half hour “Grand Tour” on the “Voyageur.” The boat took us back to Little American Island, past an adit (mining tunnel) on another island and to a commercial fishing camp. A ranger led the tour and did a very nice job. We saw an eagle and looked at historic pictures of Rainy Lake. But as much as I enjoyed the boat tour, I felt like I was done with the park afterward. It’s water and islands – a lot of them. After a while they all looked the same.
We enjoyed our visit to Voyageurs National Park and we are glad we took the time to go. It is a beautiful area.