Voyageurs National Park

Location: Minnesota

Park Tally: 27/59

Orientation: Voyageurs is a water-based park on the border of Minnesota, United States and Ontario, Canada. The park is situated within the Rainy Lake Basin, with 30% of the basin lying within Minnesota, and 70% lying within Ontario. Voyageurs encompasses four main lakes – Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan and Sand Point. Although there are some beautiful areas to explore on the mainland, Voyageurs is best experienced by watercraft. Visitors come to the park to boat, canoe, fish, camp, swim, hike and to learn about the area’s rich history.

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This quote by Florence Page Jaques expresses the feeling Voyageurs instills in its visitors:

“What a way to travel – no trains to catch, no traffic to annoy us, no towns to reach by evening, no appointments to remember! We wander anywhere our whims take us, through these lakes. Freedom surrounds us. We are finding more than peace here. This is an authentic and profound release from modern intricacies”.

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Most iconic view: Voyageurs National Park is best-known for its rocky islands, lush foliage and wild lakes. It is one of the only places in North America where you can see and touch rocks half the age of the Earth. The park’s exposed rock is the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, a massive dome of volcanic bedrock that forms the core of the continent.

Getting out on the water and touring the park is by far the best way to experience these ancient rocks that form islands full of thriving vegetation and wildlife. The Ellsworth Rock Gardens is a particularly interesting spot to witness prehistoric rocks with a modern twist.

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Accessible activity: Visitors can explore Voyageurs via personal watercraft, on a guided National Park tour, or via a private tour company. We arrived at Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center one day before the National Park tours were due to commence, so we opted to take a private tour with a local guiding service. Bill from Border Guide Service took us on a fantastic tour around Kabetogama and Namakan Lakes. Some of the highlights included the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, Kettle Falls Historic Hotel, and Pine Cove Resort with I.W. Stevens lived for 32 years. We also spotted at least 10 bald eagles and numerous loons.

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Hiking the Blind Ash Bay Trail is a relatively easy activity for those wanting to explore the land on foot. Located by the Ash River Visitor Center, the trail is 3.1-miles in length (roundtrip) and takes hikers to a beautiful lookout over Kabetogama Lake and Blind Ash Bay.

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For the adventurous: Voyageurs is a popular place for backcountry canoe and camping trips. The park has over 100 boat in campsites and numerous options for canoe and kayaking trails. Visitors can also access longer hikes on the Kabetogama Peninsula via watercraft, such as the Cruiser Lake Trail (10.9-miles).

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Best photo opportunities: Voyageurs is a birders dream location! We spotted at least 10 bald eagles within only a few hours exploring the lakes. Be sure to take a long lens (e.g. 100-400mm) for the best opportunity to capture birds of prey in the wild. 

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Quick facts

  • In 1975 Voyageurs became the United States 36th National Park.
  • Voyageurs National Park is made up of 218,054 acres of land and water, with 500+ islands and 655 miles of shoreline to explore.
  • Nearly 700 species of plants have been identified within the park, with Boreal forest species being the most abundant.
  • Wildlife found in the park include moose, white-tailed deer, gray wolves, foxes, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, beavers, black bears, eagles, ravens and common loons.
  • Renting houseboats is another popular activity in Voyageurs, with numerous overnight docking sites available.
  • Voyageurs has an average of 240,000 visitors each year.

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