Where is Voyageurs National Park
Park Address: 360 Minnesota 11 East, International Falls, MN 56649
Located along the Canadian border in northern Minnesota, Voyageurs National Park is in a secluded part of the United States. The park is northwest of Lake Superior and sits among dozens of other lakes that cross between the U.S. and Canada. Surrounded by water and a decent drive from any city or town, Voyageurs National Park is a true natural oasis.
The park is situated in International Falls, Minnesota, an equidistant drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota and the capital of Manitoba, Canada, Winnipeg. Voyageurs National Park is nearly four and a half hours from either city. The closest city is actually the smaller, port city of Duluth, Minnesota.
How Big is Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park occupies over 218,000 acres of land and gorgeous lakes in northern Minnesota. Within the park there is dense fir forest and rugged landscapes. Some of the oldest rock formations on the North American continent are located within the park’s boundaries, and these stones draw geologists from around the world to visit each year.
Yet, the very geography of the park means most of the activities within Voyageurs National Park take place out on the water. Over one-third of the National Park’s property is water, making it a dream destination for canoeists, fishermen, and kayakers alike. The main peninsula within the park, Kabetogama Peninsula is only accessible by boat most of the year. In the middle of winter, visitors trade boats and canoes for snowmobiles to reach the interior of the park.
Voyageurs National Park Weather
The western part of the Great Lakes, including Wisconsin, North Dakota, northern Illinois, and Minnesota is known for being extremely cold and frigid. From October through March, and sometimes even April, snow and ice accumulate in northern Minnesota, turning the colorful, watery landscape into a tundra.
January is historically the coldest month of the year, with the average temperature in Voyageurs National Park just hitting 17°F. The average low and overnight temperature throughout winter is -5°F to 5°F.
Summer, in contrast, is balmy and temperate. The average temperature in the months of June through August is between 72°F and 76°F and are typically the warmest months of the year. Summer is also the wettest season in Voyageurs National Park. June has an average 10 days with rain each year, and July and August typically have eight rainy days a piece.
When did Voyageurs become a National Park
The name of Voyageur National Park is significant and appropriate for a variety of reasons. The term, translated to “traveler” in French, not only references the journey required to reach this National Park’s undisturbed location along the Canadian border, but also the rich history of fur traders, languages, and waterway travel in the region.
The first native populations to settle in the territory that is now Voyageurs National Park arrived over 10,000 years ago. These tribes were hunters and gathers, who traveled to find food and shelter as the seasons and years changed. Fur traders and European settlers arrived in the early 1800’s and some stayed in this rugged landscape.
Rainy Lake within Voyageurs National Park and across the Canadian border became one of the first permanent settlements in the area. However, most of the residents used their cabins here as seasonal, summer homes - establishing a tradition of recreational travel within the park’s territory.
The National Park was established much later in 1975, as a tribute to both the natural importance and cultural heritage in the Great Northwest of the United States.
Things to do in Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is a playground for water enthusiasts and fishermen. There are seemingly endless waterways to explore and many opportunities to camp, hike, and boat to reach new coves and finger lakes to explore. Entrance to the park is free, so it is easy to spend several days or even a week exploring different parts of this fascinating landscape.
To truly appreciate the experience of Voyageurs National Park, you must get out on the water. Whether you are a fisherman, explorer, swimmer, or birdwatcher, there is a boat and boating experience for you in Voyageurs National Park. One option for rentals is a private operator called Northern Lights Resort & Outfitting.
The National Park Service provides canoes for backcountry and day use in Voyageurs National Park. There are canoes available in several locations across the park, including The Chain Lakes, Elk Lake, Shoepack Lake, and Brown Lake. Canoes used for backcountry and multi-day use can only be rented with a backcountry permit.
Kayaking along the many waterways throughout Voyageurs National Park allows visitors to slow down, move slowly, and partake in some of the other popular activities in the park, such as wildlife and bird watching. This is also a great way to explore the 1,000+ forested islands in Voyageurs National Park and the four major lakes.
Much like camping and other land activities in Voyageurs National Park, there are some trails reachable by car, but most (and some of the best) require transportation by water. From roads and by car, there are several trails ranging from one mile to three in length, including the Blind Ash Bay Trail and Echo Bay Trail. Visitors looking for a strenuous option will want to check out the 27-mile Kab-Ash Trail.
During the summer high season, usually from June to mid-September, the National Park Visitors Guide Service offers both guided boat tours and ranger programs within Voyageur National Park. There are multiple guided tour programs that cover three of the four main lakes within the park, including Rainy Lake Tours, Kabetogama Lake Area Tours, and Ash River Boat Tours.
If you wish to take a guided tour but would like a different park? Find one that fits you best here at List of Parks.
Voyageur National Park draws birdwatchers from around North America. It was designated as one of the regions Important Birding Area (IBA) by Audobon and 68 species of birds on the list of Greatest Conservation Need. Many of the boat tours and ranger programs within the park are focused on birding and birdwatching.
When the temperatures drop and the lakes of Voyageur National Park freeze over, a whole new type of activities become available for visitors. Snowmobiling is one of the most popular activities and can be used to reach trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing or locations for ice fishing.
When to go to Voyageurs National Park
Similar to many parks in the National Park system, Voyageurs National Park is open year-round and there is not a “bad” time to visit. Outdoor enthusiasts visit the park all months of the year, but for very different reasons depending on the season. Any visitor to the park will want to research the timing and availability of their desired activity and temperature. It would be miserable to show up for hiking and find yourself ice fishing in the early spring.
The ideal time to visit for hikers, campers, boaters, and kayakers is from June to September, when the ice and snow has melted and the weather is warmer. In contrast, during the winter and early spring the lakes freeze over and open up the landscape of Voyageurs National Park to winter activities. Ice fishermen, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers visit Voyageurs National Park from November to mid-March.
Must-Have things to bring to Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is an interconnected maze of waterways and hiking trails. The rugged terrain and lack of roads make this park difficult for many to navigate. It is necessary to come prepared and carry plenty of supplies for your visit.
While the park is open to the public 24-hours a day, every day of the year, services and information at the visitors’ center is limited. It is important to collect maps, pictures of trail heads, and boating navigation materials ahead of your visit.
There are over 84,000 acres of waterways in Voyageurs National Park, which is why boating is such an exciting and fun activity within the park. However, safety should always come first and both new and experienced visitors need to bring a copy of Minnesota boating regulations and a map of the lake system for any boating or canoeing adventure.
Life jackets are required onboard for any watercraft in Voyageurs National Park. This requirement applies to kayaks, canoes, houseboats, and fishing vessels. Safety equipment is available from established operators and with canoe rentals from the National Park Service.
During business hours the National Park Service and local business monitor the Marine Band Radio for boating and watercraft emergencies. This is the easiest way to reach the NPS and coastguard if you encounter trouble.
Where to stay in Voyageurs National Park
Camping locations within Voyageurs National Park are easy to come by during the summer months. There are both front country campsites that offer certain amenities, such as showers and trash disposal, and fifteen rustic backcountry camping permits. However, it is crucial to make a reservation for camping before your arrival, as all camping is by permit and reservation only.
Most of the campsites, including the backcountry sites on Kabetogama Peninsula, are only accessible by boat or other watercraft. This includes the front country campsites located along the National Park’s four main lakes, Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, Namakan Lake, and Sand Point Lake.
There is only one lodging option within Voyageurs National Park. The Kettle Falls Hotel is located on the Kabetogama Peninsula, and therefore only reachable by water. The hotel itself offers double rooms at $90 a night for two people or the option to stay in a roomier villa. The villas require a three-night minimum stay.
While most visitors choose to stay in one of the nearby towns of International Falls, Rainier, Kabetogama, Ash River, Crane Lake and Orr, if you are looking for a truly Minnesota summer experience, several operators in International Falls and outside the park offer overnight houseboats for rent.
Food nearby Voyageurs National Park
The Kettle Falls Lodge is the only restaurant or cafe located within Voyageur National Park. While serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the lodge is only ideal for overnight guests. Kettle Falls Lodge is remotely located on Kabetogama Peninsula and only reachable by water.
Just outside the park, the Rocky Ledge serves up bar food in a family-friendly environment that guests praise for feeling like home and being friendly service.
During the summer there are plenty of food options in the town and communities along Highway 53, which leads to the park entrance for Voyageurs National Park. The T Pattern Cafe is a good stop for coffee in Orr and the Dam Supper Club down the street serves lunch and dinner year-round.
Airports near Voyageurs National Park
The closest airport to Voyageurs National Park is the Fort Francis Municipal Airport in Fort Francis, Ontario in Canada. This municipal airport is only 55 minutes from the US National Park’s entrance, but very few visitors to Voyageurs National Park use this airport to reach the region. Rather, most visitors will fly into Duluth International Airport, roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes driving from the park or even Minneapolis International Airport, over four hours driving.