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Voyageurs National Park

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Voyageurs National Park Overview

Voyageurs is the only national park without a road. If you want to get far into this park, you do so on water, either in liquid or frozen form. In this regard, at least, you'll have something in common with the park's namesake voyageurs, the legendary fur traders who plied the region in handmade canoes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Your light, high tech craft and overnight gear will be a far cry from the 26-foot canoes and hundreds of pounds of pelts that the voyageurs transported; but the pristine landscape you explore would look mighty familiar to a grizzled old trapper.

Voyageurs adjoins the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area, which was similarly gouged by massive glaciers right down to the ancient bedrock known as the Canadian shield. The result is a region of unusual rock outcrops, irregularly shaped lakes, and slow-moving rivers, perfect for canoeing and fishing and all other manner of water play. The park is largely composed of water—five major lakes and at least 25 smaller ones.

Unlike Boundary Waters, Voyageurs is open to motorized recreation, which means you will see and hear motorboats on the lakes, and snowmobiles when the lake surfaces freeze in winter. But the wild still wins at Voyageurs. Eastern timber wolves run in the woods here. Late at night you might hear their howls. Some call it lonesome. We call it thrilling—and encouraging.

Canoe at Dawn
To paddle across a placid lake in the early morning is to awaken fresh to the world. The light is soft, the wildlife active, and your energy levels and awareness are at their peak. The park offers free ranger-led morning canoe excursions from the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center—even the canoes are provided for free. What better way to try out what could become a life passion?

Hike the Cruiser Lake Trail
The nine-mile Cruiser Lake Trail is the park's longest. It crosses the Kabetogama Peninsula from Kabetogama Lake's Lost Bay to Rainy Lake's Anderson Bay, with spur trails to several lakes along the way. The terrain is pure north woods, or what nature geeks call boreal forest: a land filled with spruce, balsam fir, cedar, birch, beaver, moose, herons, and loons. A series of ridges provide views of far-off lakes and ponds. The trail is reachable only by water.

Round the Kabetogama
For experienced canoeists searching for more adventure, circumnavigating the Kabetogoma Peninsula is a classic trip. Generally it takes six to eight days to complete this 75-mile trip. Only two short portages are necessary: Gold Portage skirts a rapid between Kabetogama Lake and Rainy Lake; the other portage is at Kettle Falls, the site of a small turn-of-the-century dam. Choose from more than 120 developed and 250 primitive campsites along the way. Shorter trips are also possible.

Float in Style
Houseboating Kabetogama Lake is probably the most laid-back group or family vacation. You putter along, stopping when you want to fish, take a dip, admire a view, or rest for the night. Accommodations are relatively spacious, at least compared to a tent. And you'll have no worries about marauding bears or raccoons. Nearly a half dozen marinas serve the lakes, offering all the basics: fuel, food, and gear. Houseboating is clean, convenient, and calming.

Fishing for Walleye
Walleye is Minnesota's state fish, as well as being one of the premier game fish of the world. They're big and they fight like heck. Voyageurs is one of the top destinations for walleye fishing. But walleye aren't the only fish that anglers are hauling in. Smallmouth bass, northern pike, and crappie are also regulars at the end of the hook.

Ski into Solitude
The Rainy Lake Visitor Center is ground zero for cross-country skiing at Voyageurs. From the center you can take off on the 10-mile Black Bay Ski Trail for a heaping helping of north woods winter wilderness.

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