Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park sees more than 230 thousand visitors each year

Voyageurs National Park protects four lakes near the Canada–US border and is an amazing canoeing, kayaking, and fishing site. The park also preserves a history populated by Ojibwe Native Americans, French fur traders called voyageurs, and gold miners. Formed by glaciers, the region features tall bluffs, rock gardens, islands, bays, and several historic buildings.


Rocks, Ridges, and Gold

Voyageurs National Park is one of the few places in North America where you can see and touch rocks half the age of the Earth.

The exposed rock you see all around you is the southern edge of the volcanic bedrock that forms the core of the continent and is from the birth of North America.

At one time, massive, explosive volcanoes deposited layer after layer of ash and lava. Subsequent uplifting, folding, tremendous pressure, and superheating created igneous and metamorphic rock.

Over time, erosion wore down the volcanic mountain range and the ice ages brought glaciers that moved rivers of ice and scoured away the younger rock layers.

This action exposed the roots of the ancient mountains- the granite, migmatite, and biotite schist you see today.

As the glaciers receded, torrents of melted water filled low-lying areas, creating the lakes and bogs of today’s landscape.

Today, the oldest rock in the park tells a recent human story. Fault zones in exposed 2.8-billion-year-old greenstone revealed gold embedded in quartz veins.

The discovery sparked a short-lived gold rush and boomtown in the 1890’s. Many of the newcomers stayed for good, and their descendents live in the region today.

To learn more about the park’s geologic features purchase a copy of A Story Written in the Rocks at any of the three park visitor centers.

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Native American History

Learn more about the first people of Voyageurs National Park

The first people to occupy the lands now designated as Voyageurs National Park arrived nearly 10,000 years ago during the Paleo-Indian Period.

Groups entered the area as the waters of glacial Lake Agassiz receded. This ancient lake once covered 110,000 square miles of Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan in Canada.

During the Archaic Period (8,000 B.C. – 100 B.C.) people followed a mobile, hunting and gathering lifestyle. Fishing was a major source of food, although the gathering of plants continued to be important as well.

During the Woodland Period (100 A.D.- 900 A.D.) people increased their use of the wild rice that is native to this area. They began to use ceramics to fashion small, side-notched triangular projectile points.

Over 220 pre-contact archeological sites have been documented within the park, including sites that are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Please remember while exploring the park that all archeological and historic resources are protected by law. Do not destroy or collect any items that you find; instead enjoy looking at the items and leave them where you found them.

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Park History

How Voyageurs became a National Park

The voyageur – a French word meaning traveler – the namesake of Voyageurs National Park – began journeying through these interconnected waterways over 250 years ago; waterways that are one of the most important segments of the fur trade route used to open the “Great Northwest”.

As park visitors travel the lakes today, it is easy to imagine the voyageurs of the past dipping their canoe paddles into the clear, dark waters to the rhythm of their songs, gliding past the rock and pines of this northern landscape.

Voyageurs National Park was established in 1975, but is filled with evidence of over 10,000 years of human life and use. Signs of Native Americans, fur traders, and homesteaders, signs of logging, mining, and commercial fishing are scattered throughout the park.

The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service and decreed that nature and culture were to be protected hand-in-hand. Voyageurs National Park protects and shares a rich, unique cultural history that was shaped by the picturesque, rugged nature of its water and lands.

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The best things to do in Voyageurs National Park

Guided Tours
Join park staff as they immerse you in the world of the voyageurs, lakecountry, and geology. Programs include guided boat tours, canoes trip, and hikes. Programs typically begin at the Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, or Ash River Visitor Centers.
Tour Boat Charters
Have a large group or need a unique, private setting for your gathering? Charter a tour boat for your special occasion.

With over 270 sites located within Voyageurs National Park, one may escape busy campgrounds to have a lakeside campsite all to yourself. It’s time to enjoy the variety of camping opportunities in Voyageurs National Park and its surrounding area.

Become a Junior Ranger
A junior ranger explores the park and its points of interest, by learning about the history, both cultural and natural, while helping to protect and preserve our national parks for future generations. Learn about the different Voyageurs National Park Junior Ranger programs that are available for you.

Hike to Health
Hike to Health is a new program that started spring of 2014. With a little added incentive, learn how you can hike yourself to health.

Hiking Trails
Some trails are accessible by vehicle, others only by boat. Pick a trail and explore a variety of North Woods habitats.

Places to Go
More than just the perfect campsite can be found at Voyageurs. Visitor destinations like Kettle Falls, Ellsworth Rock Gardens, and many more attract thousands of people each season to explore the natural and cultural history of the park. Find your destination at Voyageurs.

America’s Great Outdoors
& Lets Move Outside
With nearly eighty percent of Americans now living in urban areas, getting into the outdoors is much more difficult than in the past. Lets Move Outside encourages kids and their families to engage in outdoor activities that get hearts pumping and bodies moving.

Winter Activities
When the lakes freeze up and the snow starts to fall, Voyageurs is a whole new experience. See what trails are open for skiing and snowshoeing. Read the latest report on the ice roads and snowmobile trails. Dress for the weather, but enjoy all the park has to offer.

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Voyageurs is composed of a variety of ecological systems, including conifer forests, hardwood forests, bogs, swamps, marshes, rocky outcrops, and lakeshore environments

Voyageurs National Park lies in a transition area between the southern boreal forest to the north and temperate deciduous forest to the south and east. It is composed of a variety of ecological systems, including conifer forests, hardwood forests, bogs, swamps, marshes, rocky outcrops, and lakeshore environments. The park is home to over 50 tree and shrub species, over 40 fern and moss species, over 200 grass, sedge, and rush species, and over 400 wildflower species.

Historically, fire and wind were the primary influences on the park’s ecosystems. Today, past logging, beavers, exotic plants, and climate change affect these ecosystems. To increase awareness of some of these issues and promote the benefits of native plants, the park created an ethno-botanical garden on the grounds of the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. In addition, the park is cultivating a native plant nursery to assist with re-vegetation efforts in disturbed areas.

Visit one of the three visitor centers and ask for a Plant and Animal Guide.

Trees & Shrubs
Traveling the waters of Voyageurs, one can enjoy the same views the French-Canadian voyageurs witnessed – majestic white and red pine interspersed with spruce, fir, aspen, birch, jack pine, and red maple. Disembarking on a rocky shoreline, one can find the same delicious blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and hazelnuts that sustained the voyageurs on their journeys as well as the bearberry they smoked in their pipes and the birch bark they used to patch their canoes. Woody plants, whether six inches or 100 feet in height, continue to thrive in the park as they have done for thousands of years.

From the earliest violets in spring, to the last asters in fall, the forests and wetlands of Voyageurs are alive with color. Over the course of the season, watch the colors change as over 400 wildflowers bloom.

Ethno-botanical Garden
Many of the plants found in the park have been used by people for centuries. Some of these plants are important sources of food, while others have been used for shelter and clothing. Visitors to the garden can learn what these plants are, how they were used by earlier residents of the area, why they are important, and how exotic plants harm native plant communities.

Native Plant Nursery
Resiliency – the ability to withstand threats and bounce back from disturbances – is key to healthy ecosystems. Natural plant communities are inherently resilient, and the best way to ensure their survival is to preserve the native plants that compose those communities. Staff collect seeds from plants within the park, grow them in a greenhouse and plant nursery, and replant the developed native plant in places altered by use or development.

Exotic Plants
The forests and wetlands of Voyageurs are healthy, but they are also threatened. One of the more significant threats is exotic plants. These are plants that are not native to the region. Some of these exotics are relatively harmless, while others have the potential to take over large swathes of habitat, displacing the native plants and the animals that depend on them. Staff work diligently to prevent these invaders from establishing in the park, and to remove them when found.

Mushrooms & Other Fungi Everywhere we walk or build or garden, mushrooms and fungi can be found. They are everywhere at Voyageurs. Please remember that the collecting of mushrooms and other fungi is prohibited within the park boundary.

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Animal Life

There is an abundance of wildlife in Voyageurs National Park

The Boreal Forest brings with it not only a diversity of tree and plant species but also a unique array of wildlife. The park is home to more than 100 species of birds, including eagles and loons, and more than 50 species of mammals, including moose, beavers, and wolves.

One of our most frequently asked questions is ‘Where can I see a Moose?’. Learn about the habitat and status of the moose population of Voyageurs National Park.
A chewed up stump, a ripple in the water and suddenly what sounds like a someone or something slapped the top of the water. These are all signs that a beaver may be near by.
Gray Wolf
Sitting around a campfire, listening to the crackling of the fire, water lapping along the shoreline and suddenly the long howl of a gray wolf cuts through the night. Voyageurs is called home for several wolf packs

Bald Eagle
Keep your eyes to the sky in Voyageurs, chances are you will see America’s own symbol of freedom soaring high above you, the majestic Bald Eagle.
Common Loon
No shrill work alarm here, wake up to the eerie yodel of the Common Loon. Look out across the water and see the very identifiable black body with white checkered feathers on its back, a common site in Voyageurs.
Double-crested Cormorant
Another common waterbird of Voyageurs is the Double-crested Cormorant. This bird, with its all black body can be found sunning itself on a rock to dry out, or feeding on fish in shallow bays.

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Hiking Trails

The best hiking trails in Voyageurs National Park

Blind Ash Bay Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Distance: 2.5 miles loop
Hiking Time: 2.5 hours, round trip
Winter Use: Snowshoe

Park at the Kabetogama Lake Overlook near the Ash River Visitor Center to access the trailhead. Travel a narrow, winding, rocky trail to experience the wonders of the boreal forest and to view spectacular scenery.

Echo Bay Trail
Difficulty: Easy
Hiking Distance: 2.5 mile loop
Hiking Time: 2 hours, round trip
Winter Use: Cross Country Ski

This park trail is located three miles from the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center off Country Road 122. A wide path takes you from aspens to pines as you pass through lowlands and rocky outcrops. Birding is great, with sightings from warblers to woodpeckers.

Ethno-botanical Garden Trail
Difficulty: Easy, ADA accessible
Hiking Distance: 0.25 mile, loop
Hiking Time: 20 minutes
Winter Use: Snowshoe

Step back in time and visit a native plant garden and Ojibwe Indian encampment. Learn about native and exotive flora and their mark on the park. The garden reflects the seasonal plants and the role they play in the life of the native peoples here.

Kab-Ash Trail
Difficulty: Strenuous
Hiking Distance: 27.9 mile system
Hiking Time: Days
Winter Use: Snowshoe and Cross Country Ski

This trail connects the Kabetogama and Ash River communities. Travel through backcountry forests and wetlands on this extensive system of interconnected trails. Four trailheads make it possible to hike sections of this trail or the whole trail for an in-depth view of the park.

Oberholtzer Trail
Difficulty: Easy
Hiking Distance: 1.7 miles
Hiking Time: 45 minutes, round trip
Winter Use: Snowshoe

Travel from just outside the Rainy Lake Visitor Center to two overlooks to see the diversity of forest and wetland types in the park. This trail is accessible for the first 1/4 mile.

Rainy Lake Recreation Trail
Difficulty: Easy, ADA accessible
Hiking Distance: 1.75 miles
Hiking Time: 1.5 hours, round trip
Winter Use: Snowshoe

This trail offers visitors a wonderful experience as it meanders along the park road, into the woods, and around rock outcrops. Bicyclists, walkers, runners, skiers, and snowshoers will be treated to views of forest, lake, and marsh scenery.

Sullivan Bay Trail
Difficulty: Easy
Hiking Distance: 1.5 miles, round trip
Hiking Time: 2 hours, round trip
Winter Use: Snowshoe

An easy hike on an old road which is mostly flat with one small hill toward the end of the trail and a rewarding view of Sullivan Bay at the end.

Voyageurs’ Tilson Connector Ski Trail
Difficulty: Easy
Skiing Distance: 1 mile, one-way
Skiing Time: 20 minutes
Summer Use: None

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages this ten mile network of interconnected ski trails. Several routes are possible, ranging from short loops to longer excursions. You can access this system from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center area on the park’s Tilson Connector Trail.

Beaver Pond Overlook
Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Distance: 0.2 mile, one way
Hiking Time: 30 minutes
Winter Use: Snowshoe

This is the second trailhead on your left as you are driving to the Ash River Visitor Center. A short uphill hike leads to a rocky terrace high above a beaver pond. Although beavers are no longer active at this pond, this trail provides great birding opportunities, and the possibility of spotting large wildlife.

Kabetogama Lake Overlook

Difficulty: Easy
Hiking Distance: 0.2 mile one way
Hiking Time: 20 minutes
Winter Use: None

This is the third pullout on your left as you are driving to the Ash River Visitor Center. This short walk is handicap accessible and will take you to a wayside that looks west towards Kabetogama Lake.

Voyageurs Forest Overlook
Difficulty: Easy
Hiking Distance: 0.5 mile loop
Hiking Time: 30 minutes
Winter Use: None
The entrance to this short trail is the first pullout on your right as you are driving to the Ash River Visitor Center, just after turning off County Road 129. A picnic table and restroom are located at the trailhead, making this a good spot to get out of your car and stretch your legs.

Pond from Cruiser Lake Trail
Unnamed pond from the Cruiser Lake Trail
Water Access (accessible only by boat)
*Please stop in at a visitor center for detailed trail maps for Voyageurs National Park.

Black Bay Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Distance: 1.2 miles, round trip
Hiking Time: 1 hour, round trip
Winter Use: Ski and snowshoe
Skiing Distance: 1 to 6 mile loops available
Skiing Time: 30 minutes to 2 hours

Located across Black Bay, 1 mile north of the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. This trail takes you through northern pine country to a scenic and active beaver pond by hike or snowshoe. Continue further by cross country ski.

Anderson Bay Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Distance: 1.75 mile loop
Hiking Time: 2 hours, round trip
Winter Use: None

The trailhead is located on the east end of Rainy Lake just past the Kempton channel. This trail takes you up a rocky cliff to a spectacular view of Rainy Lake.

Little American Island
Difficulty: Easy, ADA Accessible
Hiking Distance: 0.25 loop
Hiking Time: 20 minutes
Winter Use: None

Discover the past on Little American Gold Mine Island while you explore the history of gold mining activities. Today mine shafts, tailings, piles, and machinery remain from the 1890s gold rush.

Cruiser Lake Trail
Difficulty: Strenuous
Hiking Distance: 9.5 miles, one way
Hiking Time: 6 to 8 hours
Winter Use: None

This trailhead is accessible from either the Rainy or Kabetogama Lake side of the park. This trail crosses over the peninsula, up rocky cliffs and down into remote wetland areas. If you are hoping to spot some of the park’s larger wildlife, hiking this trail will increase your chances of spotting a moose or hearing the howl of a wolf.

Locator Lake Trail
Difficulty: Strenuous
Hiking Distance: 2 miles, one way
Hiking Time: 2 hours, round trip
Winter Use: None

The trailhead is located across Kabetogama Lake north from the visitor center. This trail takes you up and down a variety of hills and through forests and wetlands.

Beast Lake Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Distance: 2.5 miles, one way
Hiking Time: 2 hours, round trip
Winter Use: None

This trail climbs the majority of the way along a ridge top. A steep climb at the beginning and at the end awaits the adventurous.

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