One thing had remained elusive for me after six-and-a-half years worth of visits to my fiance’s hometown of International Falls, Minnesota.
Actually stepping foot in nearby Voyageurs National Park.
That’s because it is a park you can’t easily “step foot” in, unless you have a boat to take you around. Outside of a winter visit to their headquarters (a stone’s throw from her family’s house), I’d never really visited the actual park.
Voyageurs is a massive park tucked away in some of the most remote areas of Northern Minnesota. Short summers and difficult access means most of the park is out of reach for your typical tourist. Sure, the park service offers tours, but if you want to explore a bit on your own, you’re essentially left to your own devices, and a good majority of travelers don’t have the feasible means or desire to bring a boat or snowmobile everywhere they go.
So the easiest way to explore Voyageurs? Know somebody with a boat. That somebody is Breeah’s brother – who purchased his first boat this year and generously took us on a ride around the entire northern end of the Kabetogema Peninsula, from the mouth of the Rainy River to the end of Rainy Lake, at the historic Kettle Falls Hotel, which also doubles as a local watering hole and restaurant. Out there the only parking lot is a boat dock and the only wheeled vehicles are golf carts. Heck, I’d be willing to argue that Kettle Falls is one of the furthest hotels in America from an interstate highway, so add-in the need for a good, long boat ride and you’re in true “out there” territory.
The park’s history and name origins coincide with with the European fur trading routes of the 17th and 18th centuries. Voyageurs were literally French-Canadian fur traders, who forged passageways through the islands dotted throughout the area. Today the park blends together a rare mix seemingly endless supply of freshwater, rugged, forested islands and a real element of escapism, not to mention the geographical curiosities of the park’s nearby border with Canada. The park’s generally difficult accessibility keeps it wild and remote, a haven for the locals who live up here and the more hardy tourists who don’t mind leaving most amenities behind.
Take a look at a few more photos from our trip below: