Voyageurs National Park Canoe
Paddle and Camp the Fur Trader's Route on the US/Canada Border
Paddle the path of the 18th century French-Canadian fur traders through Minnesota’s spectacular north country. Explore waterfalls, hidden coves, and scenic waterways. Listen for the cry of the loon and the howl of the timber wolf, as you glide through the crystal clear waters of north country’s big lakes. View ancient rock exposures, spectacular lake country scenery, and abundant wildlife as the Voyageurs once did!
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
DAY 1: Your trip starts in the late afternoon at Ash River Visitor Center. Unload Voyageur canoes and gear, participate in a canoe orientation, and learn about other details necessary for a safe and fun trip. Paddle into Kabetogama Lake toward your first campsite on Bald Rock. After dinner discuss expectations for the trip around the campfire.
DAY 2: Get up early for breakfast, break camp, and get underway! The day may consist of a full day of paddling, crossing many miles just like the Voyageurs used to do. Paddle west past Wolf Island and out into Kabetogama Lake. Stop near Shoepack Beach for lunch. Camp on Cutover Island and spend the evening investigating your surroundings. Don't forget to look for shooting stars!
DAY 3: Take a layover day in this area and enjoy the activities the park has to offer. Sit back and soak in the wilderness, take a day paddle to the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, explore the hidden trails and blueberry patches of Cutover Island, or fish from a Voyageur canoe. The evening can be spent swimming, fishing, and relaxing around camp.
DAY 4: Paddle back to the first campsite on Bald Rock and set up camp. Explore and fish the bay from a canoe or hike to the backcountry lakes. Here you will experience seeing geology that is half as old as the world, boreal forests, and what life would have been like as a voyageur. Spend your last night in the wilderness telling tales and reliving your adventures around the fire.
DAY 5: Rise early and paddle to the take-out point near the Ash River Visitor Center. The trip officially ends after lunch in the early afternoon. Those who use WI's van transportation can expect to return to Minneapolis in the evening.
Travel, Terrain, Etc...
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The area lies on the Canadian Shield, with terrain characterized by exposed granite carved by the water and ice action of the big lakes. On the water, many islands provide protection from the wind. Voyageurs National Park offers a wide range of route options from very easy to very difficult–great for family trips.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: Voyageurs National Park is still very wild, but also one of our more accessible adventures. You will travel in 24-foot cedar strip Voyageur canoes, which hold 4-8 paddlers and a boat captain, plus all necessary gear. They are fast and stable boats, designed specifically for trips on big water. The average day's travel consists of 3-6 hours of paddling, depending on weather conditions. Travel distances vary from 2-10 miles per day.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer months range from 40 F to 95 F. Rainfall can vary and you should expect at least one day of rain.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 7 to 15 participants, plus 2 or more Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can.
ACCOMMODATIONS: At night you will sleep in a comfortable 4-person tent with 2-3 people (although other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of park service outhouses.
MEALS: Enjoy preparing meals together using fresh, healthy ingredients for bountiful dishes. Rise to the smell of freshly brewed coffee to enjoy with your breakfast and pack trail lunches with hearty snacks before heading off to explore. In the evening, we’ll prepare our dinner together over stoves and campfires and then finish with s’mores. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.
FISHING: If interested in fishing you are expected to bring your own fishing gear. We encourage you to bring a collapsible rod and reel. Don't forget a MN fishing license.A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
Named after the hardy French-Canadian canoe men of the fur trade from the late-17th to early-19th centuries, Voyageurs National Park beckons to present-day explorers as it once did to the voyageurs. The voyageurs traveled extensively throughout the region trading with native people and establishing water routes for the fur trade, the same routes traced by adventurous people today. Unlike most National Parks, visitors to Voyageurs travel primarily by watercraft like their French-Canadian predecessors.
Voyageurs National Park is Minnesota’s only National Park. Located on the international Canadian border adjacent to the Province of Ontario, Voyageurs National Park lies along the border immediately to the west of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Authorized by Congress in 1971, the park was officially established in 1975. Nearly 40% of its 218,054 acres is water, much of that in the four largest lakes: Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, Namakan Lake, and Sand Point Lake. Voyageurs also includes over 500 islands and more than 650 miles of shoreline. Smaller lakes also abound in Voyageurs, but even on the big lakes silence and solitude can be found amid the great natural beauty.
Located at the southern part of the Canadian Shield, Voyageurs National Park contains some of the oldest exposed rock formations in the World. Dated at nearly 3 billion years old, this rock forms the foundation for the region’s topography. Glaciers also had a significant impact on the region as they scraped bedrock and carved depressions that filled with water, creating the lakes, ponds, and streams that the voyageurs later navigated.
American Indians inhabited this region for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of the Voyageurs. Evidence of Dakota (or Sioux), who had established campsites near wild-rice beds, has been discovered within the boundaries of the Park. The Ojibwa (Chippewa, or Anishinabe) people eventually drove out the Dakota nation and, in time, established a working relationship with the fur traders. The voyageurs traded trade goods (sometimes including alcohol) and firearms for valuable beaver pelts and native knowledge of canoe-building and navigation routes. This partnership finally ended in the mid-19th century when the beaver population was hunted to near extinction and fur hats were no longer as fashionable.
As the fur trade era began to decline in the nineteenth century, the lumber industry took hold. From the 1880s to the 1920s the area was subject to extensive logging and resulting deforestation. In 1913, the Kettle Falls Hotel was built to house the region’s lumberjacks and was vacated in the early 1920s as the logging industry moved west. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Kettle Falls Hotel is the most visible remaining evidence of this earlier era and one of a few developed sites within this vast wilderness park.
Many people have recognized the charm and beauty of Voyageurs through the years. As early as 1891, the Minnesota Legislature petitioned the President to create a national park in this same area. It took another 80 years to authorize Voyageurs National Park, but conservationists struggled to protect the natural beauty of the area throughout that time.
Today visitors to Voyageurs can enjoy the pine-clad forests and exposed glaciated bedrock; wildlife like moose, wolves, and black bears; bald eagles, common loons, and over 20 species of wood warblers; and fish like walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth and largemouth bass. Starry nights and northern lights can make the nights exciting.
Visitors to the North Country will leave with fond memories. The serenity and beauty of the landscape is enough to satisfy most, but add the brilliance of the Northern Lights and satisfaction becomes admiration. Early risers will not forget the loon’s call penetrating the morning silence. The howl from a distant wolf will thrill a 21st century explorer just as it did the Voyageurs of the 18th century.
For more information, visit these links:
Standard Meetings Places and Times
Start: Ash River Visitor Center at 2:30 PM (local time)
End: Ash River Visitor Center at 11:00 AM (local time)
This trip begins at the Ash River Visitors Center in Voyageurs National Park at 2:30 PM. The trip ends at the same location at 11:00 AM. You can take your own transportation or use WI’s van transportation from Minneapolis. By car, it is 6.5 hours north of Minneapolis, and 4 hours from Cloquet, MN. Most people meet us in Minneapolis at WI Headquarters at 7:30 AM on the first day of the trip for shuttle service. The shuttle returns to Minneapolis around 7:30 PM. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip. Booking a Flight? We recommend flying in to the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport the night before your trip, and flying out no earlier than 10:00 PM on the last day of the trip.Want to Ride With Us?
We typically provide transportation for this trip from the following places (make your selection when you register):
- Wilderness Inquiry Headquarters FEE: $75 per person