Voyageurs National Park Family Canoe
Island Hopping Family Fun Up North
Paddle the path of the 18th century French-Canadian fur traders through Minnesota’s spectacular north country. Learn new paddling skills in 24-foot Voyageur canoes, and view spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife along the way. 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. Take a break from paddling to swim in clear waters or enjoy games and activities. In the evenings, share tales around the campfire with new friends. Voyageurs is a wonderful place for kid-friendly camping.
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
DAY 1: The trip starts in the late afternoon at Ash River Visitor Center. Unload canoes and gear, participate in a canoe orientation, and learn about the original Voyageurs. 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! Today consists of a full day of paddling, crossing many miles just like the Voyageurs used to. Paddle west past Wolf Island and out into the Kabetogama Lake. Stop near Shoepack Beach for lunch and a relaxing swim. Camp on Cutover Island and spend the evening investigating your surroundings while enjoying your favorite camp games.
DAY 3: Take a layover day and enjoy the many activities. 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 all people.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: This trip is recommended for families with children of all abilities who are age 5 and older. 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. Families can easily participate on these kid-friendly vacations. 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 3-4 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 you are 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 for anyone over the age of 16.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.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is there a discount on family trips?
Yes. All youth participants under the age of 18 pay 50% less than the adult rate on all family trips. Adult fees are typically lower than on our "adult" trips to the same destination to help family affordability. Click here to see a list of our available family trips.
What is the minimum age for kids on your family trips?
There is no minimum age requirement to participate on a WI trip. For a paddling trip, we require participants to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times when on the water for safety. The smallest PFD we provide for children requires a minimum weight of 30 pounds. A child smaller than this weight limit would need to provide their own PFD or would be unable to participate on the trip. For most family trips, children should be able to sit comfortably in a canoe or kayak for 1+ hour at a time. This should guide whether or not a child would be a good fit on any particular trip. For a non-family trip, youth under the age of 18 must attend with an adult family member or friend who is over the age of 18.
Will age-appropriate activities be offered for children on a family trip?
Absolutely. Your trip leaders will offer age-appropriate activities for children at different points during the trip.
For more information, visit these links:
Standard Meeting 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