Paddling the Park


Paddlers have a wide range of options for exploring Voyageurs National Park. The park’s largest lakes are used by boats, kayaks, and canoes but remain largely quiet, especially along inlets and coves. The lakes feature many sand beaches, scenic overlooks, historic sites, and fishing opportunities to enjoy, as well as more than 20 day use sites throughout the park where visitors can stop and picnic.

Explore destinations throughout the park such as Ellsworth Rock Gardens, Hoist Bay, Kettle Falls, Casareto Cabin, Oveson’s Fish Camp, and Little American Island.

Jenna Sing

Jenna Sing

Those who prefer a wilderness experience explore the smaller “interior lakes” located within the Kabetogama Peninsula. With no motorized boat traffic, these lakes offer plenty of solitude and opportunities for wildlife viewing. Some of the lakes only have one campsite. To help prevent the spread of invasive species, private watercraft are not allowed on these interior lakes. Leave your own boat behind or take a water taxi to the trailhead, then hike in on one of the access trails and use the canoes or rowboats that the park has provided. Rent these in advance (and make campsite reservations) by visiting

The park’s annual visitor resource guide contains information on outfitters, boat rentals, equipment, water taxi/shuttle service to trailheads, nearby accommodations, personal guides and more. Pick one up at a visitor center or download a printable PDF. Comprehensive maps and information are available at all three park visitor centers, which are open 7 days a week from mid-May to mid-September.

One of Voyageurs' interior lakes. Kat Audette-Luebke

One of Voyageurs’ interior lakes. Kat Audette-Luebke

Voyageurs has more than 150 campsites all available by reservation at Remember to print and bring your permit with you. Campsites in the park are only available by reservation.

Water access and free parking is available at all of the Voyageurs National Park visitor centers and at Crane Lake. Many visitors also use the nearby Woodenfrog State Campground (information on Minnesota DNR website) on Kabetogama for drive-up camping and water access.

Linda Pascoe

Linda Pascoe

Get the most out of your visit – spend your time getting to know a specific lake. Pick a single campsite for multiple days, and spend your time exploring the lake. You can visit historical sites, hike the trails, paddle to little visited places, or go fishing, all with the convenience of your camp being set up and waiting for you.

Want to circumnavigate the Kabetogama Peninsula? This unique challenge involves a 75- mile paddle and two portages at Kettle Falls and Gold Portage. Trip time depends on paddler’s experience level, campsites, side-trips and weather. Get a National Geographic map of the park or pick up navigational maps at a visitor center to plan your journey.

Chuck Rose

Chuck Rose

Safety Tips

Create a “float plan” and leave it with a friend or relative and let them know when you plan to return. If you do not check in with them at your pre-determined time, that person should notify the park’s 24-hour dispatch at (440) 546-5945. Click for an example of a comprehensive float plan.

Check the weather forecast before departing and plan accordingly. Weather can change rapidly during the summer and open stretches of the big lakes can become rough. If you get caught in a storm, head for the nearest shoreline until the storm passes.

Always wear your life jacket. Minnesota state law requires each person to have a wearable U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) on board and accessible. Children under 10 years of age are required by law to wear a life jacket whenever they are on board.

Be aware, while in the park, cell phones may not work in many areas. In case of an emergency, call 911, or contact a park ranger or park visitor center. Park rangers monitor marine band 16 for emergencies during business hours.