Visiting Voyageurs National Park – Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where is Voyageurs National Park?

The park is located in the lake country of northern Minnesota. It is about a five-hour drive from the Twin Cities to the shores of Lake Kabetogama. Plan on the same amount of time to reach Crane Lake or Ash River. Add 45 minutes to reach Island View, which is east of International Falls. It’s a little less than a three-hour drive from Duluth to Lake Kabetogama.

Map of Voyageurs National Park

Q: What makes visiting Voyageurs National Park a unique experience?

Voyageurs National Park spans 218,054 acres, including 84,000 acres of water, many miles of undeveloped shoreline and hundreds of islands. The park’s 55-mile northern boundary is the international border between the United States and Canada and includes an important segment of the “transcontinental highway” traversed by French-Canadian voyageurs during the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Voyageurs has some of the oldest exposed rock in the world (2.8 billion years old!) Glaciers, more than a mile high, scoured out the lake and river beds here and set the stage for vast forests. This area, where the southern boreal forest meets and mixes with the northern hardwood forest, is widely known for its wildlife viewing opportunities. Voyageurs is one of only two national parks in the continental United States with an indigenous population of the Eastern timber wolf. It also is a great place to see bald eagles, loons, and otters, glimpse a moose, or to catch a prize-winning fish.

Q: What can visitors do there?

Voyageurs National Park offers more than 52 miles of hiking trails, 110 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, 7 miles of groomed crosscountry ski trails, more than 290 designated campsites, houseboat sites, and day use sites, an ethnobotanical garden (located at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center), and unique destinations such as the Ellsworth Rock Gardens and the Kettle Falls Hotel. There are trails to hike and beautiful sand beaches on many of the islands. Raspberries and blueberries are ripe for picking in mid-summer. And with little effort, you’ll see eagles, pelicans, osprey, turkey vultures, loons and other wildlife.

There’s a wealth of family-friendly activities at the park. Most visitors leave their cars behind and explore the park’s waters – enjoying activities such as kayaking, boating, fishing, sailing, camping and swimming. You do not need to bring your own boat – many area businesses offer boat rentals, including houseboats, and the park offers guided boat and canoe tours (check out our events listing or the Rendezvous park newspaper for information). In winter, visitors gather to enjoy snowmobiling, world-class ice fishing and the unique experience of driving the ice road.

Q: What is the weather like?

Summers are warm, and the frost-free season averages 120 days from June to mid-September. Annual precipitation (rain and snow) averages 25-28 inches in the park and average snowfall ranges from 55-70 inches. The first snowfall occurs in late October, and the last in late April or early May. The lakes usually freeze in late November or early December. They thaw in late April or early May. The thickness of the ice varies depending on how cold the winter is, but can be more than three feet thick.

Q:What kind of permit do I need to get into Voyageurs and what does it cost?

A: No permit is needed for day use. If you wish to stay overnight, 51 campsites are available by reservation only from May 15 through September 15 through Recreation.gov. For the rest of the park’s 240 campsites, a free overnight permit must be obtained at a self-serve park entry point upon arrival.

Q: Where can I camp in the park?

A: There are over 200 developed campsites within Voyageurs National Park. These sites are “boat-in” and cannot be reached by car. 51 of these campsites may be reserved in advance. You may do so by visiting Recreation.gov. Where it says “Search for places and activities” choose Voyageurs National Park, then select “Permits and Wilderness,” and then select the area you are interested in. You may also make a reservation using the National Call Center at 877-444-6777. Just ask for “permits” when you call.

Q: What about drive-up camping?

A: Drive-up camping is available outside of the Park at Woodenfrog State Forest Campground on Kabetogama Lake and Ash River Campground in Ash River, both of which are operated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Woodenfrog State Campground is beautiful and rustic with a great swimming beach, boat ramp, and an old YCC building used for interpretive talks on a regular basis, and has 61 campsites. Ash River Campground has 9 campsites, and is located across the road from the Department of Natural Resources boat launch in Ash River.

Q: If I don’t want to camp, are there places to stay nearby?

A: There are a wide variety of different lodges and resorts, as well as excellent restaurants and cultural events in the area for visitors to enjoy.

Q: Where can I leave my car while I am visiting the Park overnight? Can visitors park an RV overnight near a visitor center?

A: Visitors may leave their vehicles at any of the three visitor centers – Ash River, Kabetogama, and Rainy Lake – for the duration of their stay, however occupied vehicles are not allowed overnight in the visitor center parking lots.

Q: Where is the wheelchair accessible campsite in the park?

A: The park has an accessible campsite, N41, at Voyageurs Narrows. It is located just southwest of Mica Island on Namakan Lake. The campsite is available by reservation only. Woodenfrog State Forest Campground and Ash River Campground, both located near the park, also offer accessible campsites to visitors.

Q: Are there any roads in the park?

A: The only roads are the access roads to the three visitor centers – Ash River, Kabetogama, and Rainy Lake. During the winter months, the park also maintains a 7-mile ice road that starts from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center boat launch and ends at Cranberry Bay.

Q: How far is to travel between different destinations in the park?

Distances by car:

  • Ash River Visitor Center to Crane Lake Ranger Station = ~ 78 miles
  • Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to Ash River Visitor Center = ~ 19 miles
  • Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to Crane Lake Ranger Station = ~ 71 miles
  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center to Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center = ~ 36 miles
  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center to Ash River Visitor Center = ~ 49 miles
  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center to Crane Lake Ranger Station = ~103 miles
  • Distances from major highways to visitor centers
  • Highway 53 to Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center = 3 miles
  • Highway 53 to Ash River Visitor Center = ~ 11 miles
  • International Falls to Rainy Lake Visitor Center entrance road = ~ 11 miles

Distances by boat:

  • Ash River Visitor Center to Kettle Falls = ~ 13 miles
  • Brule Narrows to Kettle Falls = ~ 20 miles
  • Crane Lake Ranger Station to Kabetogama Lake VC = ~ 39 miles
  • Crane Lake Ranger Station to Kettle Falls = ~ 30 miles
  • Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to Ash River VC = ~ 8 miles
  • Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to Kettle Falls = ~ 21 miles
  • Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to Gold Portage = ~ 7 miles
  • Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to Ellsworth Rock Gardens = ~ 5 miles
  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center to Kettle Falls = ~ 34 miles
  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center to Brule Narrows = ~ 14 miles
  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center to Cranberry Bay = ~ 7 miles
  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center to Anderson Bay = ~26 miles

Q: Where can I fish? Is ice fishing allowed?

A: You can fish anywhere in the park except Beast Lake on the Kabetogama Peninsula. Ice fishing is allowed. All Minnesota State fishing regulations apply and anglers must possess a Minnesota State fishing license. If visitors want to fish in Canadian waters, they must have a Canadian fishing license.

Q: Are there any motor restrictions for boats in the park?

A: No. As long as the boat and motor comply with state and federal regulations. However, personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis) are prohibited in the park.

Q: How do I find my way around the lake without getting lost?

A: Visitors can find their way by using navigation maps of the park lakes. These maps mark channel buoys and rocks. Maps are sold in the bookstores at all visitor centers.

Q: How do visitors get to the Kettle Falls Hotel? Can you drive there?

A: There are no roads to Kettle Falls. Visitors can get there from Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, or Crane Lake – and can choose to travel by private boat, tour boat, commercial water taxi, or floatplane. Check our events calendar for upcoming boat tours to Kettle Falls.

Q: When do the ladyslippers bloom?

A: They usually bloom in late June. The best place to see them is near the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center.

Q: Where are the sandy beaches?

A: There are a number of sandy beaches in the park located at the developed sites. Park maps and brochures list the type of access each site has. If the access is listed as sand, then there is most likely a sandy beach at the site. Outside of the park, there are sandy beaches at Woodenfrog State Forest Campground, City Beach, and in Ranier. City Beach is located three miles east of International Falls on County Road 20 off Highway 11 East, and has picnic tables, grills, swings, basketball courts and a lifeguard on duty. Ranier has a smaller beach without a lifeguard.

Q: Can I pick berries and edible plants in the park?

A: Yes. The following edible species may be gathered for personal use or consumption without a written special use permit: strawberries, chokecherries, rose hips, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and wild rice. Collection is limited to one gallon per person per day.

Q: How do I rent one of the boats the park has available for use on the interior lakes?

A: The park rents canoes and rowboats on nine interior lakes on the Kabetogama Peninsula. Visitors may reserve a boat no sooner than one week in advance by phone or at the Rainy Lake or Kabetogama visitor centers. Visitors must sign a special use permit and pick up a key to unlock the boats from the appropriate visitor center.

Q: Are there mosquitoes?

A: As is common in Minnesota, biting insects such as mosquitoes usually arrive in May and stay through the end of August, depending on the weather. It’s a good idea to bring bug repellent with you on your trip.

Q: Can we cut wood for campfires?

A: Visitors can only use dead and downed wood for firewood. Visitors may not cut down live trees or dead standing trees or any other type of live vegetation. Some sites are labeled No Wood Gathering. At these sites no wood – dead and downed included – may be gathered for firewood.

Q: Do we have to report to customs if we boat into Canada?

A: Canadian Customs requires visitors to report to a Canadian customs office before going ashore in Canada. Customs offices are located at Portage Bay on Sand Point Lake and Sand Bay on Rainy Lake. However, visitors not going ashore can obtain a CANPASS Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) permit allowing them to cross the border without passing through customs. Rhese can be obtained in person at designated ports of entry or in advance by mail. Please see the Canadian Border Services Agency website for the most recent application form and program details.

When returning to the U.S., visitors must report to a U.S. Customs office, unless they are in possession of Form I-68, which is part of the Canadian Border Boat Landing Program. Though Form I-68 permits entrance into the U.S. without reporting in person, you are still required to telephone customs to notify them of your entry. Form I-68 can only be obtained in person at a port of entry. U.S. customs offices are located at the Crane Lake Public Landing or at the International Falls Bridge. For more information about Form I-68 see the U.S. Customs website.

Q: Where are pets allowed?

A: Dogs are only allowed at developed areas, such as visitor centers, and at overnight or day use sites. Dogs are not allowed on park trails or portages. Dogs must be on a leash and attended at all times. Dogs are not allowed on park trails because they can disturb wildlife and could potentially spread disease. Other pets fall under these same guidelines.

Q: Where can we get the weather forecast?

A: A two day weather forecast from the National Weather Service is posted each morning at each visitor center. Most park radios have a weather forecast channel. A weather forecast is broadcast via telephone at (218) 283-4615.

Q: Are there water taxis to take me to the Kabetogama Peninsula trailheads?

A: There are many resorts on Lake Kabetogama that offer water-taxi service to the Kabetogama Peninsula. There is also water-taxi service, from the Kettle Falls Hotel or the Rainy Lake Visitor Center, to reach the peninsula trail head on Rainy Lake’s Anderson Bay. The Park also operates a shuttle service from the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center to the Peninsula’s Locator Lake Trailhead, one day a week only during the summer season. Telephone numbers for these services are all found in the annual park service newsletter, the Rendezvous.

Q: What is Voyageurs National Park Association and how are you different than the park?

Voyageurs National Park Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, promoting and enhancing Voyageurs National Park for you and future generations to enjoy. Our work began in 1965, before the park was founded. A group of citizens came together with the goal of protecting lands in the Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Sand Point Lakes region of northern Minnesota. Within ten years, they had succeeded in helping to create the park.

Today, we still work to protect the park’s air and water quality, support park programs, and provide youth with the opportunity to experience outdoor adventures. We offer many volunteer opportunities and events in the Twin Cities and at Voyageurs.

We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and rely on people like you to support our work. If you love visiting Voyageurs National Park, please do become a member today!

Even though we cannot assist you with a campsite reservation, we are knowledgeable about the park. If you need help, we are happy to point you in the right direction.

Q: Where can I find more information?

A: If you would like, you may email vnpa@voyageurs.org and we will send you our trip planning guide, which includes a copy of the Rendezvous park newsletter and park map.

If you’d like to make a campsite or boat tour reservation, visit Recreation.gov or call:

  • Toll Free 1-877-444-6777
  • International 518-885-3639
  • TDD 1-877-833-6777

A wealth of information about visiting Voyageurs National Park is offered by the National Park Service. You may also call the park directly:

  • Rainy Lake Visitor Center 218-286-5258 or 888-381-2873
  • Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center 218-875-2111
  • Ash River Visitor Center 218-374-3221

Information about places to stay, restaurants, guides, outfitters and local events is available at: