Questions About Voyageurs National Park

Frequently Asked Questions


Why was Voyageurs National Park established?

Voyageurs National Park was established is to preserve, for the inspiration and enjoyment of present and future generations, the outstanding scenery, geological conditions and waterway system which constituted a part of the historic route of the Voyageurs who contributed significantly to the opening of the northwestern United States.

When did Voyageurs become a national park?

Voyageurs National Park was authorized on January 8, 1971 by President Richard M. Nixon; it is the 36th National Park. On April 8, 1975, Voyageurs National Park was established.

Are there resorts in the park?

No. Kettle Falls Hotel is the only lodging establishment in the park. It is open mid-May through September 30. Each gateway community – Ash River, Crane Lake, Kabetogama and International Falls-Rainy Lake have resorts right on the edge of the park.

Are there any roads in the park?

Yes. There are approximately 10 miles of roads in the park. The only roads are the access roads to the three visitor centers – Ash River, Kabetogama, and Rainy Lake. During the winter months, the park maintains a 7-mile ice road that starts from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center boat launch and ends at Cranberry bay. An ice road on Kabetogama Lake provides access to a sledding hill.

What does Rainy Lake mean?

David Thompson’s map (1825-26) shows east end of Rainy Lake as “Wapesskartagar” and the west end as “Koocheche sakahagan.” The lake is separated by the Grande Detroit, meaning “Great Strait.” In 1688, French Canadian voyageur Jacques de Noyon passed through Rainy Lake and noted that it was called “Ouchichiq” by the Cree Indians. LeVerendrye called it Tekamamihiouenne in 1783. Paul Kane and Alexander Henry called it Lac la Pluie. Koochiching is supposedly an Indian word that translates as “mist from the falls.” Angel in 1986 thesis on Rainy Lake Methodist Mission, says the Indians called Rainy Lake “Kochejeeng” or Couchiching.

What does Namakan mean?

Paul Kane in 1859 called in Lake Meican. John MacDonnel in 1793 called in Lake Miccan. Explorer David Thompson called it Lac le Mecan.

Also spelled Namaycan, Namekan, or Nemeukan. Namé or Nah-mee means sturgeon in Ojibwe. The end syllable “kan” is used in compound words that signify bone. It is always connected with a possessive pronoun. For example, “Nikan” means my bone. In composition, the k is changed to a g. For example, Makogan means bear’s bone.

How did Sand Point get its name?

Named for a large, sandy point on the Canadian side of the lake.

What does Kabetogama mean?

The name Kabetogama is sometimes translated as “rough waters.” According to Warren Upham in “Minnesota Geographic Names,” Kabetogama means “the lake that lies parallel or double [to Rainy Lake].” French fur traders referred to it as “Travere” or “Travers” which translates as “abreast or alongside.”

But perhaps the name has another origin. E.L. Brown, an early taxidermist/natural historian, who kept a diary of his travels through northern Minnesota between 1889-1901, relates a story of meeting Chief Kabetaga. In the Ojibwe language, “Kabe” means all, or the whole as in Kabe-gijig or All Day and “Ogema” means chief.

How do visitors get to Kettle Falls? Can visitors drive there?

There are no roads to Kettle Falls. Visitors can get there by starting from Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, or Crane Lake. Visitors can get there by private boat, the park boat tours, commercial water taxi, or floatplane.

When was the Kettle Falls Hotel built?

The Hotel was probably built in stages from 1910 to 1915.

Is the Kettle Falls hotel wheelchair accessible?

Visitors must provide their own wheelchair. If visitors call ahead the concessionaire will provide transportation via golf cart to the hotel. The wheelchair entrance is a ramp on the backside of the hotel near the restaurant.

When was Ellsworth Rock Gardens on Kabetogama Lake built?

Mr. Jack Ellsworth began the Gardens in 1944 and left the area in 1965. He built numerous rock sculptures and flower beds atop a granite outcrop. This historic site is a popular visitor destination.

What properties in the park are on the National Register of Historic Places?

RAINY LAKE - Gold Mine Historic District, Rainy Lake City, Garrett Summer Cabin, Harry Oveson Fish Camp, Jun Fujita Cabin, Camp Marston

KABETOGAMA LAKE - Meadwood Resort (Ash River Visitor Center, Levin Cabin, Ellsworth Rock Gardens, Kabetogama Ranger Station Historic District

NAMAKAN LAKE - Kettle Falls Historic District, Monson’s Hoist Bay Resort, Kaukola Homestead, I.W. Stevens Pine Cove Resort, Moose Bay/Moose River Indian Village

SAND POINT LAKE/CRANE LAKE - Ingersoll Estate, Mittet Homestead/Summer Cabin, Casareto Summer Cabin

Does Voyageurs National Park have an ice road?

Yes. The ice road is 7 miles. It starts at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center boat launch and ends at Cranberry Bay. It usually opens in January and closes in mid- to late March Visitors can take vehicles up to 7,000 pounds on the ice road. The park opens the road when the ice is thick enough for vehicles of this weight.

How many miles of snowmobile trails are in the park?


Are there trails for snowshoeing in the park?

Park staff track the following trails for snowshoeing:
Oberholtzer – at Rainy Lake Visitor Center
Blind Ash Bay Trail – from the upper parking lot at the Ash River Visitor Center or from the Kabetogama Lake Overlook parking lot
Sullivan Bay – along the entrance road to the Ash River Visitor Center

Snowshoes are available free of charge from Rainy Lake Visitor Center during the regular winter hours. Visitors must leave a driver’s license to check out the snowshoes.

What is there to do in the winter time?

Visitors can:

  • cross-country ski – ski rentals available at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center
  • snowmobile – 110 miles of trails
  • snowshoe – free snowshoe loans at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center
  • ice fish
  • drive on the 7-mile ice road on Rainy Lake
  • attend one of the park’s winter naturalist programs
  • camp

What kind of trails are in and around the park?

The park has hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing trails. The park’s gateway communities have hiking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing trails.
Park trails:

  • snowmobile trails – 110 miles
  • cross-country – 32 miles
  • hiking - ~60 miles
  • snowshoeing - ~9 miles

Where can we hike? Can we take our dog on the hiking trails?

You can hike anywhere in the park, but the only maintained trails are: Kab-Ash, Locator, Cruiser, Blind Ash Bay, Echo Bay, Black Bay Beaver Pond, Oberholtzer, Beaver Pond Overlook, and Forest Overlook.

Dogs are not allowed on park trails or portages. Dogs are only allowed at developed areas, such as visitor centers, and at overnight or day use sites. They must be leased and attended at all times.

Where does the tour boat leave from? When? Where does it go?

There are two tour boats in the park. One leaves from the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center and the other leaves from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center.

What are the hours of operation for each visitor center?

Ash River Visitor Center – summer only: daily 9-5
Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center – summer only: daily 9-5
Rainy Lake Visitor Center – summer: daily, 9-5; Oct.-Dec., 10-4; Dec. - end of May: Wednesday-Sunday, 10-5

How do I learn about the History of Voyageurs National Park?

Read the book Eighty Years in the Making: A Legislative History of Voyageurs National Park by Fred T. Witzig (2000) for more information.