What Is Voyageurs National Park?

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  • Written By: Angie Pollock
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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Voyageurs National Park is one of several US national parks that line the border between the United States and Canada. The park covers roughly 218,000 acres (341 square miles) near International Falls, Minnesota, in the northern United States. Established in 1975, the park was named to memorialize the French-Canadian voyageurs that traveled the area’s network of lakes and rivers during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Traveling the extensive waterways, or “voyageurs’ highway,” these early frontiersmen navigated the rivers in birch-bark canoes. Along their journey, the voyageurs hunted and traded goods such as beaver pelts. They would see the demand for fur and pelts decline during the mid-1850s. This, along with gold mining, logging, and commercial fishing, would all play a significant role in the area’s future.

The prevalent feature of Voyageurs National Park is water which covers approximately 83,800 of the park’s acreage (131 square miles). There are more than 25 lakes within the park; four of the major lakes include Rainy, Kabetogama, Sand Point, and Namakan. The shoreline along the lakes extends for more than 650 miles (appx. 1046 kilometers).


Voyageurs National Park encompasses a portion of the Canadian Shield. Covering roughly 8 million square kilometers (3.1 million square miles), the Canadian Shield extends from Lake Superior in the United States northward to the Arctic Islands. The climate of the Canadian Shield varies depending on the region. The southern section, where Voyageurs National Park is located, has a seasonal climate with an average summer temperature of 77° Fahrenheit (25° Celsius).

The terrain of Voyageurs National Park, which intertwines with the extensive waterways, displays boreal forests, rolling hills, and more than 400 island formations. Due to its location in the Canadian Shield, the park also has an extensive presentation of Precambrian rock, some of which dates back to the early stages of the Earth’s formation nearly 3 billion years ago.

The landscape and expansive waterways make Voyageurs National Park a popular recreational destination. Canoeing, fishing, and hiking are just a few of the park’s offerings. Boat and canoe tours are available, as well as large charter boats for hosting special events such as weddings and receptions. During the winter, park visitors experience the snow-covered terrain by snowmobile and snowshoe, in addition to skis, both downhill and cross country, on the many trails that wind through the park. Anglers also spend winter days ice fishing on the lakes, and campers can be found all year-round on the more than 200 campsites via water-access.

Rainy Lake Visitor Center is a great destination for visitors. Here they can obtain trail maps, receive information on the trail’s conditions, and rent equipment, such as snowshoes and skis. The park also has various hazardous areas which are outlined on the park’s trail maps.

Wildlife is abundant in Voyageurs National Park. The park is home to more than 100 black bears, as well as bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and several wolf packs. The diverse animal population includes more than 40 mammal species and exceeds 200 species of birds. The numerous waterways provide habitat for approximately 50 species of fish. The animals seen within the distinct upland and aquatic ecosystems will vary depending on the season.


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