Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

The fall colors stand out along the glacial outcroppings of granite carved rocks. The waters of Voyageurs National Park are warm, although the true paddling and tourist season is over. The months of September or October will make an ideal time for your final kayak trip of the summer season, and Voyageurs National Park where the fall colors, abundant wildlife, and starry light sky will take your breath away in this enchanting season. The benefit of Voyageurs is No PERMITS, NO FEES for camping or entrance, and NO GROUP SIZE LIMITS. Campsites are all currently on a first come basis, and after Labor Day finding a site is very easy.

A circumnavigation of the Kabetogama Peninsula is the ideal adventure to experience all that Voyageurs has to offer a paddler. Kayaking was made for areas such as Voyageurs National Park. Leaving from Woodenfrog State Campground on the shores of Lake Kabetogama, enjoy the island passages that guide you to "Gold Portage" and into the big water of Rainy Lake. A short portage (one of only two portages) gets you started in Black Bay a portion of Rainy Lake that is isolated by pine trees and a grassy shoreline.

The paddle down Rainy Lake is an adventure on its own as you spend 2-4 days paddling approx. 50 miles of shoreline and island passages where civilization returns with the sight of Kettle Falls Hotel. This historic hotel is only accessible by water, and once housed the ladies and booze that attracted the original logging camps and early settlers. A truck portage will shuttle your kayaks across the 1/3 mile portage for approx. $5 per boat (a fee that is well worth the trouble). Enjoy a warm bed, a beer, and good food if you want to rest or begin the return trip as you continue down Namakan Lake. The surrounding scenery of Namakan tends to be dramatic. Higher rock walls, and smaller passages is the reason this section is my favorite along the way. Spend 1-2 day paddling or enjoy yourself on a sanding beach for an extended trip. Namakan connects directly into Kabetogama without any portages, and it's here we see more tourists, but again passages and islands that seem to make you feel invisible from fisherman or motorboats. The paddle up Kabetogama to Woodenfrog State Campground will take an additional 2-day or one long paddle (approx. 16 miles)

The total distance is between 75-85 miles depending on routes taken, but should easily be handled in approx. one week of kayaking. I've had guest do it in 3 days when the wind is right and you want to move, but I suggest taking your time an enjoy the variety of subtle differences that account for the beauty of Voyageurs National Park! Whether you're a beginner or expert kayaker, the benefit of Voyageurs is the variety. A definite must on your destination list for paddlers!


Wide range of accommodations for overnighting- Resorts have nice cabins, one hotel in the area, several mainland camping areas, and one resort that outfits trips for kayaking and canoeing in the park- that provides bunkhouse style cabin and a showerhouse.


No Permits, No user fees, No Group Size Limits- The park maintains 208 campsites currently throughout the 218,000 acres all are first come basis, but you are not restricted to camping only at those sites, you currently can camp anywhere.


From Mpls./St.Paul take Hwy 35 north to hwy. 33 (just past black bear casino) into cloque. Continue on Hwy 33 north until in connects into Hwy 53 N. and remain on 53 until the signs appear for Voyageurs National Park. Kabetogama is 35 miles south of International fall, MN and 30 miles North of Orr, MN. The drive is 5 hours from downtown Mpls and 2 1/2 hours north of Duluth.


Kabetogama Lake Association (800)524-9085

Voyageurs National Park service station (218) 875-2111

Voyageurs Adventures (kayak & Canoe outfitter) (800)465-2925


The park service puts out a map "camping, houseboating, and day use sites" this lists all the campsites and gives a good idea of the area. Jim DuFresne has a book entitled Voyageurs National Park - water routes, foot pathes and ski trails (out-of-print) which gives good descriptions, but certain routes are old and unusable.

Voyageurs Adventures

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Extended Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location