A Voyageur’s Experience in Minnesota’s Northwoods

Madeleine BienPark Partner Stories
Woman in a red canoe on a lake with a rainbow in the sky at Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park is a place of duality: home for native Cree, Monsoni, Assiniboine, and Ojibwe tribes as well as French explorers and fur traders. A park filled to the brim with the waters of the Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Sand Point lakes, all flowing alongside bedrock that is 2.8 billion years old – some of the oldest exposed rock formations in the world. A space to enjoy the peaceful solitude and darkness of Minnesota’s Northwoods and then, suddenly, the intense and fantastic display of the northern lights.

“Voyageurs National Park has been a part of my world since middle school when its possible designation was being hotly debated in my civics class. After years away, I moved back to this area largely because of Rainy Lake and Voyageurs. I can’t imagine my life without the soul connection I feel when I am on the lake and in the park.”

This connection, described by Voyageurs National Park Association member, Karen Franchot, is the gift of this public land.

Enjoyed by over 230,000 visitors annually, Voyageurs brings along plenty of adventure, too. From water-based recreation and camping experiences, to pristine lakes and world-class fishing, to winter ice roads and starry skies, Voyageurs provides a unique wilderness experience for everyone.

Green, orange, and yellow trees lining the shore of a calm lake reflecting the blue skies at Voyageurs National Park
Thomas Gable

Voyageurs National Park Association (VNPA) was founded in 1965 by a group of passionate community leaders who recognized the majesty of the lands and waters of Northern Minnesota, and the need to preserve them in perpetuity. Their commitment to the protection of Voyageurs’ natural resources is an important reason why the park is protected today.

Since its founding, VNPA has played a critical part in advocating for its ongoing protection and providing the outreach, volunteer, and financial support needed to ensure that visitors can continue to enjoy Voyageurs well into the future.

Recently, VNPA has refocused its priorities around becoming the park’s official philanthropic partner, to help leverage support for conservation, recreation, education, and restoration. In this new capacity, launched a multi-year wetland restoration initiative to remove invasive cattails, restore native plant communities, and improve fish and waterfowl habitat. They were also able to leverage $20,000 in Centennial Challenge funding with private philanthropy to rehabilitate the Cruiser Lake Trail.

In the next few years, VNPA will work with the National Park Service on projects at the Kettle Falls Hotel and Ellsworth Rock Gardens, as well as develop a new hiking trail in the park.

VNPA is also dedicated to bringing Voyageurs to students throughout Minnesota, through classroom presentations, field trip grants, and the National Park Teen Ambassador program, which brings together a group of Minnesota high school students on a multi-day outdoor learning expedition in Voyageurs National Park and on the Mississippi River.

14 diverse teenagers standing under a giant brown sign for Voyageurs National Park

National Park Teen Ambassadors at Voyageurs National Park

Ella Rausch

As one Teen Ambassador named Panhia noted, “Being able to come outside and not be surrounded by technology definitely opened and cleared my mind. It made me see what everyone is missing out on and how nature is really important and beautiful.”

VNPA was presented with the NPS Director’s Partnership Award and two Midwest Region Champion Awards in recognition of their strong partnership with the park.

As Chief of Interpretation Tawnya Schoewe noted, VNPA’s “commitment to youth and visitor outreach and their passion for preservation has been a catalyst for exciting initiatives at Voyageurs National Park.”

If past success is any indication, and with the partnership of VNPA and its supporters, Voyageurs National Park will continue to welcome explorers as they experience Minnesota’s Northwoods for a long time to come.

To learn more about the Voyageurs National Park Association’s programs and events or to support their work, visit their site at voyageurs.org.

To get an up-close look at Voyageurs National Park in a short film called “More Than Just Parks” produced with support from VNPA, please visit morethanjustparks.com/voyageurs.

Last updated September 12, 2017.

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