Not every park is turns out to be what I envisioned and Voyageurs is one of those places. While most refer to the area as the “boundary waters area”, it is a separately designated area encompassing four large lakes. It is described as a “water based park” and indeed, that is an accurate description. One could not walk into the park boundaries without getting your feet wet. Even the parts of the park that are on “dry land” are quite soggy. You are encouraged to view the area from appropriately selected water craft based on your needs and interests. With this, I envisioned gentle paddling around a lake in a canoe and fisherman quietly slumbering over their pole while waiting for a bite.
That isn’t exactly what I discovered.
The lakes felt more like small seas connected together. I was quietly relieved that before I even arrived I had given up on the idea of renting a canoe to paddle out to one of their many camping spots dotting the lakes. I’m pretty sure I would have either become lost or drown. I visualized myself aimlessly paddling like a ship wreck survivor on the high seas, having run out of food and praying for one of the eagles to take pity on me and drop a fish in my boat.
The reality is that this would never happen because there were so many people out on the lake. While I did see a couple of canoes, for the most part, these were motor boats and house boats. The real reason that I would have been stranded on my canoe is that no one would have noticed me with the speed and noise with which they flew by.
This was no quiet fishing lake. This is the Redneck Riviera of the North. The bigger, louder and faster the boat, the better your bait must be. And like most fishy tales, there was much discussion about fish and far fewer fish actually caught. The good news is that the eagle population is quite robust so clearly not everyone goes home empty handed.
No boat? No problem. The National Park Service offers a pleasant tour of the lake on one of their pontoons. There are several locations they point out where people lived for decades on their own in this very remote area. There was much discussion of why you would choose to live that way. My suspicious has something to do with being close to Canada and the Prohibition. I suspect that these people were neither very alone, nor very poor, but I would only be guessing.
If you aren’t into luring cold blooded animals out of the water and couldn’t fit the canoe in your carry on, it’s okay. Just don’t forget the rain jacket because if you aren’t getting into the water it will be coming down on you. I frequently found myself thinking that Voyageurs would be a very pleasant place to visit in the summer…except that it was already July!