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Aug 1, 2012
Backcountry Trip to Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota
Getting a taste of the remote wilderness here – from the North Woods beauty to up-close animal encounters – was an incredible summer experience.
Earlier this week, my wife and I drove up to northern Minnesota to visit Voyageurs National Park. This jewel of the North Woods encompasses 84,000 acres of interconnected waterways separated by 134,000 acres of densely wooded land and over 500 islands. Located along the transition between the northern boreal forest and southern hardwood forest, this area hosts a wide variety of plants. Since it's predominantly backcountry, it also hosts a wide variety of mammals including wolves, moose and black bears.
The waterways teem with game fish including northern pike, yellow perch, walleye and sturgeon. Many interesting birds can also be seen in the treetops and skies here. Before we even entered the park, we were treated to a bald eagle perched on a conifer. Our first stop was at the Woodenfrog Campground in Kabetogama State Forest. Campsites within the national park are accessible only by boat, and we didn't have time for that depth of exploration on this visit.
Despite the more-accessible, car-camping nature of this campground, it still had a nice remote feel to it. Even though it was late July, the campground was only about 20 percent full. We picked campsite 33, had no one around us, and had a nice little path down to the shore of Lake Kabetogama. While we enjoyed the setting sun here, a mother mallard duck and her babies swam up to us, came ashore and foraged around for a few minutes. That night, we hoped to see the aurora borealis, but the activity was low during our visit. We did get to see a vast number of stars, however, while listening to the mournful calls of common loons. The dawn light brought even more beauty.
Our brief visit really didn't do this park any justice. A person could easily lose him or herself in the wilderness here, paddling and hiking with abandon for weeks. Although we got a taste of it, real enjoyment would come from some serious backcountry travel. It's high on my list of places to return.