The northern lights have fascinated humans from the earliest times. Also known as aurora borealis, which comes from the Latin words for sunrise and north, the natural phenomenon can take many shapes and hues. From colors that dance across the night horizon, to spears of light that lance the sky, the Northern Lights can be seen throughout the year over the middle and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, including Rainy Lake.
When to View
It’s been estimated that the northern lights can be seen 200 times per year in Northern Minnesota. The best time to see them is when the arrival of the solar radiation and particles corresponds with an evening when moonlight is at a minimum and the weather is clear. Auroras seem to be more active near the first day of spring and fall, and your chances of seeing them are best when there are more hours of darkness. You can determine which nights have better chances by checking out “aurora forecasts” online such as the one from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
Where to See the Show
Rainy Lake and Voyageurs National Park are ideal places to watch northern lights because of the area’s miles of wilderness that is free from the light pollution present in cities. In addition to a moonless, clear night, you need open views to the North and Northeast.
Suggested locations to view the northern lights in Voyageurs National Park:
Rainy Lake Visitor Center
Ash River Visitor Center
Voyageurs Forest Overlook Parking Lot
Check out this awesome Time-Lapse of Voyageurs National Park Featured in National Geographic!
International Falls and the surrounding area offer an abundance of lodging options for visitors to Rainy Lake. When it comes to choosing where to stay, it’s all about your needs.
Resorts, Cabins and B&B’s
Whether your goal is simply R&R, landing a trophy fish or connecting with friends and family, a Rainy Lake resort or cabin is an ideal home base for all lake activities. Resorts provide hotel-quality amenities, and most include restaurants and bars, as well as access to boat rentals, fishing guides and other services. Cabins offer the best of both worlds by providing additional privacy for you and your party. Resorts and cabin are perfect not only for families and large groups, but also couples and smaller fishing parties. These options emphasize quintessential cabin living, where priorities include watching the sunset, hooking a “keeper” walleye, and gathering ‘round a campfire.
Hotels and Motels
Located approximately 10-15 miles from Rainy Lake, hotels and motels can be more economical options. Popular with those who plan to spend all day on the lake, then return to clean, comfortable rooms for a good night’s sleep in order to repeat the same schedule the following day. Most have restaurants either on-site or next door, and many offer jacuzzi suites and other premium options such as an indoor pool. Open year-round, hotels and motels are gathering places for snowmobile enthusiasts who take advantage of the area’s winter climate to explore miles of wilderness trails.
With all the comforts of home coupled with the adventure of boat living, houseboat trips are perfect for families with members of all ages. Activity awaits around every island and hidden cove, from swimming and fishing to hiking and late-night camp fires. But houseboats are also a great choice for other groups and couples as well. Fishing parties will appreciate having a floating home base to return to, while everyone will enjoy exploring Rainy Lake up close.
Camping in Voyageurs
While sleeping under the stars (or at least a tent) may not appeal to everyone, Voyageurs National Park campsites feature the kinds of amenities that can convert the staunchest urbanite. Voyageurs National Park has more than 270 developed visitor sites, including 46 front country campsites that are accessible only by boat. These sites, which feature some of Rainy’s most spectacular views, include things to make your trip easy and safe, including bear-proof food lockers, tent pads, fire rings, picnic tables and vaulted toilets.
We've been having some great weather for summer recreation and enough rain to hold down the fire danger. and keep the forests green with fresh growth. That's a good thing for the forest wildlife.
The Rainy Lake Guide Association tells us walleye are making their way to the typical main lake structures. Fish the reef tops from 15 to 20 with 1/8 to 1/4 oz jigs, lindy rigs or slip bobbers. Minnows and leeches have both been working well.
Crappie can be found on shoreline breaks and sunken brush piles in the 18 to 28 foot range. Check the rocky shorelines for smallmouth bass and expect northern pike on the deeper structures.
Berry picking time is at hand, blueberries are pretty plentiful and can be found on islands throughout the Park. Raspberries might be a bit more common on the edges of forestry roads in Koochiching County.
Birders and wildlife watchers are being treated to whitetail does with fawns in tow. There are lots of nice hiking trails where you are likely to encounter wildlife.