Voyageurs National Park, nestled just south of the Canadian border in the northern Minnesota wilderness, is renowned for its storybook-like old growth forests, seemingly endless miles of shoreline, and hundreds of islands dotting Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, and Namakan Lake… enough to give you the sense that when you’re there, you’re the only one there. It’s why nearly a quarter of a million of travelers set their compasses northwards each year to explore all the park has to offer.
Most of those visits, however, come in the warmer summer months for obvious reasons. Voyageurs provides world-class paddling opportunities, as well as unforgettable houseboat trips, fishing hot spots, and wildlife viewing you simply can’t find anywhere else. But once the sun begins to set earlier and earlier, the temps dip and fall crisps the air just enough to keep many would-be visitors away.
But for those who actually prefer to beat the heat of summer and embrace the changing seasons, Voyageurs rewards with rich colors, crystal clear waters, and a true sense of independence and freedom from the modern world as your chances of having to share the trail or the lookout drastically decline. Fall is the ideal time to visit if you’d prefer to skip the crowds. Simply pack a set of long underwear and your down puffer vest in case you need an extra layer or two and enjoy the park undisturbed, unrushed, and uninhibited.
Highlights of your fall visit will undoubtedly be the changing colors along the shorelines and hiking trails, along with perhaps more abundant wildlife no longer scared off by heavy foot traffic. The earlier sunsets also bode well for those seeking a glimpse of Northern Lights. Birds are migrating, deer are feeding, as are bear and moose in preparation for the coming winter freeze. Nature is of course why we come to Voyageurs, but there are a couple manmade wonders well worth your time, as well.
Kettle Falls & Kettle Falls Hotel
For generations, Kettle Falls provided a picturesque stopping point along a well-traveled route used by Native peoples, fur traders, prospectors, and paddlers. Around the time construction of the dams at Kettle Falls began in 1910, the Kettle Falls Hotel was also built. The stonecutters and masons who built the dams were early patrons of the hotel, followed by lumberjacks, commercial fishermen, trappers, and traders. When logging and commercial fishing declined, tourism became the major industry. Today, the historic red roofed hotel plays host to those seeking a tranquil escape, as it is only accessible by boat or by float (float plane, that is).
Ellsworth Rock Gardens
The Ellsworth Rock Gardens have been known as the “Showplace of Lake Kabetogama” since the 1940s. Over about a 20-year period, artist Jack Ellsworth relied on his skills as a carpenter and quite a bit of engineering creativity to build the complex. The Rock Garden features 62 terraced flower beds on the prominent outcrop, which Ellsworth filled with more than 13,000 lilies and other flower varieties. He also added more than 200 unique sculptures to complete his masterpiece.
If nothing else, coming to Voyageurs National Park in the fall is a perfect time to make final plans for your winter excursion to the wild north and all the park has to offer under a blanket of fresh white snow.
Start Fall Sooner
Most of us look forward to summer after long, Minnesota winters. We know, however, there are more than a few who yearn for the calmer, cooler, and bug-free solace of autumn.
In Rainy Lake, Ranier, International Falls, and Voyageur National Park, visitors benefit from fall weather that arrives sooner than the rest of the state. It's the start of a wonderful season for those seeking a slower pace.
Away from busy lake activity, our area experiences a serene sense of quiet save for the few hunters patiently waiting for the perfect shot on fowl.
Temperatures nestle in between 70 degrees around Labor Day and taper off to the low 60s by month's end. The natural splendor of the United States' only water-based national park fails to disappoint.
Plenty of wildlife continue to bask in the moderate temperatures. It's a perfect atmosphere for less-than-avid outdoors folk to hike, walk a trail, or take in a guided tour as humidity gives way to more refreshing air.
While there's always a quiet expanse to stake your claim for a stay, the start of fall sees even fewer tourists to interrupt your picturesque oasis.
Place yourself amid the signals of autumn this September. Plan a trip to our area. We'll help you get started on all this region has to offer.
A larger-than-life bucking bronco is painted on the outside of Falls High, a symbol of the school’s proud sports history and homage to a hometown hero who made a name for himself in the National Football League and as a professional wrestler.
Bronislau Nagurski was born on November 3, 1908, in Rainy River, Ontario. “Bronko,” as he came to be known, moved to International Falls with his family when he was five years old. It was while plowing his father’s fields that he was discovered and by the University of Minnesota head football coach. According to legend, the coach asked Bronko for directions, and Bronko responded by picking up a plow to point the way.
While at the U of M from 1927 to 1929, Bronko played four positions and was named All-America at both fullback and tackle. He proved himself as a physical player not afraid of using his impressive size and strength to make big plays. "I always used my strength in football,” Bronko is quoted as saying on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. “I liked to meet guys head-on when I was carrying the ball. Then I’d drop my shoulder, and catch him with that, and then brush him off with my arm. It worked - most of the time.” Bronko was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
Bronko continued his football career – and reputation for brute strength – by playing for the Chicago Bears from 1930 to 1937. During this time, he helped the Bears win several division titles and two NFL championships. A famous sportswriter of the day, Grantland Rice, wrote, "Who would you pick to win a football game - 11 Jim Thorpes - 11 Glen Davises - 11 Red Granges - or 11 Bronko Nagurskis? The 11 Nagurskis would be a mop-up. It would be something close to murder and massacre. For the Bronk could star at any position on the field, with 216 pounds (98 kg) of authority to back him up."
The largest running back of his time, Bronko was bigger than most linemen of the day. He has the largest recorded NFL Championship ring size at 19½ and wore a size-8 helmet. A legendary tale of Bronko’s physical toughness holds that he charged through a group of defenders and hit the wall at Wrigley Field. On returning to the bench, he told Coach Halas, "That last guy gave me quite a lick!" Bronko’s pro career stats include 9 seasons; 4,031 combined yards; and 5 all-NFL selections.
In 1938, when Bronko was refused a pay raise to $6,500 he retired from football and became a professional wrestler. He was recognized as a multiple-time World Heavyweight Champion before returning to the Bears in 1943, at the age of 35, when the demands of World War II left the team short. In the NFL title game against the Washington Redskins that year, Bronko ended his career by scoring the game-winning touchdown. He was an inaugural inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame website says about Bronko: “Never fancy, he just ran straight ahead, over and through the opposition. Although he is best remembered for his bull-like running, he had no peer as a blocker and his tackling was as effective as any the game has seen. He was the complete player.”
After his retirement from wrestling, he returned home to International Falls and opened a service station. A local legend claims that Nagurski had the best repeat business in town because he would screw customers' gas caps down so tight after filling their tanks that no one else in town could unscrew them. He retired from that in 1978, at the age of seventy, and lived out a quiet life on the shores of Rainy Lake until his death in 1990.