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.
Local stakeholders and supporters Friday joined development partners to celebrate the launch of The Cantilever Hotel and Distillery – a 31-room boutique hotel, cocktail room and distillery.
Developer Marty Goulet kicked off the ceremony by talking about the positive momentum in Ranier and the motives for the development in the community.
“There is a reason we are having this event at Loony’s Brew Pub and Rainy Lake Grill is catering the event, they are both part of the positive story that is unfolding and the momentum that allowed our development team to make this investment in the community,” said Goulet. "The approximate 100-invited guests in attendance received an inside look into the project, an introduction to the first two Cantilever employees, the release of two new brands, followed by a non-traditional ground-breaking ceremonial christening of the site. If you are here today, it is because you have helped or supported and are a part of the Cantilever Hotel and Distillery project.”
The Cantilever Hotel and Distillery, anticipated to open summer 2019, is a new 26,000 square foot boutique hotel and distillery located at 2078 Spruce Street in Ranier. The facility amenities include 31 upscale boutique hotel rooms, state of the art spirits manufacturing plant, cocktail room (only serving Cantilever products), restaurant, private events spaces, rooftop bar with sauna and hot tub, distillery tours, yoga studio, treatment rooms, and electric car charging station.
"A physical location, complete with a tour and tasting, is the biggest marketing asset a distilling company will ever possess," said Goulet. "As such, our distillery will be an extension of the brand. This requires that every element the consumer contacts will reflect the thinking and philosophy of the brand.”
The Cantilever Distilling Co., will offer single malt whiskey, bourbon, and gin made with local peat, local grains, and local water that showcase the skill and expertise of the distiller. The Cantilever Bridge located only feet away from the distillery is symbolic of the bootlegging history and connection between Canada and the U.S.
Released publicly for the first time Friday, Woody’s Fairly Reliable Spirits Co., will produce honest, reliable spirits and premium canned cocktails that are focused on lake life and the outdoor lifestyle. These products will be known for premium quality with affordable pricing so that that they can over-deliver on taste and price while always considering lake lifestyle.
“We are excited to announce for the first time with the personality of Ranier's own Barry "Woody" Woods – Woody’s Fairly Reliable Spirits," said Goulet.
General Manager Ed Gackley announced a partnership with Wyndham Hotels’ Trademark Collection Brand.
“The Cantilever Bridge Hotel – a trademark collection allows us to leverage the benefits of being associated with a world class hotel franchise while keeping total independence," said Gackley. He also introduced distiller Charlie Fuller who expressed his excitement for the project.
Developer Duane Cridland revealed the first artwork for the distillery called “Busted 1932” by Cher Pruys. In 1932, a train crossing the Cantilever Bridge with 79 barrels of Canadian whiskey was seized and destroyed in a public ceremony before it could reach its destination in Chicago. The artwork depicts the event and the locals who showed up to get a taste but were prohibited to use any cups or containers and resorted to slurping it off the ice.
Participants later Friday went outside to the site of the new hotel and distillery. Mayor Dennis Wagner, Hall of Fame Fishing Guide Woody and the Director of the Koochiching County Economic Development Agency Paul Nevanen, each took a swing with the ceremonial golden ax and attempted to break a barrel of whiskey. After a few attempts with the ax, the liquid from the barrel was released and the site christened.
Back inside Loony’s, developer Pat Bracken walked the attendees through an inside look at Cantilever’s first bourbon, explaining the mash bill (recipe) and finishing with a toast.
Mark Twain once said, “too much of anything is bad, but too much whiskey is barely enough."
Learn more about the Cantilever Story!
Due to its expanse of endless alluring scenery in the midst of a captivating body of water, Rainy Lake has earned its reputation as a boater’s paradise. If you’re looking for a memorable vacation with friends or family this summer, make sure to consider houseboat rental. Venture North to enjoy a cozy home away from home surrounded by incredible views.