Camping in Voyageurs National Park

When we arrived at Voyageurs National Park we stopped at the visitor’s center to ask the ranger the “must-sees” before embarking on our adventure. The ranger asked where we were camping and we told her we had an island on Lake Kabetogama. Her response was, “Well, if you’re camping, that’s pretty much the thing right there.” So, long story short, camping in Voyageurs is an absolute must. 

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Since all of the campsites are only accessible by water, figuring out the logistics on this can be pretty tricky. I outlined the process we used to reserve our campsite in steps you can recreate. If you would like to know more about our park experience, visit our other Voyageurs blog post.

Here’s the process:

  1. First, decide what kind of boat you are bringing and from where you are launching. This is important because you do not want to book a campsite that will be inaccessible. We rented a canoe from Northern Lights Resort (highly recommend!). They have a boat launch right at the resort and allowed us to leave a car in their parking lot. Our island (Grassy Island, K9) was about a 30 minute paddle from their boat launch. If you have some kind of motorized boat, you can obviously pick an island that is farther out from your boat launch. 
  2. Next, look at this map and decided which island will work well for you. Most of them are very private and have only one campsite. Some of them have two. Also, look at which one will accommodate the number of people and tents you will have. Each campground is marked with a specific symbol that identifies what group size it can accommodate. They also each have a name, such as “Grassy Islands, K9”. This is how you will identify your site on the reservation page. 
  3. Pull up the reservation site and find your chosen campsite.  Book your campsite for as long as you will need it.

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Keep in mind that some of these sites are BACKCOUNTRY sites. These are identified on the map. You will have to portage and hike in order to get to these sites. Choose an “overnight frontcountry” campsite if you do not want to backpack. If you are interested in backpacking, call the visitors center and ask for more information. Kenon and I considered it as an option and when I called the ranger was very helpful to help me figure out how the backpacking worked.

There is also a Houseboat Camping Option that you can read about here.  We did not get into house boating but a lot of people we have talked to are interested in going that route.  

If you need extra help, visit https://www.nps.gov/voya/planyourvisit/making-a-tent-campsite-reservation.htm.

If you do not want to camp inside the park, there are plenty of resort and campground options around the park. A lot of these have boat launches that basically launch you directly into the park. 

Bonus Tip: How much camping gear can you REALLY fit in a canoe?

Short answer, it depends on the canoe. Our canoe was fitted for 750 pounds of passengers plus gear. We packed in two coolers, a tent, sleeping gear, both of our duffel bags, a tote filled with kitchen supples, and quite a bit more. Make sure to check the canoe’s capacity when you make your reservation. Also remember to bring some sort of strap or bungee cord to tie down your gear.

Feel free to reach out with any questions you run into while planning your trip to Voyageurs!

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