Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs Park turns 35 with new tour boat

April 12, 2010, 3:56 pm

Voyageurs National Park celebrates its 35th anniversary this summer and will mark the event with a sparkling new, 49-passenger tour boat on Rainy Lake.

The $1.4 million “Voyageur” made its maiden voyager in September and will be open for its first summer of tours this year.

Local residents and tourists alike have asked for a full-fledged tour boat for the 218,000-acre park, which is for the most part accessible only by boat, canoe or kayak.

Mike Ward, Voyageurs superintendent, said the Park Service couldn’t find a private company to either build, own or operate a large boat.

So Congress paid for the boat and the Park Service will own and operate it.

Ward said ticket prices will vary depending on the length of the trip. The longest, 6½-hour round-trip excursion from the Rainy Lake visitors center to Kettle Falls, nearly the entire length of Rainy Lake, will cost $50 for adults and $25 for kids. Shorter trips will cost about half that.

“The feedback we’ve had so far has been pretty positive on that pricing. People who make the trip in their own boat say they pay more than that for their gas,” Ward said. “We’re trying not to break the bank for the family on vacation who doesn’t have their own boat. But we also don’t want to run the boat at a loss.”

Other changes at the park this year include a new reservation and fee system for the park’s 17 hike-in “interior lake” campsites and boats on the Kabetogama Peninsula. The sites now will cost between $14 and $19 per visit (up to two weeks) and the reservation guarantees both the campsite and a rowboat.

In the past, boats could be reserved but not campsites, Ward noted, creating confusion among campers.

The most popular boat-to campsites on the park’s largest lakes — Rainy, Kabetogama, Sand Point and Namakan — remain free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. But that could change as early as next year, Ward said.

The Park Service has for years talked about offering at least some of the boat-to, big lake campsites through a reservation system so campers would know for sure where they were going and that they would have a site when they got there. That service also would allow the park to charge for the site, using the revenue to help maintain current sites and possibly build new ones.