Historic and Natural Attractions
Though the red and white Kettle Falls Hotel (12977 Chippewa Trl., 218/240-1724, www.kettlefallshotel.com) sits 16 miles from the nearest road, people come from all corners of Voyageurs National Park to stroll the grounds, have a meal or a drink in the Lumberjack Saloon, or just relax on the endless veranda. The simple, antiques-filled lodge facing south toward Canada was erected on this remote border site around 1910.
It is rumored to have started as a brothel and did a thriving business during Prohibition, but soon it became a fashionable getaway attracting the rich and famous such as Charles Lindbergh and John D. Rockefeller. Just a short walk from the hotel is the Dam Tender’s Cabin, a restored 1912 log home that will be opened for tours in coming years.
Gold fever struck Rainy Lake in July of 1893 when prospector George Davis hit pay dirt on Little American Island. You’ll learn the whole story of the Rainy Lake Gold Rush along the short wheelchair-accessible trail, which takes you past a mineshaft, tailings piles, and other mining remnants from the only area mine that produced significant ore.
Another mine can be seen on the south shore of nearby Bushyhead Island, and the Park Service intends to open the Kabetogama Peninsula site of Rainy Lake City, a short-lived mining boomtown, to the public in the future. For a glimpse of another Rainy Lake industry stop by Oveson’s Fish Camp (accessible by water, ask directions at the the Rainy Lake Visitor Center) where an ice house, fish processing house, and camp home in use between 1958 and 1985 stand at the water’s edge.
Ellsworth Rock Gardens on the north shore of Kabetogama Lake features 52 terraced flower beds and over 150 geometric and animal-themed sculptures assembled out of the local granite. Built by Chicago contractor and regular summer visitor Jack Ellsworth between 1944 and 1965, this singular spot makes an ideal picnic ground.
The cliffs on the Canadian side of Namakan Narrows, a channel at the southeast end of Namakan Lake, feature moose, human, canoe, and other ancient pictographs. Another popular natural attraction near Crane Lake are the pinkish granite Grassy Bay Cliffs.
You don’t need your own boat to see the park. Pontoon Tours (888/381-2873, June–Sept., $17–41) of Kabetogama, Rainy, and Namakan Lakes, some stopping at Kettle Falls Hotel and Ellsworth Rock Gardens, depart from the visitors center. Most resorts also do tours for their guests, and you can get information on the ranger talks and canoeing programs at park visitors centers.
Well outside the park, but certainly worth a stop if you are driving by, is the 16-foot-long Lake Kabetogama Walleye. Climb up into the saddle for a one-of-a-kind photo-op. It sits at the junction of Highway 53 and County Highway 122.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition