Befitting of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Voyageurs National Park is dominated and defined by water. The park is centered on four large lakes—Rainy, Kabetogama (cab-eh-to-ga-ma), Namakan, and Sand Point—and water covers nearly 40 percent of its 218,200 acres.
Water isn’t just part of the scenery, it’s the primary means of transportation too. Except for those leading up to the four entry points, there are no roads in the park.
To witness the hundreds of lopsided islands and slender bays or explore the rugged 75,000-acre Kabetogama Peninsula at the heart of the park, you’ll have to travel by boat.
Visually, Voyageurs is similar to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness , which sits just to the east, but it comes without the serenity of official wilderness designation. Most people enjoy the scenery from a fishing boat, pontoon , or houseboat , and the many motors—either the rumbling boats in the summer or whining snowmobiles in the winter —might affect the tranquility of your adventure.
On the other hand, Voyageurs is one of the least visited national parks—more people visit Alaska’s Denali National Park  during the month of June than come to Voyageurs during the entire year—so it is still easy to commune with nature in peace, especially if you head out to the Kabetogama Peninsula or spend a night under the stars.
Voyageurs National Park follows the Minnesota–Ontario border for 55 meandering miles. Access for most visitors is through one of the four resort areas on the park’s periphery. Rainy Lake is at the northwest corner, not far from International Falls , while Crane Lake is on the far southeast end. Kabetogama and Ash River sit in the middle.
Each gateway offers lodging, food, fishing guides, water taxis (prices depend on the length of trip and number of people, but expect to pay about $50 for a short trip), and just about anything else you could need during your trip. The western three each have visitor centers, while Crane Lake has a sporadically open ranger station.
The Ash River Visitor Center (9899 Meadwood Rd., 218/374-3221, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily late May–Sept.) is housed in the historic Meadwood Lodge, a 1935 log building, while the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center (9940 Cedar Ln., 218/875-2111, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily late May–Sept.) has some wildlife exhibits.
The Rainy Lake Visitor Center (1797 Town Rd. 342, 218/286-5258, www.nps.gov/voya , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily late May–Sept., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed.–Sun. rest of year) is the only one open year-round. There are no fees for visiting Voyageurs, though all overnight visitors require free permits. Get them at park visitors centers or self-registration stations at most boat launches.