Voyageurs National Park

We had the most wonderful day yesterday! As you know from my previous post, we were planning to take a boat tour of Voyageurs National Park. It had rained steadily through the night, but when we woke up, we saw patches of blue sky and sunshine. The forecast was party cloudy with a chance of light showers in the morning, and then clearing in the afternoon. It was a little threatening at first, but then it cleared to a really lovely day and no rain whatsoever.

Here's the boat we were on, named appropriately, "Voyageur".

We were headed into the wind on the way out, and it was quite chilly. There were blankets available on the boat. We got smart and realized that the rain pants we'd brought along were also windproof, and so we put them on. We were a little warmer after that.

The scenery was stunning, and as is always the case in a national park, too vast to be captured in a single image. The best of my pictures are panoramas. (Be sure to click on them to make them larger.)

The ranger informed us that the significance of this area is its interconnected waterways that made it a hub of commerce, both domestically and internationally. Originally, the fur traders and indigenous peoples used it to transport their wares. Then, it became a way to transport timber harvests to mill. Then, gold was discovered, and a gold rush began. As it turned out the gold was very difficult to extract with the equipment available, and so the boom went bust fairly quickly. Nevertheless, the remains of some mines can still be seen. In the image below, you can see the remains of a mine shaft. 

When we were traveling through the narrower parts of the waterway, the boat went slowly and it was possible to be up on deck, even if it was a little chilly. When we moved into the open waterways, we went faster, resulting in soaking sprays. Pretty much anyone who had good sense moved below into the cabin, where there were large windows so that we could still see the view...when they weren't being splashed with spray and waves.

We were traveling on the very large Rainy Lake through a series of islands. I took advantage of the satellite imagery on my phone to get some idea what the terrain looked like.

We saw lots of bald eagles roosting in the trees, and also soaring overhead. It was thrilling to see these beautiful birds.

We saw evidence of Fall along the way, more than we've seen elsewhere. In this image, you can also see the grass growing at water's edge. I believe this is the kind of grass harvested as wild rice.

This is Ranger Doug...a very nice man. All of the rangers were as friendly and helpful as they could have been and they certainly contributed to our enjoyment of the day.

They handed out pictures of the boat with its vital statistics. If you're into that sort of thing, here's the info about the boat.

The national park only extends to the US side of the border, and so we saw a few cabins on the Canadian side.

There were also plenty of fishermen.

Which brings me to the main use of the area today...recreation.

We were headed to the Kettle Falls Hotel, and as we got closer, we were criss-crossing Canadian and US waters. Ranger Kevin pointed out that we could tell where we were by the buoys. The Canadian buoys were green with a sort of thin top, 

while the US buoys were red and more conical in shape like the one on the right side of the image below.

After 2-1/2 hours on the water, we arrived at Kettle Falls and the Kettle Hotel. We had a short walk from the dock to the hotel. That's Ranger Kevin leading the way.

And here's a satellite image of where the hotel is located. Much narrower waters in this area.

The plan was to spend two hours here, eat lunch, do a little exploring, and then head back the way we came. Here, you can see all the folks from our boat, getting ready to order lunch at the hotel.

The hotel was used mostly by mobsters and gangsters during the Great Depression, but it is still in use today and hosts around 40,000 visitors per year in its 16 rooms. And this brings me to another purpose for these waterways: rum running. We were told that during prohibition, this was an entry point for imported spirits. Apparently, even during Prohibition, it was legal to manufacture alcohol in Canada for exportation, even though it was illegal to consume it. And just where do you suppose those Canadian distributors exported their liquor to? The United States, of course. Much of it came right here to the Kettle Falls Hotel. 

In the image below, you can see the hotel lobby. To the back is a door leading to the restrooms and to the bar/tavern/saloon. (My friend Lisa hails from Wisconsin, and she informs me that "bars" are called "taverns" locally, even if the name of the place includes the word "bar". We have heard them referred to as bars, taverns, and saloons, interchangeably.)

While we waited for our food to arrive, I made a little trip upstairs because I was told the unoccupied rooms were left open for exploration. Sure enough. Here's a room with twin beds, and there was another that had a full bed. The rooms were very small, and so I'm guessing a full bed would be as large as one could find here.

In the image below, you can see the little dresser to the right in the image above, along with the basin and pitcher. (I love those old basin and pitcher set-ups.) Bathrooms were across the hall and shared by all occupants of the hotel.

The kitchen staff did an excellent job of getting the food served up to our large group fast. Mike and I each ordered Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches. We were cold, and wanted a hot sandwich. It came with a side cup of cream of wild rice soup. The soup was delicious, but it would have made a lousy picture. White soup with some dark lumps in a white cup. Here's my sandwich, which was delicious, if a little salty.

When we finished eating we visited the "tavern" at the far end of the hotel. The building was constructed without a foundation, and over the years, the settling ground and rocks beneath caused the hotel to become "twisted". There were some photographs on the tavern wall. It was built at the turn on the 20th Century. Here's how it looked in 1942. The pictures were behind glass, and I couldn't avoid some reflections. Still, I think you get the idea.

The hotel was renovated and brought up to code when it became a part of the national part in the 1980s, but the "bar" was left as is, complete with its interesting architectural problems. If you look closely in the image below, you'll see that the ceiling is level, but the bar has a distinct tilt to the right.

And check out the slant in the image below. There was a large rock under the floor in the middle of the room, and it felt as if you were walking up a slight incline, only to go steeply down hill as you walked toward the door.

These imperfections were felt to be historically significant, and so they were left as is during the renovations. 

There was also a "player" jukebox--something I've never seen before. The bartender stuck a token in the slot and it played a song for us. It sounded a lot like a toy piano.

You've probably seen the rolls of paper that make old player pianos operate. This jukebox worked the same way.

Here's a photograph of how the hotel looked after renovations were completed in 1987.

And here's the picture I took yesterday.

The hotel dining room was on the right of the building, the tavern to the left. The picture below shows the screened porch on the inside. Inviting, no?

After lunch, we took a walk over to see Kettle Falls Dam. The dam was built by a timber baron who used the ability to raise and lower the level of the water to sluice his timber from harvest on the Canadian side to his mill in International Falls. There was another dam on the other side of the hill from this one on a separate lake, and there was another dam in International Falls. This man had designs on creating an empire of hydroelectric power by damming up the rivers all around. Had he been able to do so, it would have completely changed the face of the area.

There was a sign here explaining the history of the area. It was too large for me to capture in one image, and so I'll show it to you in pieces. Here's a drawing of the fur traders (the voyageurs).

And here's the accompanying text.

The map below shows the route we took to Kettle Falls yesterday. I've underlined in red the beginning and endpoints of our trip.

Here's another image of Ranger Doug and Ranger Mike. Ranger Mike was our ship's captain.

After that, we headed back to the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. We were with the wind now, and so it was nicer up top. Also, the sun had come out and it was warmer in general.

A lot more people stayed up top, while some napped in the cabin below.

I included the image below because it's another shot of the marsh grass, harvested for wild rice.

After another 2-1/2 hours, we arrived back at the visitor's center.

Here we are approaching the dock.

A thoroughly enjoyable day from start to finish.

Today we're moving onto the Canadian side of the border. We'll stay the night in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and get our first glimpse of Lake Superior. Tomorrow we'll head on down the Lake Superior lake shore toward Wisconsin and Michigan.

Before I leave you, I wanted to tell you that we had to make a quick trip to the grocery store. We needed ice cream and cat food. And, really, is there anything else? Chocolate, maybe. And brownies, which are really just chocolate in yummy cake form. Anyway, along the way, we spotted International Falls' contribution to the giant statue parade, this 30-foot tall Smoky the Bear. 

Also, we found in the grocery store these candies:

I stared at these for a while trying to figure out what they were when it suddenly occurred to me that they were sort of like Good & Plenty. I always thought Good & Plenty was the most disappointing candy of all time. Such appetizing little morsels only to be filled with nasty black licorice. I can't even tell you the number of times I bit into one of these nasty things only to discover that yes, they still contained black licorice. Yuck. Gag. Gack.

And then I realized that these "Outback Beans" were the Good & Plenty of my dreams. Red licorice surrounded by a crunch candy coating...just like the nasty Good & Plenty's only without the nasty! Holy Sh*t!

Of course, we had to have a bag. As it turns out, they really are just candy-coated red jellybeans. But that's good enough for me.

16 comments from clever and witty friends:

quiltzyx said...

I *L*O*V*E* boat tours! This one looks heavenly. I have to go back & look at all the photos again, just to soak them in.

I will happily eat any Good & Plentys! Yum!

Barb H said...

Thanks, Barbara, for posting all the pictures of the gorgeous Northern wilderness. Reminds me of my college summers on Lake of the Woods and my subsequent camping trips in the BWCA. But I've never been to Voyageur's--it's now on my list of places to see.

Christine M said...

I'm really enjoying your trip Barbara. How funny those candies are called Outback Beans. Australian style! I haven't seen any of them here! LOL!

littleorphanskein said...

Are you going to be coming through Michigan? If yes, what areas?

Shari said...

Thanks for taking the time to share your vacation. I'm enjoying it from Georgia!

Junebug613 said...

Maybe you could publish a picture book of all the Giant statues of the US! Looks like a nice day! Glad the weather worked out for you.

Tami C said...

Thank you so much for taking us along on your boat tour and tour of the hotel. That seems like an interesting place to visit!

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I absolutely enjoyed the the boat ride! Wonderful pictures and illustrations and history. And I hate (gack) Good and Plenty too! Even jelly beans are distasteful.

Dana Gaffney said...

I love this, great pictures and the hotel was a hoot. I saw a pool table in the picture and wood around the bottom, is it level? Good and plenty is the worst, I haven't had one since I was a kid but I remember spitting it out.

Dasha said...

I really enjoyed your trip Barbara. Thank you for sharing. It has made me want to come visit the States again.
As for the lollies - they might be Australia style, but this Australian has never seen the likes of them LOL.

juliehallfeldhaus said...

I am really lovin your trip!! I can't wait every morning to read about your day!!! Thanks for sharing:)

Diane Wild said...

Hope you got warmed up after the cool ride on the lake. Isn't that area amazing? Only visited once and was struck dumb by the vastness of the wilderness. Going south now and it will be warmer, I hope. South? LOL

Susan said...

I have been enjoying reading about your trip and seeing all the interesting pictures.

If I remember correctly, your itinerary only brings you into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The UP, especially anywhere along Lake Superior is one of my most favorite spots in the world. But, economics being what they are, we reside and work in the lower peninsula (Grand Rapids).

My cat Patches says to say hello the Smitty and Gracie.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

well have to put these places on our list for future travels -love the photos

Lee said...

Thanks for sharing your trip with us - places I'll likely never see. BiMart has those Outback Beans, but the ones I've had are black centered like Good N Plenty - I'll have to look tomorrow when I 'stock up' for my trip HOME again.

Lyndsey said...

I loved the boat trip and with all the information and pictures I feel as if I've been there too.