My husband, daughters and I are on a quest to visit all the U.S. National Parks in our lifetime. There are 61 parks and we’ve currently visited 24. We have had the immense pleasure of kayaking in two National Parks to date.
Our first National Park kayaking adventure took place a few years ago at Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border. During our long weekend stay, we tent camped at a small campground in International Falls. The campsite was unfortunately close to the town’s main thoroughfare, so rather noisy throughout the summer night; however, it offered showers and flushable toilets, our two uncompromising requirements.
We arrived at Voyageurs National Park early on Friday morning. The park is over 40 percent water, so we rented a double kayak (orange, of course) and a canoe for the four of us. I’d been kayaking regularly by the time we took this trip, but not in a sea kayak. I’m embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t figure out the propeller (or it was broken!) and could not paddle in a straight line. While my husband and eldest daughter casually frolicked along in the canoe, my youngest daughter and I zigzagged across the lake, back and forth, back and forth, never in a straight line and almost always a quarter mile or more behind them.
We kayaked across Lake Kabetogama to the Ellsworth Rock Garden, built by Jack Ellsworth, a carpenter from Chicago, over a period of 20 years, which features numerous flower beds and over 200 abstract rock sculptures. Well worth the paddle! We stopped to stretch and eat our picnic lunch along the way, resting on small islands dotted throughout the lake. We saw multiple eagles and inadvertently (but excitedly) found ourselves pulled ashore underneath an eagle’s nest with eaglets. Our inkling to go swimming at this stop was diverted by the glaring mama eagle above us.
I can’t imagine touring Voyageur’s National Park any other way! It was an incredible day and quality family time together. The water was calm, clear and beautiful. We spent six hours on the lake! When we got back to shore and returned the kayak and canoe, the girls considered a quick swim. I couldn’t do it. I surely would have drowned because I couldn’t even lift my tired arms above my shoulders. The zigzagging kayak had worn me out! Despite being physically tired, we were pumped up by our accomplishment—even the park rangers were impressed that we’d paddled that far.
If you’ve never been to Voyageurs National Park, make sure you go—and when you do, take or rent a kayak! You won’t regret it.
(NOTE: As mentioned earlier, we’ve kayaked in two National Parks. Next time I’ll tell you about my “spidery” experience in South Carolina!)