July 23, 2018
One Visitor Center down, two to go. We headed to International Falls and the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. This is Voyageur’s largest, fanciest visitor center. It is the only one open year round. They cut ice roads across the lake and back into the park for winter recreation so they stay open to manage that. While ice roads sound neat, we have no desire to hang in the frigid north to play on them.
We learn something new every day. For example, we had no idea Chloe had a desire to smooch a moose.
Rainy Lake was a key link in the Voyageurs transportation network. Voyageurs traded goods from Europe in exchange for furs, especially beaver, with Native Americans, like the Ojibwe, and European trappers.
The exhibits are very nice and they have a decent size gift shop. We enjoyed learning more about the park and its history. One item we hadn’t heard before reaching Voyageurs was the problem with invasive cattails. There is an aggressive type of cattail that is taking over areas of the park. It can actually form islands that block out all other plant life. These mats break loose and float out to block the navigation channels. We saw some on our Kettle Falls tour that had been dragged back into a little bay and cordoned off with floating booms until they can deal with it. At Rainy Lake we could hear a loud machine somewhere not too far from the visitor center and discovered it is a floating grinder machine that they take out to these mats of cattails and grind them to bits.
An Ethno-botanical Garden and small Ojibwe camp are located here. There’s a separate Junior Ranger book and badge for the garden so we spent some time wandering the garden and learning the uses for the different plants.
The flowering plants attracted plenty of pollinators, including this chubby bumblebee.
The garden also had a good patch of milkweed and we had fun watching the fat caterpillars chowing down on the leaves. Chloe and John had a contest to see who could find the largest, fattest caterpillar. Both claimed victory.
After our visitor center and garden tours we were back on a boat, aptly named Voyageur, to get deeper into Voyageurs. This tour was on the more populated Rainy Lake so we saw houses on both sides of the border as we tooled along.
There were plenty of eagles to spot and more area history imparted by yet another knowledgeable ranger.
This tour included gold mines. The one mine we stopped at was a pit mine and pictures didn’t come out due to bright light outside and darkness in the pit. We did get a picture of the adit for a tunnel mine along the route. The miner would boat over, tie up, and head into the mine.