Voyageurs National Park is a mosaic of land and water, a place of interconnected waterways that flow west, and eventually north as part of the arctic watershed of Hudson Bay. It's a place of transition, between land and aquatic ecosystems, between southern boreal and northern hardwood forests, and between wild and developed areas.
Here in the heart of the continent lies a unique landscape formed by ancient earthquakes and volcanoes and more recently, glaciers. The most recent period of glaciation ended just over 10,000 years ago, exposing ancient Precambrian rocks. The forests that now cover the higher grounds of the park exist on a thin layer of soil that has formed in the comparatively short period of time since the last glacier receded.
This ecosystem has been affected and altered by fire, wind, logging, encroachment of non-native species, climate change, and more, but it still retains a rich diversity of plants and animals.
Over this landscape drapes the night sky. On a cloudless night in northern Minnesota, due to a lack of light sources, millions of stars glow brightly. On occasion, when an adventurous visitor stays up well past the typical bedtime, the greens, yellows, and reds of the Aurora Borealis flare overhead. Discover the park after dark.
Whether day or night, understand the science that connects the park to everything and all of us.
Within Voyageurs, boreal tree species from the north such as spruce, fir, aspen, and paper birch coexist with pines, oaks, maples, and basswood from the south and east. It is a place where wildflowers, including a surprising variety of orchids, are abundant. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are plentiful (and delicious). It is a place where human and plant interactions have defined the history of the region.
Water is the life blood of Voyageurs. Forty percent of the park is water. These waters were the transportation corridors for the park's namesake, the voyageurs, and they are the basis for recreation in the park today. These waters are home to walleye, northern pike, lake trout, and sturgeon. Unfortunately, they are also home to some unwanted non-native species such as spiny water flea.
Although these waters are all natural lakes, the water levels of the largest lakes (Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Sand Point) in Voyageurs National Park are regulated by dams within and outside the park. The effects of these water level regulations on the ecology of Voyageurs have been the subject of considerable research in recent decades. What affects these waters affects both the ecology and the recreational use of the park as a whole.