Backcountry Camping and Canoe Rentals

Experience the Backcountry at Voyageurs

All Backcountry adventures start with a boat ride to a trail head on the Kabetogama Peninsula. A water vessel is needed to access the trail head as you can only arrive by water. Set-up camp at our backcountry campsites by hiking to and/or canoing on the smaller lakes within the Kabetogama Peninsula.

Backcountry Canoes are provided on certain lakes within the peninsula to the public—both for overnight camping and single-day use— and can be reserved on Recreation.gov.

Our photo gallery shows campsite pictures and amenities at each Backcountry site.

Looking for Frontcountry Experiences?

Frontcountry camping is accessible directly by boat and do not require the extra hiking or canoing invovled with Backcountry Camping.

If you do not have boat acess and want to drive your vehicle to a campsite on land, there are public and private campgrounds within the surrounding gateway communities.

If you want to rent a canoe from the mainland to explore Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, Sand Point, or Crane Lakes (instead of the Backcountry), Local Area Businesses offer rentals. To avoid competing with these local businesses, the National Park Service does not rent canoes for the large lakes from visitor centers.

The Basics for Traveling to your Backcountry Campsite

  1. Parking: Camping Permit holders can park their vehicles overnight at any park visitor center for up to 14 days during their trip.
  2. Travel by watercraft to a trailhead (visitors must either use their own boat, rent a vessel, or use a water taxi).
  3. Follow your map and hike the trails into the Backcountry.
  4. Some backcountry sites also require the use of a canoe after hiking to reach the site location. These are available for rent by the park and staged at the end of the trail. Remember to bring your Personal Flotation Device (PFD) hiking as the park only provides the canoe and paddles.
 

Permits and Prices

There are two ways to get a permit:

 
A map shows three large lakes surrounding a large peninsula of land. Dotted lines mark trails along the peninsula, which connect to a series of smaller lakes. 15 campsites are shown on the shores of the smaller lakes, indicated by tent symbols.
Campsites and trails in the Backcountry of Voyageurs National Park
Backcountry Site Name and Number Distance from Closest Trailhead (approximate) Canoe Needed
to Reach Campsite?
Total Number of Watercraft Available for this Backcountry Location
Locator Lake (B9) 2.75 miles Yes 4 campsite canoes (1 for each campsite), 3 additional canoes, and 2 rowboats. All staged at the end of Locator Lake trail.
War Club Lake (B17) 3.75 miles Yes 4 campsite canoes (1 for each campsite), 3 additional canoes, and 2 rowboats. All staged at the end of Locator Lake trail.
Quill Lake (B15) 4.75 miles Yes 4 campsite canoes (1 for each campsite), 3 additional canoes, and 2 rowboats. All staged at the end of Locator Lake trail.
Loiten Lake (B11) 5.75 miles Yes 4 campsite canoes (1 for each campsite), 3 additional canoes, and 2 rowboats. All staged at the end of Locator Lake trail.
Ek Lake (B6) 0.1 mile No 1 canoe
Jorgens Lake (B7) 1 mile No 0
Little Shoepack Lake (B8) 2.4 miles Yes 1 canoe
Shoepack Lake (B19) 3.9 miles Yes 1 rowboat (staged on the south shore of Shoepack; it is automatically included with the canoe at Little Shoepack Lake)
Cruiser Lake (B5) 4 miles No 1 canoe
Brown Lake (B3) 2.1 miles (hiking) or 1.5 (canoeing) No 1 canoe on north shore (Rainy Lake side)
Quarter Line Lake (B14) 0.5 miles No 0
Peary Lake (B13) 1.2 miles No 0
Oslo Lake (B12) 0.5 miles No 0
Agnes Lake (B1) 0.4 miles No 0
Ryan Lake (B18) 0.4 miles No 0
 

Plan ahead and Prepare

Have a basic understanding of camping rules and regulations before you start your trip. Make sure to secure a boat, watercraft, or water taxi to travel to the trail head and secure plans for pick-up at the end of your backcountry itinerary.

Items below are required; our safety page also shows camping supplies that can help make your trip safer and even more enjoyable.

  • Backcountry Permit - Printed and placed in clear box at campsite
    • Permits are available to print using your recreation.gov account no earlier than 5 days before your trip
  • One Personal Floation Device (PFD) for every individual using a boat or canoe
  • Key for Backcountry Canoe Rental (if needed and reserved)
  • Supplies for a bear hang (20+ feet of material to hang a bag)
  • Non-live bait and Fishing Permits (if fishing is part of your plans)
 

Backcountry Canoes

Where to Find Backcountry Canoes

The National Park Service provides canoes, rowboats, oars, and paddles in the Backcountry for public use on:

  • The Chain of Lakes (made up of Locator, War Club, Loiten, and Quill Lakes)

  • Ek Lake

  • Shoepack and Little Shoepack Lake

  • Brown Lake

 
A canoe sits upside down on a wooden rack on the shores of a scenic lake, secured to the rack by a chain. Two paddles lay crossed next to the canoe.
Backcountry canoe on the shores of Ek Lake

NPS

Backcountry canoes are locked on racks at the ends of the trails leading to each of these lakes, and require a combination code to access. Beginning in 2022, backcountry canoe rentals will require a combination code to access. Visitors with valid permits will be provided with the combination code and instructions in their confirmation email and in the My Reservations section of your recreation.gov account. Be certain to print your permit within 5 days of your trip start date; it is required to have this with you and it will also contain the necessary code and instructions. Do not hike into the backcountry without this!
The Park Service only rents canoes for the Backcountry. If want to rent a canoe from the mainland for use on the larger lakes like Rainy or Kabetogama (instead of the Backcountry), check out our Local Area Businesses that provide rentals.

Backcountry canoes can be used in two ways: single-day use (also known as day rental) and associated with an overnight backcountry camping permit.
 
A Spiny Water Flea (a white, flea-like creature with large black eyes and a long, barbed tail) floats in a water sample.
Invasive Spiny Water Fleas—which can harm fish habitats—inhabit Rainy, Kabetogama, Sand Point, Namakan, and Crane Lakes. However, they are not currently found in Voyageurs' Backcountry Lakes.

Minnesota DNR

Why the Park provides Backcountry Canoe Rentals

To prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading, visitors are not allowed to bring their own watercraft (e.g. boats, canoes, kayaks, tubes, floatplanes) into the park's Backcountry lakes.

Kabetogama, Sand Point, Namakan, Rainy, and Crane Lakes contain the invasive Spiny Water Flea. Using boats already staged in the Backcountry help prevent this detrimental species from spreading to fish habitats in the Backcountry.

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A small campfire burns in a metal fire ring on the shore of a scenic lake at dusk. Behind the campfire, a canoe floats on the shore.
A quiet evening in the Backcountry

NPS

How to Get a Backcountry Canoe

Canoes for Backcountry Camping
When you purchase a Backcountry camping permit for the Chain of Lakes, Shoepack, and Little Shoepack, one backcountry canoe is automatically included in your permit so you can access the campsite.

Most sites only have one canoe. However, the Chain of Lakes has extra canoes and rowboats that can be added to your reservation. When you reserve a permit for a Backcountry campsite on the Chain of Lakes, the reservation website will ask if you wish to add boats before you finish your order. Simply select the number and types of additional watercraft you need for your group.

Backcountry Canoe Rentals (Single-Day Use)

Visitors can also rent canoes or rowboats in the Backcountry to use during the day without camping overnight. To rent a canoe online, click the "Reserve Day Use Rental" button on the Recreation.gov opening page for Voyageurs and select the date you want.

Beginning in 2022, backcountry canoe rentals will require a combination code to access. This information can be found in your confirmation email and in the Reservation Details section of your recreation.gov account. Be certain to print your permit within 5 days of your trip start date; it is required to have this with you and it will also contain the necessary code and instructions.

 

Canoe Safety and Rules in the Backcountry

In addition to following rules for Frontcountry campsites, Backcountry visitors must:

Rule or Regulation

Backcountry Camping

Day Use Canoe Rental

Use only the number of boats shown on your permit (no additional canoes). This ensures that other visitors can access their own reserved boats.

X

X

Print your official camping permit from your recreation.gov account within 5 days of your trip. It is required to have this with you while camping and will contain the combination code and instructions needed to access your backcountry canoe.

X

X

Bring 1 life jacket for each person in your Backcountry boat and wear it.

X

X

Use non-live bait only, if fishing

X

X

No pets allowed on Backcountry trails

X

X

Return the canoe to the same location you found it

X

X

You may check into your backcountry campsite no earlier than 12pm noon on your arrival day, and must depart no later than 11am on your day of departure. Be mindfull that the next visitor may be waiting for your canoe to be returned to the launch area.

X

Maximum stay is 7 days per year in the Backcountry

X

Bring a rope to hang your food from bears (bear poles are provided at each Backcountry campsite)

X


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Backcountry Camping FAQs

There are two ways to get a permit:

  • Online at www.recreation.gov (Google Chrome web browser is strongly recommended)
  • Call 1-877-444-6777

After you get your reservation:

1. You will get a confirmation email. Be aware, though: this email is not your permit.

  • You can view your permit by logging onto Recreation.gov and clicking "My Permits" in the upper right corner.

2. You can print your permit up to 5 days in advance of your trip.

  • Refunds are not available once your permit is printed, so be certain that your plans are finalized and your group is prepared before printing.
  • To print:
    1. Log into your recreation.gov account
    2. Click on the "down" arrow next to your name in the upper right corner
    3. Select "My Reservations"
    4. Click the "Print Permit" button next to the correct permit
  • Google Chrome is the supported browser for accessing permits; if you have trouble printing a permit, try this browser.
  • When you begin your trip, keep your printed permit with you at all times.
  • You can easily modify or cancel your reservation using your recreation.gov account:
    • Log into your recreation.gov account and click on your name in the upper right
    • Select My Reservations and then click on the “Modify or Cancel” button next to the reservation you need changed
    • Deselect dates and select new dates or campsite to modify, or click on Cancel Reservation to cancel.
  • The following fees apply:

Action

Fee

Any change to your reservation

$10 reservation service fee

Cancel reservation more than 1 day prior to scheduled arrival date

$10 reservation service fee; receive full refund of nightly amenity fees

Cancel reservation less than 1 day prior to arrival

$10 reservation service fee; forfeit current night's fee; receive refund for remaining nights

Early departure from site

$10 reservation service fee; forfeit current night's fee; receive refund for remaining nights

Once permit is printed

Refunds not available

Both within frontcountry and backcountry sites at Voyageurs, if a campsite is unoccupied, visitors may use the site until 2pm.

  • There are 33 designated Day Use Sites in the frontcountry of the park that are designed for picnicking; please try to use them first.
  • No day use is allowed at houseboat sites.
Campsite maps published by National Geographic may be purchased at any of the park's three visitor centers or by going to the online shop of Jefferson National Parks Association, our bookstore partner.

Other maps for trails, day use sites, etc. are available for free on our maps page, but National Geographic and Mackenzie charts are both strongly recommended for safe navigation to campsites.
Camping is only permissible in designated camping sites. Non-designated camping sites are not permissible for overnight use.
There are several private campgrounds and state campgrounds near the park that do not require a reservation.
There are several options available if you arrive at Voyageurs without a permit:
  • Call the reservation hotline at (877) 444-6777 and print permit at any open visitor center.
  • Make a reservation online using a mobile smart device at www.recreation.gov and print permit at any open visitor center.
  • If you need to print your permit, visit any open visitor center for assistance. Remember permits are not available to be printed more than 5 days from the start of your camping reservation.
  • Consider using camping and lodging opportunities on the mainland, near the boundary of the park for last minute and dispersed camping options.

Permits can be printed up to 5 days in advance of a trip. Recreation.gov does not email permits to those who have reserved them; you will need to:

  1. Log into your recreation.gov account
  2. Click the "down" arrow next to your name in the upper right corner
  3. Go to "My Reservations"
  4. Select the "Print Permit' button next to the correct permit


If it is five days or less before your trip and you still cannot print your permit, try the following:

  • Ensure you're using Google Chrome as your browser

  • If your email address has changed since you made your permit, be sure to change it in your Recreation.gov profile

  • Call (877) 444-6777 and request assistance.
  • Check-in for your first day at a Backcountry campsite begins at noon on the first day printed on your reservation. Visitors have 24 hours from their check-in time to set up at a site. Checkout is at 11am on the departure day. Be mindful that another visitor may be waiting for your canoe to be returned to the launch area.
Example: Donna has the Backcountry campsite on Locator Lake reserved, and her start day is July 3. She will camp overnight that evening, as well as July 4, and she will leave on July 5.
  • She will log into her recreation.gov account and print her official permit within 5 days of her trip start date. This will contain the combination code and instructions necessary to access her canoe.
  • Check-in for her campsite is at noon of July 3. If she cannot get to her campsite that day, she has 24 hours to do so.
  • Checkout is at 11am on July 5th.
Backcountry check-in and checkout times are different than Frontcountry rules. Check our Frontcountry camping page for check-in times at Frontcountry sites.
  • Permit holders have 24 hours from the time of check-in (on the date of entry) to get to their site.
  • If a permit holder fails to arrive within 24 hours of check-in, the permit is void. The site will become available for others to reserve.

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Last updated: November 15, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Voyageurs National Park Headquarters
360 Hwy 11 East

International Falls , MN 56649

Phone:

(218)-283-6600

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