Houseboating in Voyageurs National Park

A houseboat boating on a large lake with small islands off in the distance.

Houseboating is a unique way to get out on the water and explore the solitude of Voyageurs National Park while having the comforts of home at your fingertips. It allows visitors the mobility to discover the farthest reaches of the park for an extended period of time without having to tent camp. It can be the perfect way for visitors of all ages to experience the beauty of these timeless waterways and rugged shorelines, bountiful wildlife, and rich history.

All houseboat rentals are commercially operated by companies located just outside the park's boundaries. For more information on those companies and other accommodation options in our gateway communities, visit our Lodging page.

 
A houseboat drifts in front of the Grassy Bay Cliffs on Sand Point Lake
A houseboat drifts in front of the iconic Grassy Bay Cliffs in VNP

Amanda Althoff

Houseboat Definition

A houseboat is defined as a registered vessel that contains:

  • sleeping facilities
  • cooking and food storage facilities
  • a no-discharge toilet
Cabin cruisers and sailboats with the listed required amenities fit within the definition of a houseboat and may utilize houseboat sites with a valid houseboat permit.
 
A family enjoys their houseboating experience in Voyageurs National Park
A family enjoys their houseboat vacation on Rainy Lake.

Erik Bjorum

Houseboat Sites in the Park

Houseboaters are allowed to stay overnight at both designated and undesignated houseboat sites, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Designated sites have a symbol sign indicating that they are a designated site, beach or rock access, metal fire rings, and mooring posts or rings to secure vessels
  • Undesignated sites are any undeveloped shoreline location that is at least 200 yards away from any developed site or structure
  • There is a limit of two houseboats per designated or undesignated site, unless a pre-approved Special Use Permit has been obtained through park law enforcement
 
A houseboat on a misty morning
A houseboat tucked in a misty cove surrounded by trees

Matthew Dischinger

Permits & Prices

  • Houseboats are required to have a permit for overnight use
  • There is no limit to the number of houseboats/permits allowed in the park at one time
  • Reservations are not site-specific, but rather issued per houseboat for the number of nights stayed in the park
  • Permits can be purchased starting November 15 annually for all of the next summer season
  • There is a $15 nightly fee in additional to a $10 reservation service fee per transaction
 
Reserve America

How do I make a reservation?

Once you have made arrangements with a local houseboat rental company or know the dates you'll be houseboating in the park, make your reservation by:

  • Going to www.recreation.gov. Follow these step-by-step instructions to help guide you throught the reservation-making process.
  • Calling 1-877-444-6777. The Recreation.Gov National Call Center hours are:
    • March 1- October 31- 9:00 am to 11:00 pm (CST)
    • November 1- February 28- 9:00 am to 9:00 pm (CST)
 

Where do I get my permit?

  • Once a reservation is made online or by phone, you will receive a confirmation email, but note that this is not your permit
  • You must print your permit from your recreation.gov account, which can be done at any time after making your reservation, but it is advised that you wait to do this until you are certain of your plans.
  • Once a permit is printed, you have confirmed your reservation and your permit is officially "issued" in the system. Modications, cancellations, and refunds will no longer be available.
  • Permits must be posted on the rear of the houseboat. If renting a houseboat, please check with the specific houseboat company on the placement of the permit.
  • If a permit does not accompany you to your site, your reservation is void. No refunds will be given.
  • Permits are non-transferable.
  • If you lose or misplace your permit, stop at one of the park's three visitor centers for assistance.
 

How do I cancel a reservation?

  • Cancellations must be made by phone to Recreation.gov. Call 1-877-444-6777.
  • If you cancel a reservation before you print the permit, you will forfeit the reservation fee of $10.00.
  • If you cancel a reservation after you print your permit, no refund will be given.

 
A tent is nestled beneath tall trees at a lakeside campsite
A tent is nestled under tall trees at a lakeside campsite

Emily Kurmis

Houseboaters Who Want to Tent Camp

  • Houseboats cannot pitch a tent at a houseboat site. Tent camping is only allowed at designated sites.
  • Houseboaters wishing to pitch a tent must go to www.recreation.gov and reserve a tent site for those in the party who want to tent camp.
  • Houseboats may not moor at the tent site and must be moored at least 200 yards away from any developed site. Use a personally-owned watercraft or the runner boat provided with your houseboat rental for going back and forth from the houseboat to the campsite. The only exception to the two-houseboat limit is with a pre-approved Special Use Permit obtained through park law enforcement - a process that requires an application and fee, plus 3 weeks at minimum to process.
  • The only two campsites that houseboats are allowed to stay overnight at are the two group campsites: R-74 on Rainy Lake and K-54 on Kabetogama Lake, however the group must have a valid permit obtained through recreation.gov for the group campsite plus a permit for each houseboat. The group campsite limit is a minimum 14 and a maximum of 30 people, and this includes visitors staying in both tents and houseboats.
 

Where can I buy a map of the houseboat sites?

Voyageurs National Park has partnered with National Geographic who now publishes our official park camping map. This map shows the most up-to-date campsites, houseboat sites, and day use sites within the park, and may be purchased at any of the park's three visitor centers or by going to www.jnpa.com.

Below is our interactive park map that you can use to view all park houseboat sites. Use the measuring tool to estimate travel distances between sites and to help you plan an itinerary.

 
 

Last updated: November 9, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Voyageurs National Park Headquarters
360 Hwy 11 East

International Falls , MN 56649

Phone:

(218)-283-6600

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