Stargazing

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Millions of stars shine across a black sky, with the silhouettes of trees below on the horizon
Behold the wonder of the night.

NPS

 
A woman gazes up at a star-filled dark sky, holding a small, round metal piece of equipment aloft over her head. Silhouettes of trees and a wooden deck in the background.
A view of the night sky from the Kettle Falls dam overlook. The dark skies of Voyageurs offer excellent stargazing opportunities. Here, a researcher measures the levels of light on the horizon using a powerful, light-sensitive camera.

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Stargazing in Voyageurs National Park

Planets shine, shooting stars dart across the sky, satellites float along the horizon, and our own galaxy wraps an arm over our globe. Earth is a very small, singular, unique place within this awe-inspiring cosmos.

Step out, look up, and embrace the wonder of a Voyageurs night.

Where to View Stars

Many places in Voyageurs have open horizons with beautiful views of the night sky. The Voyageurs Forest Overlook, Beaver Pond Overlook, and the Kettle Falls Dam area are all popular stargazing locations (see our maps page to locate them). In addition, many of the park's lakeshores, clearings (on trails or in the backcountry), and campsite docks provide wide, unobstructed views of the stars—especially if there is little or no artificial light nearby.

When to Stargaze

A clear, moonless night can provide the best stargazing opportunities, because a bright moon will obscure fainter stars (however, don't forget that viewing the moon can be very rewarding as well!). Checking a moon phase calendar can be helpful in planning, as well as watching the weather forecast to avoid storms and cloudy evenings.

Summer nights are generally the best times to view the Milky Way: a spiral of our own galaxy. During summer, the Northern hemisphere is tilted towards the center of the Milky Way, so it is denser and easier to see. In general, everything we can see using just our eyes from our location is within the Milky Way galaxy, with two exceptions: the Triangulum Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy.
 
A full moon illuminates a large, snow-covered lake shore and also the silhouettes of several trees.
A full moon and stars on the shores of Lake Kabetogama

NPS

Useful Items to Bring

  • Extra layers, long pants, a jacket, and a hat. Even in summer, nights can be cool.
  • A blanket or chair, if desired
  • Binoculars or a telescope (7 x 50 binoculars are comparable to entry-level telescopes)
  • A star chart (available at visitor centers and many local bookstores)
  • A red flashlight or headlamp, plus extra batteries
  • Bug spray
  • Water

Different Cultures and their Constellations

A star chart (also known as a planisphere) can help you find the constellations and the Milky Way. There are also several free smartphone apps (e.g. SkyView Lite, Star Walk 2 Ads+, Star Chart, and NASA App) that can provide assistance in finding constellations throughout the year.

Constellations and stars have inspired stories and insights across countless cultures over many centuries. A traditional Ojibwe or Dakota constellation guide, for example, may have different-looking constellations than a Greek-based planisphere. Using multiple star charts can create a unique, meaninful insight into different cultures through the way their ancestors (and they, themselves) view the stars.

 
 

Spot the Space Station from Voyageurs

If an object is moving quickly and not blinking, it is likely an unmanned satellite...or possibly even the International Space Station! Check NASA's widget below to find out when and where the station will be visible from the park.

 
Stars shine over a large, brightly-lit building, with trees silhouetted on the horizon.
The human eye is attracted to bright, white light. The park is currently working to safely reduce light levels here at the Kettle Falls Hotel (as well as other areas) to become a Dark Sky Park.

NPS / Lapp

Stargazing Tips and Techniques

Give Yourself Time

It can take 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark; spend enough time outside away from bright lights to allow your eyes to adjust.

Use a Red Light

One brief flash of white light from a flashlight, cell phone, or vehicle headlight can set your night vision back and require several minutes for your eyes to readjust once again to darkness. A red light will not impact your night vision nearly as much. Many flashlights and headlamps have a red light feature. If yours does not, you can also cover your white light with red plastic or cellophane.

Bring a Friend; Minimize your Light

Camping and walking in the dark can sometimes make people feel anxious, especially in an wild or unfamiliar place. People often find comfort using bright, white lanterns and other lights in the park after dark. Turning off these lights will strongly improve your stargazing, and it also benefits nocturnal wildlife that live in the park.

For those who feel anxious about tripping and/or animals, it can help to be aware that it is very rare for wildlife to directly approach humans in Voyageurs. Animals are far more likely to be attracted to food left out in the open, regardless of the time of day.

While camping, you can can help improve your night vision (as well as your safety) by securing your food in a bear locker and relying solely on the natural light created by a campfire instead of white lights. Having friends or family along can also help if you're feeling nervous about the dark, and it also lets you share a meaningful chance to stargaze together.

 

Dark Skies at Voyageurs

Voyageurs is improving its dark sky preservation in order to become certified as a Dark Sky Park. However, Dark Sky certification does not only have to be for national parks. Learn below what Voyageurs is doing to protect the night, and also what you can do (if you desire) to make the lights around your own home more effective, efficient, and night-sky-friendly.

Last updated: June 27, 2020

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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