Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27 - Voyageur National Park Summary

Sitting just to the west of Boundary Waters canoe area, and southwest of Quetico Provincial Park in Canada, Voyageurs makes up the third of the triple crown of Boundary Lands interconnected waterways in Northern Minnesota.  Voyageurs is unique in that it hosts some massive lakes each with archipelagos of islands giving it a very coastal waterway feel.  On some of the lakes, the wind fetch can be up to 15 miles, so the water can be easily frothed into a caldron of confused seas.  Like the other two parks, there are seemingly endless miles of shore marshes and quiet coves.  Each island has it's own personality from stately and mature to cast-away and still being formed.  Here the Canadian granite shield comes to a abrupt end, and along this geological fissure 1,000's of miles long the deep and fertile waters have filled in the voids.  People here have a legacy of "resource extraction" dating back to the  french trappers and explorers who first raided this area for furs to satisfy a passing fad in Europe of fur hats.  Now, most of the furs, both worn and living are few and far between.  The National Park Service has created a constellation of primative campsites throughout the park, each sited so it sees no other, and very often only a single campsite has been established in any given cove, bay, island, or point.  Even with that, the campsites are spaced at reasonable intervals so one can reach from one to another within a day's paddle.  If no "developed" campsite is available, human powered boaters  are free to camp wherever they like as long as they follow good "leave no trace" camping, and stay away from any established campsites.

The really special aspect of Voyaguers from my experience is the number of loons.  Every day we saw loons in every bay we explored, and each morning and evening we grew to count on a brief serenade by one or more loons singing to one another in their haunting, echoing refrains.  After herring so many loons in such a short period, I know now that the loons calls all seem to be somewhat familiar.  Family groups use the same sets of calls and responses, where as different family groups use slight variations on this theme.  They always seem to seek out places where their calls will reverberate on the surrounding terrain, amplifying their effect and adding additional voices to the call even if there is a single animal calling.  Be sure to play the accompanying video once i get it posted to hear two such loons across from our campsite one night.  The echo in the video, is actually a distantly different bird about 1/4 mile away.  

Another enjoyable experience was making regular sightings of bald eagles.  The fishing is good in these lakes, and the eagle's size and number attests to this fact.  Again, every day we could count on at least one eagle sighting, if not more.  On approaching Lost lake one evening we encountered a pair of eagles working on a huge fish they had acquired on a rock shelve just above the water level.  We floated by and watched for quiet some time from very close quarters.

On our last day, while departing the park, we got a fleeting glance of a timber wolf as it bounded across an open field at the edge of the forest.  Our local shuttle driver Daryl, who drove us back to our car (which was parked at Kabetogama Lake with a freshly changed flat tire) after finishing our journey at Crane Lake told us he sees far more wolf than moose these days, as the wolfs seem to keep the moose population down.  

We were very lucky with the wind and got to paddle most of our traveling days with a tail wind.  We experimented one afternoon with the kayak sail, but opted not to fly it while underway due to either the impending thunderstorms (we had collapsed the mast to reduce to potential of being struck), or the high winds.  

From 2011 Summer Trip

From 2011 Summer Trip

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