Exploring the Wilderness near International Falls

Abandoned buildings in the Northland
Abandoned buildings in the Northland

Follow the road out of Duluth in the northern direction and eventually, you will run into International Falls. This is all assuming you don’t listen when your GPS tells you to turn down a different random road. Turns out it was leading me to a logging forest in the middle of the northern wilderness.

It was a beautiful drive as I made my way deeper and deeper into the heart of the forests. Old, abandoned buildings looked out over grazing pastures full of nothing but grass. Then the road turned to dirt and a sign read, “road only maintained for logging purposes.”

That did not sound right.

I backtracked and made my way back to the main road where I had a data connection for Google Maps. Google Maps has saved my butt more than once while traveling.

I made it to the tour only five minutes late. Not bad considering I went way far off track.

If you are interested in the history of the area, be sure to check out the Koochiching Museum. There you will have the opportunity to learn all about the town’s local football legend Bronko Nagurski and the nearly 10,000 years of human history. Venture into the back room to see artifacts from the late 1800s, early 1900s. One of my favorite parts of the museum was the small wall dedicated to the film photographs of Natives.

Island in the lake
Island in the lake

After the museum, we made our way to Rainy Lake for a tour on the Voyageur. Coincidentally, it was raining when we finally got to Rainy Lake.

The boat, run by the National Park Service, was massive considering we were on a lake. It was the size of something you would expect to see on one of the Great Lakes. It had an upper and lower deck with plenty of space for many passengers. The upper deck is perfect for capturing photos of the wildlife and shoreline. While the lower deck was perfect for escaping the rain.

path leading up to the mine sites on American Island
The path leading up to the mine sites on American Island

By the time we made it to American Island, a small hunk of rock with a rich gold mining history, the rain had lifted. We hiked around the island stopping at all the major mining locations, such as the 210-foot deep mine shaft. Now it has been filled in and is not deeper than 15 feet below the ground. Along the hike, the forest is beginning to reclaim other relics from the mining operation that was.

The abandoned pulley from the mine shafts
The abandoned pulley from the mine shafts

Rain began to pick up as the boat tour was concluding. The others sought shelter in the lower deck, but me, being the rain loving person that I was remained up top for a while snapping more photos of the wildlife.

Following Rainy Lake, we drove about an hour before reaching our final stop for the day, Arrowhead Lodge, where our tour of Voyageurs National Park was. We piled onto a pontoon boat, that is far nicer than the chairless “economy boat” my parents acquired with one of the houses they bought in one of our previous moves.

An old mining shaft on the shore of an island on Rainy Lake. You can still go in it, however it is not recommended
An old mining shaft on the shore of an island on Rainy Lake. You can still go in it, however, it is not recommended

Voyageurs was paradise in the north. The national park is only accessible by boat so the area doesn’t see the kind of tourist like Yellowstone may. Just my kind of place.

We spent several hours puttering around the lake and wildlife watching.

If you are looking for an off the beaten path to vacation, be sure to look into International Falls and the surrounding area. You will not be disappointed.


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I visited the area on June 2nd and as per typical of the northern US, especially on the Canadian border, it can get quite chilly.  I wore a sweatshirt the whole time – not that I am complaining, I love sweatshirt and jeans weather!




Have you ever visited International Falls or northern Minnesota?

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Many thanks to the International Convention and Visitors Bureau for organizing a tour of the area! All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.

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