New Crane Lake visitor center coming soon to Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park entrance sign (J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

Several partners are getting closer to creating a new visitor center for Voyageurs National Park at Crane Lake. The facility will complement existing visitor centers at Ash River, Kabetogama, and Rainy Lake. The proposed project would feature the region’s important dark skies, and is part of a larger effort including a new campground and boat docks.

Voyageurs Conservancy, the National Park Service, and Crane Lake Township have been working on the idea for several years. So far, more than six million dollars have been committed by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which is funded by proceeds from the state lottery.

The National Park Service says the idea of a visitor center in Crane Lake has existed since the park’s inception nearly 50 years ago.

“Given that the NPS has no lands in the Crane Lake community, the need to seek a partnership opportunity to fulfill the objective was always necessary,” the Park Service says.

The Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund provided separate grants to acquire the 26-acre site, the former location of Borderland Resort, develop a campground, and build the visitor center, which could be up to 7,000 square feet. The site will be owned by the community of Crane Lake, but the Park Service will be responsible for leasing and operating the visitor center.

Crane Lake is also notable for serving not only as an entrance to Voyageurs, but also to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the Boundary Waters, has also contributed to the visitor center project.

Township officials said the long-sought visitor center “languished” until previous park superintendent Mike Ward and current superintendent Bob DeGross threw their support behind the project. Crane Lake chairman Jerry Pohlman has been working on the initiative for several years.

Architectural renderings of proposed Crane Lake Visitor Center. (National Park Service)

Now, Voyageurs National Park and its nonprofit partner Voyageurs Conservancy are seeking input on the 1,500-square foot exhibit space. The groups have hired Native Skywatchers, an Indigenous organization that has “been leading indigenous astronomy revitilization efforts” since 2007. It was founded by Annette Lee, a professor of astronomy & physics at St. Cloud State University and member of the Lakota and Ojibwe communities.

Interested individuals can fill out a short questionnaire to offer preliminary input on the exhibit designs. Voyageurs Conservancy is also raising funds to support the design and fabrication phases. Construction is expected to be completed in time for the National Park Service to move in by the summer of 2024.

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