Voyageurs National Park launching new tour boat on Kabetogama Lake

Ne-zho-dain (Photo courtesy Voyageurs National Park)

The National Park Service has purchased a new boat that will provide public access across Kabetogama Lake in Voyageurs National Park. The 42-foot craft will be based at the Kabetogama Visitors Center and travel to Kettle Falls, Ellsworth Rock Garden, and the wild waters of Kabetogama and the Namakan Narrows area. These popular parts of the park are only accessible by water.

The vessel has been named Ne-zho-dain (pronounced Knee-Zho-Dan) in honor of a Boise Forte Band of Ojibwe chief by the same name who lived on Kabetogama Lake before his death in 1908. It translates to “Twin” or Two Hearts,” and was selected through a park staff contest.

“The Ne-zho-dain vessel will allow the park to restore consistent tour boat and charter services on Kabetogama Lake and will accommodate full class-size school groups for field trips, be used for charter events that highlight the park’s significance, accommodate requests for special tour/shuttles in support of community events, and is planned for ranger-led tours,” the Park Service said in a press release.

Kabetogama Lake is the sixth largest lake in Minnesota, at approximately 25,000 acres in size. Its irregular shorelines stretch 190 miles, and it boasts 200 islands. Namakan Lake, connected to Kabetogama, is another 24,000 acres.

Passengers on the boat will be able to view the park from an enclosed cabin with benches, or open-air decks. The Park Service plans to install a hydraulic steering system and outboard motors with counter rotation to improve handling and help with docking in windy conditions.

Funding for the boat was provided by a 2020 grant of $497,000 from the Federal Lands Transportation Program. The vessel was built in the state of Washington and will be delivered this spring. It should be in operation this summer, with an open house planned for June.

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