Voyageurs National Park resumes operations as water levels drop

Boating near Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center (Jasperdo/Flickr)

After devastating floods hit Rainy Lake and its watershed this summer, things are slowly getting back to normal on the water bodies along the U.S.-Canada border. This week, Voyageurs National Park announced it is taking several steps to return to regular operations.

The no-wake restrictions for boats on Rainy Lake in the Voyageurs National Park parts of the lake will be lifted on Friday, July 29. Wake restrictions will be lifted on the part of the lake outside the park but in Koochiching County after August 5. Wakes are still prohibited within 300 feet of the shoreline on Rainy Lake in Voyageurs National Park, and within 500 feet of shore on the rest of the lake in Koochiching County.

A campsite on Rainy Lake that was closed, then cleaned up and reopened by Voyageurs National Park. (National Park Service)

The National Park Service also said it has finally been able to place all its hazard buoys and markers on its portion of Rainy Lake, a process it began in mid-May, before flooding started in earnest. Lastly, the Park is also resuming tour boat cruises on Kabetogama Lake as of July 31. The trips will take visitors to Kettle Falls and the Ellsworth Rock Gardens.

Historic flooding that hit the region in May and June forced many area residents to sandbag around their homes and property, with the Minnesota National Guard helping. The Rainy River reached levels not seen in more than 70 years.

Water levels on the Rainy River downstream of Rainy Lake since April. (USGS)

Earlier this month, the Park re-opened its boat launch on Rainy Lake, and portage services resumed at Kettle Falls. The no-wake restrictions on Kabetogama, Sand Point, and Namakan Lakes were also lifted in recent weeks. The Locator Trail was also repaired, allowing it reopen access to campsites on Locator, War Club, Quill, and Loiten Lakes.

But, not everything is open yet. Several campsites across the three main lakes remain closed, while docks and other access infrastructure for houseboat campsites are still underwater. The Rainy River remains well above its average level for this time of year.

Historic Mallard Island, the home base of adventurer and conservationist Ernest Oberholtzer, has also begun to emerge from the floodwaters. The organization has reported its structures are drying out, after several were submerged under several feet of water.

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