Friday, August 5, 2016

Canoe trip, portage explore VNP peninsula

Ash River rapids on Kabetogama Peninsula.
Gold Portage Trail topo map.
For many who visit Voyageurs National Park, the real park is the Kabetogama Peninsula.

Never mind that the peninsula makes up the bulk of the park's land area. The peninsula truly is the backcountry, accessible only by boat, a wilderness where you can canoe all day past spruce and birch forests that you camp under at night, a land of untamed rivers where you can fish for walleye or northern pike and not worry a wit about another human being encroaching on your spot or disturbing your peace.

The peninsula also is an incredible place to hike. You’re certain to spot white-tailed deer along the trail and bald eagles flying overhead, as hearing loons calling and wolves howling in the distance, all while traipsing across narrow, primitive trails, just like the voyageurs used centuries ago.

Many of the trails on the peninsula actually are portages can be reached by canoeing or kayaking to a specific campsite. Such is the case with the Gold Portage Trail, which runs 0.25-miles one way alongside the rapids-portion of the waterway connecting Black Bay and Kabetogama Lake.

You can reach the trail via one of two visitor centers. From the northwest, you can set out at the Rainy Day Visitor Center and head across Black Bay. At the bay's southeast corner, enter the Ash River. From the southeast, you can leave from the Woodenfrog State Forest Campground near the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center. Row northwest past the Chief Wooden Frog Islands and enter the Ash River in Kabetogama Lake's northwest corner.

The rapids sits on the river about half-way between Black Bay and Kabetogama Lake. The farther inland, the more the river narrows until reaching the rapids. The portage runs along the river's northeast shore and cuts through boreal forest.

In total, the Kabetogama Peninsula is 118 square miles, which is almost the size of the U.S. Virgin Islands. And while there are no roads, there are moose – about 40 of them in a 2014 survey.

Learn more about the park’s day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at Voyageurs National Park guidebook.