Is A Campsite Reservation System Needed At Voyageurs National Park?

Is a campsite reservation system needed at Voyageurs National Park? That's the question park officials are asking, and in light of the fact that you need a boat to reach the park's campsites, it might be a good one.

After all, would you want to build a paddling itinerary around specific campsites, only to find them occupied when you paddled up?

Park officials note that this is the final year of a three-year civic engagement discussion to determine if Voyageurs should move to a reservation system.

"Discussions will include charging for campsite use by night to ensure future maintenance and upkeep of the sites," they note in a release. "Interior campsites and boats on the Kabetogama Peninsula will also be finalized based on comments received over the last few years. Day-use sites will not be included in these discussions."

Voyageurs Superintendent Mike Ward says his staff believes they have arrived at "the best formula to maintain the sites while passing on a low cost to the user. Now it is time to discuss it with park neighbors and users and get their opinion of whether we should implement it or not."

Park officials began discussions when the new 49-passenger tour boat required a new fee structure to operate. The public agreed with the boat tour fees and implementation has occurred for the third year without complaint.

Concerns for the potential day-use of interior boats on the Kabetogama Peninsula caused the park to work with the reservation company to ensure day and overnight use could be reserved for these boats at the same fee currently being charged. The public did not support the idea of an entrance fee, boat, or snowmobile sticker so that option has been dropped.

In discussions with communities surrounding the park, there have been many who feel the park should charge for sites and offer reservations in order to bring new users to the area. Many new users will not consider camping in Voyageurs without a reservation system, especially since it is a 100 percent boat-in park, park officials note. All sites are currently first-come, first-served and will remain so if not reserved by midnight the night before for that individual day.

Park officials will be visiting communities and multiple organizations and agencies over the next 30 days to discuss the proposed actions. There will also be a series of public meetings at park headquarters on the following dates and times.

Monday, September 10, 2012:5:30-6:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 13, 2012:5:30-6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012:5:30-6:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 20, 2012:5:30-6:30 p.m.

The public is invited to come to the meetings. Park headquarters is located at 360 Highway 11, International Falls, MN, 56649. Park officials have created a phone number (218-283-6708) for the public to call and be able to express their concerns or support for the reservations and costs for campsites.


It's great to see that at this National Park, the public comments apparently have some bearing upon policy. Unlike at the Smokies where they are suppressed if the outcome doesn't fit a management agenda such as in the backcountry fee controversy. Here they were 18 to 1 in opposition and their response was to minimize the opposition, calling them "token".

I don't agree with any taxes for public land use whatsoever unless you require some specialized service.

Please do not do this. I do spur-of-the-moment trips and this would really be a problem for me. All the good sites, especially the ones with docks, would be reserved, probably months ahead of time. There are spots in the BWCA where permits are reserved early in the year and are never available thereafter. Do you want that to happen in VNP? As for encouraging new users, I see no need to do so. It's crowded enough now.

[= 16.0pt; font-family: 'Trebuchet MS'; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Trebuchet MS']I feel this is not a good idea for a couple of reasons. First this limits the short term us of campsites for shore lunch, and simply getting out to relax for an hour or two. The number of day use sites on kab is already inadequate for the number of people looking to use them. Second how are reserved campsites to be marked reserved in order to prevent people from using them for a short-term stop? First come first serve is a simple system that is fair to all users. It has been that way on most public hunting areas forever and seems to work fine. If users are looking for a guaranteed spot reserve a site at Wooden frog, or one of the many sites at the area resorts. Lets not create an unnecessarily difficult situation. It's not broke, so why fix it? [/]



I can see a positive to this reservation system in that at times it is not easy to find a campsite especially the close ones, and to be able to reserve one would garentee a open campsite. That is a positive. However if you reserved one and at the reservation time the weather is bad, you would have to take it or leave it and you could be out of luck for any other site on that date, or another date. I also do not like to have anymore restrictions in the park then are already there. On balance I would have to say no to campsite reservations. Also as far as a fee goes we as tax payers have already paid for the park and will continue to pay for it in the future. We do not need to be double charged for something we have and will be paying for. Or maybe it is the Chinese that has paid for it.

I would like to see some first come first served and a certain percentage reservable. I think when somebody does plan ahead and travels along way, it is nice to know you have a spot reserved. Of course I tend to enjoy the planning and do not get out as often as I would like.

This would be a real bummer for those of us who do not have the ability to plan ahead for our trips. As a small business owner, I can only slip away when the timing is right, not by a date preset in advance. Yes it can be a hassle trying to get a site, but it will also be a hassle trying to get one reserved. They will be booked a year in advance just like most of the camper cabins in the State parks are now. Plus the weather is such a factor on the big lakes and can easily ruin a planned trip.

Please -no. It is very simple (and resonable) with the present system. And yes, I have toured campsites to find an open one.

Please -no. It is very simple (and resonable) with the present system. And yes, I have toured campsites to find an open one.

VNP staff,

Please provide evidence that there is a need to attract MORE people to use sites. Please provide evidence that there is a problem now with declining number of users. Please provide details as to how this willwork without adding more costs.Please provide evidence it will fix whatever problem supposedly exists.

VNP is not even close in comparison to the BWCA. ("paddling to a site to find it full...") sorry, anyone can rent a canoe. Not so with a boat.

If anything is done, it should be to add an access fee and use the money to build more campsites. That's what will attract more users, not restrict access to what's already there. After all, if a hotel is full all the time, it doesn't limit customers. It expands. Why is a campground any different?

(first, though, prove that use is so high there is a problem.)

I defintely am not in favor of a campsite reservation system. For many people as wells as us, the weather and the current fishing conditions often are major factors in our deciding to spend time camping in the Voyageur's. When we have been camping in the park, we generally see open sites. If a system were put into place, I can see campers leaving early due to the weather or perhaps not showing up at all. However, I have no objection to charging an entrance fee.

Instead of having a system to reserve boat in camp sites, I believe a better idea would be to contruct a campground close to the lake within the Voyageur's National Park near the Ash River Visitors Center that visitors could reach by car/truck/bike. I realize that there are two state camgrounds, Woodenfrog and the one up the Ash River,but their setting does not seem to portray what one thinks of as the Voyageur's. This site would be more centrally located and definitely would appeal to many campers. Perhaps it may also be a good idea to have ice and gas available there. I am not familiar with Rainy Lake but maybe there would also be a spot there as well for a drive to campground.

What I forgot to mention in my previous post, is that the sites at this drive to campground would be reservable and would attract campers who do not have a boat.

Not in favor of campsite reservations. Keep it simple.

I love the park and the people that keep it so nice.

I like the first come first serve, it works well and is fair to all.

I think being able to make a resevation at the large group site or at the Woodenfrog camp ground is enough of an accomodation.

I agree with statements above. Why change something that isn't broken. The first come first serve basis and no fees are some of the reasons we LOVE VNP so much. My family often makes spontaneous trips to Rainy Lake based on weather, fishing reports, and time available to get up there. We usually try to get to VNP at least 3 times in the summer if not more. If the system changed to a reservation system I don't see us using it as much because it would be more challenging to get a site in those spontaneous trips or we wouldn't be able to go up there as we please. I am all for leaving it the way it is. I agree with previous posts to make a campground closer to the visitor’s center for those who can't boat in but still want to enjoy the Park.

We would not like a reservation system for camping. As already posted, the good sites would always be booked way in advanced and no body would ever get to stay at those sites if you went last minute. This has happened at the state park level and all the preferred sites are taken a year in advanced. We have been going up there for years and have never had an issue getting a site. We don't always get the exact one we want but there are a lot of good sites to choose from.

There is always a tendency to take a system wich works well and try to make it better. In this case the current setup at VNP is what makes it special. As a frequent user the charm of the park is it's simplicity. launch the boat and the adventure begins, finding a campsite is part of the experience. We have found new campsites when when the old favorites have been full and they often become the new favorite. This is one government operation that is not over regulated, please don't succumb to the temptation to make it so.

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments above and especially John Benshoof's. The adventure begins with seeing which campsite you will find open. In early June, we were thrilled to find Hoist Bay open. That rarely occurs. Don't change anything!

Did anyone make it to any of the meetings?Interested to hear what was said by park officials and or guests of the park.c63

My comment is more about Rainy Lake than the rest of the park because I have never camped south of the BIG Lake. This summer I made 4 trips and found sites with no problem, twice we came up on a Friday, the other 2 times were on Sundays. All 4 trips we commented on all the vacant camp sites on a weekend. July and August were the months we were there, supposedly the busy time for the park. I like the spur of the moment trips because of high wind on the lake. I just don’t see how changing it to permits will be better for the majority of the users on Rainy. I hope they take into consideration the opinion of the people that use the park. We have been going up VNP (Rainy) for 10 years we have always found a site. You just need to understand that arriving on Sunday or before Thursday is a GUARANTEE for a camp site. I also think we pay for this park with our taxes why get charged twice

I think that there is a need to build more campsites to solve overcrowding . Charging a campsite use fee is fair to everyone. Reasonable day use or seasonal use fees could be issued at the Park Offices for campsite users. I am not in favor of any fee for park entrance or water exclusive use.

I have been a frequent visitor and camper in the area since before the Park existed. My family and I visit and camp 3-5 times per year, and hope to increase that frequency.

Finding a campsite is part of the experience. There have certainly been times when a site we had hoped to get has already been chosen first by another party. In all of my years camping in the Park, there has only been one time when I could not find a designated campsite and needed to camp at a non-designated site, and then only for one night.

This just does not seem like a big problem. I have never heard anyone say that they do not come to the Park because they are worried about not finding a campsite. On the contrary, we are often able to come with very short planning because no reservation is necessary.

What would happen if people made reservations, and then did not show up? I know of people who make reservations at Yosemite the first day that they can, holding the reservation until they know for sure that they will not use it. Unfortunately, that prevents others from making plans.

Please do NOT do this. The first-come-first-served process has worked very well since before the Park existed, and it works well today. Adding a reservation system will create a new barrier to the Park's use, and my understanding is that is NOT what you are trying to do.

Thank you for providing the opportunity to comment.