Things to see and do around Rainy Lake, Minnesota
Rainy Lake offers Four Seasons of Fun!
Suggestions and photos of things to see and do around Rainy Lake, Minnesota, this is your source for information to help you enjoy a visit to Rainy Lake, International Falls and Koochiching County.
The photo is from the Ranier Summer Festival, here kids ride the "Ranier Train" through town as part of the annual parade. The festival usually signals that summer is coming to an end and fall will soon offer displays of brilliant color. Fall also offers small game hunting and good fishing as walleye, crappie, northern pike and smallmouth bass all feed heavily to prepare for winter.
Summers are great in our area, with temps in the 70's and abundant sunshine. Voyageurs National Park boat tours offer trips to the historic gold mine districts, likely areas to spot wildlife and to the remote and historic Kettle Falls Hotel. There are trails to hike, bike or ride an ATV, photos to take and things to do.
Winter offers ice fishing, snowmobilihng, cross country skiing and more. Voyageurs National Park even makes snow shoes available to get out and enjoy nature. The landscape changes as a blanket of snow covers the ground and ice forms offering travel on the lake surfaces.
Spring brings special border waters regulations that allow for the latest ice fishing and earliest open water fishing in the state. Snowmelt causes our waterfalls and rapids to thunder with spectacular outflows. Watching the forest green up brings some beautiful and sometimes subtle hues to the forest.
Start scrolling down and learn more about International Falls, Ranier and Rainy Lake, Minnesota's Vacation Paradise.
Time Travel???? (E = mc2)
This lens was created by adding new photos and information through a couple of seasons, so you are traveling back in time. You'll see fun events, places to go and things to do throughout the seasons. If you enjoy the trip, I appreciate hearing your comments. To contact me directly, the email is firstname.lastname@example.org
As the saying goes, April showers bring.....
Here, shrubs along the Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic byway are sprouting out in May of 2012. Incidentally, the scenic byway starts at Sha Sha point on Rainy Lake. The sign says "end of the road" but the signmakers are mistaken, it is the beginning!
Ranier Festival Photos - click to enlarge and rotate.Click thumbnail to view full-size
It takes some time to negotiate the 90 degree corner with one of these! These are blades for wind turbines heading for Canada, at other times, parts of the towers that support these blades also cross. They are HUGE, and it takes a team of workers to herd them through the border. The rear wheels, by the way, can be remotely operated. On this day, three truckloads of turbine blades lined up before crossing into Canada.
4th of July, International Falls - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
International Tug of War 2014
Couldn't pull it off!
Pulling for Peace 2014
The annual tug of war had to be cancelled due to high water. The flooding covered areas where the teams would have to line-up on the rope and that was deemed unsafe. The US won the trophy in 2013. The Rainy River was declared the winner for 2014 and the next event will be on July 2, 2015. It's a fun event in between Canada Day and Independence Day, plan a visit to take in all the fun in that 4 day stretch.
Pulling for Peace! - Fun PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Jaunt with Jim!
Some 120 bikers descend on the area!
Jim Klobuchar, a Minnesota celebrity, leads a bike tour somewhere in the state each summer, and in 2011 chose to have their lay-over and recreation day in International Falls. Bikers camped in Smokey Bear Park, took boat tours of Voyageurs National Park, toured the Boise Paper mill, checked out our local eateries and of course, biked around the area.
The group truly enjoyed their visit, which coincided with our Chamber's annual Crazy Days promotion and "Music in the Parks" so there was plenty of live entertainment for them. Many said they planned to return with their families for a more extended visit.
Field and Stream
The May 2011 issue of Field and Stream carries a full page on International Falls and Rainy Lake, explaining why the area is a fishing hot spot, and a fun place to visit. It is on page 44 if you'd like to check it out. I'd put a link here to take you to the info on the Field and Stream website, but it doesn't appear to be posted there. Go figure! At any rate, it's a nice article.
Snowshoe fun photos - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run - Icebox Days-click to enlarge and rotate.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Photo Essay-Fall - click to enlarge and rotate.Click thumbnail to view full-size
School days are back! - International Falls Schools, click to enlarge.Click thumbnail to view full-size
A little history footnote
In the photos above, you will find all the International Falls area schools including Rainy River Community College. There are also two former school buildings that have been adapted to other uses. The former Forestland Elementary School is now a Koochiching County office building. The former E.W. Backus Junior High School is now a community center housing the art deco Backus Auditorium.
The Backus building is named for Edward Wellington Backus, the man who developed International Falls around the turn of the century. Backus constructed a dam to harness the tremendous amount of water rushing from the Rainy Lake watershed toward Hudson's Bay. The volume of the Rainy River at International Falls is the same as the volume of the Mississippi River at Minneapolis. The dam was constructed in 1909 and soon, paper mills on either side of the river sprung up. The Minnesota and Ontario (Mando) Paper Company in International Falls and the Ontario and Minnesota (O & M ) mill in Fort Frances. If you walk across the bridge between International Falls and Fort Frances, you get a clear idea of just how much water is rushing downstream, and if you look, you will see water swirling around some of the rock that made the falls.
St. Thomas Aquinas Church was constructed with rock quarried from the falls during construction of the dam. In the photo below, the building is a little dark because of the bright back light from the sun, but that is made up for in the effect of the sun behind the steeple.
St. Thomas Church
International Falls Bass Championship
August brings the International Falls Bass Championship, which is always a great event. The big tent fills every day for entertainment and the weigh-ins. 60 teams fish Rainy River and Rainy Lake for a day each, then combine the total weight of their catches. There are car shows, kids games, vendors, daytime and evening entertainment and more. If you'd like all the information, just go to their website at www.ifallsbass.com
100 years of paper making
Boise Cascade's paper mill is a centurian!
It started as the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company back in 1910 and today boasts one of the largest and fastest paper making machines in the world. Celebrations were held Friday, June 25, 2010 at Smokey Bear Park. Speaking of Smokey Bear, he donned a safety vest and hard hat for the occasion.
Safety First Smokey
A Busload of Fun!
The North Dakota Farmers Union scheduled three mystery tours to see some of what our Rainy Lake area is like. Traveling here, the group came along the Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway. The tour includes checking out Koochiching County with a drive to Littlefork and Lindford, then past the Grand Mounds and back to the Falls. Then it's off to the Koochiching Museums for a tour of the history and Bronko Nagurski exhibits.
Take a Hike!
They call this a mystery tour because the participants are not told where they are going or what they will see. The tour takes them through Ranier and along the south shore of Rainy Lake to the Thunderbird, where everyone enjoys lunch and the spectacular view. You simply have to drive to the end of the road (I like to think it's the beginning of the road) after that. A stop at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center for Voyageurs National Park includes a short walk on the Oberholtzer Nature Trail with a park naturalist. The tour then heads back to International Falls. All along the way, the groups hear about the recreation, history and industry of our area. The trips have been great fun.
McKinstry Mound I
- The McKinstry and Smith site mounds
Ancient mound building cultures left many mounds in the Rainy River Valley and they can be a part of any visit to the area. Learn more here.
Wait, let me ask......
Is this all new to you? are you on a mystery tour?
How familiar are you with Rainy lake?
Places to Go!
Koochiching County allows ATV travel on county roads. You can ride your ATV to visit interesting spots like the Flowing Well. You could ride the old BN line from the southwest corner of Koochiching County to International Falls and any of the small communities in between!
It is not unusual for float planes to carry people between our area lakes, which sometimes involves international travel. The seaplane dock is adjacent to a remote reporting station for U.S. Customs to allow for travel from Canada to the U.S. by float plane. For what it's worth, perhaps the best known and most popular airplane floats were originally manufactured in International Falls by Pee Kay Products.
Minnesota, Dakota and Western
Railroad Buffs have commented on the switching engines used by our local railroad, pictured is a newer one with a fresh paint job. There are some that were made by the American Locomotive Company in the 1940s that the railroad set gets excited about. They are apparently somewhat rare, and clearly made to last. Some comment on the whistling sound of the diesels winding up, which is apparent music to their ears.
Winter is for ice fishing! - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
CBS goes LIVE
Below zero temperatures attract attention.
CBS came to International Falls during a nationwide cold spell that brought freezing temperatures to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Here you see Dave Price and Robert Laforty posing for a photo after braving the cold for about 2 hours during the live shot.
See the link below....see what Dave had to say.
We get national attention!
Check out this link!
- Dave Price on You Tube
Dave Price's live shot from International Falls during a national cold spell.
Catch a Big One!
Holy Cow! as we might say around here.
Brad Hagen caught this 46" 30 pound northern pike while ice fishing on Rainy Lake. Naturally, we couldn't possibly tell you where, and you'll even have to guess about the rigging or bait. However, this photo does clearly show it's possible to pull in some monster fish.
It's true what they say: "If you are not the lead dog, the scenery never changes."
Dog Sled Exploring!
There is Moose! Where is Squirrel?
Voyageurs National Park began research on the resident Moose population in 2010 with on-going research to continue. Moose tend to be in wet, swampy areas where most people seldom venture, but they can be spotted. The research should provide more insight into the long-term viability of the moose population.
The photo is of a resident VNP bull moose and provided here courtesy of Voyageurs National Park.
Tilson Bay Ski Trail
More Icebox Days photos - Click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Icebox Days in International Falls brings the annual "Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run" and many fun community events. Winter visitors will find excellent Snowmobile trails connecting our area to all nearby communities. Cross Country ski trails and snowshoe trails are also available and ice roads on Rainy Lake offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities. The National Park Service plows a road around the north side of Dryweed Island, opening a great deal more area to visitors.
Winter is a great time for wildlife watching. Raptors, such as this owl, will be out hunting. Whitetail deer, and a number of other mammals will also be seeking food and shelter. Snowshoes are a great way to check for wildlife in a relatively quiet mode. It's very exciting to have a ruffed grouse that has been roosting in the snow burst out of a snowbank while snowshoeing. If you didn't know, grouse dive into deep snow to roost because of the additional insulation the snow provides.
Miles to Ride!
There are hundreds of miles of great snowmobile trails throughout the region, often connecting to other communities where you will be albe to get gas or a bite to eat, or both. ( I know, I know....but some things, one can't resist) The trails are usually very well groomed by the local snowmobile club, and you can get the latest trail reports at their website, just click on the photo.
Wintery Scenes - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Loggers do the bulk of their hauling in the winter when freezing temperatures firm up the network of haul roads. Those roads are commonly called "Winter roads" and provide great access to remote areas of Koochiching County. A variety of sizes and types of wood are delivered for storage in International Falls where Boise will use them to make paper. Some logs are chipped in the forest and loaded into covered trailers that are then raised high in the air to dump their loads. Check the photos below!
Destined for Paper - clisk to enlarge or rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
The mix of conifer, aspen, maple, oak and other hardwoods gives Rainy Lake great fall color potential. There are some great hiking trails where you can snap a few nice photos. Among them are the Oberholtzer trail at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center where you will trek through some lowland habitat and then head to the higher and drier uplands surrounding Black Bay.
Stop at the Tilson Creek boat launch and you'll find a hiking trail on the north side of the road that takes you along the higher shoreline of Rainy Lake. Just off the end of the parking area is a sign for the Tilson Creek ski trail. The first part of the trail system will be through some lowlands that soon rise to provide the mix of forest habitat that gives us great splashes of color.
Another benefit of this stop is the fishing pier near the bridge. There is a good possibility of catching fish at this pier at any time.
Then there is the bike trail, which starts in International Falls and goes along the south shore of Rainy River and Rainy Lake all the way to the access road to the Voyageurs National Park Rainy Lake Visitor Center.
click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Forestry Road framed with fall colors.
"The Voyageur" is Ready for Business!
Saturday, September 26, 2009, the Voyageur departed from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center with her first public tour of Rainy Lake. The new 49 passenger boat provided plenty of seating and deck space. It is a really big boat, and while it seems to be lumbering along, it is really going at a good clip. The Voyageur continues to cruise through the spectacular summer scenery of Rainy lake.
The first tour left the dock at 1pm, traveling past Rainy Lake City, out of Black Bay and into the channel. The Captain (John Romosz) took her east past Bushyhead Island so everyone could see the shaft remaining from a defunct mine, then rounded the island to the north and went back the the Visitor Center. It took a little more than 40 minutes and everyone got to gawk at wildlife, historic sites, other boaters, picturesque cabins and the general beauty of Rainy Lake.
The only drawback to this tour was the overcast skies. It wasn't really cool, or windy, just dark and gloomy. fortunately, the sun was out on Tuesday as the park service continued their free tours.
The 4:00pm Tour, Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Here's a quick introduction to Rainy Lake.
Part of the beauty of Rainy Lake are the rocky islands carved from the Canadian shield, but the wide expanses of open water reflecting the rising or setting sun always makes for great photos.
Beautiful hues of crimson and gold frame the craggy shoreline in the photos below. You can imagine the colors dancing off the water had you been there to see these scenes in real-time.
Photos Courtesy of Val Lennox and Bill Dougherty - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Fishing may be the most popular recreation on Rainy Lake
Rainy Lake is a great fishery. Walleye are the most prized game fish in the lake, and a protective slot limit has been returning big breeding fish to the lake for better than a decade. All walleye between 17 and 28 inches must be released and only one trophy fish over 28 inches can be kept.
Smallmouth bass are gaining in popularity among anglers. The International Falls Bass Championship is a catch-and-release tournament that brings 60 teams of bass anglers to Rainy Lake and Rainy River every August.
Big pike can almost always be caught along the weedy and rocky shorelines along some of the popular bays, like Black Bay, Jackfish Bay, Cranberry Bay and Lost Bay.
Muskie are also among the game fish in Rainy Lake and lake sturgeon lurk in the Rainy River below the dam at International Falls.
John Cann and Ted Olson - Locals win the Bass Championship
want to know more?
check out all the information on the International Falls Bass Championship at their website, just google International Falls Bass Championship, or check later in this lens for a list of links.
Great fish photos, from Billy Dougherty, Elisa Winterland and Bill Genell. - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Get the current fishing report
- Rainy Lake area website
The current report on this website is updated weekly, and sometimes more frequently depending on conditions.
Great Slide Show - fishing trip pics accompanied by original music
Jason Davis had a great time visiting Rainy Lake
- On the Road with Jason Davis
KSTP TV of St. Paul, MN features Jason Davis' popular travel and in this episode, he houseboats on Rainy Lake, visits the historic Kettle Falls Hotel, fishes and more. Enjoy.
Rainy Lake and Voyageurs National Park are best explored by boat. For some, that means a houseboat, where you bring your vacation cottage with you wherever you go. For others, a runabout or simple fishing boat is all that is needed.
Although there can be big stretches of open water on Rainy Lake, canoe and kayak enthusiasts find plenty of room.
Beaches on many of the islands provide an opportunity to laze around in the sun. No boat? No problem, just head to City Beach, just outside of Ranier. The beach has areas for volleyball or basketball, changing rooms, dock, slides and picnic areas.
Fun on the Water Photos - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Where else are you greeted with a boatload of flowers?
Whatever your needs, you'll find great lodging choices on Rainy Lake. From houseboats to comfy lodge rooms or cabins to bed and breakfast operations.
The resorts on Rainy Lake offer food and beverage service and can arange guide service for a memorable trip.
If you need more information click on the big arrow link.
Beautiful Rainy Lake watercolors by Valerie Larson - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Get into the Swing!
Falls Country Club offers 18 holes on a Joel Goldstrand designed course along Rainy River. Rolling hills, mixed hardwoods and conifers and the wide Rainy River come into play when it comes to beauty. It's a great golf course and offers all the expected services, but there's no need to go into detail, they have their own website which does.
Falls Country Club
- Click Here
Falls Country Club is a short drive west of the Falls on Highway 11/71.
Archery Range Draws Attention!
The Moonlight Archery Club operates a nice range near Moonlight Rock a bit east of International Falls. There are occasional competitions staged at the range, but alas, no website to refer to. If you want to know more about the range, call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1 800 325 5766 or email to email@example.com
Eagle photo courtesy of Voyageurs National Park
Wildlife Watchers in Minnesota's Vacation Paradise!
- Birding and wildlife watching in the Voyageurs National Park Region.
check out area guide books on-line, you will have an option to download two booklets.
Eagle Banding in Voyageurs National Park
A healthy bald eagle population makes voyageurs an excellent place for wildlife research.
There will be fireworks!
July 1st is Canada Day and July 4th is Independence Day. That means there are two big celebrations, and yes, there will be fireworks. Visit Ranier for Canada Day, they have a great view over Sand Bay, where the Canada Day fireworks will be exploding. On the U.S. side, the July 4th fireworks are usually best viewed from the International Mall parking lot on the west end of International Falls.
United Way Fundraiser!
Every summer, the United Way organizes a "Kooch. County Cruise" where last year over 100 motorcycles joined for a tour of Koochiching County. The tours try to take in something new or different each summer, but always include a few stretches on scenic Minnesota 1 skirting the southern border of Koochiching County.
Ever want to just take a ride and see something different? Well, there aren't too many things more different than "Basshenge" a roadside artwork west of International Falls off of highway 11. Bass violins cut from sheet steel are mounted on concrete pedestals roughly in the shape of Stonehenge. Along the way, you will get great views of the Rainy River separating the U.S. from Canada. The highway is part of the Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway which begins at Sha Sha point on Rainy Lake 12 miles east of International Falls.
Ranier Summer Festival
The lakeside community of Ranier holds a summer festival around mid-August each summer, there are usually booths, games, parades, canoe rides and just generally a lot of fun. If you can't check it out in person, at least flip through the photos below.
Ranier Days - click to enlarge and rotateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Every summer, the Band Shell in Smokey Bear Park draws in some good sized crowds. Concerts in the Park is a popular program that schedules local bands and music groups every Wednesday evening in June and July. There's a lot of variety from acapella church groups to bluegrass bands and more.
Icebox Radio Theatre also performs at the band shell. This group produces radio drama and comedy just as it was done in the golden age of radio, or should I say audio. Below is a clip for Icebox Radio Theater from the local Fox Network affiliate. A link to IBRT's website will be found below.
Icebox Radio Theater
- Minnesota Arrowhead Region
this site will introduce you to the entire region, which includes Voyageurs National Park and the Superior National Forest.
- Come for the fishing, Stay for the Fun
that's the motto of the International Falls Bass Championship, so much more than just a fishing contest, check their info at this wite.
- Voyageurs National Park
Plenty of information on recreation within Voyageurs National Park
- Destination Voyageurs National Park
This site has information on all the great gateway communities to Minnesota's only National Park, and the only Water-based National Park in the system.
- Icebox Radio Theater
Great original productions from the Backus Auditorium and Center for the Arts. Here you will see video's and learn more about the history of this great local entertainment resource.