Crane Lake: The Gateway to Voyageurs National Park

Published On: January 24, 20226.5 min read
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There are few places in the Midwest that offer such a scenic landscape and diverse environment as the Crane Lake, Minnesota region. Lakes, rivers, streams, forests, wetlands, and large rock expanses, all call this area home.  Hundreds of thousands of acres of water and land dot the horizon. Crane Lake serves as the gateway to numerous other lakes including Sand Point and Namakan, as well as Voyageurs National Park.  For an outdoor enthusiast, the opportunities are abundant – no matter the time of year.  

For the summertime visitor, camping in the Crane Lake area should be at the top of one’s list.  There sure is something special about drinking your morning coffee on a remote island with a view of the US and Canadian wilderness. The area boasts an expansive list of campsites across a wide variety of locations. The most unique part, however, is that all campsites in the park are only accessible via the water – i.e. you need a boat, canoe, or houseboat to call these places “home” for a few days.


The Sites

Campsites in Voyageurs National Park are characterized as Frontcountry and Backcountry campsites. The Frontcountry campsites make up the majority of the sites in the Park and are located relatively close to the water’s edge. The Backcountry campsites require a little additional work as hiking and/or canoeing to your destination is added to the list. The Backcountry sites are limited specifically to the Kabetogama Peninsula. With Crane Lake as your point of departure, the Frontcountry sites are far more accessible in terms of distance traveled.

The Frontcountry sites are categorized into six groups: Day Use, Small Campsites, Large Campsites, Group Campsites, Accessible Campsites, and Houseboat Sites. Sites can be chosen based on location, number of campers, and amenities needed for the stay.

  • Day Use sites are specifically designated for daytime activities, like picnics or shore lunches. No overnight camping is allowed.
  • Small Campsites are ideal for one to nine people. They feature two tent pads, a picnic table, a fire ring, two bear-proof food lockers, and a vaulted toilet.
  • Large Campsites are better suited for mid to large size groups with a maximum number of 18 people. These sites include four tent pads, two picnic tables, four bear-proof food lockers, a fire ring, and a vaulted toilet.
  • Group Campsites are arranged to accommodate larger groups. The minimum number of campers for these sites is 14 and the maximum is 30. Each site has eight tent pads, eight bear-proof food lockers, two fire rings, and an enclosed vaulted toilet. These sites also feature dock space for eight to ten boats, as well as an accessible dock lift.
  • Accessible Campsites have the same rules and amenities as the Small Campsites, however, at least one tent pad, locker, picnic table, and vaulted toilet are considered accessible.
  • Houseboat Sites are specifically set up to accommodate overnight use of a houseboat. The sites are capable of housing a maximum of two houseboats.

Regardless of the site, it’s important to know that campfires should only be established in the fire rings. Dependent on the location, the campsite may include a dock.


The Planning

All sites – yes, even the day use sites – must be booked in advance, so be prepared.

Campsites can be reserved through the website. With more than 270 campsites, there’s no doubt that one of your hardest decisions will be picking your favorite campsite. Thankfully, the Park’s website has an extensive photo gallery of the campsites which can help you narrow down your decision.

The campsites are located all throughout Voyageurs National Park, so depending on where you want to stay, there’s a place that’s right for you and your needs. The National Park Service has detailed maps to help an individual make their camping decisions.northern-minnesota-cabins-and-camping-crane-lake

The site also has a downloadable GPX file with waypoints for the campsites. These are extremely handy for locating your campsite. Keep in mind – you may find yourself in some fairly remote areas, so cell service isn’t always a guarantee. Handheld GPS units preloaded with these waypoints can be particularly helpful.

As mentioned, these campsites are only accessible via watercraft, so plan accordingly.  If you don’t have a vessel at your disposal, thankfully there are a number of businesses on Crane Lake that offer boat, houseboat, and canoe rentals.

Another thing to keep in mind for overnight camping is where you’ll park your vehicle. If you plan to access through one of Crane Lake’s local businesses, you can coordinate parking with them. If you’re following the do-it-yourself model, there are three public launches on Crane Lake.  The Public Boat Launch near Handberg’s Marina allows for overnight parking.

An additional factor to review before planning any trip involves the weather – and a trip to the Crane Lake region is no exception. Monitor weather conditions including wind and precipitation prior to setting sail. Having the proper gear for any situation you’ll encounter can make all the difference.  


Things to Do

Crane Lake and Voyageurs National Park are rich in natural history, so there’s plenty to explore and learn about. This natural world is home to an assortment of recognizable creatures, including wolves, black bears, bald eagles, loons, otters, and many more.

There’s an adventure that’s right for every personality. Fishing, hiking, bird watching, and stargazing are among the fan favorites. If time allows, additional destinations that can be accessed from the water include Grassy Bay Cliffs and Kettle Falls. Crane-Lake-Voyageurs-National-Park-Fishing

Reminder – If your plans include fishing, you will need the appropriate fishing license which can be purchased locally or online.

If you want to bring along man’s best friend, well you’re in luck – pets are allowed in portions of Voyageurs National Park. In terms of camping sites, they are only allowed at the Frontcountry campsites. Pets must be leashed, vaccinated, and their waste must be disposed of properly.


Staying Informed

The National Park Service keeps users informed of any Alerts in Effect. Prior to your trip, and during your trip, if service allows, be sure to check out the Park’s website for any closures, cautions, or other notices.


Leave No Trace

One of the greatest parts of the outdoors is being able to share it with others.  That is why it’s important to Leave No Trace. The National Park Service reminds its users to follow the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The overarching goal of these principles is to preserve and protect Voyageurs National Park’s natural history for future generations. Do your part and pack out what you pack in.

The Crane Lake area has a lot to offer for those that like to spend time in the Great Outdoors. It also just so happens to serve as the Gateway to Voyageurs National Park. Camping, in particular, is a fantastic way to explore some new areas and take advantage of all this area has to offer. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s Voyageurs National Park site.


If you would like more information about the Crane Lake area or to access our Visitors Guide, please visit our Contact Page. Thank you for your interest in our beautiful area.

Crane Lake Visitor & Tourism Bureau
7511 Gold Coast Road
Crane Lake, MN 55725
800-362-7405 · 218-993-2901