Wow factor

This photo of the northern lights was taken by Mike Thiele in 2016. He noted, “This tower of aurora power was very distinct and grew taller and taller.”

Recent articles in two internationally-circulated publications, the Reader’s Digest and Forbes, have acknowledged the beauty in the solitude of Voyageurs National Park, crediting the park’s vast, uninterrupted wilderness and colorful skies.

The Most Peaceful Places on Earth and 21 Best Places to See the Northern Lights in 2020 both listed Voyageurs among international destinations including Indonesia, Bolivia, Alaska, the Maldives, Norway, Iceland and Costa Rica.

Bob DeGross, Voyageurs National Park superintendent, acknowledged the recognition saying, “We are lucky enough to live in such a beautiful area where we have such spectacular opportunities to access and enjoy the woods, water and wildlife of northern Minnesota and the Boreal forest.”

Jill Schildhouse, Reader’s Digest travel writer, who has traveled to more than 35 countries during her time as a journalist, received more than 100 recommendations of destinations to include in her article, but said Voyageurs stood out from the rest.

“Voyageurs National Park really stood out to me because I actually had no idea there was a place to view the northern lights in the lower 48,” she told The Journal. “I received many submissions for viewing the northern lights from Iceland and Norway but wanted the Reader’s Digest audience — which is largely U.S. based — to have easier access to witnessing that phenomenon. I hope to see them myself someday.”

Her article combated the common misconception that the aurora borealis are only visible outside of the United States.

“You might assume the 12 best places to see the northern lights, aka the aurora borealis, are all in Scandinavia,” she wrote. “Nope. Voyageurs National Park, which straddles the Minnesota-Canada border, gives you front-row seats.”

Not only did the Reader’s Digest acknowledge this, but also Forbes identified the area as one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights, the only location in the lower 48 states to make their cut.

The Forbes article recommended staying in a houseboat to fully experience Voyageurs and encouraged visitors to “think about the adventures the fur traders this park is named after experienced on these same waters many years ago.”

“Voyageurs is an excellent option for stargazing which includes aurora borealis,” said Pete Schultz, director of the Convention and Visitor Bureau.

“There’s a belief the northern lights can only be viewed in the winter, but they can occur any time of year. There are websites and apps that predict the phenomena, which is caused by solar disturbances that can be tracked. The lights are more commonly seen in the winter simply because the nights are much longer.”

“I’m told Japanese myth holds that children conceived under the northern lights gain exceptional wisdom, and that the northern lights may help a couple conceive,” he added.

Voyageurs National Park is currently progressing toward a Dark Sky Park certification from the International Dark-Sky Association, something both articles noted as reasons for choosing to highlight the park. The park hopes to achieve this certification by 2020.

The CVB recently provided a letter of support for the International Dark Sky certification for Voyageurs National Park.

In the letter, Schultz wrote, “The CVB supports Voyageurs National Park’s application for Dark Sky Park certification. Improving the clarity of the night sky ensures visitors will have an enhanced experience in the park.

There’s no doubt that visitors having a safe and exhilarating experience in the National Park is key to continued tourism support for our economy.”

DeGross said these two articles are important reminders to acknowledge the unique beauty of our area.

“I don’t think there are many places in Minnesota, let alone the rest of the United States, where you can travel such a distance along the waterways and not see development,” he said.

“While camping out in the park there are many areas a person can go to enjoy solitude and the beauty of nature.”

Recommended for you