Voyageurs National Park – Minnesota’s only national park and the only water-based park in America’s precious treasury of national parks – is a wondrous place.
And Don Breneman’s and Mark Seeley’s Voyageur Skies: Weather and Wilderness in Minnesota’s National Park does a wondrous job of evoking the magic of that special mix of large and small lakes, forests and granite along our border with Ontario.
The park’s 134,265 acres of forested land and 83,789 acres of sparkling waters are a place for visitors to experience nature in every season.
I have been to Voyageurs scores of times over the past three decades. I have fished there, camped there and snowmobiled there. And, of course, I have boated there. To experience the full grandeur of Voyageurs’ major lakes – Rainy, Kabetogama and Namakan — you really must visit the park by boat.
Voyageur Skies‘ beautiful photos and compelling text take me back to important moments from many of my past visits to the park, and they inspire me to plan another visit soon. If you go to Voyageurs several times a year, as I sometimes have done, or if you have never visited the park, Voyageur Skies will leave you wanting to go there.
More than that, the book is intended to be the centerpiece of educational programs to be offered jointly by the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center and University Extension. It will make an admirable contribution to the education of people, young and old.
Don Breneman’s text, based on a lifetime of visits to Voyageurs, tells the story of the people who have used the park’s land and waters for 9,000 years: Dakota, Ojibwe and other Native Americans; the French and British fur traders who traversed the area in the 1700s; the gold miners who came to Rainy Lake during a short-lived gold rush in the late 1800s; the loggers and commercial fishermen; and the power company engineers who built dams that still affect the flow of water through the lakes.
Tourism was the last major industry on the lakes before Congress established the national park in 1975. The restored Kettle Falls Hotel, built between 1910 and 1913, celebrates and still serves that tourism industry.
Designation of Voyageurs as a national park resulted from tireless work by former Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen and others to preserve the lakes and forests of the area as part of the 3,000-mile fur traders’ route from Montreal to Lake Athabasca. The late Governor Andersen was a friend and mentor to me, and I know he counted the park as a great achievement for Minnesota.
Photographs by Don Breneman beautifully capture the flora of the park: marsh marigolds, paper birch trees, the crimson bunchberry and Minnesota’s state flower, the showy lady’s slipper. If you value excellent wildlife photography, as I do, you will appreciate his photos of the park’s wild creatures: moose, white-tailed deer, otters, ravens and loons.
Mark Seeley, a University of Minnesota meteorologist and climatologist, offers a season-by-season description of the effects of weather and climate in shaping the park’s landscape. He also describes four major trends in climate for Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park over the last three decades: warmer winters; higher daily minimum temperatures; increased summer humidity; and greater variation in the annual rainfall from thunderstorms.
At the Freshwater Society, we work to educate and inspire people to value, conserve and protect water resources. Voyageur Skies, in its content and its goal of being an educational resource, admirably fulfills a similar mission. I applaud the book’s text and photography, and I strongly recommend it to readers of all ages.