One of the Country’s Least Popular National Parks is Here in Minnesota
Minnesota only has one National Park, and it was apparently not very popular with visitors.
In addition to our 10,000 lakes, Minnesota is also home to 75 state parks and recreation areas, and nearly 4,400 campsites that are visited by an average of just under 10 million people each year, according to the DNR. So yeah, they're pretty popular, right?
However, that's not necessarily the case for Minnesota's National Parks. Or, should I say national PARK. That's according to the latest visitor numbers released by the National Park Service (NPS) that showed while some National Parks set attendance records again, that wasn't the case for the only National Park here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The week of April 22nd through April 30th, 2023 is National Park Week. It's a week the National Park Service sets aside each year to promote its over 400 national parks, and recreation areas with special programs and partners who are hosting events and activities throughout the week.
And while several states out west have several National Parks within their borders (like, say, Montana, which is home to seven National Parks including Yellowstone, Glacier and Bighorn Canyon) here in the North Star State we only have one: Voyageurs National Park. It's located waay up north, near Minnesota's northern border with Canada. (It's about 350 miles-- about 5-and-a-half hours-- north of Rochester.)
The NPS website describes Voyageurs National Park like this:
With 218,055 acres, Voyageurs National Park is an adventure wonderland all year long full of exposed rock ridges, cliffs, wetlands, forests, streams and lakes. This is a place of transition between land and aquatic ecosystems, between southern boreal and northern hardwood forests, and between wild and developed areas.
But here's the thing: Voyageurs National Park isn't very popular-- at least when you look at the number of visitors the park hosted in 2021 (the last year from which NPS has data.) According to an NPS report out last summer, Voyageurs was ranked 50th out of 63 National Parks here in the U.S.
The report said Voyageurs hosted 243,042 visitors in 2021, which amounts to .26% of the total visitors to all National Parks. That's down from 2020, when Voyageurs hosted 263,091 visitors and ranked 43rd overall.
Now, we should point out that the area in northern Minnesota around Voyageurs was besieged with dangerous several wildfires that closed roads and damaged property in that remote area during August and September of 2021. The park even banned campfires at one point last summer, due to dangerous conditions brought on by that big drought that hit the state.
So that might explain why attendance dropped in 2021. By comparison, the number-one ranked park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hosted 14,161,548 visitors, good for 15.35% of all National Park visitors last year! Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Parks rounded out the top five most-visited National Parks last year.
While Minnesota may only have one National Park, as we mentioned, our state DOES have some incredible state parks. Keep scrolling to check them out!