Photos: Getting paid in sunsets at Voyageurs National Park

The Vermilion River from above.
The Vermilion River winds underneath the wing of Voyageurs National Park's floatplane just outside the park, near Crane Lake, in early August. Not to be confused with the eponymous river that runs through Dakota and Scott counties, the Vermilion of northern Minnesota was a prominent trade route for voyageurs, French Canadian fur traders for which the park is named.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Voyageurs National Park, in Minnesota's northernmost reaches, is a hidden gem in the state — and within the national park system. It might not be one of the country's best-known national parks — that distinction is saved for places like Yellowstone and Death Valley — but it's by no means short on splendor.

In a single day, visitors can swim in crystal-clear waters, catch walleye from a houseboat, spot bald eagles and loons, and gaze at the Milky Way while northern lights ripple across the sky. (Don't forget the bug spray.)

The area that has made up the park since its creation in the early 1970s has played host to history as Native American tribes, French fur traders (from whom it takes its name), loggers and miners have called the area home. More recently, researchers and tourists have become part of the equation.

"Parks are for people to learn from," said retired biologist and Voyageurs volunteer Lee Grim, who spent 45 years working in and around the park. "There's nothing greater than learning about wildlife in the park and sharing information about what's happened over time so that people can be awed by the beautiful things that go on out here."

As the National Park Service celebrates its first hundred years this summer, it hopes to preserve those islands, shorelines and waters for hundreds more.

Correction (Sept. 1, 2016): An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified a group of birds nesting in a Voyageurs tree. They were herons. It was also incorrect in noting which lakes within the park are available for floatplane landings. Floatplanes are only allowed to land on the park's four largest lakes.

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