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Rainy Lake Recreational Trail

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

U.S. National Park Service

The wildly successful Rainy Lake Recreational Trail marked another milestone in Voyageurs National Park. The project includes a multi-use asphalt paved path, pedestrian and bicycle amenities, wayfinding, and natural landscaping. Construction was completed in June 2015.

The trail connects the Rainy Lake Visitor Center to the regional bike trail giving walkers, joggers and cyclists an uninterrupted multi-modal route stretching twelve miles from the National Park to the city of International Falls and local communities and destinations in between.

The trail represents a key piece of the Voyageurs National Park infrastructure and is attracting family-friendly recreational use enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

Already, the Rainy Lake Recreational Trail has lived up to expectations, if not exceeded them.

This ADA accessible tail designed by David Driapsa treats bicyclists, walkers, runners, and snowshoers of all abilities with a wonderful experience of nature in the heart of the North American continent. Get your wild on and immerse yoursel in the sights, sounds, and scents of the North Woods forest, lake, and marsh scenery. Leave your car behind and set out on this paved trail meandering along the entry road to Voyageurs National Park. Pass through the forest of pine, spruce, and balsam fir mixed with an under canopy of quaking aspen, birch, maple, and oak. Cross open meadows abounding with wildflowers. Follow the scent of pine along forest covered ridges. Touch and feel rock outcrops half as old as the world - the roots of the ancient mountains - the granite, migmatite, and biotite schist you see today. Wildlife abounds with abundant diversity. See fox scurrying by while hearing the call of a loon or the howl of a wolf. Many animals characteristic of the North Woods are found here, including moose, whitetail deer, gray wolves, foxes, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, beavers, black bears, eagles, ravens, and common loons. More than 240 neo-tropical bird species either live in or migrate through the park.

The trail is designed as part of the Voyageurs National Park Hike to Health program, encouraging healthy living and fitness. Interpretive waysides are placed along the trail giving insight into the natural and cultural history of this area. There are benches along the trail, and picnic tables and bike racks on the plaza near the visitor center.

The Rainy Lake Recreational Trail links the Rainy Lake Visitor Center in Voyageurs National Park to the regional network of bike trails providing non-motorized recreation and multi-modal regional transportation alternatives. The national park section of the trail is designed for ADA accessibility and provides a safe zone for non-motorized travel within the park. The trail offers bicyclists, walkers, runners, and snowshoers an up close experience of nature in its finest as it meanders through the northern boreal forest around scenic rock outcrops and spectacular views of lake scenery.

The two mile, $1.5 million trail is an asphalt tread, ten-foot wide with two-foot wide gravel shoulders. The trail geometry is designed for twenty mile an hour bicycle speed. Vertical and horizontal curves and super elevation is designed in accordance with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and National Park Service standards for bike trails.

David Driapsa designed the trail to lay lightly in the natural landscape. The early work on this project included an Environmental Impact Statement as a detailed analysis of the impacts for several alternatives. The impacts of alternatives were evaluated and the preferred alternative was selected and is now constructed with design elements to protect scenic and water quality, natural resources, and to enhance bicycle and pedestrian mobility.

David routed the trail to skirt wetlands and meander through scenic forest and around colossal rock outcroppings. Lower elevations circle the lakeshore and bypass marshes, and the upper elevations ascend the rock masses for magnificent views overlooking Rainy Lake.

He laid the trail within a narrow corridor for minimum impact on the pristine landscape. The design balanced cut and fill, minimized rock blasting and excavation, and selectively saved old growth pine trees along the route.

David led the project in a partnership of Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota DOT and Koochiching County Highway Department using SAFETEA-LU funding.