Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Kettle Falls Hotel Adventure

On 6/17/21, we headed to Ash River Visitor’s Center in Voyageurs National Park. We arrived around 9:45 am. I asked the ranger about lodging in the park and she said the only lodging was at the Kettle Falls Hotel (which we booked in 2019 but we had to cancel). The hotel is run by Rick and Sean Oveson, the concessionaires.

After getting the phone number from her I called to see if there were any vacancies and they had some cancellations so we were able to book 2 nights there ($90 per night). The boat shuttle ($45 per person round trip) would be there in 30 minutes to pick us up and it was the only way to get to the hotel. So we rushed to the car and packed our packs as quickly as we could and made it to the shuttle (driven by Sean) just when it was dropping others off. We were on the boat with 3 other people and after mentioning my knitting retreat we were going to, one lady (Sara) said she was friends with Amy, one of the hosts of my knitting retreat. After a 25-minute ride along the Canadian border, we made it to the dock. The golf cart was waiting for us to bring us to the hotel. Lori, the receptionist, was so welcoming and excited that we made it. Our room (218) was very nice. We went to the trading post and had some ice cream before walking around the area. We had French fries for lunch, everything we bought, we were able to put it on our room tab. For dinner, I had a Philly cheesesteak and Don had a BLT. We sat and talked with people on the porch until it was bedtime.

The next day, I was up at 5 and on the front porch by 5:30. I was surprised by how many fishermen were up and leaving to go fishing. The mosquitoes were awful on the porch and I spent the whole time swatting at them. Don was down at 6:30 and he was wearing shorts but after seeing me swatting the mosquitoes, he went back to put long pants on. When we were properly covered up, we went down to the docks to look for river otters but we didn’t see any. But the views were absolutely stunning! We came back to eat breakfast which was a continental self-serve breakfast. We brought our packs down near Lori's desk since we had to switch rooms for the night. We were given a room with 3 beds. Then we went for a hike around the area. There were no designated hiking trails so we bushwhacked through the woods and we were so excited when we found an international boundary marker. When we returned to the hotel, they were cleaning and bringing in more furniture. Rick said that they were now able to be at 100% capacity (when we arrived, it was at 25% capacity). We sat and relaxed for a while reading the magazines that were available in the lobby. Then we went for another walk. We repeated this several times throughout the day and ended up having walked 6 miles total at the end of the day. We watched the staff portage a boat from Namakan Lake to the Rainy Lake side around the dam. For dinner, I had the Philly cheesesteak with fries again. Don had the South of the Border (grilled chicken). After dinner, people started returning from fishing all day. Jimmy and Dana had caught 4 fish over the past 2 days and had Kevin (the chef) cook it for them. They were nice enough to share it with us and I had never tasted walleye before but it was really good! After that, we just hung out on the porch and visited until 11pm. We met another couple staying here and they were from New Jersey (but he was originally from Minneapolis and she was from Raleigh, NC). I got up at 2am to look for the northern lights but I didn’t see any.

On our last morning here, I got up at 5 again and went out on the porch. It was 55F like yesterday but there were no mosquitoes! I was surprised! When Don got up, we packed up our stuff and had breakfast. We were going to leave at 10 but they said they had 2 boats going out so we could leave at 8:30 if we were ready. Rick took us to the dock in the golf cart and Craig took us by boat back to the Ash River Visitor Center where our car was located.

A big thanks to the wonderful people who made our stay memorable: Rick and Sean Oveson, Lori (receptionist) and Bruce (her husband), Kevin (the chef), Tom, Chad (bartender), Brian, and Craig. I heard them say they were short on staff but you would never have known it by how great our stay was! The whole operation seemed to run like a well-oiled machine!

Things I Learned:
  1. The history of the Kettle Falls Hotel.
  2. You could bring a cooler with your own drinks.
  3. They will cook the fish you catch.
  4. Pinkys are the featured drink there (pink lemonade and vodka slushie).
  5. Black flies are big and they hurt when they bite!
  6. Just because mosquitoes are bad one day, doesn’t mean they will be bad the next day.
  7. Rick Oveson has been running this hotel for 26 years.
  8. Walleye was a great-tasting fish!
  9. Rick says sturgeon doesn’t taste good.
  10. They will open up the Trading Post if you need something. 
  11. We could look south into Canada.
  12. People had to portage their boats from Namakan Lake to Rainy Lake.

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