Tucked in fragrant pine trees on the Minnesota-Canadian border in Voyageurs National Park, the Kettle Falls Hotel is only accessible by boat – just as it was for its earliest visitors a hundred years ago.
The earliest residents in this remote area were prehistoric native people and then Ojibwe Indians in the 1700s, but fur traders were not far behind. French-Canadian voyageurs hauled their canoes overland to navigate the nearby impassable waters of Kettle Falls and the area quickly became a resting point. With a short-lived gold rush, the expansion of the logging industry, and commercial fishing in the area, the number of visitors continued to grow.
By 1910, the construction of the Kettle Falls Hotel was underway. Built by timber man Ed Rose and reputedly financed by Madame Nellie Bly, this hotel has seen lumberjacks, Prohibition Bootleggers, fisherman, and families ever since. When the surrounding area was established as the 36th national park in 1975, the hotel was soon added to the National Register of Historic Places.
While still in operation, it was in dire need of restoration – though its rolling floors and “saggy” appearance caused by a very settled foundation was part of its charm. During the restoration process, the hotel was dismantled and a new foundation was constructed. When replacement and new construction was necessary, the original material and design was matched in order to preserve the hotel’s original look and feel. The iconic bar has been preserved so visitors can still experience the rolling floors and skewed door frames.
One visit to this beautiful area is not enough, many come year after year which is how our first stay came to be. Thanks to the National Park Service, visitors can look through the collection of guest registers for familiar names and sign their own for future generations to find. We were excited to see names we knew dating back to 1972 and look forward to going back and looking again for the names we may have missed.