Geography question: When you drive the Robert Moses Parkway from the North Grand Island Bridge to the falls, you look south across the river into Canada. Away from this region, where is one of the few places you can look south from part of the 48 states into Canada?
I know an answer to that question only because we visited there on our annual trip to the canoe country of northern Minnesota. Where we were in Voyageurs National Park, the Kabetogama Peninsula between Rainy and Namakan Lakes extends east several miles above a large Canadian island. When we canoed along the north arm of Namakan Lake it seemed strange to look over the forests of our northern neighbor -- into the sun.
If you examine a map of Minnesota, you will see that its Canadian border follows a tortuous route between Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods. There it takes that northward jog to pick up the Red Lake Indian Reservation before it returns to follow the 49th parallel.
The reason for that twisting section of the Minnesota boundary is straightforward. The commission that determined the border simply marked it along the canoe route of the Ojibway Indians and the voyagers who followed them.
As it happens, however, they did not always travel the same route. When the winds were severe over Rainy Lake, they took a southerly route through Kabetogama Lake. If this had become their regular passage, Canada would now own most of our Voyageurs National Park.
On this trip we stayed near the wonderful old Kettle Falls Hotel that was built just before World War I at the last of the canoe carries between Grand Portage and International Falls. Deep in the wilderness, the hotel is reached by a 14-mile trip by boat -- or, in winter, by snowmobile -- from the end of the Voyageur Trail. Its original construction was financed by Nelly Bly a famous madam, -- not to be confused with the even more famous journalist who adopted that name. That funding source suggests at least one of the hotel's early functions; rum running during prohibition was another.
The white pine forests were being extensively lumbered then, and as many as 8 million logs in a single day passed over the dam constructed here in 1914. Lumbermen, therefore, were early visitors. Since the log drives ended in 1936, the hotel has served largely as a residence for first commercial and more recently recreational fishing clientele.
The hotel fell into disrepair by mid-century, its poorly-footed foundations sinking until parallelogram shaped windows and a sloping barroom floor gave it the local name, the "tiltin' Hilton." Fortunately, it has been taken over, extensively repaired and completely restored by the National Park Service.
In the old hotel register, we found the signatures of Rudolph Valentino and Ginger Rogers. Both simply listed Hollywood as their home address. Charles A. Lindbergh, Dusty Rhodes, Helen Hayes and John D. Rockefeller also stayed here.
Eating on the broad veranda gave us a wonderful sense of nostalgia. We were back in the 1920s.