On January 8, 2021 Voyageurs National Park celebrated 50 years since being approved by legislation.

Minnesota's first and only National Park turned 50 last week! On January 8, 1971, President Richard Nixon approved legislation to create Voyageurs National Park in International Falls. The proposal to create a National Park in Minnesota was actually first presented 80 years earlier in 1891, reports KSTP. However, it wasn't until 1959 that the Federal Government began scouting out territory in Northern Minnesota to turn into a potential National Park and -- even after being approved in 1971 -- it would take another four years before the National Park Service acquired enough land to establish the park. Today, Voyageur National Park covers 218,000 acres and includes the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Last year, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was designated as a Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). Due to the area's natural darkness -- and a special plan within the park to minimize additional light -- the BWCAW offer some of the darkest skies in the Midwest and join one of just 13 other such sanctuaries in the world. Last month, the whole of Voyageurs National Park was recognized as a Dark Sky Park. The International Dark sky Association, for its part, is a nonprofit that works around the world to reduce light pollution and protect night skies.

Voyageurs National Park takes its name from the traders or "voyageurs" (French for "travelers") who paddled through the region, trading furs with the local Native Americans. According to the Minnesota Historical Society -- and reported by KSTP -- "the voyageurs would exchange goods for furs at rendezvous points and take the furs to big cities for shipment to the East Coast." While the park was officially approved by President Nixon on January 8, 1971, it's "birthday" is commonly recognized as the date it was established April 8, 1975.

Happy sort-of 50th Birthday, Voyageurs National Park!

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