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My favorite photos from the Rainy Lake area of Minnesota


Here are some of my favorite photos from around my home, International Falls and Rainy Lake, Minnesota

Just browse, you might enjoy the photos, and pick up a tad of information along the way.

The photo you are looking at was taken at the city dock in Ranier, just east of International Falls, it was used in a statewide distribution scenic calendar for 2009. Although the photo was shot in November, before ice-up on Rainy Lake, the publishers used the photo for the month of February.

Scroll down, you will see plenty of fun things to see and do throughout the year here in Minnesota's Vacation Paradise.



Baby the Rain Must Fall

About 30 motorcyclists passed through International Falls on their way to the annual Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. They were taking advantage of the Waters of the Dancing Sk\y Scenic Byway while heading west. Unfortunately, on this particular day, we were hit with monsoon like rains. Fortunately, it lasted less than an hour and cleared up quickly afterward.

Adoptable Dog in the annual "Dog Parade"

Adoptable Dog in the annual "Dog Parade"

Adoptable Dog in the annual "Dog Parade"



Field and Stream

Flip to page 44 of the May issue, and you'll find an article featuring International Falls and Rainy Lake. I'd direct you to their website to read the article, but for some reason, it is not on their web??? The article promotes the world class multi-species fishing on Rainy Lake and several local hot spots to take in. Thanks Field and Stream!


This is me

This is a shot of me modeling a hoodie designed to promote our area. International Falls is the "Icebox of the Nation" and while not really the coldest spot in the U.S., it is probably the most well known cold spot. The hoodie notes the record low of 55 degrees below zero F. If you'd like one, I know how to get you in contact with the folks selling them. Email me at

Incidentally, the sweatshirts are oxford gray in color, but the snow and sunlight has thrown the color balance off, giving the hoodie a blueish tint. Notice how the light has also made my beard appear white. Go figure. Also, I happen to be standing in front of a welcome runners sign, as the area is preparing for the 31st annual 10K Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run.

Early on a frosty morn'

Early on a frosty morn'

Early on a frosty morn'



Smokey Bear is our city mascot!

Here, Smokey dons a safety vest and hard hat to celebrate 100 years of paper making at the Boise mill in International Falls. Smokey was erected in 1954 and has been greeting visitors ever since. The statue is there to remind everyone of the importance of forest fire prevention. The regional economy is highly dependent on the forest products industry. Smokey has more seasonal gear and is a popular photo opportunity. Check the photo gallery below. The reason for the fishing vest is the International Falls Bass Championship held in late August every year.

If you want to see a bigger picture, click on the thumbnail and it will replace the large image.

Big Vic

Big Vic

Big Vic



And then there's his twin.

Vic greets visitors to Ranier, just a couple miles east of International Falls. Big Louie is Vic's twin. They began life as part of a land management protest on Rainy Lake. Vic took up residence in Ranier after the dispute. Louie ended up outside the Lakeside View Restaurant in Barnum, Minnesota, just south of Cloquet on I-35. Stop in and say hi to Louie if you're ever passing by. Vic and Louie are 30 foot tall Voyageurs, the term used for the French Canadian laborers that carried furs east and trade-goods west. Using huge North Canoes, the Voyageurs would paddle and portage all day for months.

Photo; courtesy Lakeside View Restaurant



I like Rainy Lake/Voyageurs National Park

Rainy Lake is part of Minnesota's only National Park, Voyageurs, created to showcase the natural beauty of the area. Rainy Lake has an interesting history that includes being part of the major waterway used by the Voyageurs, being the site of a late 1800's gold rush, and being one of the best walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass fisheries in the state. The photos show the beauty of our area. My thanks to Elisa Winterland for the use of some of her great summer fun photos.

If you are not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

Photo courtesy Tom Walter

Photo courtesy Tom Walter

Photo courtesy Tom Walter



Wilderness equals Wildlife

Extensive forestland around International Falls provides habitat for all sorts of wildlife, making the area a wildlife watchers dream. There are birding checklists and suggested routes available through the International Falls, Rainy Lake and Ranier Convention and Visitors Bureau. Call them at 1-800-325-5766. As this photo suggests, some wildlife is not bothered by human activity at all.

An extensive network of forestry and secondary roads in Koochiching County can bring you through many types of habitat, and during migration season, there are birds all over.

You just don't see this every day!

You just don't see this every day!

You just don't see this every day!

This, you could probably see every day.

This, you could probably see every day.

This, you could probably see every day.

Beam me up?

Some logging operations deliver wood to the Boise paper mill already chipped and loaded into vans. To empty the van, the whole truck is tipped on a huge hydraulic lift. Chips move from the delivery/process center, shown here, to the mill through an overhead pipeline.

St. Thomas Aquinas Church

St. Thomas Aquinas Church

St. Thomas Aquinas Church



A Historic Building!

The most common question in International Falls is: "So, where's the falls?" and the answer could be; "Go look at St. Thomas."

Industrialist Edward W. Backus forged ahead with civilization, damming the Rainy River just below the falls and harnessing the tremendous water power. Rock quarried from the falls was used to construct the church.

The photo shows hoar frost on bare trees near the south end of the Church.

I can't resist this!

A painter got the contract to paint the steeple on his church. Wanting to save his congregation as much as possible, he bought just enough paint to do the job. However, halfway through, he realized he had miscalculated and would not have enough paint. Resourceful soul that he was, he thinned the remaining paint until he had enough and finished the job.

He put away his ladders and stepped back to admire his job and was horrified to see the steeple was two distinctly different shades. The painter turned his head to heaven and asked: "Oh God, what will I do now?" Just then, clouds broke and the sun burst through as a voice boomed out from the sky and said; "Repaint, and stop your thinning."


Payback here




Travel a little west, and you'll see "Basshenge" a roadside artwork that was the dream of Joseph Gustafeste. Various sized bass violins were cut from sheet steel and mounted on concrete pillars in a rough circle, kind of like Stonehenge. This quirky roadside art can be found on the north side of Highway 11 just east of Birchdale.

If you spot Basshenge, just a little further down the road will be the turn to Franz Jevne State Park. If you have never hiked there, you should, there are great views of the Long Sault rapids.

Holy Cow!

Hay Man?

Hay Man?

Hay Man?

Requires no comment, or explanation.

Requires no comment, or explanation.

Requires no comment, or explanation.

Rainy Indeed!

The above photos were snapped on July 1, 2010, following an early morning downpour that overwhelmed the storm sewer system. It took an hour, perhaps more, to drain from the streets. As you can see, passenger cars couldn't make it through, but an 18-wheeler had no problem.

International Tug of War

International Falls is just across the Rainy River from Fort Frances, Ontario. So, why not stage a tug of war over the river? Above is a look at the 2010 event. A 1200 foot rope stretches from the Sorting Gap Marina in Fort Frances to the Pat Roche Access in International Falls. Each team sings their national anthem, then gets organized and at the starters call, it's pull, pull, pull!

For 2010, the International Falls team managed a win, in 2011, the Canadians took the trophy. In 2012, a huge storm blew up just at the time the event was scheduled to start and it had to be called off for safety reasons. The U.S. team won the 2013 events with ease. in 2014, however, high water flooded the pulling areas and posed dangers so the Rainy River was declared the winner.

This has started to draw national attention in each country, so does that qualify as international attention?

The Tug of War is scheduled to coincide with the July 1, Canada Day and July 4, Independence Day celebrations.



What the???

In the above photos, you take a little trip around the southwest corner of Koochiching County. This is also the far northwest corner of the Chippewa National forest. As you check the photos, note that the Forest Service has devised a system to keep a record of just when safety signage was installed. I can't make heads or tails of it, and the reason for keeping this record escapes me as well.

The photo above shows the Peter Fussy marker. Peter died of a heart attack at this spot along Caldwell Brook in 1979 and his family erected this marker in his memory. It has been there and maintained for 35 years now.

The gallery below is made up of photos on ruffed grouse hunting. My friend Ron "Willburr" Wilcox tagged along and several of the photos are his. .

Cool Photo?

Cool Photo?

Cool Photo?

Veterans Memorial

Veterans Memorial

Veterans Memorial

Woods and Water!

The Rainy Lake region is blessed with abundant woodlands and waterways. Voyageurs National Park was established to showcase the pristine wilderness quality of Rainy Lake. Nearly all of Koochiching County is within the Pine Island, Koochiching or Smokey Bear State Forests. For those wondering, the name of our county is pronounced Koo-Cha-Ching.

Art Photos?

Over the years, grants have helped pay to have historic and decorative murals painted in Downtown International Falls. One at the intersection of third street and third avenue depicts the historic Iltis Drug Store, an early 1900s Independence Day celebration and Edward W. Backus standing in front of his "City of Destiny" vision for International Falls. Another tells visitors that Rainy lake is just east of town on Highway 11, and suggests Rainy Lake is full of fish. (which is true) Naturally, there is an elk on the side of the Elks Club building. The Border Theatre is depicted on the wall of the building that used to abutt the theatre. Do you remember seeing movies in the Border or Grand? You'll get a chance to tell me about it, there will be a comments section below.

The Grand Mound at the confluence of the Big Fork and Rainy Rivers.

The Grand Mound at the confluence of the Big Fork and Rainy Rivers.

Here's more information and photos

Please do provide your feedback!

ViolaSuSi on April 14, 2013:

Like the 'Early on a frosty morn''. Fantastic photos.

Pete Schultz (author) on November 30, 2012:

@pavlo-badovskyi: the photos were shot with a Nikon D60 digital. Thanks for checking out the photos.

pavlo-badovskyi on November 30, 2012:

Your winter photos are amazing! Which camera did you use in a frosty weather? What is also amazing - photo of trucks having sex LOL ! Great lense!

nifwlseirff on October 24, 2012:

Autumn and winter look absolutely stunning there! Thanks for the virtual tour!

Ardyn25 on October 03, 2012:

Thanks for the journey, I've never been to Minnesota before.

Nomadabstracted1 on October 02, 2012:

I very much enjoyed the trip through your part of Minnesota! I spent a day in Minneapolis in June (I was passing through waiting for a Megabus) and took quite a few pictures of the city. Oh, and I was in Grand Forks too - also a very cool city!

KimGiancaterino on September 25, 2012:

This was so much fun ... I enjoyed the humorous surprises along the way. Especially loved the outhouse! Too bad it's a reality these days. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos. I have a new appreciation for Minnesota.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on June 19, 2012:

I had a ball looking through your photos of the Rainy Lake area of Minnesota. I can't believe that you have so many statues around there (or whatever the heck that Hay Man was). Love that Smokey the Bear is your town mascot. Rainy Lake looks absolutely beautiful.

Malu Couttolenc on February 08, 2012:

Hi Pete, ow I know why these photos are your favorite. They are lovely and Rainy Lake area looks so pretty :)

Char Milbrett from Minnesota on February 05, 2012:

Beautiful. My Painting with Acrylic lens includes some paintings I did of Rainy Lake for the Arts for the Parks competition...

Mary Crowther from Havre de Grace on January 05, 2012:

Love seeing these photos and Basshenge was really cool!

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on December 28, 2011:

wow. stunning pictures. really enjoyed my visit. thanks.

Pete Schultz (author) on December 20, 2011:

@anonymous: Dave,

I greaatly enjoy sharing my photos with others and appreciate your kind comments. Thanks for visiting my lens, come visit in person sometime, I'll give you the grand tour!

anonymous on December 20, 2011:

Hi, Pete! I live in Alabama where we wonder how you good people can possibly live in such a cold place, just as I'm sure you folks wonder how we down here can possibly tolerate such terrible heat! Enjoyed your photos. All the best.

Pete Schultz (author) on December 07, 2011:

@KarenCookieJar: Smokey Bear is a favorite photo op here in the Falls. I've suggested we could have an easy fathers day get-up for him, all we need is a large loud tie.

KarenCookieJar on December 06, 2011:

Great lens! I loved all the photos, I really like Smokey the Bear.

gottaloveit2 on November 22, 2011:

Love the photos. They have a real hometown feel to them - probably because that's your home town. Nice article.

gottaloveit2 on November 22, 2011:

Love the photos. They have a real hometown feel to them - probably because that's your home town. Nice article.

elyria on October 18, 2011:

Beautiful lens and what a great collection of photos, love them!

anonymous on October 14, 2011:

Since I'm in your neighborhood, I thought I'd stop back here just to smile, was good to see Vic again!

ideadesigns on October 12, 2011:

You have done such an excellent job with sharing your photos. I feel like I've been to Minnesota.

jaken5 on September 07, 2011:

I love your winter photos. You are great at capturing nature in its beauty!

whoisbid lm on September 07, 2011:

Rainly Lake Minnesota is not in my mental map!

agoofyidea on August 30, 2011:

I love that you have four season. It's beautiful. I thought my favorite thing was the Smokey Bear statue but then I saw the chair sculpture and the outhouse and I give up. You have a ton of stuff to see. Fantastic lens.

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on July 01, 2011:

I want go camping here. I am putting this in my Favorite lens lens.

anonymous on June 30, 2011:

Really cool pics, thanx a lot for the share. All seasons seem beautiful @ this place.

Pete Schultz (author) on June 29, 2011:

@Pete Schultz: sands that is.

Pete Schultz (author) on June 29, 2011:

@NoYouAreNot: That's fine with me...I likewise would love to visit your beautiful beaches, but only in the winter....where white snads beats white snow. Thanks for the visit and comment.

NoYouAreNot on June 29, 2011:

You are so lucky, working in such a beautiful environment! I would love to visit, but only for the summer -- I'm a Mediterranean flower, and don't get by very well in cold climates :D

Rusty Quill on June 11, 2011:

Great location and quirky humor all rolled into one - thanks for stopping by my family tent lens with a comment. :)

anonymous on June 08, 2011:

A great lens, one of the best ive seen.

Ruthi on May 29, 2011:

Beautiful collection of photos! I love the "lead dog" photo and caption!

anonymous on May 17, 2011:

I love the winter and fall pictures! Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing

anonymous on April 30, 2011:

Peter, I was thinking of Int'l Falls and RRCC connections from decades ago, and your name popped up. Your photos are great and 3 of my favorites are St. Thomas Church, Hay Man, and "Cool Photo". I also appreciate your distinctive sense of humor - always did. Take care.

tssfacts on April 30, 2011:

This area is absolutely beautiful. I have not been in this area before. Your pictures have made me want to go. Who knows one day I just might.

marsha32 on April 07, 2011:

Wow! what a beautiful place and you have so many wonderful photos to share!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 26, 2011:

What a beautiful piece of US. Looks like some places in Canada. Am sure it is really cold.

Pete Schultz (author) on March 23, 2011:

Tipi, nice to hear from you again, and yes, when you move back "Home" we can collaborate, no problem. Thanks for the comments and compliments.

anonymous on March 23, 2011:

Wonderful tour of Rainy Lake area once again, Pete, it is beautiful. I have been planning on back to the Voyageurs area sometime this year, but am not sure of when. Would love to work on some lenses together to publish on Squidoo. You real are good with a camera. {{SquidHugs}}

anonymous on March 14, 2011:

Beautiful photos. Like Smokey Bear and friend. Thanks for sharing, Pete.

GetSillyProduct on March 14, 2011:

Minnesota looks like a great place to visit, I love the snow pictures

Brian Stephens from France on March 10, 2011:

It does look very chilly but as you said winter can be beautiful, you certainly captured some great shots in amongst these. Nice lens.

Sandy_Petersen on March 04, 2011:

These are wonderful! My family has been to Smoky Bear Park in I' Falls but not to see Big Vic or Big Louie. I'm a freelance writer as well as an amateur photographer. One of the items on my bucket list is to try to visit all of the quirky, iconic statues in Minnesota at some time. This past summer we went down to Frazee, MN, to get a photo of Big Tom the Turkey. I'll have to get back up to the Falls and get photos of Big Vic and Big Louie as well as a digital image of Smoky. I read the Big Thermometer was dismantled. Is that true? Sad to hear.

Sharon Berry from Michigan on February 28, 2011:

Wonderful photo's. Thanks for the tour.

Stacy Fordham on February 25, 2011:

I've never been to Minnesota. Nice pictures. Thanks for visiting my "Please Like My Lens" page and for the comments.

anonymous on February 04, 2011:

You have some amazing photographs of the beautiful Lake Minnesota, the wildlife and the waters of this lake are stunning.l

Pete Schultz (author) on February 03, 2011:

@mistyriver: thanks for visiting and commenting. As to -55....after -20 it really doesn't matter, you wear a closet to go outside anyway.

mistyriver on February 02, 2011:

Beautiful photos! Although my favorites are the autumn ones and the murals as I'm not a huge fan of cold weather, 55 degrees below, brrr!

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on December 22, 2010:

We have long time friends in MN. Hubby has visited there often -- camping, fishing, portaging, enjoying the sights. I've only been there once but loved it. Great lens!! Lensrolled to my "travel" lenses.

Re: squirrel soup: Most yankees gag just thinking about it, but never once saw anyone eat less than 3 bowls of it once they taste it the way hubby makes it.

Pete Schultz (author) on November 29, 2010:

@TonyPayne: Thanks so much. I have visited several of your lenses, and have enjoyed my trips. I really appreciate your kind comments.

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on November 27, 2010:

Great photos and I love the overall design of the lens too. Very nice lens.

Pete Schultz (author) on November 05, 2010:

As you might guess, I highly recommend visiting Minnesota, and I have many suggestions of things to see and do. If you have any questions, email me at

RebeccaE on November 04, 2010:

wow, got to see another place, I am really beginning to want to go to Minnesota, and this gives me more reasons

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