Nestled in the vast waters of Rainy Lake, Minnesota, lies a small yet historically rich island known as Little American Island. This island, though modest in size, holds a significant place in the history of the region due to its role in the Rainy Lake Gold Rush of the 1890s.

A Glimpse into the Past

In the summer of 1893, the discovery of gold on Little American Island sparked a flurry of excitement and the onset of the Rainy Lake Gold Rush. Prospectors flocked to the area, eager to find their fortune in the northern wilderness. The island became a hub of mining activity, with shafts dug and machinery brought in to extract the precious metal.

The Island Today

Today, visitors to Little American Island can rent a Canoe or Kayak to paddle to the island and take a self-guided walk along a short trail that leads them through remnants of this bygone era. The path is lined with mine shafts, tailing piles, and rusting machinery—silent witnesses to the island’s golden past. Interpretive signs along the way tell the story of the gold rush, offering a window into the lives of those who once sought riches here.

Access and Amenities

Accessible only by boat, the island is a mere 2 miles from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center, making it an easy and intriguing destination for those exploring Voyageurs National Park. A vault toilet is conveniently located near the dock for visitor comfort, and the crushed gravel trail, four feet wide with a short switchback climb, is manageable for most.

The Experience

Embarking on a journey to Little American Island is more than just a hike; it’s an exploration of history and nature intertwined. As you traverse the island, you can’t help but feel a connection to the past, imagining the hopes and hardships of the miners who once worked this land.

The Boat Tour

For those looking for a more guided experience, Rainy Lake Charters 2 ½ hour Voyageurs Park Tour offers an excursion through Voyageurs National Park. Led by Captain Ken Meyer, this tour provides an in-depth look at the island’s mining history and the broader narrative of the park and how it has developed thru the years.


Little American Island serves as a tangible link to Minnesota’s gold mining days, offering a unique blend of education and adventure. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply curious, a visit to this island promises a memorable experience that will enrich your understanding of the region’s heritage.

Plan your visit and step back in time to the days when gold fever gripped the heart of Rainy Lake.

Discover more about Voyageurs National Park and the legacy of Little American Island.

rainy lake charters