Isle Royale National Park
Located: Michigan - Established: March 3, 1931
The Park. Located in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, Isle Royale is a true wilderness island with no vehicular traffic. Total visitation to Isle Royale in a year is equal to one day’s visitation at Yellowstone! It is the least visited park on the continental United States. This is partially due to the fact that to reach this island, you must arrive by either boat or seaplane.
Once on the island, there is plenty to do! First order of business….relax! Here you will find exceptional separation from the hectic, frantic fast-paced, hustle-bustle of city life! Hide your cell phone…or better yet, leave it on the mainland! It probably won’t work anyway!
Getting there. There are four ferries and one seaplane that service Isle Royale departing from Houghton, MI, Copper Harbor, MI and Grand Portage, MN. Fares vary from carrier to carrier and reservations are strongly advised. Our visit to Isle Royale began at Copper Harbor via Ferry. The outbound voyage was uneventful. The return voyage, however, was delayed several hours due to "high seas" on Lake Superior!
When to visit. Isle Royale is open from April 15th thru October 31st. Extreme winter weather conditions close the park in the late fall through early spring.
What to do. Once on the island, there is plenty to keep you busy. Water sports such as canoeing, kayaking and boating are popular activities. Canoeists and kayakers should be wary of the weather as Lake Superior is noted for its very cold temperatures, thick fog and sudden squalls. A variety of shipwrecks makes scuba diving the cold waters of Lake Superior a fascinating experience.
If hiking is your thing, there are miles of hiking trails available from either the Rock Harbor or Windego sections of the park. Hikes range from the short 1.2-mile Windigo Nature Trail Loop to hiking from one end of the island to the other! The distance between the Feldtmann Lake campsite and Rock Harbor is 49 miles.
Where to stay: Isle Royale has 36 campgrounds located across the island. Campsites are accessible by foot or watercraft only as there are no roads on the island. Typically, campers backpack from one campground to another, traveling six to eight miles per day.
If backcountry camping doesn’t appeal to you, the Rock Harbor Lodge offers 60 Lodge rooms and 20 Duplex Cottages. It is the only lodging facility on the island.
Wildlife: As for wildlife, Isle Royale has a rather large population of moose (estimated to be about 1000) and is home to a dwindling population of wolves. Moose and wolves didn't always inhabit the island. It is believed that in the early 1900's, moose swam from the Canadian mainland to the island.
An exceptionally cold winter in 1948-1949 created an ice bridge from the mainland to the island. During this time, a small pack of wolves crossed the bridge and took up residence on Isle Royale.
The relationship between moose (prey) and the wolf population (predator) on Isle Royale began in 1958 and remains the longest continuous study of a predator-prey system spanning more than 6 decades.
Memorable moments: Excursion to Rock Harbor Lighthouse, hikes out to Scoville Point, Suzy's Cave and Mt. Franklin.
Trivia: Isle Royale is the largest island on the largest fresh water lake in the world – Lake Superior!
Banner: Tagged skulls of the island's moose population.
Experience these Check List:
- Stop by the Houghton Visitor Center (on the mainland) or the Rock Harbor Visitor Center (on the island)
- Hike a trail
- Take a Guided Tour
- Kayak Rock Harbor
- Shoot a moose (with your camera!)