Isle Royale National Park. National Park in United States, North America

Isle Royale National Park

National Park in United States, North America

Isle Royale National Park Photo © Joe Ross

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Isle Royale National Park

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Siskiwit River - Isle Royale
	National Park
Siskiwit River - Isle Royale National Park. Photo by Ray Dumas
Isle Royale National Park is a large, ecologically isolated island located in the northwest portion of Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes (Wikipedia Article) in the United States. The island has many trails for hiking and backpacking, as well as ample opportunities for canoeing and kayaking around the hundreds of small islands which surround the main island.

Ecology and Geology

Isle Royale National Park has a very unique ecosystem that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 because of its ecological isolation from the mainland.

There are only 18 different kinds of mammals on the island (compared to 40 species of mammals on the mainland), making Isle Royale an incomparable location to study the interactions and evolution of these species without many of the ecological pressures and forces (man-made and otherwise) that influence similar nearby ecological populations.

The island was formed by the same awesome geological forces that carved out Lake Superior. A massive lava flow bubbled up from the Earth’s crust approximately 1.1 billion years ago in the area that is now Lake Superior. This was the beginning of the formation of the lake and its geological features. Massive glaciers then passed through approximately 2 million years ago, forming Isle Royale and and the hundreds of smaller islands that surround it.

As the glaciers retreated, their melting filled in Lake Superior and the many surrounding lakes, including those on the island. Greenstone Ridge, running directly down the center of the island, is thought by scientists to be a part of the largest lava flow on Earth.

Tookers
	Island -- Isle Royale National Park, Rock Harbor Michigan - Isle Royale National Park
Tookers Island -- Isle Royale National Park, Rock Harbor Michigan - Isle Royale National Park. Photo by Joe Ross

Planning Your Visit - When to Come and Where to Stay

Isle Royale National Park is closed each year from November 15 through April 15th. Peak travel season in Isle Royale National Park runs from late July to the middle of August. During this time you will want to make arrangements for transportation to the island as early as possible as ferries and planes do fill up.

Because of the remoteness of the island and the effort involved in getting there, it really isn’t an ideal place for a day trip. The majority of visitors to the island come to experience the remoteness of the island’s backcountry by hiking, kayaking, or canoeing.

Many visitors stay in the very primitive, backcountry campgrounds scattered throughout the island. No permits or reservations are needed, though the National Park Service does ask that you file a preliminary plan for where you will be staying before you set out.

For those that are looking to experience the remoteness and beauty of the island without sleeping on the ground, the Rock Harbor Lodge offers the only accommodations on the island and makes a good place to base your explorations.

Big Bull
	Moose - Isle Royale National Park
Big Bull Moose - Isle Royale National Park. Photo by Ray Dumas

How to Get Here

The island is roadless and can only be reached by boat from Grand Portage MN, Houghton MI, or Copper Harbor, MI or airplane from Houghton, MI.

The majority of visitors to Isle Royale National Park arrive by ferry, which takes 2-6 hours depending on which location you depart from.

Additional services by seaplane is available from the Houghton airport, but the cost is considerably higher than the cost for taking the ferry.

Recreational Activities in the Park

The rugged whispers of untamed wilderness speak to those who undertake the journey to this remote corner of Lake Superior. Those who come to Isle Royale are looking to experience nature in a way that is possible in few other places in the world. The island is truly a space set apart, and when you get away from the few areas on the island where a human touch is evident, it feels like a primeval wilderness waiting to be explored.

Chippewa Harbor
	Sunrise - Isle Royale National Park
Chippewa Harbor Sunrise - Isle Royale National Park. Photo by Ray Dumas


Hiking

Hiking is one of the most popular activities on the island. There are trails of varying lengths, for those that want a short day's hike to get a taste of the island’s wilderness areas to multi-day to week long trips spanning the length of the entire island.

The Greenstone Ridge Trail runs directly down the center of the island along the top of Greenstone Ridge. It is a multi-day, backcountry hike that takes you from the Wendigo Visitor Center to the Rock Harbor Visitor Center. Its stunning vistas make this a once-in-a-lifetime backcountry experience (and as a plus, there are a few less bugs here in the summertime than some of the lower trails on the island.)

A multitude of other trails on the island explore Siskiwit Lake (Wikipedia Article) (an inland lake on the island) as well as the many other lakes on the island, and take you past equally amazing scenery, abandoned mines, and a quaint lighthouse.

Scoville
	Point, Rock Harbor, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan - Isle Royale National Park
Scoville Point, Rock Harbor, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan - Isle Royale National Park. Photo by Joe Ross

Canoeing and Kayaking

Hundreds of small islands surround the main island of Isle Royale, making hundreds of miles of waterways waiting to be explored by the experienced kayaker or canoer.

Canoeing or kayaking is recommended only for experienced enthusiasts because of the rapidly changing conditions in Lake Superior as well as scarce availability of outer shore landing sites.

Transport for your canoe or kayak can be arranged through one of the ferry companies that offer drop-off and pick-up services on the island. Rentals can also be arranged on the island at Windigo and Rock Harbor. Waterside campsites are available for those exploring the island by water.

Fishing

A Michigan fishing license is needed to fish in Lake Superior waters surrounding the island. No license is needed to fish in the inland waters of the island. The island contains many inland lakes, making it a great place to delve deep into nature and drop a line.

In addition to fishing lakes on the island, fishing charters can be arranged on the island for those looking to try their hand at fishing on Lake Superior for some of the lakes famously huge lake trout. A charter fishing trip on Lake Superior will be an adventure which will create memories that will last a lifetime!

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Author: thereandbackmn. Last updated: Dec 16, 2014

Pictures of Isle Royale National Park

Sunrise on Tobin Harbor - Isle Royale National Park
Sunrise on Tobin Harbor - Isle Royale National Park. Photo by Paul Huber

Edisen Fishery at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan - Isle Royale National Park
Edisen Fishery at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan - Photo by Joe Ross

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