DescriptionNorthwest of the Upper Peninsula, Isle Royale is the largest island in Lake Superior. Dedicated as a national park in 1940, the main island is about 45 miles long and 8.5 miles across at the widest point. The park boundary extends 4.5 miles offshore. A rugged coastline and numerous crags and ridges add to the park's beauty; 99 percent of the island is wilderness.
Beginning some 4,000 years ago, the park was mined for copper—evidence that the island might have been the source of much of the copper used by early Native Americans. The metal has been found throughout the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. Mining activity also took place in the late 1800s on Isle Royale.
Although the soil is only a few inches to a few feet deep, Isle Royale is covered with dense growths of spruce and balsam fir softened by carpets of wildflowers. Beavers, loons, wolves, moose, red foxes and snowshoe hares are abundant in the park. The island is an important research site and is designated as a U.S. Biosphere Reserve.
General InformationThe park is open mid-April through October, with full services July through August. The park's 165 miles of trails are rocky and often wet and slippery; proper footwear should be worn when hiking. Visitors planning hiking trips should contact the park for information. Camping is based on a first-come, first-served basis and is free. Permits are required and are available at ranger stations. Campfires are prohibited at most campgrounds, so visitors should bring self-contained fuel stoves; check with park headquarters or ranger stations.
All surface drinking water must be boiled for 2 minutes or filtered with a .4-micron filter before consumption. Chemical purification will not kill the tapeworm eggs that may exist in the water. No medical facilities are available on Isle Royale.
Swimming in the park is undesirable due to low water temperatures in Lake Superior (35-60 F). Swimming is allowed in the inland lakes; however, there are no lifeguards or beaches. Scuba diving should be attempted only by experienced divers; charters are available. Although a license is not necessary for fishing in the park's inland lakes and streams, Michigan state fishing regulations apply. Only artificial lures and bait are permitted on inland waters. A Michigan state license is required for fishing in Lake Superior's waters. Guides are available for fishing trips.
Travel in the park is on foot or by boat. Canoes, kayaks, boats and motors can be rented and gasoline purchased at Rock Harbor Lodge from late May to mid-September and at Windigo from early June to mid-September. The marina at Rock Harbor Lodge is open from mid-May to mid-September.
Transportation to the park is by boat or seaplane; reservations are recommended. Boat service to the island is available from Copper Harbor aboard the Isle Royale Queen IV mid-May to late September. Crossings take 3 hours each way. Boat service is available from Houghton aboard the park-owned Ranger III late May to mid-September. Crossings take 5 hours each way. From Grand Portage, Minn., service is available from the Sea Hunter III mid-June through Labor Day, or Voyageur II early May to early October. Crossings to Windigo take 2-3 hours while the voyage to Rock Harbor takes 7 hours.
Float plane service also is available from Houghton mid-May to late September. Schedules and information for all vessels can be obtained from park headquarters, or contact Isle Royale Seaplanes at (906) 483-4991.
WARNINGWARNING Crossing Lake Superior to the park in a craft less than 20 feet long is not advised. Private outboards, canoes, kayaks and boats up to 20 feet long may be transported on the Ranger III out of Houghton. Gasoline is available on the island but may not be carried on private boats.
ADMISSIONADMISSION is $7 per day; free (ages 0-15). There are costs for transportation to the park.
PETSPETS are not permitted in the park, including 4.5 miles offshore and on private or commercial vessels going to the park.
ADDRESSADDRESS inquiries to park headquarters at Isle Royale National Park, 800 E. Lakeshore Dr., Houghton, MI 49931-1869; phone (906) 482-0984. Reservations for Rock Harbor Lodge or housekeeping cabins should be made with Forever Resorts in Mammoth Cave, KY, at (866) 644-2003, or from mid-May to mid-September with Rock Harbor Lodge in Houghton, MI, at (906) 337-4993.
Points of Interest
Things to SeeGreenstone Ridge and Minong Trails
GEM DescriptionTruly a natural wilderness, this wooded island with wildlife is a U.S. Biosphere Reserve.