travel > Destinations > north america > United States of America > Discover Isle Royale National Park

Discover Isle Royale National Park

TIME : 2016/2/16 15:48:33
Stranded in the vast waters of Lake Superior, Isle Royale is perhaps the model of an ideal national park: wild, rugged, and remote. No roads touch the 45-mile-long island, where wireless communications are its only contact with the outside world. The least visited property in the National Park Service system, Isle Royale attracts just 18,000 visitors a year, fewer than Yosemite receives in a single weekend.

View from the shore across shallow water at Hill Islands in Isle Royale National Park.

Hill Islands in Isle Royale National Park. Photo © Paul Brown/National Parks Service.

Wolves are notoriously elusive, but rest assured that your sightings of wildlife will far outnumber your human contacts while on Isle Royale.Civilization on Isle Royale (ROY-al, as if there were no “e”) is concentrated in two small developments at opposite ends of the island. Windigo, on the southwest end, includes a National Park Service information center, a camp store, and a marina. Rock Harbor, near the east end, offers the same, plus a no-frills lodge and restaurant across from the ferry dock, and a handful of cabins overlooking Tobin Harbor. The rest of the island is backcountry, 210 pristine square miles of forested foot trails, rocky bluffs, quiet lakes, and wilderness campsites.

Those who make the trek by boat or seaplane to Isle Royale come primarily to hike its 165 miles of trails, fish its 46 inland lakes, and paddle its sawtooth shoreline. Wildlife viewing is popular, too, especially for the moose that swam across from Ontario several decades ago, and the eastern timber wolves that later followed their prey across the rock-solid winter ice. Wolves are notoriously elusive, but rest assured that your sightings of wildlife will far outnumber your human contacts while on Isle Royale.

Canoers paddling through small rocky islands at Isle Royale National Parks.

Paddling around the islands of Isle Royale National Park. Photo © Ben W., licensed Creative Commons Atttribution Share-Alike.

General Information for Isle Royale

For general information on the park, camping, transportation options, and more, contact Isle Royale National Park (906/482-0984). Isle Royale was one of the first national parks to charge a park user fee, currently $4 pp per day. If you’re traveling to the island by ferry or seaplane, the concessionaire will collect your fee. If you’re traveling by private boat, you can pay at the ranger station at Windigo or Rock Harbor, or at the Houghton Visitors Center prior to your departure.

The National Park Service has long discussed charging admission fees to national parks as a way to compensate for shortfalls in federal funding. In the past, the incentive wasn’t there, since all gate fees were fed back into the federal government’s general treasury. With the new user-fee program, however, 80 percent of the monies gathered is spent at the collecting park. The remaining 20 percent is spent at national parks with priority maintenance projects. In Isle Royale’s case, that means hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be spent maintaining trails and repairing or replacing docks.

Travel map of Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale National Park

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.