Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National Park is a U.S. National Park in the state of Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

. Isle Royale
Isle Royale
Isle Royale is an island of the Great Lakes, located in the northwest of Lake Superior, and part of the state of Michigan. The island and the 450 surrounding smaller islands and waters make up Isle Royale National Park....

, the largest island in Lake Superior
Lake Superior
Lake Superior is the largest of the five traditionally-demarcated Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded to the north by the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Minnesota, and to the south by the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan. It is the largest freshwater lake in the...

, is over 45 miles (72 km) in length and 9 miles (14 km) wide at its widest point. The park is made of Isle Royale itself and approximately 400 smaller islands, along with any submerged lands within 4.5 miles (7.24 km) of the surrounding islands (16USC408g). Isle Royale National Park was established on April 3, 1940, was designated as a Wilderness Area in 1976, and was made an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980. It is a relatively small national park at 894 square miles (2,315.4 km²), with only 209 square miles (541.3 km²) above water. At the U.S.-Canada border, it will meet the borders of the future Canadian Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area
Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area
The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is a national marine conservation area on the north shore of Lake Superior, announced by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on October 25, 2007 at a press conference in Nipigon, Ontario...


Human history

The island was once the site of a fishing industry, native copper mining and a resort community. The fishing industry continues at Edisen Fishery
Edisen Fishery
The Edisen Fishery is a fishery located in Rock Harbor in the Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1976 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.- Description :...

. Because numerous small islands surround Isle Royale, ships were once guided through the area by lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

s at Passage Island, Rock Harbor
Rock Harbor Light
The Rock Harbor Lighthouse is a light station located in Rock Harbor on Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.- Description :...

, Rock of Ages
Rock of Ages Light
The Rock of Ages Light is a U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse on a small rock outcropping approximately miles west of Washington Island and west of Isle Royale, in Keweenaw County, Michigan...

, and Isle Royale Light
Isle Royale Light
The Isle Royale Light is located on Menagerie Island , the most easterly of the group of small islands at the opening of Siskiwit Bay, near the southern shore of Isle Royale, and is part of the Isle Royale National Park...

house on Menagerie Island. Within the waters of Isle Royale National Park are several shipwrecks. The area’s notoriously harsh weather, dramatic underwater topography, the island’s central location on historic shipping routes, and the cold, fresh water have culminated in largely intact, well preserved wrecks throughout the park. These were documented in the 1980s, with follow up occurring in 2009, by the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center
Submerged resources center
The Submerged Resources Center is a unit within the United States National Park Service. The unit is based out of Lakewood, Colorado in the NPS Intermountain Region headquarters.-History:...



Isle Royale National Park is known for its wolf and moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

 populations which are studied by scientists investigating predator-prey relationships
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

 in a closed environment. This is made easier because Isle Royale has been colonized by roughly just one third of the mainland mammal species, due to it being so remote. In addition, the environment is unique in that it is the only known place where wolves and moose coexist without the presence of bears There are usually around 25 wolves and 1000 moose on the island, but the numbers change greatly year to year. In rare years with very hard winters, animals can travel over the frozen lake from the Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 mainland. To protect the wolves from canine diseases, dogs are not allowed in any part of the park, including the adjacent waters. In the 2006-2007 winter, 385 moose were counted, as well as 21 wolves, in three packs. In spring 2008, 23 wolves and approximately 650 moose were counted


Isle Royale greenstone (chlorastrolite
Chlorastrolite also known as Michigan Greenstone, is a green or bluish green stone. Chlorastrolite has finely radiated or stellate masses that have a "turtleback" pattern. The stellate masses tend to be chatoyant, meaning they have a changeable luster. This chatoyancy can be subtranslucent to...

, a form of pumpellyite
Pumpellyite is a group of closely related sorosilicate minerals:*pumpellyite-: Ca2MgAl2[2|SiO4|Si2O7]·*pumpellyite-: Ca2Fe2+Al2[2|SiO4|Si2O7]·*pumpellyite-: Ca22[2|SiO4|Si2O7]·H2O...

) is found here, as well as on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the northern of the two major land masses that make up the U.S. state of Michigan. It is commonly referred to as the Upper Peninsula, the U.P., or Upper Michigan. It is also known as the land "above the Bridge" linking the two peninsulas. The peninsula is bounded...

. It is the official Michigan state gemstone.


The Greenstone Ridge is a high ridge in the center of the island and carries the longest trail in the park, the Greenstone Ridge Trail
Greenstone Ridge Trail
The Greenstone Ridge Trail is the -long primary hiking trail that serves Isle Royale National Park. It extends from the a harbor on Isle Royale's western end, Windigo, to a harbor and lodge on its eastern end, Rock Harbor...

, which runs 40 miles (60 km) from one end of the island to the other. This is generally done as a 4 or 5 day hike. A boat shuttle can carry hikers back to their starting port. In total there are 165 miles (265 km) of hiking trails. There are also canoe/kayak routes, many involving portages, along coastal bays and inland lakes.


The park has two developed areas: Windigo
Windigo Ranger Station
Windigo Ranger Station, or simply Windigo, is a docking and refueling port on Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior, and is a ranger station for Isle Royale National Park. Along with Rock Harbor, it is one of only two ports for visitors to enter the national park...

, at the southwest end of the island (docking site for the ferries from Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

), with a campstore, showers, campsites, and a boat dock; and Rock Harbor
Rock Harbor
Rock Harbor is the main access point for visitors landing on Isle Royale in northern Lake Superior. It sits at the northeastern end of the forty-five mile long island, the whole of which is protected as Isle Royale National Park...

 on the south side of the northeast end (docking site for the ferries from Michigan), with a campstore, showers, restaurant, lodge, campsites, and a boat dock.

Sleeping accommodations at the park are limited to the lodge at Rock Harbor and 36 designated wilderness campgrounds. Some campgrounds are accessible only by private boat; others in the interior are accessible only by trail or by canoe
A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

A kayak is a small, relatively narrow, human-powered boat primarily designed to be manually propelled by means of a double blade paddle.The traditional kayak has a covered deck and one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler...

 on the island lakes. The campsites vary in capacity but typically include a few three-sided wood shelters (the fourth wall is screened) with floors and roofs, and several individual sites suitable for pitching a small tent. Some tent sites with space for groups of up to 10 are available, and are used for overflow if all the individual sites are filled. The only amenities at the campgrounds are pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire-rings at specific areas. Campfires are not permitted at most campgrounds; gas or alcohol camp stoves are recommended. Drinking and cooking water must be drawn from local water sources (Lake Superior and inland lakes) and filtered, treated, or boiled to avoid parasites. Hunting is not permitted, but fishing is, and edible berries (blueberries, thimbleberries
Rubus parviflorus, commonly called thimbleberry or salmonberry, is a species of Rubus, native to western and northern North America, from Alaska east to Ontario and Michigan, and south to northern Mexico...

) may be picked from the trail.


Bedrock on Isle Royale is basalt or sandstone and conglomerates on the 1100 million year old Midcontinent Rift. Most of the island is covered with a thin layer of glacial material. A number of small native copper mines were active in the 1800s but mining was never really prosperous. Recent analyses by the USGS of both unmineralized basalt and copper-mineralized rock show that a small amount of naturally-occurring mercury is associated with mineralization.


The park is accessible by floatplane and by ferry during the summer months from Grand Portage, Minnesota
Grand Portage, Minnesota
Grand Portage is an unorganized territory in Cook County, Minnesota, on Lake Superior, at the northeast corner of the state near the border with northwestern Ontario. The population was 557 at the 2000 census...

, and from Houghton
Houghton, Michigan
Houghton is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and largest city in the Copper Country on the Keweenaw Peninsula. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 7,708. It is the county seat of Houghton County...

 and Copper Harbor
Copper Harbor, Michigan
Copper Harbor is a small unincorporated community in northeastern Keweenaw County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is within Grant Township on the Keweenaw Peninsula that juts from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan into Lake Superior.-History:...

 in Michigan. Private boats travel to the island from Minnesota, Michigan and Ontario.

Isle Royale is quite popular with day-tripper
A day-tripper is a person who visits a tourist destination or visitor attraction from his/her home and returns home on the same day.- Definition :In other words, this excursion does not involve a night away from home such as experienced on a holiday...

s with day trip service provided from Grand portage, MN and Copper Harbor, MI to and from the park. The ferries that make this voyage from Grand Portage, MN do so in an hour and a half, and spend 4 hours on the island, allowing plenty of time for hiking, picnic lunches and taking in a guided hike or program by the park staff Some ferries may delay—and in some situations cancel—trips during heavy weather, although this occurs very rarely.

The Ranger III is a 165-foot (50 m) ship operated by the National Park Service, said to be the largest piece of equipment in the National Park system. It carries 125 passengers, canoes and kayaks—even small powerboats—and operates out of Houghton, Michigan. This is a six-hour voyage from the park, and the ship overnights at the island before returning the next day, making two round trips each week, June to mid-September. The Isle Royale Queen out of Copper Harbor, Michigan, arrives at the park in 3-3 1/2 hours and the Sea Hunter, out of Grand Portage, Minnesota, arrives in just 1 1/2 hours and operate round-trips and offer day trips through much of the season, less frequently in early summer and autumn. The Voyageur II, also out of Grand Portage, crosses up to three times a week, overnighting at Rock Harbor and providing transportation between popular lakeside campgrounds. The Voyageur II and boat taxi services ferry hikers to points along the island, allowing a one-way hike back to Rock Harbor or Windigo.

For the 2008 season, the Ranger III carried visitors to/from Windigo on several occasions, this proved to be a failure and was discontinued after 4 trips due to lack of interest and extremely long crossing times. Visitors may take the Voyageur II and land at Rock Harbor and depart from Windigo several days later or vice versa. Hikers will frequently ride the Voyageur II in one direction to do a cross-island hike and be picked up at the other end when they finish.

Because of the difficulty of travel and the hazards of wilderness survival during the winter months, it is the only major National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 park to close entirely for the season. Because of the relative difficulty reaching the park and its seasonal closing, fewer than 20,000 people a year visit Isle Royale - fewer than the number of people who visit the most popular national parks in a single day.

Isle Royale had 15,973 visitors in 2007, making it the least-visited national park in the continental United States; and the fifth-least visited overall.

External links

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