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The Untamed Isle Royale National Park – I Can’t Believe How Wild It Could Get!

Last updated on August 28th, 2016 at 08:32 pm

If you’re one with an adventurous spirit, Isle Royale National Park is worth the trip.

The park is tailor‐made for the most adventurous explorer. It’s the wild at its finest. It’s a land of wild creatures, unspoiled forests, lakes, and rugged shores. It’s an easy reach for anyone who has time to spend but a park that only a few dare to see.

isle royale national park view

Whether it’s a week‐long backpacking trip or a trip to catch a lake trout, you can do that in Isle Royale. One should never come here unprepared because visitors usually spend a minimum of three days in this wilderness. It’s an enchanting place where nature is both peaceful and violent. It’s an island of mystery and scientific exploration.

Interesting Facts

    • Isle Royale is home to the world’s largest freshwater lake. It is also the largest island in Lake Superior, Michigan, measuring 45 miles long and nine miles wide. It occupies an area of about 210 square miles.
    • It is one of the least visited national parks in the United States.
    • Isle Royale National Park consists of around 400 smaller islands.
    • The island has two main developed areas: Windigo and Rock Harbor.
    • Isle Royale was one of the first national parks to charge a park user fee – $4 per person, per day.


Isle Royale used to be a popular destination for summer homes and wilderness retreats. In 1976, it was designated as part of the park wilderness preservation system under the Wilderness Act.

How To Get There

Visitors who come to this national park can only travel by boat or seaplane. Passenger boats are located in Houghton or Copper Harbor, Michigan, or Grand Portage, Minnesota. Seaplanes, however, are located in Houghton, Michigan and Duluth, Minnesota. Travel time is usually two to six hours. Late June to September would be the best times to visit.

What To See

Siskiwit Mine

Isle Royale is home to Siskiwit Mine where natives used to mine copper but ceased operation in the 1870s after copper was exhausted.

isle royale national park siskiwit mine

Cemetery Island

Cemetery Island is also found here. It has an almost unrecognizable trail that leads deep into the forest and into the graves of early Isle Royale pioneers. A wooden fence encloses the head markers on the graves, almost hiding them from unsuspecting observers. On the headstones were carved the dates of birth and death and showed that those buried lived short and difficult lives. Seeing this graveyard arouses compassion.

isle royale national park cemetery island

Edison Fishery

Edison fishery is an authentic fishing camp.

edison-fisheries isle royale national park


The shoreline of Isle Royale and its smaller islands is as wild as it gets. Its woods are a feast for the eyes, and you could sometimes catch a glimpse of a moose or a wolf on the island’s edge.

isle royale national park wildlife wolves

Rock Harbor

Islands of rocks seem to abound here. One such spot is Rock Harbor. Whole, immovable rocks lie everywhere, some kissing the waters, some just tiny islands.


A lighthouse can also be found here. It was used in the early years as a guide to travelers who come to the island for its copper mine. It has a brick tower with an attached stone dwelling and has been restored to serve as a museum.

Isle Royale National Park Rock Harbor Lighthouse

What To Do


Isle Royale is a great option to go hiking as it has several popular trails.

isle royale national park hiking


With plenty of water forms in the area such as lakes, bays and islands, the park offers water activities for park visitors. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent at Windigo and Rock Harbor.

isle royale national park paddling


Camping especially in fine weather is one of the most popular activities to do in the isolated park. Campers can stay for a maximum of three nights at most campsites without any camping fee.


Things to be considered when preparing for a camping trip


There are 36 campgrounds in the park that are on a first come first served basis. Campsites cannot be reserved in advance except for group camping. Amenities at the campsites are limited such as few picnic tables or pit toilets. Running water is available at Rock Harbor and the Washington Creek campground. All campgrounds on Isle Royale Park offer tent sites, water source, and outhouses.

Some campgrounds in the park are only accessible by water and have canoe/kayak/boat access . Water taxis are available and can take campers from one point to another. For more information about campgrounds and camping in the park, check here .


The weather in the park is often cold, windy and rainy with thunderstorms. Rapid changes in weather conditions is always expected. Watch the weather and prepare accordingly. Before your visit, get the updated park weather condition and information by calling (906) 482-0984.
isle royale park weather


Pets such as cats and dogs are not allowed in the park.

When To Go

The park is closed during the winter to protect wildlife and for the safety of park visitors because of winter weather conditions. The park is open 24 hours a day from April 16 to October 31st. Peak season is during the months of July and August.

Food Services

The park has no food services on island, it is best to bring your own. Food packs can be mailed in advance to the Grand Portage, Minnesota, Post Office. You can pick up your food packs before boarding your boat.
food camping


Cell phone service is not reliable on Isle Royale National Park. A satellite phone for park visitor use with additional fees is available at Rock Harbor Trading Post and Windigo Store. There is no Wi-Fi service available to visitors.

Tips for Planning your camping trip

    • For a National Park that’s only accessible by boat or seaplane, the park has limited facilities. Prepare a camping or backpacking list to make sure that you have everything you need with you.
    • Permits are required for all overnight stays at campgrounds.
    • Black flies can be annoying. Bring insect repellents for protection against mosquitoes, insects, and black flies.
    • If you are alone or in a group of less than 7 people, head to the campsite early to secure a spot.
    • Group camping (7-10 persons) is available in the park. However, reservation is required and must be made in advance. If your group is more than 10, you need to split up.
    • Only certain campgrounds have group sites.
    • If there are no available campsites, campers can share empty tent space with fellow campers. Campsites have wide area to accommodate multiple tents.
    • Gas or alcohol stoves are permitted. Campfires in most campgrounds are not allowed.
    • Potable drinking water is available in Rock Harbor and Windigo campgrounds.
    • Water is abundant but must be boiled for two minutes and filtered to get rid of any possible tapeworm cysts and to prevent waterborne illnesses.
    • Water availability in between campgrounds is limited, bring enough supply of water or at least two quarts of water per person.
    • Know all camping rules and regulations and practice Leave No Trace Principle.

These and much more are waiting to be explored.


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