Isle Royale exists as an island in many ways. It is an island of
wilderness and home to wolves in a modern world. It is an island
in time, a natural space in which you operate on natural time and
experience the rhythms of light and dark. Days are measured by footsteps,
possibly under a backpack. Walking the island you are struck by
its striated layout, its elongated forested-rock and lake patterns
that parallel its backbone, the Greenstone Ridge. The island, it
seems, must have been forcibly combed from northeast to southwest.
The surface scene you see from the island's heights is the product
of 10,000 years of natural sculpting, soil-building, and plant-
pioneering and succession. Back then - actually not long ago by
nature's time scale - the island appeared beneath glacial ice, rising
as the lake level dropped. The island developed soil and was colonized
by plants and animals. Its many inland lakes first formed in basins
gouged out by glaciers and then began to shrink, as lakes and ponds
Beneath the ponds, the forests, and the light soil covering, however,
is a story which must be told not in the increments of centuries,
but in millions and billions of years. The ridge-and-trough pattern
of the rocks is the work of millions of years, predating even the
formation of Lake Superior and its islands.
The story begins some 1.2 billion years ago with a great rift in
the earth's crust which may have extended from here southward all
the way to the Gulf of Mexico. As this series of cracks poured forth
molten lava covering thousands of square miles, the land along the
rift zone sank to form the Superior Basin, which has shaped all
of the subsequent geological events in the region. The rock record
of this cataclysmic happening - the volcanics, sandstones, and conglomerates
- forms Isle Royale's bedrock today. Clues to the island's past
abound. Smoothed, rounded, and even grooved rock belies the crushing
power of the last major glaciation, known as the Wisconsin. It ended
here only a thousand years ago. On the southwestern part of the
island, where this glacier paused in its retreat, are small linear
hills made of its deposits.
On the Stroll Trail out toward Scoville Point, you pass three small
pits in the rocks. These form another clue, a clue to the prehistoric
peoples who mined copper on the island. They came to the island
only in mild seasons, taking what resources they could, and leaving
before winter. As early as 4,000 years ago, these people mined here,
continuing for more than 1,000 years. Isle Royale and Lake Superior
area copper made its way by trade as far as New York, Illinois,
and Indiana. These early miners were probably most active here from
800 to 1600. By the 1840's, the only American Indian encampments
white miners encountered were a maple sugaring camp on Sugar Mountain
and a seasonal fishing camp on Grace Island.
Aquatic environments abound both on and around the island. In fact,
some 80 percent of the national park is under water, as shallow,
warm-water ponds, streams, and rivers, and the deep, cold, foreboding
Lake Superior waters. Commercial fishing has been one of the mainstay
economic activities on the island throughout historic times. It
began before 1800, to feed the fur trade. Since about 1840, it has
been a largely individual enterprise. The major economic species
were lake trout, whitefish, and herring lurking in the range of
water depths and bottoms along miles of Isle Royale shoreline. Most
of the commercial fishing enterprises had closed by the mid-20th
century; that world is now preserved by the historic Edisen Fishery
and programs conducted by the National Park Service.
Sport fishing has now replaced commercial fishing. Species sought
are lake, brook, and rainbow trout; northern pike; walleye; and
the yellow perch. Spring and fall produce the biggest catches, but
fishing is considered good throughout the season.
Isle Royale's animal life also expresses its island nature. In the
recent past, both wolf and moose have come in search of better hunting
and browsing grounds. Other animals you might expect here are missing,
however although it is but 15 miles to the Canadian shores where
they are found. But even those that are missing, like the black
bear and the whitetail deer, somehow underscore Isle Royale's wild
Isle Royale is indeed an island of superlatives for wilderness and
beauty. And here is yet another superlative: Siskiwit Lake's Ryan
Island is the largest island in the largest lake on the largest
island in the broadest freshwater lake in the world! You will find
your own superlatives here as you meet the island on its own terms:
fishing, boating, hiking, backpacking, taking a guided interpretive
walk or hike, or just relaxing, which are what vacations are for.
Isle Royale National Park is located in the northwest corner of
Lake Superior. This Wilderness Island contains a road-less backcountry
which prohibits the use of all wheeled vehicles and devices (accept
wheelchairs). Visitors traveling to this Island paradise must arrive
by boat or seaplane. The transportation services depart from Houghton,
Michigan, and Copper Harbor, Michigan.
There are four ferries and one seaplane that provide service to
and from Isle Royale National Park. All have different fares and
schedules and reservations are strongly recommended. Services do
fill up, especially in the peak season, late-July through mid-August.
Make your reservation as soon as your travel dates are firm. For
a more peaceful experience during our slow time, you may want to
visit Isle Royale in late May, early June or September
The M.V. Ranger III
The Motor Vessel Ranger III is the largest piece of moving equipment
owned and operated by the National Park Service and the largest
passenger ferry providing service to Isle Royale National Park.
The Ranger III is 165 feet long, 34 feet wide, 650 ton vessel that
carries 128 passengers. The ship with its crew of nine, offers interpretive
and educational programs, a luncheon grill, three staterooms, four
comfortable lounges, two decks and indoor and outdoor seating for
passenger comfort. Unlike other service providers, the Ranger III
offers transportation for private boats up to 20’00”
or less and offers its patrons free parking at a secure lot. The
ship operates out of Houghton, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Ranger III offers passenger services from June 2 through September
13. The ship travels from Houghton to Rock Harbor on Tuesdays and
Fridays, departing Houghton at 9:00 a.m. EDT, and returns from Rock
Harbor to Houghton on Wednesdays and Saturdays, departing Rock Harbor
at 9:00 a.m. EDT. The leisurely ride to Isle Royale takes 6 hours.
The Isle Royale Queen IV
Operates between Copper Harbor, Michigan, and Rock
Harbor on Isle Royale National Park. The Queen IV is a US Coast
Guard certified and inspected, 100-foot, steel, Triple diesel passenger
boat. She is fully equipped with navigation aids and complete safety
equipment. During our cruise to the island, light snacks are available
as well as hot coffee and other beverages.
• Reservation can be made by Phone :
• Although the Queen's cabins are warm and cozy, we recommend
a light jacket or sweater as it is usually cool on the Lake.
• Coffee, sodas, juices, and snacks are available.
• The Queen is equipped with lavatories.
For more information and to plan your trip to Isle Royale please
consult the website at: