We answer thousands of questions every year. Here are a few that people ask us most often.
Our schedule and fares
Our boarding information
Isle Royale’s Annual Newspaper
How much does it cost to get there?
We have off-peak and peak season rates. We also charge for parking your car with us. And there is an NPS user fee that you pay online before you go or the rangers collect at Rock Harbor. There is no additional fee for camping at Isle Royale. (See Schedule and Fares page for information about all fares and fees.)
Are reservations needed?
They are HIGHLY recommended. We will always take you at the last minute if we have space, but the boat does fill on many days every summer.
Do I need a round-trip reservation?
In almost all cases, yes. Make a reservation for going and returning on specific dates, but we will take you back on any day we have space.
How soon do I need to make reservations?
We can make no promises. Some sailing dates fill up unexpectedly early in the spring, and we can’t add trips to bring more people to the island on those dates. That said, 1 month ahead is generally good for the off-peak season, while 2 months (and even sooner) are generally good for the peak season (our peak season is 7/20 - 8/20).
Do you offer any discounts?
Because the National Park Service limits our schedule, we offer no senior, military, or other discounts besides the lower fares in the off-peak season (see the Schedule & Fares page; peak season is 7/20 - 8/20).
What if the weather is bad and the boat can't make the trip?
The awe-inspiring crossing of Lake Superior is part of any Isle Royale adventure. We very seldom CANCEL trips in the summer because of storms or wind, but it does happen. Once or twice a summer we DELAY trips in severe conditions, especially in late summer and September. Delays commonly last 4-8 hours. Sometimes we make two crossings in a day to catch up. Crossings are delayed until weather permits a safe crossing. Safety always comes first.
Is the Queen IV safe?
Yes. It is a 100-foot long, 85-passenger vessel fully inspected and certified by the US Coast Guard. Our service is also regularly reviewed by the National Park Service. Our record is exemplary. We have never had a major injury on board one of our vessels in our 47 years of service on Lake Superior. We will get you to Isle Royale ship-shape.
Is there a play to stay on Isle Royale?
One, the Rock Harbor Lodge, right next door to the pier the Queen IV docks at. It’s not cheap (and neither is our boat), but it’s a wonderful place to stay. It has motel-style rooms and large (six-person) duplex cottages, all set in spectacular locations. The lodge runs the Lighthouse Dining Room, the Greenstone Grill, and offers other services. We have stayed with the great folks at the lodge many times. They offer boat-lodging packages. Their web site is www.rockharborlodge.com .
How long does the trip take?
It takes a little over 3.5 hours one way. We leave Copper Harbor at 8:00 a.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), and depart Rock Harbor on Isle Royale at 2:45 p.m. We make one round trip most days in summer. We sail only to and from Rock Harbor. See the Schedule and Fares page.
Can I take a trip just for the day?
Yes -- and many people do. You have 7 hours on the water and about 3 hours at Isle Royale. Adverse weather can cause longer crossings. On most day, you have about 2 hours of actual hiking time after orientation with the park. You can take a long hike of up to 4 miles or a short hike and have lunch at Rock Harbor Lodge. Or you can fish or explore or relax and enjoy the great views along Rock and Tobin Harbors.
Are there day-trip discounts?
In May, June, and September we offer some discounts. Call for the latest day-trip deals, which are NOT available online. In July and August, because we cannot add more trips to accommodate demand, day trips are full fare, and reservations may be made online.
What’s the best time of summer to go?
May is very cool, but amazingly quiet. June is cool and beautiful, the Isle Royale springtime, with millions of wildflowers. July is warm and calm and sunny, a great time for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. August is warmer and busier, the peak of visitation at the island. September varies a lot, from warm to stormy to cold and rainy. Fall colors are NOT exceptionally beautiful on northeast Isle Royale (to where we sail), although September is a fine time to go for many other reasons.
Does the island take camping reservations?
No. You fill out a tentative hiking itinerary at the Rock Harbor Ranger Station when you arrive (no additional cost). The rangers help you plan a suitable route from camp to camp.
When are the bugs the least bothersome?
Bugs are most active in July and decrease through August into September. But each summer is different. We will give you the latest update on bugs, but be prepared: Isle Royale is a northwoods wilderness, and with preparation bugs don’t have to spoil your time at the island. We advise people not to make plans based on bugs.
Cross-island hike: Can I hike to the other end of the island and take a boat back to Rock Harbor?
Yes. The Voyageur II, of Grand Portage, MN, circumnavigates the island 3 times a week in summer. The Queen’s and Voyageur’s schedules do not easily coordinate, and there is extra cost. Captain Ben Kilpela, one of the owners of the Queen IV, does not recommend a hike of this kind on a first trip to the island. He recommends that you take a loop route on the northeast end on your first visit and save the big trip to Windigo on the Greenstone Ridge for your second visit. His pamphlet, “Exploring Northeast Isle Royale,” available at www.lulu.com or through our office by phone order, helps you plan hiking or boating loop routes on NE Isle Royale.
Will I see moose? How about wolves?
In 2017, moose were up again in numbers as wolves have almost died out. Be up after sunset and before sunrise -- and be quiet while out and about -- to have the best chance of seeing moose. They are abundant in the Rock Harbor area, the port the Queen arrives at. Wolves are very seldom or heard or seen by anyone except a lucky few in the deep backcountry. The park service is thinking carefully about transplanting wolves to the island in the near future. Two wolves have been roaming the island according to reports in 2017.
Do you serve food during the trip?
Yes. There is also a nice coffee shop with bakery next door to our dock. It’s open at 7:00am on mornings we sail. The Pines and the Tamarack restaurants, both just a couple blocks away and offering good food, open for breakfast at 6:30am. On board, we have good coffee, a variety of sodas, juice, water, packaged bakery, candy, snacks, and more.
Is it cold on the Island?
It's about the same as the Upper Peninsula and Copper Harbor, but usually 5-15 degrees cooler along the Superior shoreline. Averages:
May - June -- night: high 40s -- day: mid-60s
July - August -- night: mid 50s -- day: mid 70s
Sept -- night: high 30s to low 50s -- day: low 50s to mid 60s
Check with a search engine for more detail. Air temperatures on Lake Superior can be quite cool even late in July; so warm clothing (at least jackets and sweatshirts) is strongly encouraged for the crossing. Shorts and sandals are not advised for the crossing. If you have any doubt, ask the crew before departure.On the other hand, it can be surprisingly hot on the ridges in midsummer. Temps in the mid-80s are not unusual there, and often they reach the mid-90s.
Where can I leave my car?
Parking is available across the street from our dock. There is a modest charge for cars: $10 per night to a maximum of $30 (the 4th night and thereafter are free). Trailers and RVs have higher rates (see Schedule and Fares page). You may pay by cash at the lot. No reservations for car parking for passengers are needed. We begin parking cars at 7:00 am each crossing day. An attendant will be present to show you where to park. Do not park yourself.
How much luggage can I take?
70 pounds of luggage or gear is included free with each reservation. If you expect to transport excess baggage, please inform us. We charge $5 for each additional 10 pounds. Save weight by not carrying water in water bottles. Potable water is available in Rock Harbor.
Can we take our pet?
Domestic pets (dogs, cats etc.) are not allowed on Isle Royale. There are no kennels within 40 miles of Copper Harbor.
Can we take gasoline and stove fuel to the island?
No to gasoline, yes to backpack fuel. The US Coast Guard does not allow us to transport gas, but it’s available at the Rock Harbor Lodge Marina throughout the season. We do transport backpacking stove fuel in well closed, small containers, which are stowed separately. Do not stow fuel in containers with twist-on caps in backpacks.
What about seasickness?
Though lake conditions are placid most of the summer, Lake Superior, a massive inland sea, can naturally see rough conditions. When the wind and waves are high, the Queen IV rocks and rolls, as all boats do. If you fear that you may suffer from motion discomfort, your physician can prescribe Transderm Scop. Other remedies are available over the counter. Ginger is a popular natural treatment. We are happy to inform you of current conditions and forecasts at any time.
Do you recommend any motel in Copper Harbor?
We recommend them all. The complete list is on the Boarding Information page on this site. What we say is that you get what you pay for: the higher the price, the more amenities you will receive. But every motel offers a clean, comfortable, safe, and reasonably priced place to stay in town.
Are there other ways to get to Copper Harbor?
Air service is to the Houghton County Airport (CMX). Limo service to and from the airport near Calumet is available from www.coppercountrylimo.com. Taxi companies in Calumet and Hancock also provide taxi service.
Need still more info? Following below is the near-complete 2017 Greenstone newspaper, shortened and in text form. You can find the PDF of the paper at the NPS web site.
THE OFFICIAL ISLE ROYALE “GREENSTONE”
See the printed Greenstone for detailed information in some sections.
2018 Greenstone not yet available. Fares and schedules have been removed from this version until updated.
The 2017 Greenstone
Your Guide to Isle Royale National Park
[SHORTENED TEXT VERSION]
National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
A MESSAGE FROM PHYLLIS GREEN,
Imagine you are standing on the shore
of a vast lake, looking out to a low rise
of land on the horizon. Do you wonder
what is out there? Would you strike out
over open water to find out?
For more than four thousand years,
people have been enticed to make
the crossing from the shores of Lake
Superior to Isle Royale. The how and
why of these journeys varies over time,
but the allure of crossing the lake to
visit this isolated archipelago remains
While Isle Royale seems relatively
isolated and protected from the outside
world, it is not immune to change.
Because of their small size and their
separation, island ecosystems are often
dynamic. Change can happen quickly.
And small isolated locations can be
particularly sensitive to the effects of
larger-scale phenomena, such as climate
change —which influences wolves,
moose, and other park resources.
Isle Royale’s isolation—once considered
an obstacle—is today the primary reason
people travel to the park. But still, visitors
to this wild place, just like those who
came before, must make the crossing to
The gateways to Isle Royale are steeped
in historic connections. Consider
exploring these stories of past travelers,
residents and immigrants at Grand
Portage National Monument and
Keweenaw National Historical Park.
Then, I invite you to
make the crossing…and
discover for yourself the
magic of a wild, isolated
Phyllis Green, Superintendent
Islandness and Isle Royale Wolves
In 2017, the National Park Service, with
stakeholder input, will decide whether
or not to keep wolves as a part of Isle
Royale’s ecosystem. This is perhaps
one of the most important decisions
we have collectively faced as stewards
of this unique and captivating
landscape. As such, it is important to
contemplate origins, recognize our
environment and practice integrity in
Glaciers left the island nearly ten
thousand years ago, humans arrived
, years before the present, moose
became established in the early s
and wolves arrived in —only eight
years after the National Park Service
officially assumed management of
the island. Today, the park sits silent
for half the year as the majority of its
inhabitants, human and non-human
alike, leave for more hospitable
environments. However, over eons,
the island has decided who comes and
Isolation is a dynamic force that shapes
the face of Isle Royale. Those who
have experienced this force often refer
to this characteristic as “islandness.”
Islandness is an undeniable and often
harsh fact of life on Isle Royale. Yet
in the same breath, it is the essential
contributor to the island’s alluring
beauty and nature. There is no one
reason beyond the park’s islandness
that ties together why the lynx, the
caribou, or the coyote no longer roam
the forests; or why three separate
attempts at copper mining never took
hold; or why the ancestors of today’s
Grand Portage Band of Chippewa
were likely never year-round residents;
or finally, why wolves can likely no
longer persist without intervention.
Islandness is a duality, and where there
is no answer, there is an opportunity
It may be that mainland solutions
to island problems do not apply.
Regardless, an opportunity stands
before our collective “self” to
understand different perspectives
on how to help define the future of a
place we hold so dearly in our hearts.
Many of you have taken the time to
participate in the planning process—
thank you for your input. I implore you
all to continue to follow the planning
effort addressing the presence of
wolves at Isle Royale by reviewing the
draft environmental impact statement.
A difficult path stretches out before us,
but as Albert Einstein once said, “In the
middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
If we bring the best of ourselves and
recognize what is admirable in others
to address this challenge, we will reach
a decision with the integrity that it
Mark C. Romanski
Division Chief – Natural Resources
To learn more about the proposed plan,
review the draft environmental impact
ROCK HARBOR LODGE
P. O. Box 605
Houghton, MI 49931-0605
Rock Harbor Lodge
505 Happy Valley Road
Glasgow, KY 42141
Lakeside Lodge Rooms
60 rooms are available; each accommodates four
and offers private bath. Open 6/6 through night of 9/15.
20 duplex cottages accommodate six and are
furnished with kitchenettes, utensils, dishware, private
bath, double bed and one bunk bed. Open 5/26 through
night of 9/15.
Gift Shop and Dockside Store
Gift Shop offers handcrafted gifts, apparel, photo
supplies, postcards, souvenirs, daily fishing licenses, and
tackle. The store offers camping, hiking, and boating
accessories, groceries, freeze-dried foods, fishing
tackle, stove fuel, showers, laundry facilities, and sundries.
Lighthouse Restaurant and Greenstone Grill
Hearty meals, including fresh Lake Trout. Visitors
welcome for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Marina and Water Taxi
Offers 450 feet of dock space in Rock Harbor,
accommodating boats up to 65 feet. Electrical, freshwater
hook-up, sewage pump-out, gasoline, and diesel fuel,
motorboat, canoe, and kayak rental available. Water taxi
service drops off or picks up visitors, canoes, or kayaks at
many island docks.
Fishing Charters and Sightseeing
Charters are fully equipped for catching lake trout and
salmon. See printed Greenstone for sightseeing information.
Windigo Store and Marina
Offers groceries, cold sandwiches, camping supplies,
stove fuel, daily fishing licenses and tackle, gifts and photo
supplies. The marina offers gasoline, pump-out service, and
motorboat, canoe and kayak rental. Shower and laundry
Windigo Camper Cabins
Two rustic cabins; each accommodates up to six and is
furnished with table, chairs, full size futon, bunk beds with
mattresses, electrical outlets and lighting and have picnic
table and propane grill. Water spigot and privy are
The cost for utilities on Isle Royale is much higher
than on the mainland. A utility surcharge will be
added to the cost of some goods and services.
CHANGES IN USER FEES
Park fees have not increased since 1997,
while the costs of managing the park and
providing visitor facilities and services has
increased significantly. Starting in the 2017
season, a new entrance fee replaces the
former user fee.
The new entrance fee will consist of:
• A $7 per person daily entrance fee. It is
charged to enter or remain within the park per
• The Isle Royale Season Pass will cost $60
and include up to three adults traveling with
the pass holder as is consistent with other
Federal Recreation Passes.
• All Federal Recreation Passes (Annual, Senior,
Access, Military) will be honored. Entrance
fees will be waived for the pass-holder and up
to three adults traveling with the pass holder.
• The $150 season boat rider pass will be
discontinued. Boaters may purchase the $60 Isle
Royale Season Pass instead.
• Children ages 15 and under will be exempt from
paying entrance fees.
• Through August 31, 2017 entrance fees will be waived
for 4th grade students and up to three accompanying
adults when student presents 4th grade pass or paper
voucher. Isle Royale National Park
Your Fees At Work
The fees you pay while visiting remain in the
park and are primarily used for trail and dock
maintenance projects. Every year as many projects
as possible are funded and completed.
How To Pay
Daily entrance fees may be paid ahead of your trip online at
pay.gov (search Isle Royale National Park.)
Isle Royale National Park
800 E. Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, MI 49931-1869
search “Isle Royale National Park”
E-mail for General Information:
Emergency use only:
(440) 546-5945 or
toll free 1-800-433-1986
Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association
(Books, Maps, DVDs and Posters)
800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, MI 49931-1869
Phone: 800-678-6925; 906-482-3627
Weather Forecasts for Isle Royale:
Weather Radio Forecasts:
* 162.400 MHz from
* 162.475 MHz from
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau:
Phone: 888-766-0325 www.keweenaw.info
Minnesota’s Grand Marais Visitor Information Center:
Phone: 888-922-5000 www.visitcookcounty.com
Michigan Department of Natural Resources:
Fishing License Purchase
A Light for the Ages
There are few places that more Royale archipelago, Rock of Ages
completely define solitude Lighthouse has stood watch, silently
than Rock of Ages Lighthouse. guarding the rocky shores of Isle
Perched atop a knife-edged reef Royale for more than a century.
on the western brink of the Isle Standing ten stories tall with a 2nd
order Fresnel lens, Rock of Ages
Lighthouse is just as striking a sight
today as when it was built in 1908.
One of the most powerful lights
on the Great Lakes, with a range of
twenty-five miles, the light serves
as an important signpost for ships
crossing Lake Superior, and marks
the dangerous Rock of Ages Reef.
Since 1979 the Rock of Ages
Lighthouse has been left to the
wind, waves, and ice without a
keeper to maintain it. The Rock
of Ages Lighthouse Preservation
Society has partnered with Isle
Royale National Park to pick up
where the last lighthouse keeper
left off. Over the next few years,
the Rock of Ages Lighthouse will
undergo restoration with the help
of dedicated volunteers, preserving
the history of this amazing historic
Rock of Ages Lighthouse is a
welcome sight to all who journey to
Isle Royale, not just because they
have almost arrived, but because
it means that the rest of the world
has been left behind. Rock of Ages
Lighthouse has a way of protecting
all those who pass by from the
ever-changing craziness that is
our modern-day reality. Like Isle
Royale, Rock of Ages is a world
set apart. Those fortunate enough
to set foot on the Rock know the
overwhelming power of just being
there, surrounded by the vast waters
of Lake Superior and beauty of Isle
Nothing is easy about working at
the lighthouse. You must carry
heavy supplies up the many spiral
stairs and work twelve-hour days.
Often you wait patiently on shore
until the weather clears to make the
half-hour trip in your small boat
that must then be tied up to an old
crumbling dock on the open waters
of Lake Superior. Despite these
obstacles, working on the Rock is
an extraordinary experience for
The true value in a restored Rock
of Ages Lighthouse will not just be
in the beauty of the place, but in the
ability to experience it, to feel what
it is like to live the life of an offshore
lighthouse keeper. With the help
of all those who love Isle Royale,
Rock of Ages could become a living
lighthouse once again.
Learn how to get involved at:
Fishing for Answers about
Isle Royale’s Lake Trout
The Lake Trout, a keystone species
that influences the entire Lake
Superior food web, is an important
icon of Isle Royale National Park. In
fact, lake trout and the commercial
fishery developed around this
species are a primary reason for post-
European settlement of the island.
A great diversity of lake trout once
inhabited the Great Lakes. The
accounts of 17th century Jesuit
missionaries and early commercial
fishers described lake trout
with a wide assortment of body
shapes, colors and other physical
adaptations. Historically, Isle
Royale lake trout exhibited much
of that diversity, with at least twelve
distinct forms described around
the island. Names like smoky,
redfin, paper belly, and the Rock
of Ages Trout describe the physical
characteristics or home territory of
these distinctive lake trout.
Divergence into many forms, each
using a certain habitat or feeding
on specific prey, is not uncommon
for lake trout in deep, cold lakes
throughout their native range.
Unfortunately, lake trout diversity
has been reduced dramatically in
the Great Lakes by sea lamprey
predation, overfishing, stocking
of hatchery fish, and the invasion
of other non-native species. Lake
Superior, especially the waters near
Isle Royale, still holds the most
abundant and diverse remnants of
that historical diversity.
Recent studies have begun to
better describe the life history of
four forms of lake trout within
the waters around Isle Royale.
Biologists and fishers who spend
time here immediately recognize
there are likely more than four
types of lake trout swimming
around the archipelago. Lake trout
usually return to the same areas
to spawn each year, so locally
adapted populations may emerge
over time. The incredible variety
of rocky habitats and unique depth
contours found around the island
provide greater opportunity for this
potential adaptation. The National
Park Service and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service are collaborating
on a study of lake trout near their
historical spawning grounds to fully
describe and better understand the
level of diversity around Isle Royale.
During the last several autumns,
scientists sampled over twenty
spawning reefs around Isle Royale.
Concurrently, the National Park
Service has mapped the lake bottom
near these historical spawning
reefs with sonar, in the hope that
these habitat characteristics can be
related back to the unique lake trout
populations. Ideally this project will
eventually sample the majority of
spawning reefs around Isle Royale.
The information collected during
this study will help resource
managers to better conserve
and protect this iconic species
in Isle Royale National Park for
generations to come.
Michael J. Seider
VISITING ISLE ROYALE: The BASICS
Isle Royale National Park is a remote wilderness area and visits
to the island require thoughtful planning and preparation.
Expect mosquitoes and black flies to peak in
June or July. During wet summers, mosquito
populations can continue well into August. Bring insect
repellent, netting, or other skin barriers.
Dry summers often result in an abundance of wasps.
Bring an epinephrine kit if you or a member of your
party is allergic to bee stings.
Potable water is only available in Rock Harbor and Windigo.
Wheeled vehicles (except for non-motorized
wheelchairs) or other mechanical forms of
transportation are not allowed outside developed areas
at Rock Harbor and Windigo. This includes
bicycles and portaging devices.
Dogs, cats, and other mammals are not allowed.
This includes pets on boats within the park boundaries,
which extend 4.5 miles into Lake Superior from
the outermost land areas of the park. Visitors
bringing pets to Isle Royale will be required to leave
immediately. Pets disturb wildlife and can transmit
diseases, particularly to wolves. Special conditions
apply to service dogs.
For details visit www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvisit/service-dogs.htm
All vessels arriving from Canada (U.S. or Canadian) must clear U.S. Customs at the Windigo or Rock Harbor Visitor Center during regular business hours. A valid passport, U.S. Passport card, enhanced driver’s license, or Trusted Traveler Program card is required. Visitors from Canada can be cleared for Isle Royale only. For additional information visit www.cbp.gov.
Commercial Groups and Special Use Permits
For-profit groups providing goods, activities, or service to the general public within the park must obtain a Commercial Use Authorization – CUA
($ fee.) These groups include camps, outfitters, tour groups, or any other operation that provides compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit to an individual, organization, or corporation for the authorized use. Commercial filming and still photography, and special events (e.g. weddings) require a Special Use Permit. Fee depends on type of activity and number of people. For application forms visit: www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvisit/special-permitfees.htm
Caution – Wilderness Ahead!
The island’s wilderness and Lake Superior present challenges and potential hazards to the inexperienced or ill-prepared. Bring a good first aid kit, a sufficient supply of any needed medications, and clothing appropriate for the time of year and your planned activities.
Basic emergency services are available on the island, but contacting rangers for assistance can be difficult. Cell phone service is not reliable; do not depend on it for your trip. Emergency response and evacuation may take time, requiring you to rely on your own skills and equipment. Most private boaters on Lake Superior have radios and may be able to contact park rangers in an emergency.
To contact the park in an emergency: 800-433-1986
Via satellite phone or from Canada: 440-546-5945
Watch the Weather
Weather and lake conditions can deteriorate quickly and unexpectedly. Fog and waves can quickly create dangerous conditions for boaters and paddlers. Hypothermia can occur any time of the year, especially near Lake Superior, where water and air temperatures are cool to cold year-round. The best defense is to stay warm and dry. Dress in layers and put raingear on before you get wet. Mild symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, apathy, and coordination loss. If someone in your party shows these signs, stop and get the person warm and dry. Add more layers, climb in a sleeping bag, and sip warm liquids.
On the Trail
Watch Your Step! The footing is often uneven. Roots and rocks can trip up the unwary hiker. Rain makes trails muddy and slick. When wet, roots, rocks and boardwalks are extremely slippery.
Stay on the Path: As you travel, you may encounter downed trees or large
puddles. To lessen your impact go over, under, or through these obstructions.
Skirting obstructions widens or creates new trails and makes it harder for future visitors to tell where the trail is, further impacting habitat along trails.
Plan Conservatively: Many people underestimate hiking travel times and overestimate their abilities. Plan shorter, realistic travel days; don’t turn your wilderness trek into a forced march.
Be Kind to Your Feet: Wear sturdy, well-broken in boots. Address hot spots and small blisters right away, before they become real problems. Give your feet spa treatment after hiking by soaking them in a lake and wearing comfy shoes in camp.
Potable water is only available in Rock Harbor and Windigo. All surface lake and stream water should be considered contaminated with pathogens. Drinking contaminated water can make you very sick. Boil water at a rolling boil for at least one minute, or pass through a 0.4 micron or finer filter. By itself, chemical treatment is not an effective method of water purification. SteriPENs and other UV purifiers have not been manufacturer-tested for a common Isle Royale parasite and cannot be considered effective.
Drink plenty of water. When dehydrated, you tire more quickly, do not think clearly, and are more prone to fall. Dehydration is a factor in most medical problems experienced in the park. Water can be scarce between campgrounds, especially along ridges. Carry a minimum of two quarts of water per person; drink and refill whenever near water sources. In hot weather, start hiking early, travel at a slower pace, and rest in shady spots. Dehydration also occurs in cold weather as most people do not feel thirsty and tend to drink less. Watch for mild signs of dehydration such as thirst, fatigue, headache and dizziness. Signs of severe dehydration include nausea, reduced or no sweating, and long stretches without urinating.
Toxic Water Alert
In recent years, blue-green algae blooms have occurred in several inland lakes. Blue-green algae can be toxic and filtering does not remove toxins from the water. Avoid swimming, fishing or filtering water if it has a cloudy-blue cast or looks like “pea soup.” If algae blooms occur, advisories will be posted at park visitor centers. For more information visit:
THINGS TO DO
Over a hundred miles of trail wind through forests and hug the shoreline, climb steeply to ridgetop views, and descend into wetland sanctuaries. Ninety-nine percent of the park’s land base is federally designated wilderness that beckons you to explore.
36 campgrounds are scattered throughout the park. Campsites are accessible only by foot or watercraft. All campgrounds have tent sites, outhouses, and are sited near a water source. Many of the campgrounds located on the Lake Superior shoreline offer docks, shelters, and picnic tables.
Camping Permits are required for all overnight stays at campgrounds, cross-country sites, docks, or at anchor, regardless of group size or method of travel.
Group Camping (parties of 7 or more)
Advance reservations are required for any group or organization bringing seven or more people to the island. This includes families and friends traveling and camping together.
Small-party Camping (parties of 6 or fewer)
All small-party campsites contain either tent sites or a three-sided shelter. Shelters and tent sites for individual small parties are available first-come, first-served. Expect crowded conditions at campsites from late July through August. When sites are full, campers should double up and share empty tent pad space.
Shelters: Shelters may not be reserved and may not be used solely for cooking or the storage of gear. To minimize damage to surrounding vegetation, tents and hammocks may not be erected outside shelters; tents may be used inside shelters. Using nails, staples, tape, and/or tacks to attach items to shelters is prohibited.
Hammocks: In campgrounds, hammocks may only be used within the existing impacted area of designated campsites – not in the surrounding trees or vegetation. Hammocks may not be erected at shelter sites or within shelters. Appropriate hammock locations may not be available; plan on bringing a tent. Choose trees with care; many cannot support a hammock. Hammock use must not damage trees
Off-trail Camping: Campers must stay in established campsites unless off-trail (crosscountry) arrangements are made when permitting. Island terrain and vegetation make off-trail hiking and camping difficult.
With numerous lakes, bays, and islands, the park provides many miles of waterways for the experienced canoeist and kayaker.
Route Considerations: Lake Superior is well-known for its cold temperatures, fog, and sudden squalls that can generate large waves. Small, open vessels are encouraged to use the numerous miles of inland lake waterways instead.
Requirements: Every canoeist and kayaker must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Wear it; your life may depend on it.
Weather: Canoeists and kayakers should consult the marine forecast at visitor centers before embarking. Be prepared to adjust your schedule to the weather. A portable marine radio is recommended for visitors on overnight trips. Inland Lake Canoe Routes and Portages are on the northeast half of the island.Portages are marked with a letter “P” on a post (see page .)
Boat Rentals are available at Windigo and Rock Harbor. Contact the Rock Harbor Lodge for more information (see page .)
Hundreds of islands and surrounding Lake Superior waters are within the boundaries of the park. Numerous docks and countless anchorages provide access for power boats and sailboats.
Plan Ahead: All boaters should make themselves familiar with information in the Isle Royale Boating Guide. Visit
Lake Superior offers challenging and often dangerous weather in the form of dense fog, high winds, waves, and thunderstorms. Combine rocky reefs and limited safe harbors with Isle Royale’s remoteness, and it pays for you, your crew, and your boat to be shipshape.
Day Use: Boaters visiting the park or park waters for the day are required to pay entrance fees (see page ) and are encouraged to fill out a day permit at Windigo, Rock Harbor or Houghton.
Overnight Stays: All boaters staying overnight at anchor, at docks, or in campgrounds must obtain a camping permit at Houghton, Rock Harbor, or Windigo. Boaters are encouraged to permit ahead of their trip.
Restricted Water Activities: Water skiing and personal watercraft including vessels commonly referred to as jet skis, waverunners, sea-doos, wet bikes, or surf jets are prohibited.
All of the park’s inland lakes are located within designated wilderness, and may only be explored by paddling. Vessels with motors (even if not in use) are prohibited on inland lakes and streams.
Quiet/No Wake Zones: These zones promote a quality visitor experience by providing relatively tranquil, natural marine surroundings. Within the zone, vessels must not exceed mph or create a wake in excess of surrounding seas.
On-Board Generators: The operation or use of permanently installed (by the boat manufacturer) on-board vessel generators is limited to specific times and locations.
Fuel: Vessels carrying spare fuel in portable containers must use legally approved containers. Fuel may not be stored on docks.
Gasoline is sold at Windigo; gasoline and diesel fuel are sold at Rock Harbor when concession services are open. Diesel fuel may be available at Windigo. Early- and late-season service or fuel may be obtained at Windigo and Mott Island if personnel are available.
Experienced divers can explore the most intact collection of shipwrecks in the National Park Service. Visit www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvisit/scuba-diving.htm for
information on diving in the park.
Dive Permits are required. Each diver must register at a park visitor center beforediving.
Fish Consumption Advisory
Contaminants in the park ecosystem remind us that although Isle Royale is remote, it is part of a global system. Research in six inland lakes (Sargent, Siskiwit, Eva, Shesheeb,Wagejo, and Angleworm) shows fish with mercury levels exceeding the State of Michigan fish consumption advisories. Visit www.michgan.gov/eatsafefish for details on advisories.
With its multitude of reefs and bays on Lake Superior and its numerous interior lakes and streams, Isle Royale provides varied opportunities for recreational fishing. See printed Greenstone for fishing regulations for Lake Superior waters and inland lakes.
PROTECTING YOUR PARK
Please do your part to preserve and protect the park’s
wilderness character for use and enjoyment by present and
Leave What You Find
Objects of beauty or interest such as antlers, plants, driftwood, cultural
or archeological resources, rocks and minerals including those found
in Lake Superior, must be left where they are. Removing, possessing,
or disturbing park resources is prohibited. Fishing and picking small
quantities of berries and mushrooms for personal consumption are
Most visitors come to Isle Royale to hear the sounds of nature in a wild
setting. Soundscapes, or sound environments, are an important feature
of the park. Be aware of the noise that you make so others may enjoy the
peace and solitude of the park.
Quiet Hours are between : pm and : am eastern time. If people
in adjacent campsites can hear your activities, you are being too loud.
Operation of electronic and motorized devices such as stereos,
televisions, radios tuned to commercial stations, and portable generators
are not permitted except in the developed areas of Rock Harbor and
Windigo, and in Lake Superior waters outside of designated quiet/no
Keep the Island Clean
Trash: All trash and leftover food (including peels, cores, and nutshells)
must be packed out. Garbage left on the island must be hauled to the
mainland which is time-consuming and expensive. Trash and food scraps
must not be burned, buried, or placed in outhouses. Be thoughtful about
micro-litter (small pieces of waste, wrapper corners). A zip lock bag for
trash in a shirt pocket is a great way to prevent inadvertent littering.
Human Waste Disposal: Never defecate within 100 feet (50 steps) of lakes, streams, trails, or campsites. In areas without outhouses,
dig a cathole 6 to 8 inches deep; after use, cover with soil. Urinate on
durable surfaces, like rocks or bare soil, away from campsites and water
Cookware Cleaning: Use hot water and a little elbow grease. Soap is
unnecessary for most dishwashing; even biodegradable soaps take a
long time to degrade. Use these products sparingly and keep at least 100
feet from water sources and campsites. Use a small strainer or screen to
remove food bits from the water and pack them out with your trash. The
remaining water should be broadcast over a wide area away from water
sources and campsites.
Bathing: Use soap sparingly, if necessary. Get wet, then move at least 100 feet away from all water sources and campsites to lather and rinse.
Minimize Use of Fires
Campfires are permitted at only a handful of campgrounds. A
backpacking stove is highly recommended. Where campfires are allowed,
a metal fire ring or grate is provided; never build your own ring.
Use Dead and Down Wood no bigger around than your wrist. Do not
break branches or strip bark from standing trees, live or dead. Trash has noplace in a backcountry fire. Do not import firewood; insects and pathogens from an infected wood source could devastate Isle Royale’s forests.
Be Safe With Fire: Keep your fire small and burn down to ash; be sure
the fire is completely out before leaving it.
Invader Alert: Invasive species are considered to be one of the top threats to the ecological integrity of national parks. You are responsible for taking time before and during your trip to prevent the transport of invasives to and around Isle Royale.
Before traveling to Isle Royale
Campers: Clean your tent, backpack, camping gear, clothing, and boots.
Anglers: Clean fishing gear and change line spools
Boaters, Canoeists and Kayakers: Vessel owners are legally responsible for Aquatic Invasive Species decontamination prior to entering park waters (extending 4.5 miles from Isle Royale and the outer islands). This applies to all vessels (power and sailboats, canoes, kayaks, etc.), regardless of size or configuration.
• Inspect for and remove zebra mussels and other aquatic invasives attached to your trim tabs, swim platform, motor mounts, hull and equipment.
• For smaller boats: Wash your boat, including bilge and equipment with either: a) hot (greater than degrees F) water, b) high pressure water, c) disinfectant OR clean and dry your boat and equipment in the sun for five days.
• Remove weeds, algae, and other plant and animal materials from your boat. Drain live wells and bilge on land.
Divers: Wash all dive gear in warm chlorinated tap water. Disinfect your wetsuit with a special-purpose shampoo. Dry all dive gear and wetsuits for seven days before entering park waters.
• Water Filtering: If you filter water from Lake Superior, change your filter or backflush several times with filtered water before using your water filter inland.
Anglers: When moving from Lake Superior to inland waters, clean gear and change line spools.
Canoes, Kayaks, and Other Non-motorized Vessels: Wipe down your boat and associated gear before moving from Lake Superior to inland waters.
The regulations of Isle Royale National Park are intended to protect park resources and appropriate visitor experiences. Regulations place strong emphasis on preserving wilderness character and values. Visitors are responsible for adhering to park regulations.
For detailed information on park regulations visit www.nps.gov/isro/learn/management/lawsandpolicies.htm
Weapons, Traps, & Nets: The use or possession of weapons, traps, and nets is prohibited. Weapons include any implements designed to discharge a projectile or missile in the air or water and include slingshots, blowguns, and bows and arrows. Fireworks are prohibited.
Exception: Possession of firearms within the park is regulated by Michigan law. The discharge of firearms within park boundaries is prohibited. Visit www.nps.gov/isro/learn/management/lawsandpolicies.htm
Leave No Trace
Adventure, simple living, and solitude are important components of an Isle Royale visit. In order to ensure these kinds of experiences, park visitors should be familiar with skills and habits that foster an ethic of Leave No Trace. For guidance on how to Leave No Trace during your park stay, visit www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvisit/upload/LNT%Booklet.pdf
Isle Royale is home to an abundance of animals, but many common species from the surrounding mainland are missing. The island’s isolation has created a simple, yet spectacular ecosystem.
Show Respect. Observe, photograph, and enjoy park wildlife from a safe and respectful distance. If an animal changes its behavior, you are too close. It is illegal to feed, touch, tease, or intentionally disturb wildlife, their homes, nests, or activities.
Loons are especially susceptible to disturbance, and may abandon their shoreline nests when approached too closely. From mid-May through July (loon nesting season) visitors must stay at least feet away from small islands and from nests along the shore. Additional areas may be closed due to loon nesting; check at visitor centers for current closures.
Moose are large and potentially dangerous animals. Always give them wide berth. If you encounter a moose, step behind a rock or a tree and wait for the moose to move on. Throughout the spring and summer, female moose are rearing young and are very protective. Never get between a cow and her calf. In fall, bull moose are in rut and can be aggressive.
Keep Wildlife Wild. Discourage animals from approaching humans. Practice proper food storage and keep a clean camp. To protect your food make sure it is sealed in scent-proof containers and secured. Hard-sided containers are preferred, but using doubled zip lock bags for your food and scented items is also appropriate. Animals will steal unattended food and other items.
Visitor Centers and Programs
See printed Greenstone for complete NPS activities and programs in the park.
Advance reservations are required for any group or
Organization bringing seven or more people to the island.
This includes families and friends traveling and camping
If your group exceeds ten people you must split into two
parties, each independent and traveling on completely
Organizations may not have more than twenty people camping
on the island at any one time and are limited to eighty people a
Group leaders should carry medical information for each group
member including known allergies, medical conditions, and
medications currently taken.
How to Make A Group Camping Reservation
All group camping reservations must be made in advance.
See the printed Greenstone for complete instructions and regulations
on Group Camping
Lake Superior’s cold, deep waters both isolate and protect
Isle Royale from outside influences. But despite the island’s
geographic separation, evidence has shown that it is not
unaffected by the outside world.
As our planet becomes more interconnected, can
Isle Royale remain isolated from forces like human-driven
climate change? How might theseisland denizens be affected?
Wolves arrived on Isle Royale by walking across
an ice bridge that connected the island to the mainland.
However, with rising global temperatures, the
likelihood of future ice bridges forming is reduced. This
limits the arrival of other wolves who could add
diversity to the gene pool.
The Johns Hotel was opened in 1892 on what is
now Barnum Island. In 2011, a strong storm blew
down numerous trees across the island. Though
the hotel was spared, the increasing likelihood
of more extreme weather due to climate change
could affect this and other historic structures.
Isle Royale National Park contains more than
a hundred loon territories, supporting the only
known population that still breeds in Great Lakes
waters. Changing water levels could affect nesting
success, and warming temperatures could affect
water visibility and ecosystem structure of the
lakes they inhabit.
The park’s shipwrecks are valued for their
remarkable preservation, but are vulnerable to
invasive zebra mussels, which attach to these
structures. Mussels reproduce exponentially,
but have thus far been held at bay by cold
water temperatures. Warmer waters could mean
a higher population, which would obscure
details on America and other historic shipwrecks.
Stranded when the last glacier retreated from
Isle Royale, this arctic plant is able to thrive
considerably south of its normal range, residing
Along cool Lake Superior shorelines in the park.
This species is threatened in Michigan. Warmer
temperatures could cause Pale Paintbrush to
Though summer provides a plentiful buffet, it
brings temperatures that drive this cold-loving
creature into the water. A dip in the lake might
provide momentary relief for individual moose,
but the same cannot be said for the species as
a whole. Hotter summers mean greater stress
for Isle Royale’s moose population, already at
the southern edge of their habitat range.
Balsam Fir is plentiful on Isle Royale now, but
as a cold weather species, it is vulnerable to
warming climates. Since it is the primary winter
Food for moose, the loss or reduction of this
species could affect the island ecosystem.
Female winter ticks take a blood meal from
moose each spring before laying eggs. In
years when ticks are abundant, there can be ticks
on a single moose. Moose can lose a lot of blood,
and itching can lead to hair loss and hypothermia.
Warmer springs are linked to reproductive
success for winter ticks.
The historic fish house and dock at the Edisen
fishery sit on the waters of Rock Harbor. This
placement makes the structures reliant on the lake.
Changing water levels could cause the structures
to become damaged or inaccessible.
As a cold water fish, cisco cannot withstand
water temperatures warmer than °F. In the
mid-nineties, scientists found a handful of cisco in
Four inland lakes, but another study in failed to
locate any cisco in two of the four lakes. This
could be the first example of localized extinction
as a direct result of climate change.
Planning for the Future
Isle Royale National Park continues to plan for
the future. Three plans are currently in progress:
Cultural Resources Management Plan, Wilderness
Stewardship Plan, and Wolf Management Plan.
Drafts of these plans and associated environmental
Impact statements will be available online for review
and comment. Public comments are a critical part
of the planning process, and we look forward to
working with you and appreciate your continued
Interest in the future of Isle Royale National Park.
Newsletters, participation opportunities, and other
information related to these plans can be found at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ISRO.
ROCK HARBOR LODGE
Provides drop-off and pick-up services
between Rock Harbor and McCargoe Cove
on the north shore and Rock Harbor and
Malone Bay on the south shore. Available
when concession services are open . For rates,
schedules and further information visit www.
RockHarborLodge.com For contact information
refer to page 2.
• No alcohol consumption on passenger ferries.
• Pets and wheeled devices are not allowed
• Wheelchairs are allowed.
• Stove fuel can be carried in approved containers
on ferries, but not on the seaplane.
• Lake Superior weather
is cool throughout the year; for comfort bring
a warm jacket.
Join the Isle Royale & Keweenaw
Parks Association and Support Isle
Royale National Park Programs
The Isle Royale & Keweenaw Parks Association, in
partnership with the National Park Service, promotes the
public’s understanding and appreciation of Isle Royale
National Park and Keweenaw National Historical Park
through education and research.
IRKPA helps educate people about these special places
and raises funds through memberships, sales, and
grants that are reinvested in the parks to support
interpretive programs and research.
We publish and sell books and other products relevant
to our parks, print park newspapers and brochures,
conduct field trips and workshops, and provide funding
for historic preservation projects and public outreach
Every year the Isle Royale & Keweenaw Parks Association
contributes approximately $, in cash and in-kind aid
to Isle Royale National Park.
YOU CAN HELP....
You can support the work of the Isle Royale & Keweenaw Parks
Association and our partner parks by becoming a contributing
member of our organization. Your tax-deductible contribution
will help us share the stories of Isle Royale National Park and
Keweenaw National Historical Park with people of all ages,
around the world.