Isle Royale National Park

The UP Hidden Gem Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park sits far off in the blue waters of Lake Superior and seldom can be seen from the mainland. But on those crystal clear days when all atmospheric conditions are perfect, the Isle can be seen from many different places on the northern hills of Keweenaw, Houghton, and Ontonagon Counties.  

The long stretch of land that sits 50 or more miles out from the shoreline lies as a hidden jewel.  On these crystal clear days, you can see the Greenstone Ridge which forms the backbone of Isle Royale. Generally, the Isle lies hidden as a Shangri-La, always mysterious,  yet always beckoning to the observer to be visited.

Isle Royale Experience

But the real magic of the Isle comes when the observer actually visits.  The preserved scenic beauty works in every visitor. Something happens within that cannot be shaken.  The truth is indelibly marked within the senses of the memory.  The smell of absolute freshness.  The silent or, at times, roaring power of Lake Superior on all sides awes the imagination.  The call of the loon lingers long after in the quietness of the night.  The gentleness of orchids in their fragile existence on the brink of cold and mists and destruction reminds a soul of what can be accomplished within one’s own spirit in the world in which we live.  

The sweet taste of unending fields of thimbleberries makes each step of the long hike a pleasure.  The islets, the inner lakes, the trails, the quietness at night in lonely campgrounds far from civilization – as if time has stopped transports the visitor back into another time.  Challenges abound with every mile traveled. Deep appreciation forms for the rigors of our early forefathers who braved themselves into such a wildland.

Isle Royale Canoeing and Kayaking

This Isle is perfect for boaters of all types.  Kayaks and canoes are a wonderful way to explore the protected waters of the northeast section of the Isle.  There are so many different waterways on the Isle from lakes and bays, to islands and inlets. However, you choose to paddle the park the dangers of Lake Superior are real and safety should always be practiced.

It is recommended to have a canoe at least 15′ long, and only use sea kayaks between 15’8″ and 19′ for all the open waters. There are also many inland lakes that have the ability to Portage. The use of wheeled portage devices on the Isle is prohibited so plan and prepare wisely.

Trips onto Lake Superior need to be carefully planned as the waters are very unpredictable and can be very dangerous.  Only the most experienced canoers and kayakers ought to consider such trips. Its also a very good idea to carry a portable weather radio with you at all times to check what the weather is doing as it can change rapidly.

Rock Harbor itself stretches miles and miles along the southern portion of the Isle and provides great protection from the waters of Lake Superior.  The portages between lakes are possible but ought to be attempted only by those in very good condition as the trails are often slippery and steep.

‍A favorite paddle is from Moskey Bay to Rock Harbor. This trip offers beautiful sites the entire way and plenty of campsites to stop at along the way. The majority of the trip is protected from Lake Superior by several islands that shelter from the rougher waters. However, there are open channels that cause turbulent waters to be careful of. The paddle is best in July and August as the water is calmer than in later months. This trip offers plenty to explore such as Edisen Fishery, Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Rabbit Island, access to park headquarters on Mott Island, and many smaller wilderness-style islands.

Isle Royale Fishing

While the inland lakes may provide good fishing, the truth is that you will need a boat to access the fishing spots as the growth along the lakes is very thick and limits access.  While the fishing along Lake Superior has better access, there are only several places where the deep waters can be accessed.  Again boats are needed.  If you can portage a boat into the inland lakes, you will most likely think you are in a fishing paradise.