Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royal National Park is located in the state of Michigan in the United States. The park contains 571,790 acres of land and water. Its mains feature is Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior that stretches over forty-five miles. The park also contains four hundred smaller islands and the water that connects them. The park was established in 1940, designated as a Wilderness Area in 1976, and designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980.

Isle Royal once hosted a large amount of miners during prehistoric times, and carbon dating has produced evidence of copper tools that date back to 5,700 years ago. The island itself shows significant amounts of damage from the mining, with some scars reaching twenty feet deep. Despite this, Michigan’s first state geologist, Douglass Houghton, published a paper about the copper ore on the island that brought an influx of modern miners into the area in the 1840’s. The miners used the trenches and other evidence of early mining to find areas with abundant ore. The island was also home to a resort community that was supported by the fishing industry. There were many lighthouses in the area that helped ships navigate through the dangerous waters including Isle Royale Lighthouse, Rock of Ages, and Passage Island.  Because the land underneath the water that varies in elevation and the dangerous winds in the area, many shipwrecks occurred and these are still well preserved due to the cold, relatively stable conditions of the water.

Isle Royal National Park is well known for its populations of moose and wolves. These populations are studied for their predator-prey relationships in a unique, close atmosphere. The area is not inhabited by other species that are native to Michigan, like bears. The population of wolves numbers about twenty-five individuals, while the moose population numbers around one thousand. In some years, these numbers can vary greatly and in extremely cold years, animals can travel across the ice to and from the Canadian mainland.

Isle Royal National Park receives about 20,000 visitors each year and can be accessed by floatplane or by ferry during the summer season. Ferries and floatplanes leave from many areas including Grand Portage, Minnesota and Copper Harbor located in Michigan. Private boats can also be used to enter the park. The park offers many activities including kayaking, canoeing, and hiking. The largest trail in the park, known as Greenstone Ridge Trail, is forty miles long at extends over the entirety of Isle Royale. The island holds two well-developed areas that offer camping, amenities, a restaurant, stores, lodge, and boat docks. Isle Royal National Park is closed during the winter months due to harsh conditions.

Image Caption: Isle Royale National Park. Credit: US government/Wikipedia