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Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale National Park [Wildlife Viewing Area] - National Park Service, Isle Royale National  Park, Houghton, Phone: (906) 482-0984. Ferry services operate from Houghton, Copper Harbor, and from Grand Portage, Minnesota. Seaplane service is also available in Houghton. Wheeled vehicles are not permitted on the island. However, you may transport a motorboat or canoe to the island on the National Park Service ferry. Isle Royale is a pristine island wilderness area. Its rocky cliffs and jagged coastline stand in stark contrast to the flat blue surface of Lake Superior. The island is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide. It is an archipelago, with the main island surrounded by over 400 smaller islands. The vegetation is primarily forested and its forests are in transition. The aspen and white birch that followed forest fires caused by early settlers are rapidly declining due to lack of fire. Northern boreal forests of balsam fir, white spruce, and white birch occur near Lake Superior and along some interior lakes and streams where it is moist and cool. On warmer and higher interior ridges, sugar maple and yellow birch predominate. This diversity is further enhanced by dozens of inland lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands. Nearly all of the island is officially designated as wilderness and is probably one of the most intact ecosystems in Michigan due to its isolation and lack of human influence. Wheeled vehicles are not permitted on the island, and low impact, leave-no-trace camping is required, making this site a backpacker’s dream. It contains more than 160 miles of hiking trails and nearly 40 primitive campgrounds. Numerous private ferry and seaplane services are available to transport you and your gear to the island. A modern resort, the Rock Harbor Lodge, is open the first week in June into the first week in September. Isle Royale is not the kind of site where you can just "drop in." You have to make a serious commitment of time and resources to visit the island. Getting there requires a six-hour ferry ride from Houghton. Call ahead for details and reservations, and make your plans thoughtfully. Established by Congress in 1931, this national park was designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System by Congress in 1976, and as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1981. A visit to this site is a special experience that will remain with you forever. The beauty of this pristine wilderness—trees, wildflowers, water, and wildlife—and the mystique of experiencing this wildness on a remote island, is difficult to describe. Isle Royale offers visitors a chance to completely immerse themselves in a unique island ecosystem.  Whether you tour Isle Royale on foot or by boat, wildlife viewing opportunities are abundant. For most visitors, moose and wolves are at the top of their wildlife viewing wish list. Moose are seen fairly commonly, and often experienced at close range. Hike slowly and quietly almost anywhere on the island for an opportunity to see one of these largest members of the deer family. Moose came to Isle Royale in the early 1900s, probably swimming from the Canadian mainland. Because they had no natural predators on the island at that time, the moose population grew rapidly until there was not enough food to go around. With nothing left to eat, the moose population crashed due to starvation. Over time, the plants that had sustained the moose slowly began to grow back. As the few remaining moose found more and more food, they again began to reproduce rapidly, and the cycle started all over again. n the winter of 1948-49 a pack of eastern timber wolves crossed the ice of Lake Superior to Isle Royale. Wolves are natural predators of moose, but the relationship between these two species is very complex. The interactions among wolves, moose, and the island’s vegetation have been the subject of pioneering wildlife research for over 45 years; research that continues today. In the late winter of 2002, researchers estimated the moose population to be 1,100 animals. The wolves, in three packs, totaled seventeen animals. The stealthy and secretive wolves are rarely seen, but a few lucky wildlife watchers catch glimpses of them occasionally. In addition to moose, opportunities for viewing common loons, beaver, and red foxes are excellent. Beaver activity may be seen anytime along the hiking trails and streams. The beavers themselves are mostly nocturnal, but they may be seen during the early and the last light of day. Before making the trip to Isle Royale, visitors should do some advance reading on the wildlife and other natural resources of this special place. It will make the trip much more interesting and fulfilling, and much safer. Isle Royale offers a peaceful, picturesque, wilderness experience. Visitation is limited to keep it that way. Yellowstone National Park has more visitors some days than Isle Royale has all year. About 20,000 visitors come to the island annually. Most of the people you encounter here—whether on the ferry, on the trail, or in the only restaurant at Rock Harbor—are seeking that same wilderness experience

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Rock Harbor Light, Isle Royale National Park, Isle Royale, MI 49921, Phone: (906) 482-0984. Established in 1855 and the tower was constructed in 1855, this light is made of brick / stone and has a white with black lantern. It was deactivated in 1879. Self guided tours and the tower is open daily during the summer months. Call (906) 487-7153 for hours.

Siskiwit Falls, on Isle Royale, at the outlet to Siskiwit Lake.

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Windigo Isle Royale National Park, PO Box 605, Houghton, MI 49931, Phone: (906) 337-4993


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