Located in Lake Superior, the Isle Royale NP is a unique location that offers a glimpse into the untouched wilderness that was America's past. The park covers 850 square miles. Not all of this land is above water. The park encompasses four and a half miles of land that is under the waters of the lake. Of the landmass, 99% is designated as federally protected wilderness. This allows scientists to study the course nature takes when it is untouched by humans. The island itself is forty-five miles long and nine miles wide at its widest point.
When visiting the park do not be surprised if you see the native moose. Also present in Isle Royale NP is a huge wolf population, although it is rare for these elusive creatures to be seen. The wolves migrated to the island in the 1940s by crossing an ice bridge. The moose are the main prey for the wolves. Because of the unique isolation of the Isle Royale, there are very few other animal species present on the island. These two animal populations are studied year round by scientists in one of the longest on-going animal research studies in the world. It is a unique location because it is the only isolated place where neither the moose nor the wolf can be hunted. Scientists have been studying the interactions of the two species since 1958.
While the wilderness is used primarily for scientific study, it is open to visitors from April 16 to October 31. There are over 165 miles of trails on the island. There are campgrounds located throughout the park as well. Because of its isolation, the Isle Royale NP is an ideal place for people who enjoy backpacking and camping. The Isle Royale is also a great place for fishing and boating. The Isle is also a great place to go bird-watching. You can also take a cruise and visit some of the historic lighthouses on the island. These are awesome opportunities for budding photographers!
Children who visit Isle Royale NP can experience the Junior Ranger program. This program is designed for children ages six to twelve. This program takes about two days to complete. The purpose of the program is to give children a way to learn about life on the island. Junior Rangers will work with their parents and park rangers to solve a series of questions about life on Isle Royale. Successful Junior Rangers are presented with a certificate and a badge at the conclusion of the program.
There are three visitor's centers in Isle Royale NP. On the shores of Michigan is the Houghton Visitor's Center. Here you can sign up for trips over to the Isle Royale. The center also has a variety of historical exhibits and a bookstore. On the Isle Royale there are two visitor's centers. Guided hikes and nature talks begin at each of these. You can also buy permits and pay user fees at either center. On the Northeast section of the island there is the Rock Harbor Visitor's Center, and on the Southwest section is the Windigo Visitor's Center. Both centers have a bookstore and a series of natural and cultural history exhibits.
The Isle Royale NP is one of the least-visited national parks. For people who do make the trip, however, the return rate is astonishingly high. Perhaps this is because of the sense of isolation one receives upon stepping foot on the island. The only way to get there is by boat or sea plane. Once you step foot on the island, you realize that you are completely isolate from civilization. It is, perhaps, one of the few true wilderness experiences available to the American tourist.