|Boating Guide||Canoeing and Kayaking Guide||Fishing|
Isle Royale National Park was authorized by Congress in 1931 "to conserve a prime example of North Woods Wilderness." The park was designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1976, under the Wilderness Act, and remains today as an example of primitive America. In fact, over 98% of the land in Isle Royale is designated wilderness. Further honors were bestowed in 1981, when Isle Royale was designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations, giving it global scientific and educational significance.
Wilderness is managed for preservation and solitude. We need such natural places for study, measuring the forces of natural change and dynamics, and as a place to renew the human spirit. Isle Royale has established rules and regulations governing group size, fires, sanitation, and basic conduct to help protect its varied resources as well as the quality of experience for users. Help preserve wilderness by following these guidelines.
Boaters have been coming to Isle Royale to enjoy the clean clear waters, the protected harbors and bays, the dramatic shorelines, and the excellent fishing for more than 100 years. Many Isle Royale boaters make repeat trips to the island, and some can trace their island connections back for generations. Even first-time visitors can feel keen appreciation for the resources and value of this one of a kind maritime park.
People come to Isle Royale for different reasons. Boaters, backpackers, scuba divers, lodge guests, paddlers, fishermen and sailors all seek their own experience. The challenge for the National Park Service is to provide these differing visitor groups with recreational opportunities which are compatible with the preservation of park resources and the needs of different users.
Isle Royale National Park is by law a protected area. Ninety-nine percent of the land area of the park is designated Federal wilderness. The park boundary extends 4.5 miles out into Lake Superior from the outermost land areas of the park. The designation ensures that this Lake Superior gem will remain mostly undeveloped and preserved in its natural state. Legally, wilderness designation places restrictions on the kinds of activities which can occur within the park. The National Park Service is mandated to protect not only the natural and cultural resources of Isle Royale but the sometimes less tangible wilderness character. Some activities which would be acceptable in a mainland port or campground may be inappropriate in a wilderness area.
To help you enjoy your stay, read this information, which is also available in hard copy form in the mail or at any of the park's visitor centers. Keep one in your boat's glove compartment or tackle box. Much of the information is useful anywhere on Lake Superior. If you have a question, suggestion, or need assistance, please contact a ranger; they are here to assist you and to protect park resources.
Please plan to leave dock space at the following docks to allow the 63' ferry boat Voyageur II access to load and unload passengers. The schedule is listed below. Times are approximate and are given in Eastern Daylight Time.
|Daisy Farm||Tue, Thur, Sun||9:30 am|
|Chippewa Harbor||10:15 am|
|Malone Bay||11:00 am|
|McCargoe Cove||Mon, Wed, Sat||3:15 pm|
The lodge tour boat, MV Sandy, also stops at several Rock Harbor area docks and McCargoe Cove. Dock space is reserved for the Sandy at the following docks and times.
|Passage Island||Mon, Frid||2:00 pm to 5:30 pm|
|Hidden Lake||Tue, Thu||9:30 am to noon|
|McCargoe Cove||Wed||11:00 am to 3:00 pm|
|2:30 pm to 5:00 pm |
9:30 a.m. to noon
|Raspberry Island||Tue, Fri||7:30 pm to 9:00 pm|
You may see gill nets set in the Rock Harbor area, placed by the National Park Service's fisherman at the Edisen Fishery. This demonstration fishery is established as a cultural exhibit preserving the rich history of commercial fishing at Isle Royale. Please do not damage the nets. Cut nets can continue to catch and unnecessarily kill fish. Do not troll or motor between net buoys.
The fish caught at the Edisen fishery provide valuable data used by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to monitor fish populations. If you would like to know more about Isle Royale commercial fishing or the fish monitoring program, weekly fishery tours are given during the summer months.
Do You Know These Flags?
Diver Down Flag
This flag, a white bar through a red rectangle, may be flown from a vessel or a float and signifies that divers are below and caution is required. Vessels must maintain a now wake speed within 200' of a diver down flag. Establish and maintain communications with dive boats displaying a flag before approaching.
This flag is a rectangle with the mast side white and the other side blue with a notch cut from it. Vessel has personnel and/or equipment in water and is unable to maneuver. Do not approach; maintain a safe distance of at least 200 feet around vessel. Watch for divers. (Flag colors are blue and white.)
NOTE: Shipwreck mooring buoys are for divers' use only.
Divers: A permit is required before diving. Check at the Rock Harbor or Windigo Ranger Station. You must fly the Diver Down or Alpha flag while diving. All wrecks and artifacts are protected by Federal law. Do not remove anything. The shipwreck America is closed for diving between 12 noon and 2 pm EDT. Portable compressors may only be operated at public docks located at Windigo, Rock Harbor and Malone Bay and only at specified times. Please consult the park's Scuba Diving brochure for additional information.
VHF Telephone Calls
There are no public telephones within Isle Royale National Park. VHF Radio/Telephone calls can be made via marine radio on Channels 87 (Copper Harbor, MI) and 85 or 26 (Thunder Bay, Ontario). All calls must be charged to a credit card.
Procedure: On Channel 87, key hand microphone for 20 seconds. You will hear an operator answer. For Channels 85 or 26, hail "Thunder Bay Coast Guard" and inform them that you wish to make a marine telephone call.
All vessels (U.S. or Canadian) arriving from Canada must clear U.S. Customs. Customs service is only available at Rock Harbor and Windigo Ranger Stations.
Useful Radio Frequencies
Here is a list of some radio frequencies you may find useful while cruising Lake Superior. Ranger stations at Mott Island and Windigo monitor channel 16 during normal business hours. The National Park Service uses Channel 68 as the park's working channel.
|16||DISTRESS, ship to ship/shore hailing|
|6||Intership (Safety Only)|
|22A||Communication with U.S. Coast Guard|
|68, 69, 70, 78A||Non-Commercial Intership and Ship to Coast|
|NOAA Weather Broadcast|
|24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 84, 85, 86||Ship to public coast|
All of the channels listed above are for public use. Use of some marine channels is restricted. If in doubt, use only channels you know are open for public communication.
Visitors to Isle Royale are required to pay a $4 per person per day user fee. Children 11 and under are free. Boaters have the option of either paying the daily fee or purchasing one of two optional passes.
The $150.00 Season Boat Rider Pass is valid from 16 Apr to 31 Oct of the year indicated. This pass covers the daily user fee for all persons on board, when affixed to the private boat. The $50.00 Individual Season Pass, valid for the same time period, covers the daily user fee for the person whose signature appears on the pass.
The optional season passes can be purchased in person at the Houghton Visitor Center or at the Rock Harbor or Windigo Ranger Stations. Passes may also be purchased by calling the park's Houghton office at: 906-482-0984; faxing at: 906-482-8753; or by writing to:
Isle Royale National Park
800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931.
Make checks payable to the "Department of the Interior, NPS", VISA and MasterCard are accepted. When requesting the Individual Season Pass, please include the recipient's full name, address, and telephone number. When requesting the Season Boat Rider Pass, please include the owner's name, address, telephone number, boat registration number, length, make color, type of craft, and name of the boat if applicable.
Docking, Anchoring, and Camping
All dock space and individual campsites (including all shelters) are available on a first-come, first-served basis. They may not be reserved or held for others prior to their arrival. From mid-July to the end of August, expect to find crowded conditions at docks and campgrounds. Boaters who are already set up at a campsite and who have a valid camping permit must be given priority access to space at the dock. Observe consecutive night stay limits for each campground, in effect from 01 June through Labor Day. Campground shelter sites may not be used solely for cooking or storage; please occupy them only if you intend to sleep there. Be gentle with shelter screens and doors.
The Group Campsites, found in many of the larger campgrounds, are available by reservation for groups of 7 to 10 people. If you set up camp in a Group Campsite without a reservation, you will have to move when a group with a reservation arrives. See the Camping Guide for more information.
Permits are required for all overnight camping, including anchoring out. Permits may be obtained at either the Windigo or Rock Harbor Ranger Stations.
As a convenience to boaters with a Season Boat Rider Pass, the Houghton Visitor Center will provide boaters the option of obtaining a camping permit by regular mail, E-mail, or by fax. When using this service, boaters must submit their request at least two weeks in advance of their trip to the park. Boaters without a Season Boat Rider Pass, or Individual Season Passes for all members on board, may obtain camping permits in person at the Houghton Visitor Center no more than 48 hours in advance of intended departure. Since user fees are non-refundable, boaters concerned about weather or mechanical problems may prefer to pay at Windigo or Rock Harbor.
Generally, only docks which adjoin campgrounds are open for overnight use. The Rock Harbor Marina provides nightly slip rentals with utility service hook-ups. Overnight docking is not permitted at the small boat cove at Passage Island, Raspberry Island dock, Hidden Lake dock, or the Edisen fishery. Several private docks are located throughout the park; please observe posted docking restrictions. Anchoring out is allowed and encouraged; check with a ranger or other boaters for information on good anchorage locations.
Please consult the park's summer newspaper for more information on campgrounds and docks.
Fueling, Pump-Out, and Repair
There are no commercial boat repair facilities within the park. Among the provided at Isle Royale, fuel is sold from Mid-May to Mid-September at Rock Harbor and Mid-June to early September at Windigo. Diesel fuel is only available at Rock Harbor. Early and late season service may be obtained at Windigo and Mott Island if personnel are available. Head pump-out service is available at Windigo and Rock Harbor when the concession operation is open. Federal regulations prohibit the discharge of any waste, including gray water, into park waters. Vessels carrying spare fuel in portable containers must use legally approved containers. Fuel may not be stored on docks.
Boating at Isle Royale can be challenging and treacherous. Consider the following ideas to help you plan a safe trip.
Float Plan: It's a good idea to leave a trip float plan with someone. The plan should include your itinerary, a complete boat description, a list of all passenger names and their home phone numbers, and an emergency phone number to call should your party become overdue.
Vessel equipment must meet US Coast Guard and Michigan requirements. Brochures on equipment requirements are available from most Coast Guard stations and DNR offices. Be sure all equipment is in good condition. New Michigan state laws require that children under six years wear a Type I or II personal flotation device (PFD) when on an open boat deck, Also, all boats must carry wearable PFDs for each person. As cold as Lake Superior is, wearing your PFD is always a smart idea.
Boaters are legally responsible for any damage caused by the wake of their boats. Observe no-wake buoys. Practice caution and courtesy near all docks. Be alert for canoes and kayaks and make no wake when passing them.
Report any emergency to the nearest ranger station or the US Coast Guard via marine radio. Friends or family on the mainland with an emergency message should contact park headquarters in Houghton between 8 am and 4:30 pm EDT at 906-482-0984. After hours, assistance may be obtained by calling the Windigo Ranger Station at 906-337-4994 or your nearest USCG office. NPS personnel may also be reached through the Houghton Police Department at 906-482-2121.
Severe weather (high winds, wind shifts, fog, etc.) can set in with little or no warning. Listen to updated weather broadcasts. NOAA broadcasts continuous weather forecasts. Weather broadcasts can be heard on channel 26 or weather stations 2, 3 and 4 from both US and Canadian stations. Many boaters find that Canadian forecasts from Thunder Bay can be more accurate for Isle Royale.
A marine weather forecast (MAFOR) can include a five-digit code, as explained below. MAFOR code example: "1 1 6 0 4" means that the weather forecast is for Lake Superior waters (1), the first three hours of the forecase period (1), west winds are predicted (6) at 0 to 10 knots (0) with fog(4).
|G - Forecast Period||D - Wind Direction||Fm - Wind Force||W1 - Forecast|
|0 - Begin period||0 - Calm||0 - 0 to 10 knots||0 - Moderate or good visibility, more than 3 nautical miles|
|1 - 3 hours||1 - Northeast||1 - 11 to 16 knots||1 - Risk of accumulation of ice on superstructures|
|2 - 6 hours||2 - East||2 - 12 to 21 knots||2 - Stron risk, accumulatino of ice on superstructures|
|3 - 9 hours||3 - Southeast||3 - 22 to 27 knots||3 - Mist (visibility s/s to 3 nautical miles)|
|4 - 12 hours||4 - South||4 - 28 to 33 knots||4 - Fog (visibility less than 5/8 nautical miles)|
|5 - 18 hours||5 - Southwest||5 - 34 to 40 knots||5 - Drizzle|
|6 - 24 hours||6 - West||6 - 41 to 47 knots||6 - Rain|
|7 - 48 hours||7 - Northwest||7 - 48 to 55 knots||7 - Snow, or rain and snow|
|8 - 72 hours||8 - North||8 - 56 to 63 knots||8 - Squally weather with or without showers|
|9 - Occasionally||9 - Variable||9 - Over 64 knots||9 - Thunderstorms|
With numerous lakes, bays, and islands, Isle Royale National Park provides many miles of waterways for the experienced canoeist and kayaker. But isolation of the island makes planning and preparation necessary.
Small, open vessels are discouraged from entering the open waters of lake Superior where waves up to ten feet and short-wavelength swells make boating treacherous. Landing places along the outer shore are scarce. Sudden winds whip up waves that could swamp a canoe, even in protected harbors and inland lakes.
All Isle Royale boaters should have Great Lakes Chart Number 14976. This chart shows the island and underwater features around it. Study the chart and use it. There are numerous reefs just underwater around Isle Royale. Even when you use the charts, it is easy to get confused. This is particularly true when dense fog rolls in, which is fairly common. If you do not understand any markings on the chart, ask a Park Ranger or an experienced boater. Charts are sold at National Park Service facilities in Windigo, Rock Harbor, and Houghton.
Dress to protect yourself from cold water and weather extremes. Wear layered clothing under a windproof outer garment. Guard against loss of body temperature (hypothermia). If after prolonged exposure anyone in your party experiences uncontrollable shaking, or has difficulty talking or moving, he or she must be warmed immediately by whatever means available.
For more information, contact: Isle Royale National Park, 800 East Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, MI 49931
Harbors and lakes offer good paddling opportunities, but you should use caution in open Lake Superior waters. Read about park canoeing and kayaking for suggested routes.
Channel 16 marine band radio is monitored by Mott Island Ranger Station Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Windigo Ranger Station monitors channel 16 daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm from June through August.
All vessels arriving from Canada (U.S. or Canadian) MUST CLEAR U.S. CUSTOMS. Customs service is available ONLY at Rock Harbor and Windigo Ranger Stations, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm during peak season and on an "as can" basis during early and late season.
Docking and Anchoring
Overnight docking is allowed only at campgrounds and docks as indicated in the park map brochure. From mid-July to mid-August, expect a shortage of dock space. Overnight "anchoring out" is allowed and encouraged. Dock space cannot be reserved.
Consult the park map and know the location of possible help at all times. It is safest not to travel alone and to come with first aid and CPR training.
Be sure your canoe is in good repair. Carry first aid kit, extra paddle, self-contained stove, insect repellent, map(s) and compass, 50 feet of lashing line, rain gear, extra food in case of bad weather, bailer sponge or bucket, waterproof matches, and dry storage containers.
Before fishing at Isle Royale, become familiar with the regulations.
Gasoline and oil are sold at Windigo and Rock Harbor from mid-May through late September. Pre and post-season service is available at Windigo and Mott Island for emergencies only. Diesel fuel is not available at Windigo.
Boaters are legally responsible for any damage caused by the wake of their boats. Observe "no wake" buoys and "no wake" zones. Make no wake when passing docks and canoes or kayaks. Practice courteous boating.
Maps and Publications
Use the Isle Royale Topographic Map and Navigation Chart. The park also recommends the Foot Trails and Water Routes Guide.These and other publications are available on the island and by mail order from: Isle Royale Natural History Association 800 East Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, MI 49931
Motors are permitted only on Lake Superior waters and canoes with motors must have a State registration. It is not legal to transport motors, even if not used, through the inland lakes.
Personal Floatation Device - PFD
Every boater, canoeist and kayaker must have a U. S. Coast Guard approved Personal Floatation Device PFD). Wear it! It is extremely difficult to put on in the water, and your life may depend on it. Be sure your PFD can be tied or zipped and is the proper size, preventing it from slipping off in the water. If your companion can pull off your PFD, once adjusted, over your head, it is too large for you and unsafe to use.
Canoe routes and portages are located on the northeast half of the island. Portages are marked with a white "P" on a post. Use of wheeled portage devices is not permitted.
Pump Out Facilities
Head pump out facilities are located at Rock Harbor and Windigo when the concession is open. Pollution laws are enforced. Trash barrels are not available at campsites. Carry out everything (cans, bottles, foil) back to the mainland. There is no pump out at Mott Island.
Registration and Permits
Registration and Docking Motorized vessels (sailboats, motor boats, canoes with motors) must carry proper home state registration. All boats must obtain a permit upon arrival. You must have a camping permit to stay overnight in the backcountry. Permits are issued free aboard the Ranger III and at Rock Harbor and Windigo ranger stations.
Canoes and outboard motorboats can be rented at Rock Harbor and Windigo
Consult U.S. Coast Guard equipment lists for items required by law for your class of boat. Federal and State Boating Laws are enforced. Ranger stations have daily marine weather forecasts. Severe weather can arrive with little or no warning. Stay at least 100 feet away from boats flying the divers' flag (red with diagonal white stripe). Shipwreck mooring buoys are for divers use only.
Occupy a shelter only if you intend to sleep in it. They are not to be used as storage sheds.
Consecutive night stay limits at docks are the same as they are for the associated campground.
Cold water reduces your swimming ability. Be a competent swimmer.. Know how to handle yourself fully clothed in cold water.
You may transport your canoe or kayak by the boat services listed in the Park's Getting There brochure. Make reservations beforehand. Arrangements can be made with the captain of the Voyageur II for drop-off and pick-up at Daisy Farm, Chippewa Harbor, Malone Bay, Windigo, McCargoe Cove, and Rock Harbor.
Carry out what you carry in. Don't burn or bury trash.
Water you use to wash or drink requires special precautions to avoid pollution or exposure to disease.
Water Taxi and Canoe Rentals
Water taxi service is available from Rock Harbor Lodge to docks on the northeast half of the island. Rates vary with distance and number of persons. Limited canoe rentals are available at Windigo and Rock Harbor. Contact National Park Concessions, Inc, PO Box 405, Houghton, MI 49931. You may also obtain canoe rental information from: Chamber of Commerce, Houghton, MI 49931 Tip of Arrowhead Assoc, Grand Marais, MN 55604; Tourism Office, Thunder Bay, Canada.
The Voyageur II vessel travels clockwise around the island; arrangements can be made to be dropped off or picked up at trailheads, and this should be done prior to arrival on the island. Water charter service is offered by the concessionaire from Rock Harbor Lodge to most docks.
Lake Superior is well known for its cold temperatures, fog, and sudden squalls. Expect rough seas. Be familiar with weather patterns and consult the MAFOR (Marine Forecast) at ranger stations before embarking. Avoid lightning storms. Be prepared to adjust your schedule to the weather.
Motorized vessels are not allowed in inland lakes and streams. Water skiing and jet skis are prohibited within park boundaries.
Method of Take
Artificial lures only may be used. "Artificial lure" means any lure that is manmade, in imitation of or as a substitute for natural bait, used to attract fish for the purpose of taking them, and shall include artificial flies. Live, dead or preserved bait or organic food may not be used or possessed at any time. Digging for bait is not allowed.
|Place||Fish||Season||Min Size||Possession Limit||MI Fishing Lic Req||Note|
|Interior Lakes||Walleye, Northern Pike||15 May to 31 Oct||Walleye - 15 in; Northern Pike - 24 in||5 fish in any combination||No||Size limits in the interior lakes focus on leaving the smaller fish. Smaller fish are needed by natural predators, such as eagles, osprey, loons, and otter, who utilize fish as a major part of their diet.|
|Lake Superior Waters (within park boundaries)||Trout, Salmon||15 Apr to 31 Oct||10 in||5 fish in any combination
no more than 3 of any one species
|Inland Streams||Coaster Brook Trout||Last Sat in Apr to 15 Aug||Min size 7 in, only 1over 12 in||2 fish||Yes||Special regulations are in effect for "Coasters", a lake-dwelling form of brook trout. They are extremely rare; special catch regulations for both Lake Superior waters and the inland streams of Isle Royale exist to protect these fish.|
|Lake Superior Waters (within park boundaries)||Coaster Brook Trout||15 Apr to 31 Oct||Min size 15 in||1 fish||Yes|
General possession notes
All fish in your possession count toward your limit, regardless of where and when you caught them. All fish in your possession must be measurable and identifiable by species. This requirement will be met by leaving the head and skin on.
Disposal of Fish Remains
Please help to conserve the outstanding fishery at Isle Royale. Catch and release, while encouraged, can be very stressful on fish, especially those brought up from depth or which have been hooked in the gills. The park encourages fishermen to catch only what they plan to keep or eat and then quit fishing and enjoy the many other attractions of Isle Royale.
Keep in mind that the larger (usually 28 inches or more) fish are the ones that produce offspring. Leaving the larger fish and taking those smaller than 28 inches helps insure that there will be plenty of fish in the future. Smaller fish are also better-tasting, so consider taking pictures of the large fish, then carefully releasing them. Instead of killing trophy fish, please consider modern graphite mounts.
Transporting Fish to the Mainland
A permit from the Michigan DNR is required to ship fish on a commercial vessel. The permit is good for a possession limit only and may only be used once a year. Fish must be claimed by someone at the end destination and cannot be stored. Permits may be obtained by mail or phone from the Michigan DNR. Fish may not be transported in coolers of boats riding on the Deck of the Ranger III. Ask the ship's purser how to properly transport fish.
While on public waters, you may not possess mutilated fish that cannot be measured or identified. WARNING Depth at dock may fluctuate as much as one foot. Know your boat's draft.
Activity & Calendar Page
Address, Email & Phone Guide
Brochures, Maps, Written Info
Canoe & Kayak Guide
Group Camping Guide
Jobs, SCA, Volunteer Positions
Junior Ranger Programs
Leave No Trace
Moose & Wolves
Size & Visitation Info
Click Here to obtain Advertising Information on this Page
This site is in no way associated with the United States Government, the Department of the Interior or the National Park Service