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» National Parks List

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan


One of the most isolated of the national parks in the United States is Isle Royale. Much closer to Canada than the US, fifty miles out in Lake Superior, Isle Royale is as far as you can get in Michigan from Detroit. All cars are banned and, instead of freeways, 166 miles of hiking trails lead past windswept trees, swampy lakes and grazing moose.

Isle Royale National Park is open from mid May until the end of September. Aside from other tourists, the only traces of human life you will see are ancient mineworks, shacks left behind by commercial fishermen in the 1940s and a few lighthouses and park buildings. Trekking, canoeing, fishing and scuba-diving among shipwrecks are the principal leisure activities here.

Camping in the park is free, but visit the park headquarters in Houghton before you leave the mainland, for advice on water purity and availability; mosquitoes can be a menace and temperatures can drop well below freezing even in summer. You can also stay in a self-catering lodge or a more expensive lodge room. The lodge might be able to offer you canoes and motorboats on rent.

Isle Royale is unusual among national parks in that there are no roads on any of the islands. However, there are 165 miles of foot trails, most of which are relatively easy to hike. Ferries leave from Copper Harbor in Houghton and Grand Portage in Minnesota. If there are enough people in your party, it may be economical to charter a plane from Isle Royal Seaplane Service in Houghton.


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