Visited by only 25,000 people per year, this Park is no Yellowstone: it is comically difficult to reach, has enough mosquitoes to make you question God, and most importantly is the one and only National Park that I failed to visit on the first try.
Located on the north side of Lake Superior between Minnesota and the upper peninsula of Michigan, reaching Isle Royale requires flights, long drives (5 hours from St. Paul or 3 hours from Marquette) and catching a ferry that only seems to run at the most inconvenient times possible.
In the fall of 2017, brimming with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude that only the naïve could understand, I made this arduous journey only to find out while checking in for the ferry that they had not only cancelled that days ferry (due to bad weather) but had also cancelled the ferries for the rest of the year. This was a blow to my momentum and for a time I was furious: with a total travel time of 11 hours, I could have flown to Japan faster!
But luckily, time heals all wounds, and this year I made the journey once more, this time succeeding in reaching the Island:
At over 9 miles wide and 45 miles long, Isle Royale offers a level of remoteness that few other National Parks can match. For those of you seeking an escape from the typical American tourist experience, I can assure you that while hiking on Isle Royale, you’ll see no selfie-sticks, drones, or tour buses of any kind. In fact, if you run into anyone at all (which is rare), they are likely just as eager to get away from the typical riff-raff as you are.
A National Park since 1940, the Park’s chief resident is now the moose. In an event that sounds so crazy it must be true, it is widely believed now that humans brought the noose to the island in a failed attempt to establish some kind of private hunting area. Shortly after this failed attempt, wolves also made there way to the island and for almost 60 years, maintained one of the most widely studied predator-pray relationships in the world.
Today, unfortunately, things have changed: years of inbreeding amongst the already small wolf population has had devastating effects, with only 2 wolves now remaining on the island. In an attempt to fend off a full-blown Moosemageddon (moose population is already growing at its fastest rate ever), the Park Service has slowly begun introducing more wolves to the island. The first one was released in February and the Park hopes to release several more over the next few seasons.
With its miles of secluded hiking trails and relatively
untouched wilderness, Isle Royale is a wonderful place to visit. With this post, I have officially visited
every National Park in the lower 48 States.
Next up, I’m headed back to Alaska one last time, this time to (at long
last!) finish my quest to visit all the National Parks.
So long for now!
Categories: US National Parks