Isle Royale Info
a.k.a. Don M, Don Morris, Don P. Morris
I'm heading to Isle Royale at the beginning of August. Does anyone have info on the bug situation at this time of year? Due to the wolf population should bear bags be used? Thans for any input, Jeff.
Check the Isle Royale website - www.nps.gov/isro/
It is an absolutely fabulous park. I understand wolves are rarely seen during the summer. I ccan't remember any specific warnings to visitors re wolves, but it has been a while since I was there.
Bugs are about close to their peak right now. No bear bag needed--the wolves stay far away from humans!
I hike Isle Royal a couple of times each year. Here are some tips I complied for first time visitors.
The two ferrys leave from different docks. The Wenonah leaves from the dock located directly behind the Grand Portage Fort. The Voyageur leaves from Grand Portage Marina which is located about two miles north-east up the coast. To get to the Voyageur just go to the fort and then follow the road northeast along the coast past the school to the Grand Portage Marina.
Usually the Voyageur spends two days circling the island in a clockwise direction. The Wenonah makes daily runs back and forth between Grand Portage and Windigo. The ferry schedule may vary with conditions. I've had a trip where bad weather canceled all Saturdays and Sundays trips. Since the Voyageur then had Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays pickups to make on Monday, the boats switched routes so the larger Wenonah was able to pick up all the people on the circular route. In this case on the return trip the boats off-loaded at both mainland docks. Though the Wenonah is the larger boat, the Voyageur is the more comfortable. It sits lower in the water and rocks less. Dramamine is recommended for the trip. The morning crossing from Grand Portage tends to have fairly calm water. The afternoon return to Grand Portage can be "interesting". It is always possible for the weather to alter the ferry schedule. This means you cannot have any firm deadlines for returning from an Isle Royal trip. It would be best to always allow for a days delay on return. The ferry operator is flexible and accommodating. Reservation are suggested since the trips are often full. Parking is $3 per day.
The trails allow you to plan one to ten day long trips. In general it is safest to plan to end your trip at Windigo. This is because the ferry leaves from Windigo every day at 3:00 pm. If for some reason you are a day late you should be able to catch the next days ferry. If you are a day late for the Voyageur ferry at Rock Harbor you will have to wait two or three days till it returns. If you arrange for a pick-up by the Voyageur on the north side of the island you will then spend that night at Rock Harbor and then return to Grand Portage the next day. Be sure and check in at either the Windigo or Rock Harbor ranger station for a hiking pass when you arrive. The route you tell them is your best guess. If you change your route let them know after the fact. Isle Royal is far more remote than much of the Boundary Waters. Much of the time you are several days hike from the closest ranger station. Plan accordingly.
Shelters are located at most of the camp sites located on the Lake Superior shore. This means you will not find them in East or West Chicken bone, Island mine, Hatchet Lake and other inland locations. Hauginin Cove does not have a shelter despite its north shore site. (It is not a very protected site.) The shelters can easily sleep four, and up to six with slight crowding.
The shelters have a generous three foot roof overhang to keep rains out. The open front of the shelters are covered with screens and with heavier wire along the bottom couple of feet to strengthen the screen. This keeps foxes and mosquitoes at bay. There are no bunks or seats in the shelter, just bare floor. Each shelter has a picnic table located beside it and an outhouse in the area. At washington creek camp keep everything in the shelter away from foxes.
There are no bears, deer, or raccoons on Isle Royal. This means there is no need to use a suspended bear bag for your food. There are many semi-tame red foxes located in the Windigo and Daisy Farm camp grounds. If you stay there you will see them and they will see your food. The foxes work in pairs and are professionals! Anything left outside the shelters will be trash in seconds. The island has many moose and a few wolves. The moose you are likely to see, the wolves are seen by only about one visitor in nine hundred. The moose are potentially dangerous, the wolves are not. The greatest animal danger is probably cow moose protecting their calves from a perceived threat. Mosquitoes are the dominant life form during June & July. Especially so in low marshy areas protected from the wind. Stop for breaks when on rocky ridges where there is usually a breeze and fewer bushes to harbor bugs. Camp sites do tend to be located in the lower, sheltered( mosquito prone) areas. In June the black flies can make the mosquitoes seem tame. Bring strong bug repellant.
Seven people is considered a 'group' by the Park Service and things become complicated. Reservations are then required and restrictions apply. Limit the number to six or less.
Have a dozen quarters with you for the coin operated hot showers at Windigo & Rock Harbor. Its disappointing to get to the showers just after the store closes when change is unavailable.
If traveling on the Winonah keep your gas bottle available to keep from having to pull it out of your nicely arranged pack when boarding. Packs are stowed below deck on the Winonah and all fuels are stored separately in the open air for the trip. The Voyageur places packs under a tarp on the roof so your fuel can stay in your pack.
Fog, drizzle, and rain is more common on Isle Royal than on the mainland. Expect rain despite favorable forecasts. I have experienced five full days of rain in the seventeen days I have spent on Isle Royal. Despite the surrounding cool waters, weather can get very hot during June, July, and August. Prepare for very hot weather hiking in the summer months. On the Greenstone trail it is often many miles between water sources. In late summer stream water sources such as Island mine can dry up, a real disappointment! Water must be filtered not chemically treated.
September is the best month to visit Isle Royal. The weather is nice, the bugs are few, the leaves are starting to turn, and the park is almost empty. It is also the moose breading season and both moose sexes are very vocal at that time. It is easy to imitate their calls and attract them. However these critters could do grievous harm with one kick. If you are going to call amorous moose (and subsequently disappoint them) do it from a safe location. The only down side to September is the ferry passage can get rough and the weather increasingly unpredictable.
Dramamine can make the difference between a fun passage and the hope for a quick death. Take it well in advance, per instructions. If you wait till you need it, its too late. There is a four dollar per adult per day fee for staying in the park. Kids under twelve are free.
Rydens Border Store-Motel is a mile south of the Canada line, a couple of miles north of the ferry landings. Rooms are, $33 single and $45 double. The restaurant opens at 6:00. (218) 475-2330.