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Isle Royale July 2013 Recommendations/Help

Hello Everyone,

I am looking for a little bit of advice on how to do a trip at Isle Royale.  I already have a few things figured out, my group will be leaving from the Chicago-land area on Wednesday night and drive to Houghton.  Thursday we will travel to Isle Royale.  We plan on spending 5 days on the island, leaving on Monday and traveling home Monday night.

From what I have read on the forums here, seems like we need to really prepare for bugs.  The mosquitoes and gnats are bad in July.

My big questions are, what do we HAVE to see while out there?  We are an extremely capable group and can easily do 12-15 miles a day (save for the 1st day in which we will be getting on the island a bit later).

Is water pretty much always accessible?  Places to swim each day once your roll into camp?  I did read a lot about worm eggs and having to filter water.  That really seems to be a minor problem, however, do gravity feed filters work just as well as mechanical ones (MSR Mini Works)?

Also, is it possible to hike from Rock Harbor to Windigo, catch the Ferry back to Rock Harbor in order to catch the ferry at Rock Harbor back to Houghton?  Or are we kind of playing with fire in hoping that the ferry would get us to Rock Harbor in time?

We are really looking forward to this trip, and I am excited to hit up this part of the country.  We have found that the UP has been a very pleasant surprise, and very much right in our backyard.

Thank you to everyone!!


I used to be intrigued by the moose/wolf interactions on Isle Royal.  The big attraction is the boat trip over there and being on the island.  That is all you have to see.  It is not an adventure park with pull-outs and a hand-held recorder.  It is a wilderness park so think of it in those terms and you will not be disappointed.

Hi Jim,

I have been to Isle Royale a couple of times, but not for some years.  A few thoughts on your trip:

In 5 days, don't try to see the entire island, unless you really like to push the mileage each day you will be working quite hard and may miss the scenery.  Yes you could probably hike Rock Harbor to Windigo in your time, but I think you will miss some good parts.  If I were coming into Rock Harbor I would stay on the eastern half of the island.  I am from Minnesota and have always come in via Windigo, taken the ferry to Rock Harbor and hiked back to Windigo via a couple of different routes.   If I were to go again, I would pick one half of the island and stay on that side.

The ferry can be a bit of a hassle, mine once broke down and we had to change our plans on the fly.

The campsites on the Lake Superior shore are all wonderful, McCargoe Cove is wonderful, as is Todd Harbor.  I've not been to Lane Cove, but that is on my list for a future trip.  I'd also like to try Malone Bay someday.  

If I were coming into Rock Harbor I would think about Moskey Basin, Chippewa Harbor, McCargoe Cove and maybe Lane Cove.  Fill the rest of your time with day hikes.  I am not an overly ambitious hiker so 10-12 miles a day is fine with me.

Bugs - bring bug dope and a screened in tent unless you like to donate blood.  Bugs can be hit or miss, but when they are bad they are bad.

I am pretty certain a gravity feed water filter will be fine.  Water from Lake Superior is very clean.  The inland lakes will have their issues, but if I went back I would use a gravity filter.

Water is generally available, carry at least a liter and you will be fine.  Lots of lakes or Lake Superior when you are on the coast.

Swimming - the water is very COLD.  I remember wading into the water on a very hot day and my legs went numb from the cold.

The trip sounds like fun.

October 1, 2020
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