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Isle Royale Wilderness

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An aerial view of a tree-covered island
Library image #4151: West Caribou Island


The United States Congress designated the Isle Royale Wilderness (map) in 1976 and it now has a total of 132,018 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Michigan and is managed by the National Park Service.


The Ojibwe who have visited the island for more than 4,500 years called Isle Royale "Minong", the good place. French trappers gave 45-mile-long, nine-mile-wide Isle Royale its regal name. Located in the northern, surging waters of Lake Superior, 99% of Isle Royale National Park has been designated Wilderness. The largest island in the largest freshwater lake in North America, it is also by far the state's largest Wilderness area.

Created by flowing lava, flattened and smoothed by glaciation and subsequent erosion, the island contains more than 100 lakes and small ponds; in fact, water covers more of the surface than dry land when you include the waters of Lake Superior where the park boundary extends 4.5 miles out. In the lakes you may catch northern pike, trout, walleye, and perch without a permit. (Fishing in Lake Superior, however, requires a Michigan license.) Around the lakes and along the shore of the island grows a forest of mixed evergreens and hardwoods. Isle Royale is home to a famously secretive population of timber wolves, which you may hear howling at the moon. Other wildlife includes moose, beavers, red foxes, marten, red squirrels, and snowshoe hares. Approximate 150 bird species have been spotted.

Human visitors come to hike, camp, fish, and watch wildlife. With miles of splendid coastline indented by numerous protected bays and sheltered coves, this is considered a marvelous destination for sea kayakers. There are 36 established primitive campgrounds (available on a first-come, first-served basis) set along about 170 miles of trail and/or endless shorelines.

Planning to Visit the Isle Royale Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Isle Royale Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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