circumnavigating Isle Royale

thanks to the many of you who have shared your stories and info about paddling IR. here’s a couple of questions i can’t find answers to…

approx how far around is IR and how long has it taken you to circle it?

i see posts about crowds. is it that popular a place to go? is there much powerboat traffic and how does that impact your travels as a paddler?

is it a wilderness or more of a near wilderness as far as many people being there.

thanks, you folks rock.


link to Isle Royale forum

Circumnavigation is approximately 110 miles, about 6 – 8 days paddling. Designated campsites are available along the way. Pickup the Jim DuFresne book for planning. If you go clockwise you can pick up the Voyageur ferryboat if you need to bailout early for work or other reasons. Boat traffic is minimal even at the busiest times of year.

There are a couple of long stretches on the south shore from Malone to Windigo and the north shore from Windigo to McCargoe.

Isle Royale is not crowded, particularly after you leave Rock Harbor. Isle Royale is the least visited National Park in the 48 states. The reason for this is that there is no road access. Even so Isle Royale has the longest average stay. Isle Royale also has designated campgrounds and because of the park’s low usage, the campgroups are small. The smaller campgrounds may have only two or threes designated shelters or tent sites and they can fill up, especially in July. If they do fill up often you can ask to share a campsite, in those circumstance people will be cooperative.

sounds better all the time.


the Jim DuFresne book

– Last Updated: Mar-05-05 1:11 PM EST –

Isle Royale National Park, Foot Trails and Water Routes.

not as informative a book as i had hoped for. certainly an essential for planning a hiking trip or canoe trip to the island but very little information about paddling around the island from a sea kayak point of view. still a good read, but someone needs to come up with a sea kayak guide to the island. the previous postings by Sandford Finsilver are probably more valuable and informative than the book itself.

maps vs. chart
I have a good topo map of Isle Royale, but no nautical chart. Is it useful to have a chart? If so, where can I find one?

A topo map is fine. No need to purchase a chart if you haven’t already, but if you still feel the need to purchase one, and you’re travelling from Houghton, you can buy them at the NPS office. In my paddling experience on IR I’ve found the waterproof NPS park map to be the most useful. The USGS 15 minute quads are also very good. I managed to pick up an almost complete set of the island at a REI clearance sale outside of Detroit, but you could order them directly from the USPS.

Unnecessary if you have Topo Map

Isle Royale
I’ve done the trip with 2 paddlers. Went over on Queen from Copper Harbor…park induction is not well suited for kayaking. Should not have mentioned our Hennessey Hammocks…but they were wonderful as most of the time we prefer the wilderness camping. We ran into 3 other groups that gave up on their circumnatigation plans. Landings are hard to find. Fog is common problem, August has lots of fishermen. Be sure to tie your boat up during a thunderstorm!!

I liked hunting for greenstones and yes its a beautiful place but the Puckaskwa is 100 times more rewarding IMHO.

I’ve been wanting to do IR for years
If you are interested in Circumnavigating IR later this summer I could use a partner.

I have the charts, Dufresne book and all the topo maps of it on my GPS!

I was planning on doing it sometime in August. I have the whole month off after the 6th.

sounds cool
I don’t think we would be up for a total circumnavigation, but maybe we’ll see you up there…we’re headed up sometime after the 6th for a 7 day paddle.