Isle Royale advice needed

I know this should be on the WT forum, but this one seems to get more traffic. We have a crew of 5 planning a circumnavigation of IR next summer. Wind willing, we also plan to paddle out there from the mainland and back.

I would appreciate any advice about time of year and logistics. We are planning 9 days for the crossings and the circumnavigation. We are considering either mid July or late August.

I appreciate the valuable insight by posters on this forum.



generally speaking
July winds are normally more stable and predictable than late August. But nothing is more variable than weather on Superior. So pick a week, knock on wood, burn offerings and sacrifice a first born. Playing the odds bet on mid July. One sure thing is the mosquitos are much less an issue end of August. You will want to be on the water at the crack of dawn and paddle hard. Land breezes can build around noon causing strong winds. Also, use the Canadian weather forecasts. They seem to be more reliable.

Think hard about the mainland departure.
Call the park service to check on “last minute” availability of the ship. You may need it depending on conditions, and you certainly don’t want valuable trip time eat’n up with delays getting to the Island.

is good advice…it’s a 15 mile open water crossing…The seas can get plenty wild in the time needed not to mention the fast moving storms that sometimes apear without prior notice or prior forcast. Also need a GPS, fog has been known to apear suddenly

Best Wishes


Isle Royale Message Board
Here’s a link to a good Isle Royale specific message board:

I echo the above advice. Have fun.

Isle Royal
The paddle from the main land to Isle Royal is borderline suicidal. It is a 41/2hr boat ride with the ferry. Lake Superior can whip up in an instant.(think of the Edmund Fitzgerald). You would have more fun taking the extra time and spending it on or around the island.

We went in late July and as long as you were on the big water the bugs were not bad at all. If you get a chance go to one of the inland lakes to fish. It is a great way to supplement your food supply and we caught some of the biggest Northern Pike I ahve ever seen. At the end of your trip rent one of the showers and go to the restaurant and have an ice cold beer. Great way to end your trip.

Be careful-Lake Superior can be an ornery SOB and does not give much notice when she will throw a fit. Have fun.

Canadian weather forecasts
Speaking of Canandian weather forecast, what’s the best source?

I travel to canada often and found the “regular” forecast lacking in details when it comes to parts of Canada that are not tourist destinations.

Kayaked there a twice now and just completed a circumnavigation last summer.

I wouldn’t say that the crossing is “borderline suicidal.” Many have done it, albeit very experienced paddlers, but they made sure the forecasts were stable for several days before attempting it. Sure the weather can churn up relatively quick, but that’s part of the risk and adventure you take. Just leave yourself some wiggle room.

I agree the weather tends to be a little tamer during the earlier summer months, and July would be a pretty good time to go. Sure the bugs will be a little worse, but bring a headnet for around camp and you’ll be all set.

Our August weather definitely got pretty crazy at times. Winds would pick up mid day and create some challenging seas. We were weather bound 2-3 days on our last trip. The last day we paddled, we entered the tail end of a rough noreaster that lasted for 2 solid days and still encountered 7-8 foot breaking waves trying to head back.

Don’t know your experience level, or equipment situation, but as mentioned, a good GPS, VHF’s and other appropiate safety equipment is a must.

Isle Royale is a beautiful island to trip around and take some time to do some day hikes to break up the long paddling days.


The one I use
I’m on the East Coast, this site works great for our club outings:

I appreciate the insights
We are still waffling between July and late August. There seem to be significant pros and cons to both. I agree with the respect needed for The Big Lake. Our plan to paddle out to Isle Royale is a best case scenario only. We will quickly go to plan B, the ferry, if there are any quirks in the weather forecast. We are 5 paddlers w/ fairly extensive Lake Superior experience (Apostles, MN North Shore, etc.), but this will be a big jump indeed. Keep the great advice coming. This forum is a GREAT resource.


Today is the anniversary
of the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking.

erik -
- are you interested in having a sixth? I’ve been wanting to circumnavigate the island for awhile now and was targeting this coming summer.

Email me if you think it’d be ok.

A plus for August
Thimbleberries, big juicy pink red thimbleberries. The problem is running into a large patch and not being able to come out of grazing mode. I realize some people are able to walk by a patch and not eat more than a handful, but my will is often overruled by my taste buds and all sense of time is lost. Why just thinking about them has caused me to salivate all over my keyboard.

with you there. 2 summers ago, my wife and I picked a ton and made fresh thimbleberry pie almost everyday in our outback oven.

Isle Royale
I am curious-If the ferry ride is 4-4 1/2 hours how long did it take for those of you have done it to kayak to t the island from the main land?

3 hour ferry crossing

– Last Updated: Nov-13-06 8:47 AM EST –

Found it. 3 hour crossing for 22 miles. Check out the map.

they typically
don’t cross from G. Portage where the Voyager is based. Kayakers move further north where the distance is cut down to approx 16 miles.

Your looking at about a 4-5 hour crossing with favorable conditions for most kayakers.

Isle Royale
Sounds like a good trip. Andy Knapp/Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis has made that crossing, he is a contributing expert to Canoe and Kayak magazine. He’d be a good source. I’ve paddled the eastern half and found camping sites very restrictive based on N.P. regs at that time (5 years ago). Also, as you’ve probably learned already, the easternmost point can get really gnarly with NE/E winds, so plan that turn accordingly. Otherwise a very neat trip. Good luck.


Isle Royal

Thank you for the info. When we went over we went from Copper Harbor. I believe that was 4-41/2 hourds if my memorie serves me. Thanks again

the trip from Copper Harbor is about 3 hours plus, depending on conditions on the new Queen ferry.

I only heard on one group of kayakers that actually did that crossing, believe it or not. I think it took them 2 1/2 days to reach the island. 3 guys and they all wore diapers so they wouldn’t have to get out of their boat. Don’t know their names, but maybe someone else on the board does.