Kayaking Isle Royale, My first wolf

I returned from my 16th trip to Isle Royale Saturday. I went with my girlfriend Tricia, her first open water trip and my good friend Dave who I have been doing trips with since college (SIU in Illinois), backapcking, seakayaking sailing and snowshoing.

I have dreamed of paddling the outer islands of Isle Royale since my first trip in83. I was up there in May and Tricia and I decided we would come back and paddle in September.<br /> <br /> We boarded the Queen Saturday morning and got a goood view of her replacement, The Queen IV. Much bigger and faster ship. Should be in service next year. The trip out was painless, as they can be rough and long when Lake Superior is kicking up. We got to Rock Harbor and off loaded the kayaks and duffle bags of gear. We were anticipating eating well this trip as weight wasn't as much a consideration.We loaded up the boats and took off in relatively calm conditions. We had decided to paddle around Blake Pt., the easternmost point on the island. The waters around the island are deep and the water builds up as Blake Pt is the first landmass of any size from the Canadian Shore. 2’ waves turn into 4’ waves with strong currents around Blake Pt. We made the turn around the Pt with no problems and continued on to the Narrows campground. The shelter (2) were taken so we set up out tents and began cooking. The menu consisted of homemade Beef Stoganoff, frozen for the ride and real egg noodles.

Did I mention we also had a 3 litre bag of Shiraz? Dinner was wonderful. We soon went to bed tired from the days travels listening to the eerie calls of loons.

I woke a few times during the night to check the kayaks where we had stored out food. There were a few foxes in the area and I wanted to make sure the food was ok which it was.

We woke to a sunny morning and had omlettes with real eggs and ingredients, mushrooms, cheese, canadian bacon.

The lake was in the low 50’s so it helped to cool our food. We packed up and headed back down Duncan Narrows out to the open lake. we rounded Locke Pt. and continued on toward Belle Isle. We arrived to the island after a pleasant paddle. Only 3 of the 5 shelters were taken-all by kayakers so we brought our grear up to one of the empty shelters and madee ourselves at home. We were pleasantly surprised to find no fisherman on the island.

We ate a snack and walked around the campground and down to the dock. One of the kayakers told us of a moose carcass down the bay. We later went down to see if we could spot but had no luck. We went to bed and a good storm happened overnight. We had checked the marine forecast for tommorrow on the VHF (we had a portable marine radio), it was not looking good. 30 knot winds with gusts to 40 on the open lake; 6’-8’ waves, we were windbound for at least a day. We spent the day exploring the cmapground and talking to the other kayakers.

We also met the North Shore Ranger, Carl. We spoke to him of the carcass. The Park service (he)had been monitoring the carcass which was the result of natural causes. We went down to the dock with binnoculars and he pointed out the carcass at the end of the bay. We could see ravens and bald eagles frequenting the moose. We returned to our shelter and had pasta fagoule with fresh cheese and asiago bread! And shiraz.

We went down to the pavillion and made a fire in the designated firplace (literally). Carl and a few others joined us as it was a chilly night. The winds had subsided somewhat. We had heard on the radio of a few boats in distress on the lake, though we never heard the outcome of their distress. The sky was lit up with stars only that you can see when you get far away from the city!!

Got up the next day before dawn and went down to the dock to see if I could see any wolves on the carcass. Carl was also down there and we had a plaesant conversation while looking through our binnoculars. We watched for a while, but no luck. Dave decided to paddle across the bay to another site and to paddle aorund in the protected waters.

We decided to stay hoping to get a glimpse of a wolf. A couple from Minnesota paddling a tandem that we had become friends with were catching the ferry in the afternoon. It had been delayed by the previous days winds.

We helped them with their gear and soon we were the only ones at Belle Isle.

We opted to paddle down to the moose carcass to see what we could see. We first paddled over to Johnson Island home to the Anderson family who had fished these waters for many generations. I had read of them recently and was curious ot see their boats and houses. What a life they must have had!!

We left the island and headed down the bay toward the carcass. It was noticeably void of ravens and eagles. We took a few pictures and decided to move down the bay and try to hide. Along the way we noticed something atop the bluff at the end of the bay. As we got closer, the object rose. We were startled as it was our new friend Carl the Ranger, wathcing the carcass on his day off. He told us of seeing a wolf on the carcass and during our conversation, Tricia who was a little further out in the bay was gesturing frantically. The wolf had come up the bluff to see what the noise was about! We had come to see the wolf and instead he came to see us. I was so excited I couldn’t see straight. After the wolf left, we went down to Carl’s boat to give him my address as he said he would send me footage of the wolf. Tricia meanwhile paddled back around the corner and again was frantically waving that now 2 wolves were on the kill. We spent the next hour watching, trying to remain still. I was able to get a few pictures, one of which was pretty good considering the distance and my little digital camera.

After a while, the wolves left to rest. I could kind of see where they were at behind the trees. We decided to leave them be and continued to paddle. I was in shock having seen not one, but 2 wolves. We stopped on the way back. Carl had shot more footage and was equally excited as he had been a ranger on the island for 5 years and this too was his first wolf.

Arriving back at the campground, 2 more kayakers had shown up. We excitedly told them of the sighting almost too excited to talk. It turns out they are form the same town that my good friend from Ann Arbor grew up in!!

The next day I was up early down to the dock with binnoculars to see if I could see any wolves at the carcass. I couldn’t. We had pancakes with thimbleberries and began to pack our gear. There was a break in the weather and we wanted to get around Blake Pt. We left and paddled into a NE breeze. The waves were building to 2’ with an occasional 3’. We ducked in behind an island and portaged into Duncan Bay. We ran into Dave there and of course we rubbed in the wolf sitings. He was envious to say the least. Duncan bay is a nice campsite and is supposed to be a good pike area. We stopped at Duncan Narrows for a late lunch and a rest. We paddled down towards Blake Pt. not knowing what to expect. As we went down the bay we put a good distance between ourselves and the shore hoping to avoid the relective waves (clapoti). We started being pushed toward shore somewhat so we headed out even more. As we appoached the point a Park Service boat rounded the point and approached us. We weren’t sure if there was a problem. It turned out to be Carl on his way back to the North Shore. He asked if we had seen any more of the wolves. We told him we hadn’t.

We asked him of the point. He said it was a little rough with some bigger swells, but we should be ok. We rounded the point and it was a little dicey, 2-4’ swells, but nothing bad. We headed into Merit Lane and got to the campground. Dave wasn’t there, so we called him on the radio. he had pushed onto Rock Harbor. We agreed to meet the next morning in RH. We spent another cool night at the shelter, lots of stars.

The next morning we got up early and had breakfast. A park service person showed up with 2 Sierra Club volunteers to do some work around the shelter. Koodos to them for a great job!!!

We got to Rock Harbor after a nice paddle in the AM. There were a lot of Rangers there for a meeting. Carl was there and called us over to talk to the other rangers. We met up with Dave and found Carl. He showed us some of the footage. Awesome.

The next day, we got up early (Dave and I), Tricia wanted to sleep. We paddled down to 3 mile and back. We knew later that day, our adventure would be over.

We packed up oiur gear and moved it down to the dock where we had left our kayaks.

The ride back to Copper Harbor was a little bouncy, but not bad.

We stopped in at the Park Headquarters In Houghton. We had taken the Queen back with Greg who worked at the headquarters. We talked his ear off about the park and its future and on to Soumi for breakfast.


Great trip report
and wonderful photos. I’ve been there twice, once on the ferry from Grand Portage and once on a friend’s boat but those we quite a while ago. You’re pictures have made me want to go again. Thanks.

Reel nice…thnx for sharing…
wolves are so cool…lucky you

michigan rocks!
thanks for sharing your wonderful trip report!

Nice report!
And great photos!

Belle Isle
Thanks for your report and photographs. We were at Belle Isle the same time you were, arriving on Saturday 9/4 and 9/5. We were a group of four kayakers from Minnesota. I remember seeing you both down by the beach. We listened to wolves howl on Saturday night for a good half hour. The ranger said there had been a moose carcass not far from camp! I guess you hit the jackpot! How exciting is that?

We stopped for breakfast at Duncan Narrows on Wednesday morning shortly after sunrise and found wolf tracks in the sand along the beach. I had been a “nanny” to three wolf pups in July at the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN, and I swear I could smell wet wolves that morning on the beach! I’m thinking we may have just missed them.

So happy for you that you got to see the wolves! It just makes Isle Royale that much more special, doesn’t it?

Belle Isle
2 FG Current Design, A CD Storm and a perception?? Sorry we didn’t talk!

I still cannot beleive we saw the wolves. We stopped at The Narrows Wednesday afternoon, saw the tracks in front of the shelter on the beach and on the sand where the narrows are. I wonder how many times I have been watched while on the island. Heard wolves only once before at Feldtmann Lake a few years ago.

I heard David Mech talk in May at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. He spoke of the wolf center, I’ll have to plan time to visit that and the Great Lakes Aquarium.

Where did you stay Tuesday night?

Duncan Bay
Yes, those boats belong to us!

We stayed at Duncan Bay Tuesday night. What a beautiful campsite…during the day Tuesday we had a lazy day of reading and paddled over to the portage in Duncan Harbor and walked it to see how bad it would be…just in case the weather didn’t calm down on Wednesday to round Blake Point. Later we paddled along a slough near our campsite hoping to spot moose. Calm waters and so peaceful while we waited for the waves on the big lake to subside.

Reading your notes has made us want to return. It’s such a special place. I always get teary eyed when we have to leave Isle Royale.

Leaving the Island

– Last Updated: Sep-17-04 1:28 PM EST –

When I have backapcked there it has always been esier to leave. This past trip, I was ready to resupply food and take off again. I was in a funk monday and tuesday. I am already planning the next trip-kayaking- back to the island. I will go back to Belle Isle and spend more time paddling that area.
I eventually want to the round the island trip. It is hard to decide "do I want to paddle all day or stop and explore!"
I want to do the Siskwit/Malone bay trip also. I would love to camp Hay Bay.
I want to go back and spend a few days at Duncan Bay CG. We did the portage from 5 fingers to Duncan Bay. Not too bad, about 1/2 hour. Saw a river otter in the bay!
I can't wait for next spring!!

Hey, JH!
So, look where I found you today! With a little more experience I may eventually take my Folbot up there…we don’t seem to get too many kayaking trip reports, with pictures, of Isle Royale so yours were a real pleasure…wait, didn’t I say this before;)

good morning, just got back from getting coffee!

You would love it!! And you can bring all the gear you want. Love the pictures of you looking at your gear on one of your posts!!