Kayaking Isle Royale

We will be kayaking Isle Royale in early September. We’ve kayaked North Shore of Lake Superior and Apostles and have backpacked IR, but first time kayaking there. We’re getting dropped off at Belle Isle and paddling to Daisy Farm (building in enough days for exploring) (6 days). Any tips or suggestions on getting around Blake Point, kayaking near Duncan Bay, etc. We’ll be taking our weather radio and know about the portages (but hope we don’t have to do that one over the ridgeline). Tips from anyone who’s experienced in kayaking the island. Thanks

Isle Royale Tips
Isle Royale is a great place to paddle. It’s sounds like you have some experience paddling in Superior under your belt so you already know about the possible storms and cold water. IMHO you’ve picked the best time to paddle the island, the water is at its warmest point and the bugs shouldn’t be bad at all.

Belle Isle is a great camp. I would suggest spending some time exploring the islands and bays around Belle Isle. Last time I was there we paddled through the keyhole and over to Amygdaloid I. If you look hard enough there is a path to the Amygdaloid Lake, definitely take this if you have the time. The views of Isle Royale from Amygdaloid are spectacular. Make sure you also take the time to mosey around the Five Fingers and deep into Duncan Bay. The short portages in this area are very easy and can save you from having to paddle in too much unoprotected water.

Blake Point is another issue. Most of the guidebooks make Blake Point out to be a little bit worse than it really is, but with good reason. For most of the paddle around Blake there is literally nowhere to land,so you must be proficient at self and assisted rescues in case of emergency. The other difficulty with Blake Point is that the weatherand waves on one side of the point can vary greatly from the weather and waves the other side. I would suggest picking up a marine VHF radio before the trip for 2 reasons:1)the park service and coast guard monitor channel 16 for emergencies, so if you get into trouble you can radio for help. 2) Marine VHF radios have a much greater range than standard weather radios. On our 2003 trip to Isle Royale we had major difficulty picking up reports with our weather radio, but our VHJF could pick up weather reports from multiple stations on the US and Canadian sides of the lake. I would also suggest trying to camp at DUncan Bay Narrows and hitting Blake Point at sunrise. The conditions tend to be the best at this time of the day and you almost guanteed one side will be like glass. If worse comes to worse you can always hump the boat(s) and gear over the long portage.

One last tip, if you’re looking for a hot meal at Rock Harbor avoid the restaraunt and hit the snack bar. It’s the smae food at a much reduced cost.

Feel free to send me an email if you have any more questions.

isle royale
Spend some time in the Belle Isle area and surrounding islands-just beautiful. both times I have paddled around Blake Point it has been easy water. Wouldn’t want to be there in bad conditions though. Take the time to hike up to the lookout tower or Lookout Louise. Both are nice and give you some perspective on the island. When you leave Rock Harbor, paddle in amoungst the islands instead of hugging the shore. It is gorgeous. We have had problems beating hikers and motor boaters to camps but September should be better for that. enjoy

trip reports
Have you already read these two trip reports?


Almost the same trip!

– Last Updated: Jun-15-04 4:49 PM EST –

I did almost the same trip last summer with a few friends.

We had a blast.

I think you'll be happy with the September timing too, we were dismayed by the crowd in and around Daisy Farm and would have preferred more time on the north side of the island. Our August arrival was probably to blame for the crowd and a September trip would most likely avoid this (although it's an 8 mile hike from Rock harbor, so it's got to be nearly everyone's "day 1 camp" who arrives at RH with a backpack).

Some tips: Consider exploring McCargo Cove...it's long, nifty and pretty fun to paddle around and just to the west of Amygdaloid Channel, which was fun, glassy paddling.

If you're looking for Amygdaloid Lake, the keyhole is the way to go, and it's easy to find with a GPS.

Birch Island camp, at the northern mouth of McCargoe was pretty nice too, small island so we had the island to ourselves. Because you're far away from the backpacking crowds, it was an easy place to see Moose (for us at least) too.

Belle Isle to Duncan Narrows and Duncan Bay was the best part of the trip. If I had it to do again, I'd probably avoid most of Rock Harbor all together. It was quiet, lightly trafficed, offered great scenery and the campsites at the narrows were super cool.

Rock Harbor, by comparison, was crowded and Daisy Farm was actually full (campsites numbering in the teens if I recall correctly). With loud people chasing a mamma moose and her nursing baby through the woods instead of watching respectfully. Just in general too many people over there for my taste.

I'll second the recommendation above that you eat at the snack bar. It's open longer hours than the restaurant too, so that helps and at that point in our trip, the cheeseburgers were bar-none the best we'd ever had :-)

My final tip: Do some night paddling. We went out at 10pm one night, silently of course, in glassy water, with the full moon on the horizon and watched the stars. It's incredible how serene the entire lake can seem on a calm night, and how worthwhile the paddling feels at those moments.

You can see our pictures online at:

Enjoy your trip, it's a great place to paddle.

Email me if you want any other suggestions.

Paddline Isle Royale
Thank you so much. Your feedback is appreciated and helpful…I can’t wait!

Great Website. Very helpful information and photos. We’ve been to Isle Royale backpacking, and just returned from there in late May. But this is the first kayak trip. We’re so excited. Thanks again for some great tips. Sharing the photos with our friends who will be going for the first time in September!