Just how insular is Isle Royale, a Lake Superior island two-thirds the size of Manhattan? Well, the 2002 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service census lists a population of 17 wolves and 1,100 moose. They, of course, are year-round residents. We bipeds are merely guests.
During the seasonal visitation period from April 16 to October 31, getting to Isle Royale National Park and its accompanying 40-island archipelago is an adventure in itself. To wit, the ferry service from Houghton, Mich., is aptly nicknamed “The Barf Barge,” due to its penchant for pitching and yawing on the 41/2-hour ride across tempestuous Superior.
Once there, the island is somewhat more idyllic. Expect 165 miles of hiking trails and a vast network of sheltered inlets and channels that nearly circumnavigate the island. The user fee is just $4 per day.
The best ways to get around are on foot or by paddle craft. On the routes are campsites with three-sided shelters or enough room for three tents. For room to roam the island’s nooks and crannies, take a kayak or canoe from one camp to the next; most are limited to one- or two-night stays. In spaces between, unfurl a rod for walleyes or take a shot at northern pike that haunt the swampy shores and erupt on topwaters. A little farther offshore, the rocky reefs are excellent for lake trout.
In the island’s interior you’ll find another native, coaster brook trout, a veritable finned phantom that resides in the lake most of the year and slips back to the island’s streams in September. Coho salmon that have colonized the same creeks and inlets show up with the onset of fall.
Contact: Isle Royale National Park (906-482-0984; www.nps.gov/isro). To get there, take the ferry from Houghton, Mich. (906-482-0984; www.nps.gov/isro/ranger3. htm); Copper Harbor, Mich. (906-289-4437; www.isleroyale.com); or Grand Portage, Minn. (715-392-2100; www.grand- isle-royale.com).