When most people think of a national park they think of Yellowstone or Yosemite or the Grand Canyon but what they should think of is the Isle Royale National Park. The reason is because the Isle Royale is what a national park should be which is wild, rugged, and buffered from the outside world.
The Isle Royale lies in northwest Lake Superior and although its only just 18 miles of water that separate the island from its nearest mainland shore of the Minnesota-Ontario border, it is considered part of the state of Michigan which is 56 miles across the lake to the south.
The island is only accessible by boat or seaplane, and visitors come to experience the Isle Royale through hiking its trails, paddling its inland waterways, exploring the island’s rugged coast, or venturing into the depth of the island’s shipwrecks. The island’s physical isolation and primitive wilderness challenged human use for centuries and ironically that isolation has itself become the island’s main attraction.
Those who make the trip to the Isle Royale come to see the island’s 165 miles of trail, fish its 46 inland lakes, and paddle along its rugged shoreline. The Rock Harbor Lodge, which is at the island’s east end, offers simple motel styled rooms, handful of cabins, camp store, and a marina. The rest of the island is made up of forested foot trails, rocky bluffs, scenic lakes, and primitive campsites, in other words good old fashion backcountry.
The Isle Royale is rough, untamed country and its trail are muddy, so for the unadventurous, this park isn’t for them. Everyone who goes to Isle Royale also have to stop near dockside to hear a ranger talk about low-impact hiking and camping. For example, water must be boiled for two minutes or filtered, and the reason being is that chemical purifiers will not wipe out tapeworm cysts.
What most people don’t know is that the Isle Royale National Park actually consist of more than 200 islands, and all of the are remains of the same landmass.
The story begins 1.2 billion years ago with a big rift in the earth’s crust, which may have extended from the Isle Royale, and southward, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. As this series of cracks poured molten lava, covering thousands of square miles. The molten lava flows that formed Keweenaw Peninsula 1.2 billion years ago also gave rise to the Isle Royale archipelago.
About 30 million years later, faulting occurred, thrusting the Earth’s crust upward at an angle. On one side of the fault rose Isle Royale, with a northwest side of steep ridges and bluffs and in the southeastern shore that slopes gradually to the water. On the other side of the fault rose Keweenaw Peninsula, its topography a near mirror image of Isle Royale.
Hikers are usually quick to notice the island’s washboard topography. North-south trails continually rise and fall as they traverse the folded terrain of each corrugated ridge. The Greenstone Ridge Trail, on the other hand, remains relatively level.
Human history connected with the Isle Royale begins with Native American people venturing into the Great Lakes on the heels of the last receding glacier known as the Wisconsin. On the Stoll Trail, by Scoville Point, you can find three small pits in the rock. These pits, form clues of the Native Americans who mined copper on the island and the region is scarred by ancient mine pits and trenches up to 20 feet deep. Carbon-14 testing of the wood remains found in sockets of copper artifacts indicate that the mines are at least 5700 years old.
The Isle Royale was given to the United States by the treat with Great Britain in 1783 but the British remained in control until after the War Of 1812. Also the Ojibwa people considered the island to be their territory. The Ojibwa ceded the island to the U.S. in the Treaty of La Pointe in 1842.
Commercial fishing has been on of the mainstay economic activities on the island throughout historic times. It began before 1800, to feed the fur trade, and...
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