calm, venture along the outer shore.
Isle Royale’s boreal forests of paper birch
and balsam sustain more than 700 different
species of plant life, and wildlife abounds.
We spotted a cow moose and two calves from
Monarch’s aft deck while we were docked
at Windigo Harbor. Moose arrived early in
the last century, probably swimming from
Ontario, and with no natural predators, they
grew to alarming numbers, nearly deforesting the island. In the 1940s, wolves crossed
to the island on winter lake ice, and proved
to be the predators the moose population
needed. Since then, they’ve performed an
intricate biological balancing act, the longest
continuously studied predator-prey system
in the world.
Otters frolic in the water — we watched
one play next to the boat one afternoon after
a hike near Moskey Basin — and foxes have
been known to board docked boats and
steal shiny objects and sweat-flavored hiking
boots. The island is also home to 100 nesting
pairs of loons — we saw flocks of 10 or more
of the normally solitary creatures swimming
together throughout our visit and were serenaded by their haunting cries.
Most of the docks provide easy access
to hiking, and if the romantic folklore of
Longfellow wears thin, there’s plenty of real
history to check out. It’s a short dinghy ride
from the dock at Caribou Island to a restored
family fishery, and beyond that, the Rock
Harbor Lighthouse serves as a museum, with
historic photos, shipwreck memorabilia, and
a panoramic view of the harbor.
Bronze Age visitors left their mark on
the island as well. Beginning some 4,500
years ago, the island served the native
peoples of Minnesota and Ontario,
who traveled there to dig for copper with stone tools. Early mining pits can still be seen near a
natural, water-carved arch near
Belle Isle and McCargoe Cove.
The early travelers used the island
for hunting and fishing as well, arriving just as we did, in boats, from the
shores of the Gitche Gumee, “by the shining
Top to bottom: Hiawatha 1900 lithograph. The Fresnel
lens from Rock Island
roam the island.
Monarch docked at
The restored Edison family
fishery on Isle Royale.
PHOTOS, TOP TO BOTTOM: LOC.GOV; MART Y RICHARDSON; JOHN VUCETICH, ISLEROYALEWOLF.ORG
protected anchorages, each
less than a day’s cruise
apart. At the northeastern end is Rock Harbor,
featuring the island’s only
commercial marina and non-camping accommodations.
If you want to tour the island
the way Hiawatha did, Isle Royale is a natural
paradise for canoes and kayakers. These boaters occupy campsites adjacent to the docks,
and the park has 244 campsites dispersed
among 36 campgrounds. Each summer, hundreds of backpackers hike the island’s 165
miles of well-marked trails. Canoers and
kayakers portage from one inland lake to
another, or on the rare days when Superior is
Bayfield, WI, 83 nautical
miles from Isle Royale.
Bareboat and captained.
Marty Richardson and her husband Jerry have
logged nearly 12,000 miles on their 52-foot
trawler Monarch since buying it in 2007. Their
travels have ranged from southern Canada to
the Gulf of Mexico, and they make their home in
the Detroit area.