Places to Go: Isle Royale

Located 56 miles from the Keweenaw Peninsula in the northwest corner of Lake Superior resides the 4th largest inland lake island in the world. It’s the second largest in the great lakes after Manitoulin Island on the Canadian side of Lake Huron in the Ontario Province. We are of course talking about the quarter pounder of islands, Isle Royale.

The Places to Go series explores adventure related points of interest in the state of Michigan. We are highlighting everything from the large to small, the known to the unknown. If it’s interesting, we might cover it, and you should visit it.

Isle Royale is classified as a national park that attracts people from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. With a total area of 206 square miles, the island is only accessible via boat or plane seasonally. The major part of the island is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide but is made up of about 450 smaller islands and waterways. These combined areas make up the whole national park.

Photo From National Park Service Website
Photo From National Park Service Website

Isle Royale, like Mackinac Island, does not permit motor vehicle usage. There aren’t even any roadways on the island itself. The park service has a few motorized vehicles, but most of the movement from the harbor area to cabins or the hotel is done with service carts.

Interestingly, the mainland area of Isle Royale contains several good-sized lakes as well. Siskiwit Lake, the largest of them, contains numerous smaller islands as well. One of these is Ryan Island, which contains Moose Flats. Moose Flats contains a seasonal bound with a boulder in it. When the water levels are high enough the boulder, named Moose Boulder, becomes the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world. We think we got that right.

Rock Harbor and Windigo are both starting points for exploring the island. These are the primary in routes for the island that offer some amenities and campgrounds for visitors. Various other campgrounds around the island that are only accessible by boat or a good hike through the island.

Photo From National Park Service Website
Photo From National Park Service Website

 

Despite its remoteness in Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers a number of different activities for anyone visiting. There are a number of hiking trails throughout the island offering varied difficulties for anyone wanting to do some backpacking. There are several day hikes that can be done, or if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can take the two-week trek around the island.

While hiking and camping are probably the primary activities, visitors are also able to fish the lakes which contain several different species of trout and perch. Canoeing and kayaking are also allowed but may be difficult due to the islands no wheeled vehicles rule. Visitors would have to hike in their canoe or kayak.

If you enjoy diving, there are several shipwrecks around the island that can be explored. Several of them are still accessible in the waters around the island for anyone willing to brave the depths and near-freezing temperatures.

Places to Go: Drummond Island

In keeping with the island theme, we started with Beaver Island, this quarter we’re going to shed some light on Drummond Island. Drummond is pretty well known to the off-road and overland community here in Michigan. It offers a good variety of trails that range from easy to challenging.

The Places to Go series explores adventure related points of interest in the state of Michigan. Highlighting everything from the large to small, the known to the unknown. If it’s interesting we might cover it and you should visit it.

The History

Drummond Island is, interestingly enough, named after a Canadian military officer. Gordon Drummond commanded both the Canadian government and military during the 1800s. It was also the last British outpost during the war of 1812 on American soil. In 1828 the island officially became part of the United States and is the only island in the Manitoulin chain of islands to fall in U.S. territory.

The township of Drummond is part of Chippewa County, which encompasses the eastern arm of the Upper Peninsula. It has a total area of 249 square miles with most of that being split between actual land (128 square miles) and water (120 square miles). Most of the island is actually a state park and is home to a unique environment.

The island is home to a thing grassy plain on a limestone bed known as alvar. Often times flooded in the Spring and dry in the summer, these plains are home to plants and animals more often found in grasslands. The Great Lakes region is home to a good number of these alvar plains though.

What To Do

Drummond Island is accessed only via ferry from mainland Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. Once on the island, there are over 40 miles of closed loop trails available to get lost on.

Marble Head is one of the main attractions on the island. Marble Head finds itself in a unique position. It is the first spot to see the sunrise in the Upper Peninsula at its 100 feet elevation. It also offers a mix of driving and hiking in order to access the top.

The fossil ledges are another unique area to visit on Drummond Island. Made from the remains of a saltwater coral bed, the fossil ledges require a high clearance off-road vehicle to get to.

We’ve only listed two items here because Drummond Island is a place that needs to be seen rather than read about. If you’re planning an off-road, overlanding style trip in the future then consider making Drummond Island your preferred spot.