Isle Royale is one of the largest islands in the Great Lakes. Located in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, Isle Royale is actually an archipelago (a series of islands). The largest island is called Isle Royale. The entire island chain is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide at its widest point. Because Isle Royale is 50 miles from Michigan’s nearest shore (and only 15 miles from Canada), it is sometimes left off Michigan maps. Isle Royale also is a densely forested wilderness that can only be reached by boat or float plane.
Isle Royale’s earliest visitors were Native Americans who mined copper on the island more than 4,000 years ago. They called the island Minong, which means “a good place to live.” After the Europeans arrived in the Great Lakes, they trapped animals on the island. French Catholic missionaries also visited Native Americans who lived on the island.
When the American colonies won their independence from Great Britain in 1783, Isle Royale was placed in American waters because existing maps put the island in the middle of Lake Superior. During Michigan’s copper boom of the mid-nineteenth century, mining companies dug shafts on the island looking for minerals. When the miners left the island, commercial fishermen arrived. In 1940, Isle Royale became a national park.
Isle Royale National Park is a roadless land of wild animals (moose, fox and wolf), refreshing lakes and rugged terrain. No vehicles are allowed on the island and the park is only open during the summer months. Visitors can hike the island’s 175 miles of trails and camp at numerous sites.
Shipwrecks are also part of the island’s legacy. At least ten major shipwrecks occurred around Isle Royale. These shipwrecks are part of the national park and many divers enjoy visiting the remains of these boats.
Isle Royale National Park is truly one of Michigan’s most unique places to visit.
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