Isle Royale National Park is the centerpiece of our Off the Beaten Path guided small group trip to this region. It’s a perfect OBP destination for the way it rolls our favorite things into one—national parks, wilderness hiking, wildlife watching, adventurous exploration, and a great science and nature tale. First, the tale: the interdependence between wolves and moose on the island has been studied for more than 50 years, and is the longest ongoing study of predator-prey relationships in the world. In 2017, wildlife biologists determined that only two wolves survived in the park, so in June of 2018, the National Park Service announced it would introduce 20 to 30 wolves onto the island over a three to five-year period. Our travel partner, National Parks Conservation Association, was a big supporter of the initiative, which should curb the negative impact too many moose have on island vegetation, and lead to stability and balance in the island’s moose and wolf populations. On our Isle Royale Wilderness Sojourn Small Group Adventure, travelers have the opportunity to talk to wildlife biologists about the plan and learn the history of Isle Royale wolves and moose.
Wolves and moose are only part of the excitement of this small group tour. Isle Royale is one of the least-visited parks in the National Park system because it takes some effort to get here, being accessible only by boat or seaplane. No one lives there full time, leaving the park to its natural citizens for most of the year. There are no paved roads—only miles of hiking trails through the heavily forested island. OBP travelers take the ferry, a three-hour trip from Copper Harbor, Michigan. And once you get there, you get to stay for two days and three nights at the Rock Harbor Lodge, inside the park. Days are filled with top-notch interpretation by naturalist guides, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, hands-on learning, and wildlife watching, keeping an eye open for the island’s foxes, mink, red squirrels, beavers, snowshoe hares, turtles, frogs, and salamanders. The focus is on the island’s natural history, but there are plenty of opportunities to learn about its fascinating human history, too. Prehistoric peoples mined large quantities of copper on the island, and their activities are revealed through ancient mine pits and trenches up to 20 feet deep. Copper artifacts found on the island date back some 5,700 years.
While Isle Royale forms the heart of our attention in this region, there’s plenty of other adventure to be had. Like a cruise to Madeline Island and Big Bay State Park, and visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, with hiking at Little Sand Bay. There’s also much to be discovered on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, including its lighthouses, scenic drives, old forts, and the Keweenaw National Historical Park, which explores the history of area copper mining.
If you’re looking for a travel experience that combines natural history, human history, hiking, wildlife watching, and adventure, look to Isle Royale National Park, and OBP’s Isle Royale Wilderness Sojourn guided small group tour.