Isle Royale & the Keweenaw

Located in northwest Lake Superior, Isle Royale is the largest island in the largest freshwater lake in the world and is the least visited of all the National Parks. It’s a true wilderness area and it’s said that more people visit Yellowstone in a day than Isle Royale in an entire season. Hiking and boating are the only means of travel, as no vehicles are allowed on the Island. Isle Royale has over 150 miles of shoreline, numerous barrier islands and fjord like bays that can best be explored in a sea kayak.


     Interestingly, Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula (also known as the Copper Island, from which more copper was mined than gold mined from California!) are both closely related. They are a mirror image to each other, sharing the same Michigan county, the same Great Lake and in fact, share part of the same bedrock.


     Both Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula are premier areas for sea kayaking and can be paddled in segments or circumnavigated by experienced paddlers. While more remote, Isle Royale’s campsites offer amenities such as tent pads, picnic tables, pit toilets and Adirondack-style shelters, while in contrast paddlers will encounter a mixture of no frill, back-country areas, intermixed with shoreline communities and residential development along the Keweenaw Water Trail. Passenger ferry service to/from Isle Royale is available in Copper Harbor and Houghton, MI. Both will transport kayaks for an additional fee.


     It is essential that paddlers on Lake Superior be competent with their skills and prepared for the variety of conditions the Big Lake can present. Paddlers need to keep a keen eye on the current marine forecast and plan routes accordingly. Paddlers should be prepared with adequate signaling and communication devices (no cell coverage in many areas) and dress appropriately for potential cold water immersion, as hypothermia is a serious concern at all times of the year. Emergency rescues by the NPS, Coast Guard or local authorities can be distant and time consuming. —SF☀

Content submitted by Keweenaw Adventure Company, which is located at the geographic center of Lake Superior in Copper Harbor, MI – specializing in Lake Superior Sea Kayaking since 1994. Whether you’re a novice or expert, you can find more information on guide/rental/outfitting services at: