DULUTH -- Isle Royale National Park plans to be closed much of the summer and, even if parts of the park do open, there will be no lodging and no scheduled ferry service to get there.
National Park Service officials on Wednesday, May 20, announced that the park’s usual passenger ferry boats — the Ranger III, Voyageur II, Sea Hunter III and Isle Royale Queen IV — will not operate in 2020 due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Rock Harbor Lodge — including overnight lodging, dining, marina services, gift shops and stores — also will remain closed for the entire season.
“There just doesn’t seem to be a safe way to bring that many people together in the boats or in the facilities’’ on the island, said Liz Valencia, chief of interpretation and cultural resources for Isle Royale.
Waters around the park remain open for day-use sailing, boating and fishing, but the entire island is closed to any overnight stays. No services are available. That could change, with limited dispersed campsites available by the end of June or early July, as COVID-19 conditions and state guidelines change.
“We’re saying until further notice, but we’re hoping for late June or early July if conditions allow,’’ Valencia told the News Tribune.
If the park does “open” it likely will be Lake Superior-access campsites for sailing and fishing boats and inland campsites for backpackers. Lodging will remain closed all summer, as will the store and restaurant. Valencia said boat gas may be available at Rock Harbor later in the summer, but will not be available at Windigo.
For people who don’t have their own boats, seaplane service may be available once the park opens, Valencia said, with flights from Grand Marais on the North Shore and from Hancock, Michigan.
“That may be the only option for backpackers’’ without their own access to the island, she said.
Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota has reopened to dispersed camping, as has the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore remains open for day-use access, but will be closed for services and overnight use until at least June 20.
Isle Royale is a mostly wilderness national park, and Lake Superior’s largest island, located about 15 miles off Minnesota’s North Shore. For more information and updates, go to nps.gov/isro or call 906-482-0984.