During its history, Isle Royale has had a variety of economic activities. Of these, commercial fishing has the longest continuous history. Miners came and went in a series of mining rushes. They left scars on the landscape and evidences of their settlement, but these activities were confined to a half century, from 1844 to 1894. Lumbermen made a series of ventures in commercial lumbering between 1892 and 1935, but all of these failed because of strikes, storms, or fire. Tourism began in the 1860's and continues today, but only during the present century has it been of large economic value. By contrast, commercial fishing has provided a livelihood for men from the 1830's to the present.
Fishing, like mining, has left its imprint on the landscape. Nearly every inlet, island, and sound of the archipelago has had its cluster of weatherbeaten shanties, wharves, and fishhouses. On the shore-line of popular fishing grounds such as Hay Bay, Chippewa Harbor, and Long Point are numerous worn-out boats run aground and rotting away. The clearings made in the wilderness by fishermen for gardens, pasture, or buildings have changed the ecology of the area, through modifications in vegetation types and the introduction of plants and flowers from the mainland.
There was probably commercial fishing on Isle Royale before 1800. The Northwest Fur Company got its fish from the north side of the island for its stations at the head of the lake in Western Lake Superior. We have no historical records of the location of these fisheries. There is some archeological evidence that the stations may have been located on Amygdaloid Island, at about the site of the present ranger station, on Indian Point, or on Belle Isle.
Last Updated: 02-Apr-2007