• A mid-afternoon veiw down the expanse of Isle Royale National Park.  Photo taken from the Mount Ojibway Fire Tower.

    Isle Royale

    National Park Michigan

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  • Unmanned aircraft including hobbyists

    All waters and lands within the boundary of Isle Royale National Park have been closed to the use of unmanned aircraft including radio-controlled airplanes, hexacopters, and similar items. More »

Trees

Fall colors on the northeast side of the Island.
Fall colors on the northeast side of the island, looking towards Pie Island in Canada.
Paul Brown
 

Balsam fir, white spruce, paper birch, aspen, and mountain ash are typical boreal forest trees that grow along Isle Royale's rugged shoreline. Here, Lake Superior creates cool, moist conditions which favor boreal forest. In contrast, the warmer/drier conditions and deeper soils found in the interior of the island near its western end support an extensive forest of Northern hardwoods. There, autumn hikers along the Greenstone Ridge Trail shuffle through colorful leaves fallen from sugar maples and yellow birches, the two tree species that dominate this forest type. In fact, one location on this part of the island, Sugar Mountain, was once home to an Ojibwe maple sugaring camp in the 1840's. Nearby Red Oak Ridge is a reminder that northern red oak trees also make the western, interior part of the island their home.

 
Bensen_Creek_bog_boardwalk

White spruce and balsam fir are the two most common tree species in the island's extensive boreal forest

Paul Brown

In the island's low areas, visitors walk on boardwalks through swamp forests of northern white cedar, black spruce, tamarack, red maple, and black ash. Three species of pine trees (jack, red, and white) prefer drier feet and are limited to the island's rockier, more open sites.

The forests and trees on Isle Royale are ever-changing due to natural succession, plus disturbances such as fire, moose browse, insect attacks, and windthrow. For example,

Tamarack was much more common in the island's wetlands in the past, but due to a severe larch sawfly infestation about 100 years ago, many trees were killed.
A large fire in 1936 burned about 25% of the forest cover of the island. Early successional species like paper birch and aspen had their heyday, growing quickly to fill in areas opened up by fire. Now however, many of these short-lived trees have died or are dying.
Balsam fir has been negatively affected by moose browsing and may become less common in the future, especially on the western two-thirds of the island.


Did You Know?

Backpackers hike the Greenstone Ridge trail.

Based on wilderness land area, Isle Royale’s Wilderness is the most densely used of all of the National Parks.