Laws & Policies

A long boardwalk can be found in a swamp marking the Minong Ridge Trail
Knowing the laws and polices of the park help you to have a safer and more enjoyable visit.


"What we are protecting and preserving here, so far as it is possible and practical to do so, are actually the processes of nature in which the only permanent thing is change, - change which is permitted to take place with the very minimum of human guidance or control. The essence of place is its wild beauty..."

Under Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman at the park's dedication in 1946

Laws & Policies Quick Links

Compendium, Unmanned Aircraft, Firearms & Weapons, Camping, Collecting,
Commercial Groups, Fireworks, Human Waste,Pets, Quiet Hours,
Respect Wildlife, Traps & Nets, Trash, Waste Water Disposal, Wheeled Devices, Marijuana

Superintendent's Compendium

The Superintendent’s Compendium is the summary of park specific rules implemented under 36 Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR). It serves as public notice, identifies areas closed for public use, provides a list of activities requiring either a special use permit or reservation, and elaborates on public use and resource protection regulations. The Superintendent’s Compendium does not repeat regulations found in 36 CFR and other United States Codes and CFR Titles, which are enforced without further elaboration at the park level.

The regulations contained in 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, are the basic mechanism used by the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of the park and to protect visitors and property with the park. In addition, Title 54 U.S.C. §100751(a) allows the NPS, through the Secretary of the Interior, to “prescribe such regulations as the Secretary considers necessary or proper for the use and management of System units.”


Unmanned Aircraft Including Hobbyists

Until the NPS can determine whether specific uses of unmanned aircraft are appropriate and will not cause unacceptable impacts on park resources and values, Isle Royale National Park is closed to the use of these devices. The use of unmanned aircraft within the boundaries of the park has the potential to harm visitors, disturb wildlife, impact viewsheds, cause excessive noise, and interfere with other visitors' enjoyment of the area and may be incompatible with the purposes for which the park was established, including providing those opportunities for recreational, use and experiences which are compatible with the preservation of the park's wilderness character. A less restrictive approach is not appropriate at this time due the the impacts the devices could potentially present.

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Firearms and other weapons

As of February 22, 2010, a new federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws to legally possess firearms in this park. Refer to Section 512 of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, Public Law 111-24, 123 Stat. 1764-65.

Park User Responsibility
It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearm laws before entering this park. As a starting point, please view the Michigan MC Section 28.425b and visit the Michigan State Police Website. Please note that Michigan does recognize some other state's concealed weapons permits and licenses.

Weapons Prohibited in Federal Facilities
Federal law also prohibits firearms in certain facilities in this park; those places are marked with signs at all public entrances. Refer to 18 U.S.A. § 930 Possession of Firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities.

Weapons restrictions aboard Federal vessels
With regard to the Ranger III vessel operated by the National Park Service, loaded weapons are prohibited, including open carry and concealed weapons, aboard this vessel except by law enforcement and on duty military personnel. Visitors to Isle Royal National Park that travel to the island aboard the Ranger III and have a concealed weapons permit recognized by the state of Michigan and wish to transport their firearm to the island must received prior approval from the "Master of the Vessel". If granted the weapon will not be accessible while aboard the vessel, the firearm must be locked in a case, broken down and unloaded and declared to the "Master of the Vessel". Refer to 18 U.S.A. 2277 Explosives and dangerous weapons aboard vessels.

Weapons restrictions aboard Concession Vessels
With regard to concession vessels operating within the waters of Isle Royal National Park, federal law prohibits possession of firearms except by law enforcement or on duty military personnel, aboard any U.S. Coast Guard "documented" vessel unless prior permission from the "Master of the Vessel" has been obtained. If granted, the weapon will not be accessible while aboard the vessel, the firearm must be locked in a case, broken down, and unloaded and declared to the "Master of the Vessel". Refer to 18 U.S.A. § 2277 Explosives and dangerous weapons aboard vessels.

Weapons restrictions aboard Concession Seaplane
With regard to aircraft operated by an authorized National Park concessionaire, open and concealed carry of firearms aboard any aircraft is prohibited, except by law enforcement officers per FAA regulations. Visitors to Isle Royal National Park that fly aboard commercial aircraft, and have a concealed weapons permit recognized by the state of Michigan, and wish to transport their firearm to the island must receive prior approval from the pilot. If granted, the weapon will not accessible in the cabin of the aircraft, it will be transported in a locked case, broken down and unloaded and declared to the pilot.

The "use" of firearms in parks is still prohibited as stated in the Code of Federal Regulations regardless of state laws.

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Permits are required for all overnight stays at campgrounds, cross-country sites, docks, or at anchor, regardless of group size or method of travel. Permits for parties of 1-6 people are obtained when your party arrives on the island or aboard the Ranger III

Camping - Groups

For groups, parties of seven to ten, advance reservations are required. If your group party exceeds ten participants, you must split into two groups, each independent and traveling on completely separate itineraries. Organizations may not have more than twenty people camping on the island at any one time and are limited to eighty people per year.

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All natural objects including moose antlers, plants, driftwood, cultural or archaeological resources, greenstones, agates, datolites, and other minerals, including those found in Lake Superior may not be removed or disturbed. Removing, possessing, or disturbing park resources is prohibited. Picking small quantities of berries and wild edibles for personal consumption is permitted.

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Commercial Groups

Organizations that charge trip participants a fee or that compensate members or trip leaders in any way are commercial groups under federal law. This applies to both non-profit and for-profit organizations. Commercial groups must apply for and receive a commercial use license to conduct trips in the park. There is a fee for this permit. Applications are only accepted between January 2 and May 15; contact the park for additional information.

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Fireworks are prohibited.

Human Waste

Never defecate within 100 feet (at least 75 steps) of lakes, streams, trails, gullies, or campsites. In areas without outhouses, select a site that visitors are unlikely to discover. With a trowel, dig a "cathole" six to eight inches deep and four to six inches in diameter. Place fecal material in the hole. After use, cover the "cathole" with excavated soil. Pack out all used feminine-hygiene products.

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Dogs, cats, and other animals are not allowed. This includes pets on boats within the park boundaries, which extend 4.5 miles into Lake Superior from the outermost land areas of the park. Visitors bringing pets will be required to leave immediately. Pets disturb wildlife and can transmit disease, particularly to wolves. Special conditions apply to service or guide dogs. Contact the park for further information.

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Quiet Hours

Quiet hours are between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am EDT, if people in adjacent campsites can hear your activities, you are being too loud.

Respect Wildlife

Observe, photograph, and enjoy park wildlife from a safe distance. If animals flee, become defensive, or change their natural activities in your presence, you are too close.

Keep wild animals wild by discouraging them from approaching humans. Practice proper food storage and keep a clean camp. It is illegal to feed, touch, tease, or intentionally disturb wildlife, their homes, nests, or activities.

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Traps and Nets

The use or possession of traps and nets is prohibited.


Pack-out everything you pack-in and if possible, dispose of it on the mainland. Leftover food, food-scraps, orange peels, nutshells, apple cores, twist-ties, candy wrappers, fishing line, and cigarette butts must be packed out. If you have food leftovers, either save and eat them later or pack them out. Do not burn, bury, or place trash, food scraps or garbage in outhouses. Help keep the park clean by packing-out what you pack-in.

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Waste Water Disposal

Cleaning Cookware
Most cookware can be cleaned with hot water, a little elbow grease, and sand or other natural scrubbers. Clean cookware at least 200 feet (75 steps) from lakes, streams, trails, gullies, or campsites. Soap is unnecessary for most dishwashing jobs. Use these products sparingly and keep them at least 100 feet (75 steps) from water sources and campsites.

Use a small strainer or screen to remove food bits from water and pack them out with your garbage. The remaining gray water should be scattered or broadcast over a wide area away from camps and water sources.

Bathing/Cleaning Clothes
When bathing use soap only if necessary and use it sparingly. Conduct bathing on land at least 200 feet (75 steps) away from water sources or campsites. Rinse water can be carried in collapsible containers or pots. Clothes can be cleaned by taking them away from water sources and campsites and thoroughly rinsing them with plain water.

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Wheeled Vehicles and Wheeled Devices

Wheeled vehicles (except for wheelchairs) or other mechanical forms of transportation are not allowed on trails. This includes bicycles and portaging devices.

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While recreational and medical marijuana are now legal in many states, marijuana remains illegal on federal lands including Isle Royale National Park.

Last updated: May 23, 2023

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