Foundation Documentation
A foundation document defines the purpose of a park's designation and existence and articulates park significance. A foundation document also identifies the park's fundamental resources and values, specifies interpretive themes, and describes special mandates and legal and policy requirements. The foundation is not a decision-making plan, but it provides the underlying groundwork for future management decisions.

View the Foundation Document Overview or the entire Foundation Document in our Management Documents Section.
Purpose of the Park
The purpose of Isle Royale National Park is to set apart a remote island archipelago and surrounding waters in Lake Superior as a national park for the benefit and enjoyment of the public and to preserve and protect its wilderness character, cultural and natural resources, scenery, and ecological processes. Additionally, as a unit of the national park system, Isle Royale National Park provides opportunities for recreation, education and interpretation, and scientific study.
Significance of the Park
  1. Largest Island Archipelago. Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior, and its more than 400 smaller accompanying islands, comprise a complex and remote freshwater archipelago surrounded by the largest freshwater lake in North America, Lake Superior. This distinctive setting influences and shapes Isle Royale's natural, cultural, maritime, wilderness, and scenic resources.
  2. Isolation and Isolated Character. The nautical distance from shore and natural setting of the rugged Isle Royale archipelago starkly contrasts the usual sights, sounds, and modifications of an increasingly populous and mechanized civilization, and provides an exceptional opportunity to experience solitude and isolation. A visit to Isle Royale requires passage across a vast and often dangerous open expanse of water.
  3. Geology, Copper, and Distinct Topography. The visible billion-year-old Greenstone flow forming the island's main ridge reveals one of the oldest, largest, and longest lasting lava flow events on Earth. Inclusions of some of the purest forms of native copper known to exist on the continent and other rare minerals found within volcanic and sedimentary layers of rock, distinguish the geologic resources of Isle Royale. Uplifted layers of these rocks create the park's distinctive ridge and valley topography.
  4. Habitat and Refuge for a Unique Assemblage of Self-Sustaining Cold Water Fish. Isle Royale's distinct topography continues underwater, providing habitat for rare lake trout morphological variants and one of the last viable populations of coaster brook trout.
  5. Scientific Study and Research. Isle Royale provides exceptional opportunities for study and research within a minimally disturbed setting.
  6. Scenery and Scenic Resources. The forces of nature are readily visible as the dominant element that has shaped and continues to shape the stunning scenic character of this relatively undeveloped, rugged archipelago. Brilliant and diverse colors are boldly displayed along the intricate margins of the rocky shoreline and within the dense forest interior. Ever-changing seasonal and atmospheric conditions on the vast, open expanse of Lake Superior introduce an additional dynamic to the distinctive Isle Royale scenery.
  7. Archaeological Mining Sites and Resources. The archaeological resources of Isle Royale contain an assemblage of copper mining sites and features spanning more than 4,000 years. The precontact component of this story is unmatched in quantity and in quality anywhere else in the Lake Superior Basin including the copper-rich Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. Unlike the more accessible sites on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the isolated setting of Isle Royale led to the preservation of these archaeological sites.

Last updated: May 6, 2020

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