With numerous lakes, bays, and islands, Isle Royale National Park provides many miles of waterways for the experienced canoeist and kayaker. Small, open vessels are encouraged to use the numerous miles of waterways the inland lakes provide. Canoes should be at least 15' long to navigate waters in large bays and not swamp in rough water. Recreational kayaks are not appropriate for Isle Royale's marine environment - sea kayaks are recommended. Sea kayaks should be at least 15' 8" to 19' long for open water, and behave well in wind and waves.
A backcountry permit is required when staying overnight at a campground, cross-country zone, dock, or at anchor. Canoe-only campground sites are limited to a maximum two night stay, for parties of six or less. There are cross-country options (camping outside of designated campgrounds) available for those who seek solitude or have planned a unique itinerary. Camping on offshore islands is limited to designated campsites. Groups (7-10 people) must stay at designated “group campsites," and must get backcountry permits in advance. Permits should be displayed on your tent or shelter when at camp.
Canoeists and kayakers need to be aware of safety hazards and considerations for Lake Superior and the inland lakes and streams prior to their trip. Lake Superior is well-known for its cold temperatures, fog, and sudden squalls that can generate waves that could easily swamp a canoe or kayak. This, along with scarce outer shore landing sites, adds to the potential danger.
Transportation & Boat Rental
Canoes with motors are permitted in Lake Superior waters; they must have valid state registration. It is illegal to use or transport motors, even if not being used, through inland lakes and streams.
The park’s Lake Superior waters contain several exotic species, one of which is the spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus). It appears at this time that the spiny water flea has not made their way into the park’s inland lakes. This is good news, because this invasive invertebrate has been shown to out-compete native species for food.
Last updated: November 22, 2019