For over 50 years, the Ranger III has sailed the waters of Lake Superior, transporting passengers, rangers, and supplies from Houghton, Michigan to Isle Royale. Through its reliable and dedicated service, it has fostered strong connections between this remote island and many mainland communities, and it has become an icon of Lake Superior. These Ranger III connections have allowed Isle Royale National Park to serve visitors year after year.
During the Eisenhower administration (1953-1961), the "Mission 66" program began nationwide in order to rejuvinate national park lands and facilities. During this time, Isle Royale National Park asked for a new vessel to better connect the mainland to the archipelago it manages. Custom designed for the National Park Service (NPS), the Ranger III was built in 1958 by the Christy Corporation, a shipyard in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The Ranger III, the largest vessel operated by the NPS, set sail for Isle Royale for the first time on September 8, 1958.
During 1937, Isle Royale National Park received two surplus United States Coast Guard cutters. They were originally designated NPS-1 and NPS-2, but later became the Beaver (NPS-1) and the first Ranger (NPS-2). From 1937 until 1942, these 75-foot wooden vessels carried Civilian Conservation Corps crews, building materials, food, and other supplies to the island. The entry of the United States into World War II (WWII) resulted in the Beaver returning to military service. The Ranger remained at Isle Royale and, deprived of maintenance funds diverted to the war effort, the wooden vessel started to deteriorate.
After WWII, the decayed Ranger was replaced by a surplus Army minelayer. This 114-foot wooden-hulled ship defended American harbors during WWII. Now it would be known as the Ranger II. From 1946 to 1958, the Ranger II carried passengers and tons of cargo to the developing park.
What became of the original vessels?
The first Ranger was acquired from the government by an individual in 1946 and later resold in 1953. The Ranger II was purchased from the NPS in 1961 and later that year sold to the University of Michigan for use by its Great Lakes Research Division. The name of the vessel was changed to Inland Seas, and operated until 1973 when it was again sold to a private individual. The NPS does not have further records after 1953 for the Ranger and 1977 for the Ranger II.
The Future of the Ranger III
The Ranger III has two primary missions:
Last updated: May 26, 2020