Camping Guide Three types of camping are available at Isle Royale: three sided shelters (maximum six people), tent sites (maximum six people) for one to three tents, and group sites (for parties of seven to ten people). We need to split into two teams of 9 members and use different campsites. Come prepared to be mobile, self sufficient, and flexible. Additional Camping Information Alcohol Prohibited, as on any scout activity. Backpacks A strong pack that fits well is a must. This is a poor time to break in a new pack, since it could strain your back, raise blisters on your hips, and make walking uncomfortable. Whether you use an internal or external frame pack is a matter of preference., as long as it is durable and well designed for backpacking. Load test your pack prior to your island visit. Balance your load. Make sure your pack rain cover or poncho is in good condition and readily accessible. Remember to keep your first aid kit, flashlight, snack and water bottles where they can be accessed without disturbing the rest of the pack. Campfires Opportunities for campfires are limited; a self-contained fuel (backpacking) stove is needed. Backpacking stoves are dependable, easier to use, and less damaging to the park than wood fires. Backpacking stoves are also lightweight and eliminate the need for hatchets, axes, or saws. Where campfires are allowed, a metal fire ring is provided. Never build your own ring. Use only wood that is dead and down. Please do not peel bark or cut live trees or branches. Always extinguish your campfire completely before you depart the area. Water at Isle Royale deserves special care to avoid polluting it and exposing yourself or your party to diseases. Drinking Water Water not obtained from the spigots at Rock Harbor or Washington Creek Campground/Windigo area must be considered contaminated with eggs of the hydatid tapeworm and bacteria and requires special care. Boil water for two minutes or filter through a 25-micron water filter. The purchase and use of water filters is highly recommended. One unit for each group of three or four will provide an adequate and safe water supply. Bring along a piece of linen or tightly woven cotton pre filter large organic matter before running water through your filter. Nalgene, plastic jugs (1 liter) are very useful, I recommend 3 per person. If you decide to boil, rather than filter water, be sure to carry extra fuel. Keep in mind that accidentally boiling water can cause severe injuries. Remember that it is unsafe to drink untreated Isle Royale water. Water treated only with chemical tablets WILL NOT guarantee safe drinking water. Food There are several manufacturers of trail foods on the market, making menu selection unlimited. Sample your meals at planning meetings. Cook at a shake down outing, so that you order only those items that will be eaten and enjoyed by the group. There will be minimum opportunity for substitutions on the island. Consider developing your menu from items at your local supermarket. There are many things on the shelf that are suitable for backpacking, and usually they are cheaper than freeze-dried trail foods. Try dry soups, potatoes, fast-cooking grains, biscuits, breakfast foods, desserts, and juices. Keep meals simple; one-pot meals are best for preparation and cleanup. Don't skimp on food. Package your meals so that they can be distributed easily and allow everyone's load to become a little lighter each day. All your trash must be hauled off the island by your group when you leave, so refrain from using canned goods; they are heavy, bulky, and messy to carry around after they have been opened. A multi day menu that repeats itself can simplify planning and purchase of food. Squirrels and foxes have been conditioned by visitors to become bandits and may raid your equipment and food. Don't feed them. Protect your food and trash; arrange a bag and line to hang them above their reach. Footwear EXPECT BLISTERS! If you don't get them, you will be happy; if you do, you will at least be prepared. Footwear that has been a friend for years may seem to turn against its owners for no apparent reason. Walking long distanced in wet footwear is a classic way to invite blisters. Even when your boots seem dry, take frequent short breaks to dry accumulated sweat from socks and footwear and reduce the probability of blisters. Wear footwear that is comfortable and in good condition. Boots high enough to give ankle support are recommended. Boots should breathe. Heavy mountaineering types are not needed. Whenever you suspect that someone may have a blister starting, treat it immediately. Don't wait until the next scheduled stop. If there is noticeable rubbing, redness, or soreness, cover the area with moleskin or good quality adhesive tape. Keep the area clean and covered. It is recommended that you waterproof your boots and carry along running shoes or moccasins for evening wear while your boots air or dry out. Hazards Beware of open mine pits at Island Mine, Todd Harbor, Siskowit Mine, Daisy Farm, Minong Mine, and other areas throughout the park. Be prepared for rapid and dramatic changes in weather. Know signs and symptoms of hypothermia and heat related emergencies. It is often hot and dry on the ridges, even when it is cool down by Lake Superior. Carry plenty of drinking water and drink it! Watch your footing on wet and slippery trails, rock surfaces, and roots. There are 88 three sided sleeping shelters on Isle Royale. They provide a convenient source of shelter, especially during bad weather, and the front of each shelter is screened to provide relief from the biting insects. Availability is on a first come, first served basis. We encourage you to do your part in keeping these shelters in good condition. Vandalism such as carving and writing on the walls and ceilings is illegal. To prevent damage to the screens and the doors, be careful with your camping gear, and close doors softly. Sweep them out with the brooms provided before you depart, so they will be clean for the next user. Drinking water can be a source of great pleasure on a wilderness journey, or it can ruin your trip. Water borne diseases may not be a problem at Isle Royale, but harmful bacteria and other microscopic creatures may contaminate the water. WARNING! Water not obtained from spigots in Rock Harbor or Windigo must be considered contaminated with intestinal bacteria and the eggs of the hydatid tapeworm. Boil water for at least two minutes or filter through an adequate filter (0.4microns for bacteria; 25 microns for tapeworm). Halizone tablets, bleach, and other chemical purifiers WILL NOT kill tapeworm eggs although they may be effective against bacteria if used properly. PLAY IT SAFE! Take time to read this basic information about how you should care for your drinking water at Isle Royale National Park. Human Waste Use pit toilets provided at campgrounds to dispose of human waste. If not available: select a spot at least 100 feet from trails, streams, lakes, or dry stream beds and dig a hole six inches deep. Cover the hole tightly with duff after use. Carry out sanitary napkins and tampons. Insects Expect mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, and other insects to peak in June or July. They are part of your Isle Royale experience. Bring plenty of insect repellent and netting or other skin barriers. Think in terms of being able to cover all exposed skin on your body from biting insects. Insects can bite through thin clothing. Make sure your tent has mosquito netting and that it has no holes. Bring materials to repair damaged mosquito netting. The mosquito and black fly hatch generally starts at the end of May or the beginning of June. Black flies hatch in cold running water. They can be especially numerous if we have unusually warm weather during spring runoff, or when heavy rains keep streams high into summer. Large numbers of black flies are usually gone by July. Some years, the island has relatively few. In a heavy year, a few may linger until frost. The first frost may come as early as the end of August or as late as the end of September. Mosquitoes usually get off to a quick start and then slowly taper down as the summer dries out. In a rainy summer, they will stay at high numbers. At least some mosquitoes will hang on until a heavy frost finally ends their season. Insects are part of the natural scene at Isle Royale and they can be annoying. The number of bugs and when they arrive varies considerably from year to year. Insect numbers also vary from one location to another on the Island due to microclimate effects and from day to day due to weather changes. For example, the cooler Lake Superior shores tend to have fewer mosquitoes, but wind direction and other factors can override that tendency. Hot, humid weather brings out every available mosquito and black fly; cool, dry, breezy days slow them down. In a typical year, the mosquito and black fly hatch starts at the end of May or the beginning of June. Black flies hatch in cold running water. They can be especially numerous if there is unusually warm weather during spring runoff, or when heavy rains keep streams high into summer. When they are really out, they can be so thick as to drive campers to desperate measures such as spending lots of time in tents, using head nets and breathing through their teeth. At times, the conversation turns to modes of protection. Discussions of the merits of DEET repellents versus citronella repellents entertain some folks, while others securely cover all exposed skin on their bodies with bite proof material and receive the benefits of both insect protection and a walking sauna simultaneously. Do come prepared to protect yourself. Large numbers of black flies are usually gone by July. Some years, the island has relatively few. In a heavy year, they may not be completely gone until frost. (The first frost may come as early as the end of August or as late as the end of September.) Fortunately unlike mosquitoes, black flies do sleep at night. Mosquitoes mostly hatch in standing water during warm weather. In a typical year they get off to a quick start and then slowly taper down as the summer dries out. In a rainy summer, they will stay at high numbers. At least some mosquitoes will hang on until a heavy frost finally ends their season. Deer flies and horse flies are most prevalent during the warmer months. Stable flies can be quite numerous during periodic hatches, mostly along shorelines. Long pants and thick socks are the best defense. No See Ums come around from time to time during the warm part of the season. Make sure the zippers on your tent are closed really tight when they are around. Glossary: Mosquito: Most everyone knows what they look like, the flying hypodermic needle. Black Fly: These look like over-grown fruit flies or a husky gnat, lots smaller than a housefly. Mostly teeth, they don't poke you with a needle; they chew a small hole to take a little blood. They love the backs of your ears and along the edges of clothing. Deer Fly: The delta winged B 1 bomber of the insect world. Some are quite colorful with green and orange markings. The most colorful are sometimes affectionately called "moose flies" on the Island. The most persistent of this species are capable of following the same hiker for miles often trying to land on the exact same place in the part of your hair every few seconds unless you persuade it to do otherwise. A hat also helps. Horse Fly: Maybe not be as big as their southern cousins, but otherwise the same idea. Stable Fly: Looks like a slightly undersize housefly (somewhat lighter in color) but the soft, blunt probe is missing (replaced by a retractable drill). They tend to stay close to the ground explaining one of their many names, "ankle biter". Also known as the "fish fly", or "beach fly" for its favorite environment. No See Ums: If you figure out what they look like you've got quick eyes. You feel them before you see them. Leave No Trace Isle Royale may seem rugged, but it is also fragile. The goal is to have minimum human impact. To help preserve it, follow low impact camping practices wherever you go. Plan ahead and prepare Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit. Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use. Visit in small groups. Split larger parties into groups of 4-6. Repackage food to minimize waste. Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging. Travel and camp on durable surfaces Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow. Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary. In popular areas: Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites. Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy. Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent. In pristine areas: Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails. Avoid places where impacts are just beginning. Dispose of Waste Properly Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Deposit solid human waste in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished. Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater. Leave What You Find Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them. Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species. Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches. Minimize Campfire Impacts Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light. Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires. Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes. Respect Wildlife Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them. Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely. Control pets at all times, or leave them at home. Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter. Be Considerate of Other Visitors Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail. Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock. Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors. Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises Natural Fire Lightning caused forest fires are a natural and historic part of the Isle Royale environment. Some plant and animal species require fire to survive, such as jack pine. Some, such as moose, actually thrive in recently burned areas. Therefore, the park's policy is to closely monitor natural fires if certain qualifying conditions are met. Fire is a powerful force. Help protect the island from human caused fires by being careful with cigarettes, campfires and camp stoves. Noise Quiet hours at all campgrounds and docks are 10:00 pm to 6:00 am EDT. This will insure that all campers can have a restful experience, enjoying the natural sounds of the wilderness. Pets Dogs, cats, and other pets are not allowed within the park boundaries, including pets on boats. Visitors bringing pets to Isle Royale will be required to leave immediately. Pets can disturb wildlife and be a source of disease (such as canine parvovirus), particularly for park wolves. Permits All campers and boaters are required to obtain a camping permit on the Ranger III vessel or at Rock Harbor or Windigo upon arrival. When leaving the park, return the permit, with itinerary corrections noted. Sanitation The same techniques you use to avoid water borne disease will also help prevent it from spreading from you to others. Always use pit toilets when provided, and at other times perform your toilet needs AT LEAST 100 feet from any water or wet ground. Use a plastic trowel and buy human waster four to ten inches deep. Take your toilet paper to the next privy; it doesn't decompose easily and spring and autumn frosts can bring it to the surface. Wash your hands afterwards! Wash yourself and your dishes away from lakes or streams to avoid contaminating the park's water. Take your water to camp and scrub and rinse there. Even biodegradable soap is a stress on the environment. Wash with as little soap as possible. Dispose of used water at least 100 feet from any water source, wet ground, campsite, or water spigot. Don't wash dishes at water spigots! Be careful to avoid contamination of food from careless handling of infected soil that may be on your hands, clothing, or boots. NOTE: The diseases mentioned are unlikely to prove fatal, but can cause extreme distress. Sleeping Bags The cool Isle Royale climate makes a warm sleeping bag a must. Prepare for sudden drops in temperature. House bags or lightweight summer bags are not suitable. Bags that compress easily and are somewhat water resistant work best. Bring a foam pad to sleep on since air mattresses are uncomfortably cool and cutting tree boughs for bedding is prohibited. Remember, one third of your time on the island will be spent in a sleeping bag. Solitude Among Isle Royale's important backcountry values are its natural sights and sounds. You can enhance your own and other's solitude by keeping quiet in campgrounds and on docks and trails, traveling in small parties, and avoiding unnecessary noise like sing alongs or the use of radios and tape decks. Refrain from group games like Frisbee and tag, which often lead to shouting and extra noise. Enjoy the natural sights and sounds of the island around you. One of Isle Royale's greatest gifts is the healing meditative solitude available there. Stoves Self-contained fuel stoves are a must, since campfires are not allowed at most Isle Royale campgrounds. Stoves reduce the amount of wood and brush that would otherwise be cut for fuel and in this way helps preserve the natural forest cover. Avoid stoves that use specialized or disposable canisters, sincere refills may not be available and they are a potential source of pollution. Any stove used for a group should have a high BTU output, and be stable enough to handle group sized cooking pots. A few cans of Sterno can come in handy should you encounter stove problems; it works well for keeping some things warm while cooking other things. Don't attempt to cook with only Sterno; groups that have attempted this have usually ended up borrowing or sharing the stove of another backpacker. Determine you fuel needs during a shakedown outing. Bring 50% more fuel that you think you'll need, since heating dishwater and cooking drinking water in a cool environment will require a generous supply. Check park brochures for the latest information on bringing fuel to the island. Tents Use tents you are familiar with and trust. This is not the time to experiment. The "lake effect" can alter weather in a very short time, and you will have only your tent for shelter. Your tent should have insect proof netting sewn in floor, waterproof fly, stability in strong winds, and cross flow ventilation for moisture removal. It should also be lightweight. A lightweight dining fly is well worth the added pounds. The park's three sided shelters are not available to groups. Trash Trash is a continual problem in the park. The rule is simple: CARRY OUT WHATEVER YOU CARRY IN! There are no trashcans in the backcountry. Do not bury, burn, or scatter trash and do not put it into pit toilets. As you hike, help maintain a pristine backcountry by picking up litter dropped by other visitors. Weapons Firearms, fireworks or any implements designed to discharge missiles in the air or water are prohibited. Wheeled Vehicles or Devices Wheeled vehicles (except for wheelchairs) or other mechanical forms of transportation are not allowed on trails. This includes bicycles and canoe portage devices. Where to Camp Campsites cannot be reserved, except for group campsites by groups of seven to ten. Shelters cannot be reserved. Individual sites are available on a first come, first served basis. The number of tent or shelter sites is limited. Be prepared to travel to an alternate campground in case the one where you plan to stay is full. At peak times, double up with another party using available tent pads, rather than camping outside established sites and causing campground sprawl, soil compacting, and trampling. Campers must stay in established campground unless they make arrangements for off trail hiking and camping when the camping permit is issued. Off trail hiking and camping is difficult at Isle Royale and recommended only for experienced campers. Wilderness Wilderness is managed for preservation and solitude. We need such natural places for study, measuring the forces of natural change and dynamics, and as a place to renew the human spirit. Isle Royale has established rules and regulations governing group size, fires, sanitation, and basic conduct to help protect its varied resources as well as the quality of experience for users. Help preserve wilderness by following these guidelines. Wildlife Keep wildlife wild. Feeding wildlife upsets the natural food chain and makes animals dependent on humans. It also causes them to lose their fear of humans and approach more and more closely. Finally, an animal such as a fox, otter, or squirrel may bite a human and have to be destroyed, all because someone started the vicious cycle by feeding them. It has happened here before. Respect the needs of birds and other animals for undisturbed territory. Feeding, touching, teasing, trapping, molesting, or intentional disturbance of any wildlife or of their homes, nests, or activities is prohibited and detracts from the wilderness character of Isle Royale. Fishing requires knowledge of the Isle Royale fishing regulations. Group Camping A "group" constitutes any party of seven to ten people, including leaders. No group may be larger than ten persons. Consult group camping information to explore the possibilities for separate groups. IF THERE ARE MORE THAN TEN OF YOU, YOU WILL BE BROKEN INTO SMALLER GROUPS and required to go on separate routes. Plan to use your stoves, water filters, and first aid kits accordingly. Have sufficient equipment available. (Moral of the story – do not exceed ten persons, including yourself). Tips for Camping Groups There are 42 designated group sites at 17 different campgrounds (see campground chart). Use loops whenever possible; it's more interesting than backtracking on the same trail. If your group is young or inexperienced, hike a short loop and overnight at each group campground encountered. Houghton and Hancock area Campgrounds Michigan State Parks will not reserve group sites. They are assigned on a first come, first served basis. Plan accordingly and if possible arrive early in the day. Distances from Campgrounds to Ranger III and Sea Plane Service in Houghton: McLain State Park to Houghton: 13 miles Twin Lakes State Park to Houghton: 24 miles Baraga State Park to Houghton: 28 miles Hancock City Campground to Houghton: 2 miles Distances from Campgrounds to Isle Royale Queen dock in Copper Harbor: Fort Wilkins State Park to Copper Harbor: 1 miles Houghton to Copper Harbor: approximately 50 miles Helping the Group During the Trip Hike for one half hour and rest for five minutes, regardless of weather or terrain. Fatigue is responsible for most accidents. Place the slowest hikers first in line and don't let the group become strung out over a long distance. Allow ample time to set up and break camp. Time spent relaxing in a campsite is as important as distance covered on the trail. Hike a reasonable distance each day (6 to 8 miles) and avoid "forced marches." Try to limit each group member to one change of clothing. This will help make packs lighter. Dress in layers so that you can put on or take off clothing as needed. Tape flashlight switches off and screw fuel bottles tight. Never let a group member light or use a stove inside a tent. Carry energy food as you hike: candy, nuts, granola, cookies, gorp, and fruit. Use similar foods for no cook lunches. Drink lots of fluids. Just because you're not thirsty doesn't mean you body doesn't need water. On cool days, you may have to remind group members to drink. If a group member becomes injured, keep their personal belongings with them, since they may be separated from the group if further treatment elsewhere is necessary. Expect insects. Mosquitoes and black flies can be especially bothersome if you camp without netting, repellent and long sleeved clothing. Expect rain. Carry a poncho and rain fly and pack clothing in plastic bags. Keep pack weights close to one fourth (or less) of the body weight of the person carrying the pack. Group discipline is a must. Unruly groups will not be tolerated by the management of Isle Royale. What your group carries into the Park, it must also carry out. Bring along plastic bags for separating your trash from the other things in your pack. Small sealing bags are good for leftover food and keep your larger trash bags cleaner. Preparation Preparation is the key to a successful Isle Royale visit. Being prepared for whatever occurs will help you to be an effective leader. Keep in mind that the park is a natural wilderness that should be left preserved for future generations of hikers and campers. It is difficult for first time visitors to realize beforehand the isolation that is part of the Isle Royale experience. Few facilities exist in the interior. There are no hospitals or clinics. Supplies in limited quantities are available only from two small stores on each end of the island. Bring with you whatever you will need: Food: basic items plus emergency rations and trash bags Water: containers and filter equipment Shelter: insect and rain proof tent Protection: first aid kit, lip balm, insect and sun protection, moleskin Clothing: full length pants, jacket, long sleeved shirt, and rain gear Footwear: boots that are broken in and waterproofed Tools: knife, flashlight, compass, and topographic map Fires: waterproof matches, self-contained stove and fuel Preparing the Group before the Trip Help the group understand the problems of fatigue, exhaustion, and hypothermia. Group members should be able to recognize and treat the initial stages of these conditions. Train in the basics. Include information about clothing, equipment, food, stoves, camping, water purification, foot travel, shelters, map and compass, first aid, and weather. Hold a shake down meeting followed by a practice weekend outing. Train all group members to use cooking stoves, tents, and backpacks. Help your group learn about Isle Royale, its scenic and ecological uniqueness, its national park and wilderness status, and the type of camping and hiking they will experience here. Inquire how you might view a park video before your visit. Preparing Yourself (The Leader) As the leader, you are in charge! You control your group! Know the answers to these questions: How would I get word to a ranger station if an injury or illness makes it impossible for a member of my group to hike? How would I care for an injured or ill group member? What would I do with the remainder of my group? (Never leave an injured person alone.) How would I get an injured or ill group member off the island? Do I have a card for each member of my party which lists name, address, emergency phone number and medical information such as blood type, allergies, and medications used? (This is extremely important to medical personnel in emergencies). Do I have sufficient resources to stay several days beyond that which I planned? Am I current in first aid training? Am I carrying a first aid kit and have I taught the group how to use it? Techniques To Do It Right As a group leader, there are many things you can do to prepare your group and yourself for an Isle Royale trip that will be remembered as "the trip of a lifetime, " and not a negative experience.