Not far from the Grand Portage Docks is an old tree called the "Witch Tree" by the local Ojibwa Indians. This is an old tree, the locals give offerings to the tree to ensure a safe trip on Lake Superior.
Washington Island was the location of a number of resorts and vacation homes. There are still some homes on the island. There is also an overnight docking area belonging to the National Park Service and a primitive camping area.
Another site you will see on the way to Windigo, and on the way back, is the old Rock Island Lighthouse. This is the lighthouse that used to have the Second Order Fresnel Lens that is on display in the Windigo Visitors Center before the lens was replaced by newer technology. Could you imagine living here for months at a time?
The steamship America brought passengers and freight to and from Isle Royale for 26 seasons. Then on 7 June 1928, the America sunk after striking a reef while going through the North Gap Inlet. The ship bringing you to the Windigo Area will stop at the wreck site on the way.
In the early 1900s, Windigo was a private resort area belonging to the Washington Club, a group of prominent Duluth businessmen. You had to have a membership card to enjoy this part of the island. They used the old headquarters for the Windigo Mining Company as their clubhouse. They even had white-tailed deer imported to the island for hunting trips. The ruins of the buildings foundation is still visible, just outside the Windigo Store.
Almost all rangers in the National Park Service are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful; but the ones at Isle Royale were exceptionally good. I especially liked Katie; she had a great, genuine, smile.
There is a very nice museum inside the Windigo Visitors Center that has well done, informative displays about the geology of the island, the peoples who lived and worked here and the area wildlife. Of particular interest to me was the second order Fresnal Lens from the lighthouse; the largest one on Lake Superior, and the evidence of Indians mining copper here some 4500 years ago.
After docking at the harbor, take the short hike up the hill to the Windigo Visitors Center. Here, the friendly and helpful park rangers can make recommendations on how to best enjoy your visit based on your interests and the time you have. There is also a short introductory film, maps and brochures about the island, and even junior ranger activities for the kids. There is another visitors center at Rock Harbor.
The only visitors center for Isle Royale National Park on the mainland is in the town of Houghton, Michigan. This is also one of the three places to get commercial boat transportation to the island with Copper Harbor, Michigan and Grand Portage, Minnesota being the others. You can get brochures and maps of the park at the visitors center, pay any fees and inquire about transportation. This is one of the few centers I have been to with almost no nice displays about the area.
Please Note: The tourist season for Isle Royale is very limited. The commercial boats mostly run between 1 July and just after Labor Day Weekend (early September). After that take the seaplane or your own boat.
This is the center of activities. the is a campground, and a lodge. Full dining available and boat taxi's to most of the island. You can walk out to Blake Point, snooze on your porch overlooking the lake or drop a line into the water to see what's biting.
Hiking, camping, tea, moose, icy water, good food, hives, blisters, rocky shores, ferries, deer, nut rolls, foggy mornings, fires, wind storms, fishing? filtering, bathing, drinking, rain, good friends and slugs too... what a great trip thanks aaron and doug.
Beaver Island is visible from some of the hiking trails near Windigo. There is an overnight docking area and a primitive campsite on the island.
There are a number of different types of flowers that grow on Isle Royale. Most of these are from the nature trail.
There is an amphitheater near the Windigo Store which is a meeting point for some of the ranger-led hikes and the location for some of the ranger talks and presentations.
There is a fairly large, covered picnic area near the docks. Good place to eat if you brought a picnic lunch.