Isle Royale National Park: Boating to Edisen Fishery and Rock Harbor Lighthouse

It was our final morning on Isle Royale. We’d be taking the ferry back to Copper Harbor at 2:45 that afternoon. First thing, Adam went down to the dock to see if they were letting people rent motorboats that day.

They were, so Adam and Phil made the arrangements while Sean and I got a breakfast table at the Grill. Afterward, we donned our life jackets and headed out into Rock Harbor, just before the Ranger III set sail.

Image: Sean M. Santos

About half way down the long harbor, Adam suddenly stopped the boat. He’d spotted a loon near the shore.

We continued on through the no wake zone adjacent to the park’s administrative headquarters, somewhat unnerved by Ranger III‘s bearing down on us. But the huge ferry turned out to have a delivery to make at headquarters, so we were able to get well ahead.

In about half an hour, we were approaching Edisen Fishery, roughly across the harbor from Daisy Farm. It had been owned and operated for sixty years by Pete and Laura Edisen. After they passed, ownership went to the Park Service, and visitors are welcome to have a look around.

Candy Peterson writes fondly of Pete and Laura in her memoir, and she credits them with helping her learn to slow down, to appreciate little things, and generally to adjust to the island during her early summers there in the 1970s.

Image: Sean M. Santos

A short walk, past the trail that led to the Peterson’s Bagslund Cabin summer research station, brought us to Rock Harbor Lighthouse. Built in 1855, it was only active for a few years before copper mining on the island collapsed and it stopped being used.

Now it houses beautiful exhibitions on the shipwrecks, lighthouses and mining activities of Isle Royale.

We climbed its tower for panoramic views of Rock Harbor, Middle Islands Passage and Lake Superior.

Isle Royale copper, as it would have been lying around in chunks when Native Americans first arrived on the island 4,000 years ago

The lamp of a light house

I followed Phil onto an outcrop, which turned out to be a front-row seat for Ranger III‘s departure through Middle Islands Passage.

We made it back to the dock, just as the Sandy, one of the concessioner-operated tour boats, arrived.

Every major park feature, from Sky Sentinel to Scoville Point, to Edisen Fishery and Rock Harbor Lighthouse, we explored without any other visitors around. How remarkable! And how vastly different from summer at Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or the other heavily-visited parks.

Back in the boat, we passed Daisy Farm dock and headed farther down the harbor toward Moskey Basin.

Daisy Farm dock

Just southwest of Daisy Farm, it was my turn to spot a loon.

We motored down to the entrance to Moskey Basin before turning around. We wanted to make sure we had enough time to get back, return the boat, have lunch and get ourselves together for departure.

We passed the Peterson’s cabin, quite close to Edisen Fishery, before heading out through Middle Islands Passage into Lake Superior to see the lighthouse from the water.

All the baby mergansers try to climb on mama’s back at once.

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  1. Pingback: As They Are…Always Changing | As They Are: A National Parks Project

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