Park Service proposes expanding visitor facilities at Isle Royale

A boat comes in to the Windigo dock on Isle Royale (NPS photo)
A boat comes in to the Windigo dock on Isle Royale (NPS photo)

Isle Royale National Park managers propose renovations, new buildings and a service road on the west end of the park due to wear-and-tear on existing infrastructure and increased visitor numbers.

Facilities included in proposal. (NPS)
Facilities included in proposal. (NPS)

A public review and comment period is open now until August 20. Learn more and comment at this link.

Project priorities include a new and larger concession store, a visitor trail accessible to all abilities, more cabin campers, and a renovated septic system. All facilities would be contained within the 400-acre footprint of the existing Windigo use area.

The park also wants to create a stronger identity when visitors arrive in the area by boat.

“Enhanced visibility of the visitor facilities with a unifying architectural theme is needed to create a sense of arrival at Isle Royale, because they should know immediately that they are welcomed at a national park,” the draft document states.

One of the proposed actions includes making the trail from the ferry landing to the visitor center more easily traveled. The existing trail is at a steep 18 percent grade and does not meet accessibility guidelines. It would be replaced by a trail of with a maximum of a 5 percent slope.

The Windigo area is the most popular arrival point for National Park visitors arriving by boat and seaplane. While the park’s visitor numbers are minuscule in comparison to most other National Parks, at just 28,000 in 2017, the Park Service says the number has increased by 87 percent in the last three years.

Funding for the project is not yet available, and construction would be completed as money becomes available. The park currently has a $17.7 million maintenance backlog.

Isle Royale is located in Lake Superior, about 25 miles from Grand Portage, Minnesota. It was designated a National Park in 1931.

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