Friday, August 14, 2009


Here are a couple of web resources I consulted in preparation for the trip. They are in the order in which I read them:

  • Rogue Paddler sentimental account of Isle Royale circumnavigation with some inter-personal drama involved
  • Another circumnavigation account by Chicago's own Dave Naudi with some technical detail and safety tips
  • Canoe & Kayak article on the destination
  • SKOAC has several trips to this location including the best picture galleries that I was able to find
  • And, of course, Jim Dufresne book. This seems to be the ultimate wilderness guide to the destination. The water portion is largely for canoeists or kayakers who want to explore the inland lakes of Isle Royale or stay in protected harbors.
Relevant NOAA Nautical Charts include the 14968 (1:120,000 scale) or three times more detailed 14976 (1:40,000). Zoom in on the map and you can view the charts on-line. A little bit more work and you can download them for a more detailed look on your own desktop—see this "How-To" write-up. I bought the more detailed chart but, in the end, decided that printouts from the less detailed chart #14968 would be sufficient for our purposes. In retrospect, I missed the greater detail of the #14976 on the trip as little bays and inlets were sometimes difficult to judge accurately from the larger-scale map. Larger scale charts were sure convenient, though. In general, I would say that the National Geographic Tails Illustrated map would probably be the best resource to guide a circumnavigation. Rocks and depth markings on the NOAA charts are not particularly relevant for kayakers. It's good to know about the shoals during stormy conditions; however, these can be noted at home and maybe even transferred to the topographical land map. The only really useful thing that NOAA charts have is the information on navigational lights, so if you plant to get far off-shore or travel at night NOAA charts would come very handy.

Sticking with the topic of navigation, both Russ and I relied pretty heavily on the Garmin GPS. Russ had an old Legend with some recreational maps of the US and I have uploaded topographical maps of Michigan downloaded from GPS File Depot. Here's also a link to Isle Royale on-line forum thread which includes files with points of interests for Garmin as well as in general GPX format.

Camping on Isle Royale is on the first-come-first-served basis—in other words, you cannot reserve a specific campsite. In our case, we did not even know if we will paddle clockwise or counter-clockwise until we got there—the weather was to decide. Regardless, the park service requires that each camping party fill out an itinerary with a camping site indicated for each night's stay. A cross-country camping permit is also available. This free option allows one to camp anywhere on the Island bar a few areas reserved for wildlife and exclusion zones around trails as well as established camping sites. Most of these are on the island interior so a kayaker with the cross-country permit can basically camp along the entire coastline of the island.

National Data Buoy Center maintains an overlay on Google maps.

Buoys 45001 and 45006 will give you wave heights, water and air temperatures for the area in the days immediately prior to the trip. There are also two weather stations on the west (Rock of Ages) and east (Passage Island Lighthouse) sides of the island. These are the best sources for wind and temperature information. At the time of the writing, these weather stations were only useful in trip preparation. Who knows, maybe by the time you're reading this, real time access to these from the cockpit of the kayak will be available.

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