These Isle Royale Photos Are Sure to Inspire Your Next U.P. Getaway

Today, Michigan landscape photographer Joshua Nowicki shares some photos from a recent trip to Isle Royale. We’re sure his experience will inspire you to add the Upper Peninsula to your Pure Michigan getaway bucket list! 

Several weeks ago, I was invited to photograph a family wilderness program for the Isle Royale Institute (a partnership between Michigan Technological University and Isle Royale National Park).  It was my first trip to the island, and I was incredibly excited. I was delighted to discover that my expectations for the trip were far exceeded.

Sitting on the bow of the Isle Royale Queen IV and watching Copper Harbor, Michigan disappear into the distance as my cell phone signal faded filled me with joy.  As we moved further out into cool air of Lake Superior, a beautiful white all-encompassing fog surrounded the boat adding to the sense of adventure.  Approaching the island, even before I could see the land, there was a warmth in the breeze and a soft sweetness to the air.  As the island appeared out of the fog, the sky began to clear, and the air warmed.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

After disembarking from the ship, we received a short humorous and very informative introduction to the island from park ranger, Lucas Westcott.  Upon setting foot on land, I was struck by the beauty and wealth of wild flowers; a gorgeous layer of orange, yellow, purple and white blanketed sections of the landscape.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

On my first evening, I went for a walk along the Rock Harbor Trail and saw numerous loons, squirrels, and rabbits.  Additionally, upon turning a corner in the trail, I found myself standing within 30 yards of a cow moose and calf.  At night, I enjoyed listening to the sounds of nature and I could even occasionally hear moose walking through the woods near my tent.  I saw more moose on Isle Royale than I have in all of the trips that I have taken to the Upper Peninsula.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

The Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study is followed around the world, and I delighted in a trip to Bangsund Cabin to meet Rolf and Candy Peterson.  Standing in the Museum of Pathology and listening to Rolf discuss the project was a surreal experience I will always treasure.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

A short walk from Bangsund Cabin, leads to the Rock Harbor Lighthouse which is open to the public as a museum.  The tower of the lighthouse also provides visitors with a magnificent view of Rock Harbor and Lake Superior.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

The number of amazing experiences I had are too numerous to write about in one blog post. Some of the additional highlights of my trip were:

Hiking along the Greenstone Ridge and enjoying the fantastic view of the island and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Canada from the steps of Mount Ojibway Tower.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Marveling at the view of the night sky.  I have never seen the Milky Way so clearly and was even fortunate enough to see both the Milky Way and Northern Lights one evening.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Waking early to watch the sunrise over the forest.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

Walking through sections of white spruce and balsam forest covered with Old Man’s Beard Lichen.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Having the rare opportunity to watch a group of pelicans fly over the island, finding greenstones along the beach near Rock Harbor Lighthouse (all stones were left at the beach as per park guidelines), sitting and watching hummingbird moths busily flying from flower to flower, watching curious squirrels explore our camp, and meeting park superintendent Phyllis Green and discussing how a trip to Isle Royale is an incredible place for a family adventure…just to name a few!

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

If you love hiking and camping, Isle Royale is an absolute paradise where you can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty and sound of nature.  However, if camping is not for you, you can experience the island from the comfort of the Rock Harbor Lodge.  There are a variety of trails that are easy to access from the lodge or by water taxi.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

I look forward to my next trip to explore more of this beautiful national treasure.

Joshua_NowickiJoshua Nowicki is a St. Joseph, Michigan based photographer specializing in landscape, nature, architecture, and food photography. His photos can be viewed online on Facebook or his website.

A Lifetime of Exploration

Michigan Travel Ideas photographer Aaron Peterson might be visiting Isle Royale National Park on assignment, but that doesn’t stop him from soaking up rugged scenery, paddling in the clear blue waters of Superior and hiking the web of trails covering the park’s interior. Aaron explores the park often, but this time, he sees it in a whole new way.

I’m making my fourth trip to Isle Royale National Park, but today is the first time I’ve arrived by plane. My aerial view allows me to watch the lush, green island materialize from foggy Lake Superior. I can’t believe how close this remote slice of Michigan is to Canada! The towering hills of Thunder Bay, Ontario, loom about 15 miles beyond the island.

I’m flying with Royale Air Service; they operate daily seaplane flights between Houghton and Isle Royale. We fly over freighters and the sun-dazzled whitecaps of Superior on our 30-minute flight. The plane banks and descends into the sheltered waters of Tobin Harbor on Isle Royale’s northeast tip. We made it.

All of my previous visits to the park have been by ferry from Copper Harbor. Traveling by ferry is affordable, and you can bring canoes and kayaks, but flying by seaplane? It’s just plain cool! The views are amazing. Plus, you get there in a fraction of the time (30 minutes versus 3 hours.) 

I’m traveling light on the seaplane (max baggage = 50 pounds) with one camera body, two lenses and basic video gear in a camera backpack that also holds a change of clothes and emergency rations (beef jerky!). Friends are bringing a canoe, sea kayak, camping equipment and the rest of my photo gear on the ferry.

We meet up on land to tackle the hiking portion of the shoot. Our focus is the gorgeous Stoll Trail near Rock Harbor Lodge. We finish up quickly, and load up the canoe and kayak. We’re headed through the island maze in Tobin Harbor. Our paddling journey takes us along the shoreline near Blake Point, we see some of the most spectacularly jagged islands and channels on Isle Royale, which I shot for the magazine.

My assignment complete, I pause to reflect. I have yet to find a place—anywhere—that is as good for both paddling and hiking as Isle Royale. Even if you hike every trail in the entire park, you still only see a sliver of what’s there. With so much of the island accessible by water only, Isle Royale offers a lifetime of exploration.

Freelance writer and photographer Aaron Peterson lives and works in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is thankful for this region’s clean air and water, plus the elbow room to raise down-to-earth, outdoorsy kids.