BWCA Canoeing to Isle Royale from MN Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Trip Planning Forum
      Canoeing to Isle Royale from MN     
 Forum Sponsor

Author

Text

Abe
Guest Paddler
 
07/14/2020 08:56AM  
Has anybody ever canoed to Isle Royale from Minnesota? I am planning a trip there potentially this early August and will have an experienced friend sailing alongside so will not be totally alone. I have one spray deck completed for a 17 ft Wenonah spirit but am considering trying to find a couple sea kayaks instead.

Thanks in advance!
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next
ryan72
member (41)member
 
07/14/2020 09:10AM  
I have been to Isle Royale many times, most often taking the Ferry from Copper Harbor. I've been on that boat when weather was interesting and could not imagine being in a small craft during it. I have also been on the island when powerful weather has hit and its quite impressive. Once at a remote spot on the north shore a sea kayaker landed and we talked about his trek from Minnesota for a while. He seemed to have a relatively easy journey. Its doable but I don't know about a canoe. Best of luck to you. With a boat you'll have access to some campsites only available by water. Not sure if you're planning on heading to the interior lakes but they are beautiful and many loaded with Northerns.
sedges
distinguished member(725)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/14/2020 01:31PM  
I really would not recommend it, but it is certainly possible. Very risky even in a kayak.

1. Its like 26 miles from Grand Portage to Windigo. In the best conditions you are looking at 8 hours paddling, could be more. On the big lake a lot can change in 8 hours. Sometime you have a nice calm day but are dealing with big swells from yesterdays weather. Any breeze or waves are going to add time. Even if you have a following wind you will be working hard to prevent broaching in the troughs.

2. If your friend with the sailboat is sailing, maintaining proximity to you will be interesting. If they are motoring it would be easier. It could take a long time for them to get to you if you swamp even with the motor. 15-20 minutes in Lake Superior could kill you.

3. While kayaks mighty be better for surviving rough condition if they are solo you will lose the advantage of two motors pushing one boat. Tandem kayak would be better.

4, Watch the park website for changes in park operations. If the surge continues there might be closures again.

5. You need to be totally flexible about the the crossing schedule. Don't do it unless you have a perfect window. Absolutely do not schedule a day and take a risk on marginal or changing weather.

All that said. I had the opportunity to paddle a 36 foot Montreal Canoe from Windigo to Grand Portage in 1972. I was on the island on a research visit and ran into these Wheaton College folks that paddle out, backpack for 10 days and paddle back. They had two of their group flown off the island due to illness and were short handed. So I paddle with them and came back the next day on the ferry. The day started with big swells left over from overnight storms. The seas calmed as the day went on. We left at 6AM and were at the Grand Portage dock at about 1PM. We took very few breaks as the weather report kept getting modified as we traveled.


heavylunch
distinguished member (161)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/14/2020 02:30PM  
Don't forget about how fog can set in pretty quickly and you can't see anything at lake level. I worked on Isle Royale one summer and was surprised how often it was foggy around the perimeter of the island. Go inland 5 minutes and it is blue sky and sunny.

Savage Voyageur
distinguished member(13813)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
07/14/2020 04:56PM  
I went to the island for a backpacking trip 20 years ago. As we rode on the ferry out to the island it was very wavy. We would look out the window and only see water, then only see sky. I know the Native Americans took birch bark canoes out there and back all the time. I would not recommend this with a canoe. I don’t know about sea kayaks so can’t comment. The guy you need to talk to is BeaV, a member here. He could give you lots of advice. Look him up on the directory here and get a hold of him.
MichiganMan
distinguished member (146)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/14/2020 05:12PM  
I would not recommend it. A better, much safer option would be to take the canoe/kayaks on the big boat over there, and then paddle around the island.
07/14/2020 06:08PM  
Didn't a guy get lost in the fog trying to make the crossing on a jet ski? He had extra fuel and some other things but no real GPS or way to know where he was going. Not sure what happened to him but not a good situation...left in good weather
07/14/2020 07:59PM  
I was at Rock Harbor in Sept 1978 after completing a backpacking trip from Windigo and met a guy who had paddled his homemade kayak to the island from Grand Portage. I remember him telling us he waited a few days in Grand Portage for a suitable weather window to make the trip.
07/14/2020 08:05PM  
I would definitely not recommend it, maybe if you have a support crew in a large motor boat.
jhb8426
distinguished member(1337)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/14/2020 11:40PM  
While everyone else is being polite, I'll just come out and say it - It's a silly idea. Put up the money for the search and rescue (or possibly recovery) effort before you go.
WhiteWolf
distinguished member(4428)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
07/15/2020 02:27AM  
I know BeaV personally. I don't think he would he even try it in a canoe from his training sessions on the big lake - but I could be wrong. Here are a few reasons I wouldn't try it-

It looks tempting from GP Harbor (not 22+ miles straight line away-??- much closer-- yeah right- it's a 28 mile ride with a canoe if you're good with a compass). But Isle Royale is located - predomiant wind wise- from GP as being a death magnet for anyone that tries and a quartering wind from the NE or SW spins up.

The natural force of Isle Royale and MN, ONT shoreline will funnel water through faster than any wind speed from the NE or SW - especially close to land. Consider it perhaps a minor "Coriolis effect" in the water, but that's the last thing you want. Anyone that has made it from GP to Isle Royale - (in a CANOE) is lucky and very skilled. I wanna know who doubled back (did not take a shuttle). That says a lot.
Northwoodsman
distinguished member(1598)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/15/2020 08:34AM  
The water on Lake Superior is COLD, year around. Hypothermia would set in quickly. It's hard to get back into an overturned canoe full of water, it's even harder in big waves, and even harder when you are freezing. I wouldn't advise it.
07/15/2020 08:53AM  
Generally speaking, a canoe on Lake Superior is a death sentence. Almost every time I'm in the Apostles, there's a radio call for a swamped canoe. It's recommended that no "open hulled" watercraft be operated on Lake Superior. This is due to large waves that can swamp the canoe, or at the very least, the waves will cause the canoe to slowly take on water. This is a problem if you're going to be paddling all day.

Kayaking to Isle Royale is only recommended for expert level kayakers and takes all day. Very few people have done it. Definitely have your watercraft ferried to Isle Royale if you're not an expert level kayaker.

pos1
member (41)member
 
07/15/2020 10:40AM  
The last time I was there, many years ago, when we pulled in on a 30' boat (we were fishing) we talked to a guy who just came across from Michigan in a kayak.

I could not imagine that. Better not fall asleep while a 1,000 footer goes by.
07/15/2020 11:25AM  
I’ve paddled many times on Lake Superior, always within couple hundred feet from shore, always in perfect weather. I can’t imagine paddling to Isle Royale.
MikeinMpls
distinguished member(872)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/15/2020 12:31PM  
No.

Mike
Porkeater
distinguished member (165)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/15/2020 01:01PM  
sedges: "All that said. I had the opportunity to paddle a 36 foot Montreal Canoe from Windigo to Grand Portage in 1972. I was on the island on a research visit and ran into these Wheaton College folks that paddle out, backpack for 10 days and paddle back. They had two of their group flown off the island due to illness and were short handed. So I paddle with them and came back the next day on the ferry. The day started with big swells left over from overnight storms. The seas calmed as the day went on. We left at 6AM and were at the Grand Portage dock at about 1PM. We took very few breaks as the weather report kept getting modified as we traveled. "
That must have been a really cool experience. I'd love to try something like that.

And I agree that the OP's idea is not a good one.
sedges
distinguished member(725)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/15/2020 02:06PM  
For porkeater,

Voyageur canoe trips
07/15/2020 03:23PM  
I love the adventurous spirit and sometimes find myself going against the general voice of caution on this forum by saying "as long as you understand the risks, go for it". Not on this one. Too risky, especially for a canoe. Not sure what your pal's sailboat is like, but this could go very bad very quickly. You are talking about a distance multiples greater than the distance between the Apostle Islands and people get in trouble there.

I always recall a story of a young guy kayaking the Apostles who overturned when bad weather suddenly showed up. He had a wet suit with him but it was a nice day when he started out so he kept it in the kayak and just wore his PFD. After turning over, he got cold and took off his PFD to get his wet suit on. When they found his body he only had half of his wet suit on.

Respect cold water and respect big waves - and Superior has them both.
Minnesotian
distinguished member(1943)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/15/2020 03:52PM  
Abe: "Has anybody ever canoed to Isle Royale from Minnesota? I am planning a trip there potentially this early August and will have an experienced friend sailing alongside so will not be totally alone. I have one spray deck completed for a 17 ft Wenonah spirit but am considering trying to find a couple sea kayaks instead.

Thanks in advance! "

Do you have any experience canoeing/kayaking on Lake Superior? If no, then you should not canoe/kayak to Isle Royale.

If yes, well then you wouldn't be asking this question.
07/15/2020 05:12PM  
abe- I love the idea! I have gazed at the island, or where the island should be, while at Grand Portage fort or while canoeing the Superior shoreline near there, many times. But I always had the wrong canoe with me so I wisely stayed near shore.

If you have the talent, the right experience, the knowledge of the finer points of Lake Superior, and the right equipment...then go for it. If not, then don't.

A tandem team in a Wenonah Spirit, even with a spray skirt or deck is not the right equipment, in my opinion. In a boat like that, a covered deck is secondary to stability. In freshly-whipped up waves, capsize would get you before water intrusion would.

The right sea kayak would be the right equipment, but if you don't already own and use one, then you likely will fail in the talent and experience categories.

A support boat will help but I wouldn't rely on one to save you. A support boat would still have to have the maneuverability and skill to pluck you from the water if something blows up...and the support boat may need to run to safe harbor itself because of the "finer points of Lake Superior". I like to rely on myself when it's my life at stake.

I still like the idea...just make sure you have the four things I mentioned above in the second paragraph nailed down tight before you do it. Oh...and I forgot the 5th thing that I'm feeling right now as I think of myself out there- a little fear.

ashlandjack
distinguished member (108)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/16/2020 07:27AM  
I live in Ashland Wi and fish Chequamegan Bay all the time in a canoe or kayak. This is a sheltered bay of Lake Superior. The water condition change so quick and the water is always cold. There are many days even in the bay I opt for an inland lake. There is no way I would canoe open water on Lake Superior. A couple years ago 3 of 4 family members died while canoeing around the Apostles.
lundojam
distinguished member(2579)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/16/2020 07:55AM  
Cool idea. You were smart to ask. Short answer is no.
Do it in five years after practicing, researching, planning, and working up to it. Search the site to find Beav's credentials.
Porkeater
distinguished member (165)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/16/2020 08:02AM  
sedges: "For porkeater,


Voyageur canoe trips "


Nice. I hadn't heard of that. Something to add to the bucket list. Thank you.
ZaraSp00k
distinguished member(1483)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/16/2020 08:03AM  
A sailboat is not a support vessel. They will have their own issues.

BTW, would you be tacking along with the sailboat? LOL
Jackfish
Moderator
 
07/16/2020 08:23AM  
"Abe" has yet to make a follow-up post. We're all pretty much in agreement. Let's see if he has any further comment. If not, we'll just delete the thread.
gvsope15
member (16)member
 
07/16/2020 11:26AM  
I share everyone else's judgement that it's not a wise idea.

An interesting note though is that the journey from Grand Portage to Isle Royale has been done on a 16' stand up paddleboard. A north shore guide paddled to Isle Royale and back in 2015.

SUP Crossing to Isle Royale

Again, this is not an endorsement of the idea to canoe there. It sounds like the paddle boarder was a sponsored athlete and had a great weather window.
tumblehome
distinguished member(2049)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/17/2020 08:16AM  
sedges: "I really would not recommend it, but it is certainly possible. Very risky even in a kayak.

All that said. I had the opportunity to paddle a 36 foot Montreal Canoe from Windigo to Grand Portage in 1972. I was on the island on a research visit and ran into these Wheaton College folks that paddle out, backpack for 10 days and paddle back.



"


Honestly for me, that’s the picture of the year!
IF someone asked me what I would like to do more than anything in the world, I would like to be seated in that canoe paddling back from Isle Royal.
07/17/2020 11:17AM  
OK, though note no PFD's and mainly cotton clothing... them were the days!
Abe
Guest Paddler
 
08/23/2020 11:11PM  
BeaV: "abe- I love the idea! I have gazed at the island, or where the island should be, while at Grand Portage fort or while canoeing the Superior shoreline near there, many times. But I always had the wrong canoe with me so I wisely stayed near shore.


If you have the talent, the right experience, the knowledge of the finer points of Lake Superior, and the right equipment...then go for it. If not, then don't.


A tandem team in a Wenonah Spirit, even with a spray skirt or deck is not the right equipment, in my opinion. In a boat like that, a covered deck is secondary to stability. In freshly-whipped up waves, capsize would get you before water intrusion would.


The right sea kayak would be the right equipment, but if you don't already own and use one, then you likely will fail in the talent and experience categories.


A support boat will help but I wouldn't rely on one to save you. A support boat would still have to have the maneuverability and skill to pluck you from the water if something blows up...and the support boat may need to run to safe harbor itself because of the "finer points of Lake Superior". I like to rely on myself when it's my life at stake.


I still like the idea...just make sure you have the four things I mentioned above in the second paragraph nailed down tight before you do it. Oh...and I forgot the 5th thing that I'm feeling right now as I think of myself out there- a little fear.


"


So I bought a 17ft current Designs sea kayak with spray skirt and set out with my cousin from grand portage at about 0930. The rest of our group left in a 25 ft boat at about 1030. They caught up with us about 8 mi out at about 1200 at which point we towed the kayaks. I think it most certainly would have been possible to kayak the entire way but our companion boat would have had to slow down a fair amount to keep pace with us. It was really ideal weather for the entire trip. The first day going over we had maybe 5 knot headwind and 1-2 ft waves. Berries were everywhere over there and our neighbors at our first campsite shared several 1 in thick lake trout fillets with us ( those michiganders sure are generous). My cousin and I got a chance to freedive down to the American shipwreck in the north pass. I would definitely consider doing it again... For sure in the late summer when water temps are warmer and weather is generally calmer. Also a handheld VHF radio would be a really good idea.
08/24/2020 07:29AM  
Abe- I'm glad you got the chance to "stick your nose" out into the lake gave it a go! Thanks for the follow up.
DanCooke
distinguished member(1180)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/24/2020 09:56PM  
I knew the Wheaton college/ Honeyrock used to take the large canoes to Isle Royal. The weather radios with a channel set for lake Superior is advised. Back in Sept 1978 we paddled out to Pie island 5 miles out of the Port of Thunder Bay in 17' grummans. Started in late afternoon and got ashore around 11PM barely. Not much for waves till we got a ways out then we had swells were we would lose sight of each other. Bailing as we were going. When we got to shore my bowman went to stand up and collapsed into the canoe from cold wet legs. We all looked at each other and agreed lets just get some sleep- no supper. We each took our sleeping bags and crashed under the closest balsam tree we each found.
In the morning we paddled along the shore and set camp at an abandoned small lighthouse. Spent 5 days exploring the island and paddled back in a calm lake and paddled the last 1/2? mile toward the sound of waves washing the shore as fog obscured seeing shore till you were there.
Paddled and camped with permissions in the Susie islands using a skirted Bell Northwoods..
My friends just paddled from the Grand Portage to the Wisconsin Bois Brule following the shore in a Northstar B17.
Paddling the lake takes patience to wait for when it allows you to paddle it. If you are on a schedule it is something to avoid. You can't force Lake Superior to your schedule.
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next