My life on Isle Royale with the wolves, moose, and the National Park Service J. Laurie Snell


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My life on Isle Royale with the wolves, moose, and the National Park Service

  • J.Laurie Snell


Where is Isle Royale?



Isle Royale is 40 miles long and 9 miles at the widest point.The red lines are trails made by the National Park Service.



The Ranger III goes from Houghton.



The Isle Royale Queen III goes from Copper Harbor Michigan.



The Voyageur II goes from Grand Portage Minnesota. It goes around the whole Island dropping off mail and backpackers.



The Voyager will stop at any of the places indicated on this map



Why is Isle Royale in the United States?



Isle Royale is part of the United States because it appeared in the wrong place in Lake Superior on John Mitchell's Map that was used in the treaty of Paris, 1782-83.





In the 1700’s the historic Ojibwa paddled to Isle Royale to harvest island resources such as trout, whitefish, sturgeon, herring, suckers, pike, woodland caribou, beaver and loons. They called the Island “Minong” meaning “a good place to live.” Traditional Ojibwa-coming from what is now the Minnesota and Ontario shoreline-used "Minong" as a sanctuary from white-induced change. (Source: Tim Cochrane)





After mining failed, commercial fishing was introduced on Isle Royale in the early 1800’s. on Isle Royale. Here is the Mattson fishery in Tobin’s harbor around 1891.



Boat day in Tobin’s Harbor 1906. The Matson fishery in the background has become the Anderson-Mattson fishery.





We first came to the Island in 1931 and lived in Rock Harbor.



For our first year, we rented this cabin in Rock Harbor which eventually became the Orsborn cabin.



This is Snug Harbor. It was a safe for kids, but once my brother and I went out of the harbor to get logs and nearly drowned so we moved to Tobin’s harbor.



Here is our Tobin’s cabin painted by Elizabeth Kemmer a Tobin’s resident.



Our father wrote children’s books. He had a more modest cabin on the hill for his writing.





When the Tobin’s Harbor Lodge closed, Dad towed one of the Lodge’s cabins across the harbor and then we had a guest cabin.





For some years we were able to leave from Chicago and get off this boat at Isle Royale.



The one boat that came every year was the Winyah from Duluth Minnesota. It picked up the fish, delivered mail, milk, eggs and bread.



We could sometimes order food from Houghton but mostly we ate a lot of fish, homemade bread, and berries: raspberries, blueberries, and thimbleberries. And sometimes Inis Mattson invited us for homemade ice cream.



Sometimes we waited on the dock not knowing when or if the boat would come.



Our parent’s evening canasta game was played by kerosene lamp light.



Washday was hard work.



The kids here were my best friends.



Art Anderson took Jimmy Anderson and me to the light house and a storm came up. We had to stay listening to the fog horn all night.



Our father was a legendary fisherman. Being the smallest, I always held the BIG FISH for the photo.



My brother Jud wanted to ride a moose in the water and was mad that I could not row fast enough to reach the moose.



We loved being out in rough weather, but if it got any worse than this we headed for Merritt’s Lane.



I became an entrepreneur

  • Rowing hikers back to Rock Harbor (Initially 5 cents and then a customer suggested I say “whatever you think it is worth” -- then it was typically about 5 dollars).

  • Selling moose antlers with Jimmy Lawrence to people off the Alabama (50 Cents). When we ran out of antlers, Jimmy suggested we switch to moose teeth for which we got the same price!

  • Taking lodge visitors to Lookout Louise or Mount Franklin ($1.00).

  • Selling fish to the lodge (10 cents a pound).



The view from Mount Franklin.



Here is my boat, still in good shape thanks to son John and his children.



In 1921 Afred Stole Jr., conservation columnist for the Detroit News, convinced the newspaper to launch a major campaign to have Isle Royale made into a National Park.



1931: Isle Royale was authorized by Congress under President Hoover.

  • 1931: Isle Royale was authorized by Congress under President Hoover.

  •  1940: President Roosevelt established Isle Royale National Park.

  • 1946: Isle Royale National Park was dedicated.

  • 1976: The park was designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System  with 99% of the island to be undeveloped.

  • 1981: Isle Royale was made an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. 



The Park Service put in over 200 miles of trails. They are not all as easy as this trail from Rock Harbor to Tobin’s Harbor.



The wolves and moose on Isle Royale.

  • Early 1900’s: Moose came to the island, probably swimming from Canada.

  • 1947: The Park Service brings 6 wolves from a zoo to the Island. They all die trying to find food from the fishermen’s back yards.

  • Winter 1948-49: The lake between Isle Royale and Canada freezes and a small pack of timber wolves cross over to Isle Royale.

  • 1959: An ecological study of the wolves and the moose on Isle Royale begins.



Ecological study of wolves and moose on Isle Royale: Rolf Peterson, John Fucetish 2003-2004.





Most of the wolves travel in packs, but some are loners.



Changes in the moose wolf populations.



Wolves chasing a moose.



Introducing the Island to my family. Here is my wife Joan fishing with son John who is in the fish box.



And here is daughter Mary collecting flowers.



John and Mary on the rocks.



The next generation Janet and John.



Teaching John to fish.



For this generation the game is scrabble.



It was always fun to have visitors. Here our friends the Crowells are enjoying the fog.



My thesis advisor Joe Doob.



Of course there is much more to see on Isle Royale. Divers can visit famous shipwrecks, for example, the America.



A diver explores the America.



You will see a lot of ducks.



And loons.



And many kinds of flowers.



You will also see a lot of fog.



You can find Greenstones, a semi-precious gemstone, on the Isle Royale beaches.



And you can see great sunsets.



And Northern Lights.



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