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Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

C003/2701

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Credit

NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Isle Royale National Park includes a group of islands and the surrounding waters of Lake Superior. Access to the park is via seaplane or ferry service, and from November through mid-April each year, the park is closed to visitors. This isolation has allowed the park to remain relatively pristine, and it was designated a U.S. Biosphere Reserve in 1980. The most striking aspects of this image are the deep blue waters of the lake around the main island and the long parallel ridges formed from lava flows some 1.2 billion years ago running the 45-mile length of Isle Royale. They have eroded and weathered in the eons since, and most recently, they were scoured by an ice sheet during the last ice age. A more subtle feature is what remains unseen: the entire park is roadless. Visitors to the park either use the network of hiking trails or travel around in small boats. The island has populations of moose and wolves and the island's isolation allows field biologists to track predator-prey relationships with fewer potential sources of confusion and to observe the impact of sudden change on the relationship. As recently as 1900, there were no moose on the island at all. On the other hand, lynx, caribou and coyotes, all now absent, were observed by visitors. The park offers its wilderness experience for visiting humans, with 36 campgrounds and 165 miles of hiking trails connecting them. Nor are park visitors the first humans in the area. Archaeological evidence points to seasonal presence of Native Americans who came and, among other things, mined and smelted copper for trade and tools. Settlers used the area during the 1800s and early 1900s before the park was established in 1940. Lake Superior was and still is a major seaway, and historical lighthouses dot the island where they once warned ships of dangerous shallows.

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