[Info] Backcountry Zones

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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[Info] Backcountry Zones

Post by IncaRoads » Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:04 pm

The purpose of this post is to explain the rules/procedures for off-trail backcountry camping at Isle Royale National Park.

Off-trail backcountry camping is intended for those seeking a higher level of solitude, adventure, self-sufficiency, and low impact camping in a wilderness setting. Off-trail backcountry camping is not intended for overflow camping or to shorten travel between established campsites, and is recommended for experienced backpackers or paddlers who are already familiar with Isle Royale. The terrain is rough, there are many swamps, and the vegetation is thick. Day hiking off-trail may be a preferred alternative for those who haven’t camped off-trail in the backcountry before.

Off-trail backcountry camping is permitted only if pre-registered with a park ranger for the backcountry camping zone and date on your free backcountry permit. In addition, off-trail backcountry campers are required to follow special regulations designed to protect the park’s wilderness resources and visitor experiences. The following downloadable information is current as of September, 2017.

BackcountryZones_03_2012.pdf
Color map of backcountry camping zones (including a legend which describes when they are open and closed).
(1.39 MiB) Downloaded 2025 times
BackcountyZones_08_2006.pdf
Older black and white map of backcountry camping zones.
(164.9 KiB) Downloaded 299 times
OffTrailCampingRules_09_2014.pdf
Off-trail camping rules and regulations.
(103.48 KiB) Downloaded 392 times
OffTrailCampingRules_05_2009.pdf
Older off-trail camping rules and regulations.
(194.83 KiB) Downloaded 446 times
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

If you stay on-trail during your visit, the registered itinerary on your backcountry permit lists the campsites you plan to visit. Keep in mind that this is a tentative plan upon which you are free to improvise, sometimes by necessity as dictated by the weather, fitness level, or minor injury. For example, if you decide to go around a loop trail in the other direction, or bypass campsites on your itinerary, or stay an extra day at one because of weather, etc., it's no big deal.

But if you plan to camp off-trail during any part of your visit, then you are on a schedule to visit the backcountry camping zone(s) on the exact date(s) listed on your backcountry permit. A potential date deviation may be accommodated if pre-arranged, park ranger approved, and written on your backcountry permit. If you are en route and want to change the date that you visit a backcountry camping zone, you must locate a park ranger for proper approval.

Do the date restrictions related to backcounty camping zones apply to off-trail day hiking? Those are off-trail backcountry camping restrictions - you can bushwhack anywhere. However, avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, or raising young.

Please note that within the Isle Royale Forums, terms like “backcountry camping”, “cross-country camping”, “zone camping” and others are often used interchangeably to describe “off-trail backcountry camping”. The National Park Service refers to this type of camping as “cross-country camping” on their permits, rules, and regulations.

ABOUT THIS POST

The information in this post was compiled from various Isle Royale National Park Service documents and by contributors on the Isle Royale Forums. The wording is often original, but in some instances it has been merged, edited, and clarified. No attempt has been made to distinguish the original author of any material. Feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions, or add comments at the end of this thread.
Last edited by IncaRoads on Sat Sep 17, 2016 6:05 pm, edited 6 times in total.


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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by johnhens » Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:26 am

Thanks for posting the info.


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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by rubbershield » Thu Apr 22, 2010 1:36 pm

Do the restrictions in ares apply to off-trail day hikes also or just for backcountry camping? I'm on the Island this May and I wanted to see Lake Halloran. It looks like it's restricted from April through August.

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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by Keweenaw » Thu Apr 22, 2010 6:25 pm

Those are camping restrictions - you can bushwhack anywhere (except stay away from loon nests on shore).

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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by Bino1003 » Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:44 pm

If a zone is open (say Zone 12), could you arrive into Rock Harbor and take the Tobin Harbor Trail (W) to The Mount Franklin Trail (N) and the head out onto the Greenstone Ridge (W) to find a nice spot to camp?

My itinerary is bogged down because of the boat schedules. If I can make that work, I will not have to scrap the whole plan.

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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by Keweenaw » Sat Jul 30, 2011 5:26 am

There are certain restrictions like 1/4 mile away from water or an established trail. Call or write the Park for details. The 1/4 mile can be problematic with Isle Royale's topography and vegetation.
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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by IncaRoads » Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:16 am

The current rules and regulations are listed above.

Like Keweenaw said, you have to be 1/4 mile away from the trail. Water supplies are scarce when camping right off the Greenstone Ridge trail. You may have to carry in extra water.
Last edited by IncaRoads on Sun Feb 24, 2013 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by LeftOvers » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:18 am

Those PDFs are from 2010. Any new information?

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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by MikeT » Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:53 am

Those are the current regulations and have not changed in years. The section west from Mount Franklin has no water available unless it is early spring and there is snow melt runoff (which is doubtful this year) or you have to hit a hard rain the day or night before. From what I recall, the only possible backcountry spots would be to the south of the trail about .2 to .4 miles after leaving Mount Franklin. After that point the trail begins going almost continuously up towards Mount Ojibway. That being said, carrying water up the section from the Tobin Harbor trail to the Greenstone will be very hard. The last half mile before the Greenstone is steep.

Not knowing the intinerary you are trying to do, I would suggest going to Three Mile CG via the Tobin trail and heading out the next day from there. Or, if you really want to push it, going all the way to Daisy Farm. It is possible. The first section after leaving the Mount Franklin trail junction can be tough due to the rock outcroppings near the shore, but after that, it can go pretty fast. Either way, take the Tobin Harbor trail as the section along Rock Harbor from the campground to Mount Franklin trail is rough.

Hope this helps!
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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by Rafiki » Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:32 pm

Ya. I've seen them hand out the same ones to people I met on the Queen IV last year. Nothing has changed from what I recall seeing.
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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by IncaRoads » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:25 am

I've edited the post at the top of this thread for added clarity.


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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by bergman » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:27 pm

The colored backcountry zone map (revised March2010) evidently has a typo. According to the legend, the green areas are closed after September 1. Under the old zone map (revision Aug2006), these areas were open the entire season: April 16 to Halloween. (After Oct 31 u and your partner better still have your moose costume on, if u are sighted in the park).

I believe that, except for those zones that are ALWAYS closed, the entire park is supposed to be open for crosscountry camping after Labor Day.

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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by IncaRoads » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:59 pm

I have a colored backcountry camping zone map (Revised 3/2012 by Paul Brown, ISRO-NRM) and that typo has been corrected.

The print quality is so poor that i can barely make out the zone boundaries, especially in the green areas. I would like to find a digital copy of the current colored backcountry camping zone map.


edited to add: Paul Brown sent me an electronic copy of the aforementioned color map and I have added it to the post at the top of this thread.


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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by greener » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:40 pm

Does the NPS charge any more for a back country permit?

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Re: Backcountry Zones

Post by MikeT » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:38 pm

Nope. There is no extra charge, just a little bit more hassle.
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