Accessible Camping

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

Moderator: MikeT

Post Reply
earlyfive
NewbieCake
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 10, 2022 3:27 pm
Has thanked: 9 times

Accessible Camping

Post by earlyfive »

Hi,
I am planning a trip for mid June 2023. I am able bodied, but my 16 year old son has Lesch-Nyhan and is in a wheelchair. He is light enough and I am still strong enough to negotiate some uneven ground or trails with incline.

We travel and camp a lot and have camped at a couple of national parks requiring boat access, namely Channel Islands and Glacier Bay.

My desire is to camp 2 or 3 nights as close to the boat dock as we can be. My impression is that Rock Harbor would have the most comfortable ferry ride for us as well as more ranger talks. The biggest drawback at Rock harbor is the limitation on camping for only one night. I am drawn by the description that Windigo gets fewer visitors (much like the north rim of the Grand Canyon).

Do you think camping at Washington Creek at Windigo would be as easy as Rock Harbor? Are there any trails without a lot of uneven rock or tree roots at either place?
User avatar
Ingo
Forum Moderator
Posts: 1959
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 1:11 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 14
Location: Hillsborough, NC
Has thanked: 288 times
Been thanked: 181 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by Ingo »

It's certainly doable if you take the Ranger III out of Houghton and stay at the lodge or housekeeping cabins in Rock Harbor. Beyond that it gets complicated quickly. The trail to the Rock Harbor campground from the dock is like a small gravel road, at least to the shelters, but the trail to tent sites is more a primitive and rocky trail. Since shelters are not reservable, the only way I would plan on camping is if the park service would make an exception and tag a shelter for you. I haven't heard of this being done, but you could ask. One of the shelters is considered "accessible", the others have short trails and steps into them, narrow and rocky and wobbly steps, but probably doable if you can carry your son short distances (say 20-50 ft). The other issue would be the outhouses, which are on small trails, however, there are modern bathrooms near the dock, although several hundred yards away.

At Windigo the trail is also a small "road" 1/4 mile to the campground, but quickly degrades in the campground itself. There are 12 inch wide boardwalks in spots and potentially large mudholes to navigate. However, there are 2 camper cabins you can rent, which are nearer the dock and relatively accessible with a wheelchair (they're golf cart friendly anyways). I'm not sure what the actually entries into the cabins are like. However, you would first need to contact Grand Portage Isle Royale transportation to see if the Sea Hunter III could accommodate your son. The camper cabins are also very popular so you begin trying to contact the Rock Harbor Lodge, who also rent the Windigo cabins, immediately after the holidays (note they have a reputation for being less than responsive).

And for your original question about trails, you won't find any of the trails outside the developed areas wheelchair navigable in either place--and I'm not sure it's even allowed as there's a general rule of no wheeled devices. But I would still try to go--for me just hanging out in Rock Harbor for a couple days in a room would be worth the trip.

I think your first step should be to contact the park service directly. A phone call can go a long way. Hope this helps!
22: BI-PC-BI-RH, 21: RH-ML-DF-MB-DF, 18: MC-PC-BI-DB-RH-DF, 17: WI-IM-SB-FL-WC, 16: RH-CI-TI-RH, 14: BI-ML-CI-CH-MB, 13: RH-PI, 12: MC-CB-HL-TH, 11: WC-HC-WC, 09: MC-BI-DN-RH, 05: MI-CI-MB-DF-RH-TM-RH, 02: MC-LR-WL-CH, 01: BI-DB-RH, 79: worked RH
earlyfive
NewbieCake
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 10, 2022 3:27 pm
Has thanked: 9 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by earlyfive »

Thanks for the quick response.

Gravel roads are easy. 12” boardwalks are not. Mud holes depend on the depth. Bathrooms are not an issue. He uses adult diapers.

Trying to camp if possible. We spend about 100 days on the road and trying to not blow our budget at one place.

I have emailed the park and ferry operators. None of them seem to be answering the phone at this time.
treeplanter
IR Expert
Posts: 501
Joined: Wed Jun 20, 2012 6:57 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 12
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 79 times
Contact:

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by treeplanter »

Also look at the Isle Royale National Park website. There's a page on "accessibility" (plan your visit>accessibility) that you may find helpful.
User avatar
Ingo
Forum Moderator
Posts: 1959
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 1:11 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 14
Location: Hillsborough, NC
Has thanked: 288 times
Been thanked: 181 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by Ingo »

earlyfive wrote: Sat Dec 10, 2022 5:58 pm Mud holes depend on the depth.
Which all depends on the weather, of course. On the whole, things tend to be wetter/muddier earlier in the season from the snow melt. When I was at Windigo a few years ago in June, there were a couple of large nasty ones in the campground, but I would hope (and presume) they've done something about them since.
earlyfive wrote: Sat Dec 10, 2022 5:58 pm Trying to camp if possible. We spend about 100 days on the road and trying to not blow our budget at one place.
Understand. The camper cabins at Windigo are much more reasonable than the RH lodge, around $50/night as I recall. But only 2 so hard to get.
earlyfive wrote: Sat Dec 10, 2022 5:58 pm I have emailed the park and ferry operators. None of them seem to be answering the phone at this time.
The park office should be open on Monday. Since it's off-season for the ferry operators, they may take longer to respond.
22: BI-PC-BI-RH, 21: RH-ML-DF-MB-DF, 18: MC-PC-BI-DB-RH-DF, 17: WI-IM-SB-FL-WC, 16: RH-CI-TI-RH, 14: BI-ML-CI-CH-MB, 13: RH-PI, 12: MC-CB-HL-TH, 11: WC-HC-WC, 09: MC-BI-DN-RH, 05: MI-CI-MB-DF-RH-TM-RH, 02: MC-LR-WL-CH, 01: BI-DB-RH, 79: worked RH
backwoods doc
Trailblazer
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:38 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 6
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Has thanked: 83 times
Been thanked: 87 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by backwoods doc »

A few more thoughts/possibilities to consider:

1. Regarding ferry transport from the MN side, getting your son aboard the Voyageur II could be a bit tricky. It involves climbing up a few narrow steps, turning 90 degrees down a narrow walkway, then going through a narrow door that has a spring mechanism to keep it shut. (The outside deck areas can be wet and slick, and using the handrail is advisable.) You then enter a seating area with rows of seats. Unless you're seated in the first row, there's not a lot of leg room between the rows of seats to allow for lifting your son into his seat and positioning him. There's quite a bit of engine noise in that area. From that seating area, you can also descend down a few steps through another narrow door with a spring mechanism to access a quieter area with school-bus style padded bench seats, several with tables. The trip from Grand Portage to Windigo takes about 2 hours.

The Sea Hunter III would offer the advantage of easier boarding -- still up a narrow few steps, but then you would immediately be on the back deck where there is seating. Unfortunately, that area is directly exposed to sun and rain. The trip takes about 90 minutes. This boat is usually used just for day-trippers, but could be available to you if the Voyageur II is full or they make an exception for you.

Both vessels are fairly small, and 3-4 foot waves are not uncommon, which could be an issue if your son is prone to vomiting.

You can feel pretty confident that your fellow passengers would go out of their way to help with doors, give up more accessible seats, etc. -- Isle Royale attracts good people.

The main question is whether the Grand Portage-Isle Royale line would allow this. I've never seen a wheelchair-dependent person on either boat, although I've seen several people who needed canes.

2. Regarding staying at Windigo/Washington Creek, I agree -- it would be great to get one of the inexpensive camper cabins. They are pretty close to the dock and restrooms. If you end up staying at the Washington Creek campground, as Ingo noted, it's about a 1/4 mile down a flat road from the dock. Unless special arrangements were made, there is no guarantee of getting a shelter. The good news is that the final shelter (#15) is accessible from the road without traversing any planks (and there may be one or two others as well - I can't recall). The 4 tent sites (#4, 5, 11 and 12) are all easily accessible along wide trails just off the road. The shelters are located along the creek, with good moose-sighting potential. The tent sites are out of site of the creek.

Again, technically, wheeled conveyances aren't allowed outside the dock area, but I would hope that the NPS would make an exception in your case.
2018, 2019, 2021 (all inland lakes by canoe); 2022 X2 (RH and WC); 2023 HC
earlyfive
NewbieCake
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 10, 2022 3:27 pm
Has thanked: 9 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by earlyfive »

Thank you all for sharing your knowledge and experience.

I did receive an email reply from the Grand Potage MN ferry company:

“None of our vessels are accessible per se. While we have carried many people in wheelchairs, the chair must be stowed in our cargo hold during the trip. There is not enough aisle space to legally allow the chair on deck. Depending on the situation, we can sometimes allow a person out of the chair to sit on the seating in the pilothouse. It may or may not work, it is somewhat similar to a loveseat, the best description I can come up with at this time.”

So Windigo is a possibility, but based on your responses and the information from the MN ferry company, the Queen IV from Copper Harbor is probably the most comfortable choice. If it is to be Rock Harbor, I would like to figure out a way to spend at least two nights. I am not opposed to paying for a room, but I would rather not when we are comfortable camping.
treeplanter
IR Expert
Posts: 501
Joined: Wed Jun 20, 2012 6:57 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 12
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 79 times
Contact:

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by treeplanter »

earlyfive wrote: Sun Dec 11, 2022 8:43 pm......the Queen IV from Copper Harbor is probably the most comfortable choice. If it is to be Rock Harbor, I would like to figure out a way to spend at least two nights. I am not opposed to paying for a room, but I would rather not when we are comfortable camping.
You may want to consider the Ranger III out of Houghton. It's a Park Service boat, and I suspect they'll do everything they can to make your voyage an easy one. Plus if you do stay at the Lodge or a Housekeeping Cabin, one of the perks of taking the Ranger is that they'll move all of your luggage into and out of your room. No traipsing back and forth with your gear. The trip on the Ranger is longer than the Queen out of Copper Harbor, but the Ranger is probably a better boat in rough seas (earlier generations of the Queen have a bad reputation in rough seas, not sure about the Queen IV). Rock Harbor is a good place to call home for a few days. Much to do there.
User avatar
odd man out
LNT Expert
Posts: 76
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2016 3:13 pm
Has thanked: 5 times
Been thanked: 15 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by odd man out »

Ingo wrote: Sat Dec 10, 2022 5:22 pm...And for your original question about trails, you won't find any of the trails outside the developed areas wheelchair navigable in either place--and I'm not sure it's even allowed as there's a general rule of no wheeled devices...
backwoods doc wrote: Sun Dec 11, 2022 2:26 pm... Again, technically, wheeled conveyances aren't allowed outside the dock area, but I would hope that the NPS would make an exception in your case.
I was wondering about this, so I looked it up. This is from the Greenstone (Park Information Newspaper) from last year:

"Wheeled vehicles (except for nonmotorized wheelchairs) or other mechanical transportation are not allowed outside developed areas at Rock Harbor and Windigo. This includes bicycles and portaging devices."

So it would seem non motorized wheelchairs are at least ALLOWED on the trails. That is of course separate from the issue of if you are ABLE to negotiate the trails, but at least you are welcomed to try, according to this source.
User avatar
TopCarrot
Trailblazer
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:29 am
Isle Royale Visits: 9
Location: SW Michigan
Has thanked: 57 times
Been thanked: 63 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by TopCarrot »

There is a wheelchair ramp at one outhouse at Daisy Farm. It would be another good site if you took the taxi down and stayed a couple days. 3 mile may be possible but it is more on a hill.
23 TH-LT-LT-ND-WC-WC-WC-RH
22 CH-ML-ML-LRC-DF-CA-RH
21 3M-MB-McC-TH-ND-WC
21 LC-DF-McC-CH-MB-RH
20 HC-FL-SB-SD-MB-MB-RH
19 TH-ND-WC-SD-ML Via Voyager McC
18 DF-CH-DF
18 LC-DF-LR-RH
17 CW-SD-WC greenstone in 50hrs
IRexpat
NewbieCake
Posts: 28
Joined: Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:40 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 11
Location: MSP
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by IRexpat »

backwoods doc wrote: Sun Dec 11, 2022 2:26 pm
You can feel pretty confident that your fellow passengers would go out of their way to help with doors, give up more accessible seats, etc. -- Isle Royale attracts good people.

...

2. Regarding staying at Windigo/Washington Creek, I agree -- it would be great to get one of the inexpensive camper cabins. They are pretty close to the dock and restrooms. If you end up staying at the Washington Creek campground, as Ingo noted, it's about a 1/4 mile down a flat road from the dock. Unless special arrangements were made, there is no guarantee of getting a shelter. The good news is that the final shelter (#15) is accessible from the road without traversing any planks (and there may be one or two others as well - I can't recall). The 4 tent sites (#4, 5, 11 and 12) are all easily accessible along wide trails just off the road. The shelters are located along the creek, with good moose-sighting potential. The tent sites are out of site of the creek.
First part-1000% agree- there will be no shortage of able-bodied, community-minded people on your boat. I don't guarantee much in life, but IR brings out the best people. And every other VII comes with a Boy Scout Troop (not kidding- IR is part of the BSA TriFecta BSA 'Victory Lap' of activities: SeaBase in Florida, Philmont in the desert SW, and IR).

Echo the camper cabin also- there are several stairs leading up to the deck of each, but there are 2 steps up into each shelter so it's a lift either way. Cabins are about $62 a night, but booking is tough- we got our pick of nights calling in this morning (first day reservations opened) but by the time the calendar came online this afternoon on availability was showing).
It's not Heaven, but they can see IR from there...
Bobcat1
May actually live on IR
Posts: 302
Joined: Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:01 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 8
Location: Pickerington, Ohio
Has thanked: 56 times
Been thanked: 99 times

Re: Accessible Camping

Post by Bobcat1 »

Shelter 2 in RH has the ramp to it, Shelter 1 has a bit of uneven rock on the approach and a typical 2-step up. RH does have a 1-night limit with exceptions granted in a variety of circumstances. I fell and racked up my knee on a trip, and needed to wait a couple days for the Ranger III to take me back to my car - I could walk but just barely. The rangers signed my permit to stay extra days and told me to stay at 1 or 2, and be prepared to share if any other injuries showed up. I chose shelter 1 because shelter 2 was kinda stinky which brings up the point of restroom facilities not necessarily being accessible up in the campground although the visitors center restrooms/showers/laundry are a short walk down the gravel road. Ask the staff when you call.
22 WC-HC-BCZ20-WC
19 RH-ML-TI-RH by kayak
16 RH-DF-MB-TI-RH-3M-RH by kayak
09 RH-DF-MC-TH-HL-SD-WC
00 WC-IM-WC
96 WC-FL-SB-SD-HL-CE-3M-RH
94 RH-DF-MB-3M-RH
92 RH-DF-LR-CW-HL-SD-IM-WC
Post Reply