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Isle Royale

A sunrise at Rock Harbor, Isle Royale. Credit: Posnov/Getty Images

Officials at Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park are considering implementing camping reservations after experiencing another year of high-volume traffic, according to Backpacker.

“We’re still seeing some campgrounds that are overfull, and that’s not something that people expect when they come to a wilderness to camp,” said Isle Royale project manager for interpretation, education and cultural resources Liz Valencia.

Most of the Michigan park’s 36 campgrounds currently operate on a first-come-first-serve system for groups of six or fewer. But with increased visitation, many campers often end up sharing sites with strangers or relying on the park’s “overflow” campsites.

To address concerns about overcrowding and to protect the park’s 132,000 acres of land, staff members drafted a Wilderness Stewardship Plan. The plan itself outlines strategies that target wilderness preservation (including cultural resources) while prioritizing public use of the park both now and in the future. This plan is the second of its kind, following an aborted attempt to enact a similar one in 2011.

Isle Royale isn’t the only popular destination that is making changes. This year, the nearby Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore began requiring entry for the first time this year due to an increase in traffic and strain on the region’s infrastructure.

Isle Royale is experiencing a similar increase in use. In the early 2000s, the park saw between 15,000 and 19,000 visitors. Between 2016 and 2020, the park saw about 25,000 visitors each year. And in 2021 — the last recorded year — 25,894 visitors entered the park.

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