Isle Royale: History of the Island and National Park

The island was created by lava eruptions around 1.2 billion years ago during the early Proterozoic Era. Glaciers later sculpted the land and left hundreds of inland lakes, ponds, bogs and moraines.

Isle Royale was the home of the largest copper mine in the prehistoric era although it is still unclear exactly who was doing the mining.

Although Isle Royale is located closest to Canada (only 12 miles away), it was placed in the boundary of the United States by the negotiations over the Treaty of 1783 in Paris. Also known as the Treaty of Paris, it gave Isle Royale to the United States as part of the end of the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the people of the United States of America. However, actual possession remained in the hands of the British until the War of 1812 and several clarifying treaties were necessary with the indigenous population in the 1840s to make clear the ownership of the land.

In the 1840s, the first modern copper mines were opened on Isle Royale. The island was also popular for resorts, fisheries and commercial logging before it entered the park system.

Isle Royale is known for its wolves and moose, but the island wasn’t originally populated by either. The first moose swam over to the island in the early 1900s, while the first wolves crossed on an ice bridge from Ontario during a harsh winter in 1949.

Congress authorized the creation of Isle Royale National Park in 1931. With this designation, President Herbert Hoover sought to conserve one of the prime examples of North Woods wilderness. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt formally established the park on April 3, 1940 after all of the privately-owned land on the islands had been acquired.

Isle Royale is one of the most remote national parks in the United States. In 1980, Isle Royale was named an international biosphere reserve. It is one of 47 in the United States and there are less than 700 biosphere reserves in the world.

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