Don’t want to backpack? Basecamp

Ten Reasons to Basecamp at Washington Creek Campground at Windigo

Not everyone who goes to Isle Royale wants to backpack, and–let’s face it–lots of people can’t afford to stay at the lodge or the camper cabins. The alternative is to base camp, but where?

Windigo Welcome
New Windigo Store on the Waterfront

There are many options which I addressed in another post, but the most user-friendly choice is to basecamp at Windigo. There are ten reasons why Windigo is a great choice for basecamping and dayhiking:

One: Washington Creek has a three-night stay limit, as opposed to Rock Harbor’s one-night limit. This means that you can enjoy the ambiance of Isle Royale without having to carry your gear from campsite to campsite if you spend three nights in Washington Creek Campground. Just set up in a campsite and plan for days hikes instead of packing up and carrying gear daily.

Two: Windigo has modern facilities, so for a fee you can shower and do laundry as needed. You don’t need to feel all that “rustic” even though you are camped out. There are also flush toilets, which means that you don’t have to use the outhouse if you don’t want to, but you should bring toilet paper as the park may not supply it, even though the toilets flush.

Taxidermied Wolf
Rock of Ages’ Lens

Three: The Windigo store has food and camping supplies, so if you forget something, you can usually find a suitable alternative. You can also have soda, juice, beer, or wine at the store, or you can take it to go to your campsite. The store also carries a limited stock of food, candy, gifts, and mementos. The store rents kayaks and canoes that can be used to paddle Washington Harbor, allowing access to Beaver Island and up past the campground at Washington Creek.

Four: The Windigo Visitor’s Center has maps, books, gifts and mementos as well. They are also staffed with rangers and volunteers that can answer your questions. There are also displays of artifacts, included a taxidermied wolf and the original lens from the Rock of Ages Lighthouse which has been automated.

Washington Creek View
Evening View of Beaver Island in Washington Harbor

Five: Day hiking is optimum from Washington Creek. You have access to the Feldtmann Ridge trail, the Greenstone Ridge Trail, the Minong Ridge Trail, and the Huginnin Cove Trail. While you would only go a mile or two out on most of the trails if you were not interested in backpacking, you could dayhike out and back to Huginnin Cove if you can manage 5 to 6 miles with a daypack with water and a snack for lunch.

Six: Moose watching is optimum at Washington Creek campground where the moose love to graze the vegetation in the bottom of the creek in relative safety from wolves in the populated campground. While it is never guaranteed that a moose will visit while you are there, it is one of the best places to put yourself in one of the best places to catch a view a moose or even a cow and new calf.

Bull Moose in Washington Creek
Cow in Washington Creek

Seven: Transportation to and from Windigo is plentiful. From Grand Portage, Minnesota, you can book on the Voyageur II or the Seahunter III via Grand Portage Isle Royale Transportation Lines. The boat trip is also the shortest, about an hour an a half, for those who may not want to spend four or six hours on Lake Superior, which is required to take a ferry from Michigan. Windigo is also served by the Isle Royale Seaplanes from Houghton, Michigan, and Grand Marais, Minnesota, so there are options for transportation.

Eight: Campsites are plentiful. There are 5 individual tent sites, 10 shelters, and 4 group sites at Washington Creek Campground, available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, there are two camper cabins in Windigo that can be reserved in advance by contacting the Rock Harbor Lodge, but these are almost always sold out.

Nine: Both the Washington Creek Campground and Windigo have water spigots. While you have to bring a water container, you don’t have to filter water at the campground. (You will have to take enough water from the spigot for dayhiking if you don’t have a filter, and most hikes from Washington Creek will not have water to filter within three miles, except for Huginnin Cove. Remember, if you don’t get it from the spigot, you must filter your water.)

Sea Plane at Dock in Windigo
Voyageur II

Ten: Windigo has a designated handicapped shelter that can be reserved by people with mobility limitations. Rock Harbor also has a handicapped shelter. Call the park headquarters in Houghton for more information.

If you want to chat about options, give us a call at 906-201-1588 or reach out by email at

One thought on “Don’t want to backpack? Basecamp

Leave a Reply