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Isle Royale could see fewer visitors because of low water

Associated Press

DULUTH, Minn. — A 71-foot ship that shuttles people between Grand Portage and Royale National Park has had to abandon its run because of low water levels in Lake Superior.

It’s the first time in more than 30 years that the Wenonah won’t be making the trip to the wilderness park about 20 miles off the northeast coast of Minnesota.

Don Szczech, chief operations officer for Grand Portage-Isle Royale Transportation Lines, said they need at least two more feet of water to operate the boat safely.

"We were running dangerously close to the bottom last year, and this year the water is even lower," Szczech said. "Operating in these conditions was out of the question."

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Lake Superior has dropped 14 inches from last year’s level and is 21 inches below its average June depth. The lake is only three inches above its all-time June low, recorded in 1926.

The transportation company continues to provide service to Isle Royale by way of the Voyageur Two, a 63-foot vessel with a four-foot draft. But that ship carries only 48 people, less than one-third of the 149-passenger load the Wenonah can handle.

Szczech said the company will be able to carry only about half of the 4,700 visitors it transported to Isle Royale last year.

There’s a chance the Wenonah won’t make the run to Isle Royale next year due to the low water levels on the lake. "I hope we’ve found the bottom, but I don’t know that we have," he said, adding, "It’s grim."

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