USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Site Notification

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Isle Royale National Park: Ferry Boat Program Improvements

Rescue Boat Compliance

The Ranger III makes the six-hour journey between Houghton and Isle Royale several times a week during from spring to the fall to transport visitors, park personnel, and supplies. Built in 1957, much of Ranger III’s onboard equipment is original. Until recently, personnel used four open-top lifeboats to rescue passengers and crew or assist during emergencies. Personnel lowered these craft into the water by hand-crank. During an emergency, it took several minutes to launch each lifeboat, which then had to be rowed to the incident location.

NPS asked the Volpe Center to identify improvements for passenger and crew safety on the Ranger III and bring the Ranger III into compliance with current US Coast Guard (USCG) and American Bureau of Shipping regulations. Volpe Center experts developed specifications, designed and implemented safety modifications, purchased USCG-approved equipment—such as a new lifeboat and a powered crane or davit—and provided contractor oversight during renovation. Original lifeboats and davits were removed and a new fast rescue boat and davit were installed. These improvements reduce incident response time and improve safety aboard Ranger III. Other safety improvements included new USCG-approved handrails, more deck lighting, and a fire control and lifesaving equipment plan.

Volpe Center experts worked within a compressed timeframe during the off-season at Isle Royale headquarters in Houghton, allowing Ranger III to return to service for the 2018 season with all new rescue equipment and capabilities.

Rock Harbor Dock Rehabilitation

This project will rehabilitate the main large vessel dock located at the Rock Harbor area of the park. Rock Harbor is the most used and most accessible port on Isle Royale. The large vessel dock is in continuous use throughout the operating season by the Ranger III, the Isle Royale Line vessel Voyageur II, and the concession operated vessel Isle Royale Queen IV. The current 8,950 square foot dock area was constructed in 1958 and is in need of repair. The harsh weather environment of Lake Superior has caused damage to the dock over the past 50 years. 

Mainland Dock and Marina Waterfront Design

This project will provide design work of a new Ranger III dock and marina waterfront for the park. The current dock and loading area are not sufficient to provide a sufficient separation of the passenger waiting areas and ship loading operations. The current dock is deteriorating and is in need of major repairs to make it a safe and efficient mooring area for Ranger III. The new design will address all of the current deficiencies and will also take into consideration safe and efficient mooring space for our tug/barge and landing craft mechanized operations.

Boat at Isle Royale National Park (Volpe photo)
Last updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2019