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Seaplane service proposed between Grand Marais, Isle Royale

Visitors from Pennsylvania take in the view from the overlook at the Mount Josephine Rest Area along Minnesota Highway 61 near Grand Portage. Susie Island is among the features seen in the foreground; Isle Royale looms on the horizon, more than 15 miles away. (2012 file / News Tribune)

If the idea of taking a tour boat across choppy Lake Superior waters has you nauseous, how about a quick flight on a floatplane?

The National Park Service on Friday announced that, for the first time ever, a private company may be allowed to operate regular seaplane flights from Grand Marais to the island park.

While the island sits only 15 miles off Minnesota's North Shore, the park headquarters and much of the focus of park access has been through Houghton, Mich.

The park is considering an offer from Houghton-based Isle Royale Seaplanes, which already has a contract with the Park Service, to provide air taxi service from Houghton to Isle Royale through 2025.

The company lands at various spots on the island including Windigo, Mott Island and Tobin Harbor/Rock Harbor Lodge using a Cessna 206. The company would add a plane if the new Grand Marais route is approved.

The company would use the Cook County Seaplane Base at Devil Track Lake near Grand Marais.

The company currently operates up to five flights a day with a maximum of 20 people entering and leaving the island, depending on weather and demand. The second aircraft could double that amount to 40 people a day.

The air service is in addition to tour boats that deliver people and goods to the island from both Houghton and Grand Portage on Minnesota's North Shore.

The new service would be authorized on a one- or two-year trial basis.

The 45-mile long, 143,000-acre mostly wilderness island is the largest on Lake Superior and a popular spot for backpackers, kayakers and anglers.

The plan is open for public comments through March 17. Comments can be sent to parkplanning.nps.gov/seaplane, or to Superintendent Phyllis Green, Isle Royale National Park, ISRO Seaplane, 800 East Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, MI, 49931-1896.

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