The Susie Islands are a group of 13 islands off the North Shore of Lake Superior near Grand Portage. The three major islands: Susie, Francis, and Lucille were all named after a member of the Falconer family who once lived in Susie and mined its copper ore in the early 1900’s. Though copper ore is no longer mined from the islands, they still have much to give: an environment for growing rare flora and a breathtaking view from the roadside overlook along Highway 61.
The islands are all home to unique and unusual flora due to their location. Because the islands are offshore, they experience colder, harsher weather conditions than inland Minnesota and Canada. And, since the islands are isolated from the mainland, they rarely experience forest fires. These conditions create the ideal environment for some of Minnesota’s rarest plants. Susie Island, the largest of the thirteen islands at 145 acres, is home to the uncommon Alpine Bistort and Slender Hairgrass. Other unique plants found on the islands range from the Norwegian Whitlow Grass (endangered in Minnesota) to Pearlwort, Arctic Lupine, Sphagnum Moss, and more!
The Nature Conservancy purchased the southern portion of Susie Island in 1971 and the remainder of it in the 1980s from various private parties. In 2016 the organization began the process of transferring ownership of the island to the Grand Portage Band of the Chippewa Tribe, who owns the remaining twelve islands. The tribe will continue to oversee the health of all of the islands, ensuring that only recreational activity and no development take place.
Experience the islands for yourself – you won’t regret it! To view the islands (and nearby Mount Josephine) from the Susie Island Overlook, follow Highway 61 north from Grand Marais until you enter Grand Portage State Park. Look for signs that are labeled “Susie Islands”.
If you hope to visit the islands by boat, you must first obtain permission from the Grand Portage Reservation.