Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Stockton Island

You have made the escape to the spirited shores of Stockton. Forget your schedules, let the sun be your timepiece, and have lapping waves set the pace as you explore the largest, most diverse and popular island in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. This 10,054-acre paradise offers opportunities for hiking, camping, beachcombing, scuba diving, swimming, and bird-watching. A visitor center at Presque Isle is open daily through the summer. Park rangers are available to lead walks and campfire programs and provide assistance.

Stockton Island has attracted people's interest for centuries. Native people fished, hunted, harvested berries, and made maple syrup on the island. By the late 1800s, Stockton Island attracted commercial interests such as fishing camps, a brownstone quarry, and lumber camps to its shores. Logging and fires changed the face of the island. Today, a new forest grows among old stumps and Stockton once again attracts people—this time for the pleasure of a near-wilderness recreational experience rather than the exploitation of its natural resources.

The story of Stockton Island begins with a look at its geology. The island sits on a foundation of brownish-red sandstone called the Chequamegon Formation. About one billion years ago the sand for this formation was deposited in a type of stream called a braided river.

Like the other Apostle Islands, Stockton was shaped during the last ice age, which ended about 10,000 years ago. As continental glaciers advanced through the area, they removed everything down to the sandstone bedrock. As the glaciers retreated they left deposits of boulders, gravel, and sand called glacial till. Melt water from the glacier formed the lake we now call Superior.

In the centuries since the ice age, wind, waves, and ice have sculpted exposed shorelines into arches, caves, stacks, and cliffs. Sand eroded from these areas is deposited along more protected shores to form beaches, sandspits, and a deposit called a "tombolo."

About 5,000 years ago, Presque Isle was a small island, separated by water from its larger neighbor, Stockton Island. Shore currents carried sand southward from the larger island forming underwater sandbars that eventually contacted the smaller island. A drop in lake level exposed this bridge of sand connecting the two islands. This sand bridge is a tombolo.

At least 429 plant species are found on Stockton Island. These are found in a variety of plant communities including northern hemlock-hardwood forest, bog, pine savanna, and dune.

Stockton's forests, wetlands, and other habitats support a variety of wildlife. Black bears, foxes, beavers, otters, and an occasional whitetailed deer are among the larger mammals found on the island. The island has one of the most concentrated populations of black bears in the world. Mice, bats, red squirrels, snowshoe hares, toads, frogs, turtles, snakes, and salamanders also make the island their home.

The island teems with diverse bird populations. Loons, mergansers, and ducks often dot the bays. Bald eagles and hawks soar overhead. Spring migration provides a symphony of warbler song in the woods. Bird-watchers also delight to find sandhill cranes and great blue herons in the tombolo lagoon.

Docks are located at Presque Isle Bay and at Quarry Bay. Docking is permitted as space is available and within posted times. Please observe all docking signs and regulations. The docks are also used by excursion and National Park Service boats.

Quarry, Presque Isle, and Julian Bays are popular locations to anchor or beach boats. Boaters should monitor marine weather forecasts, since shifting wind conditions and subsequent rough water can pose a significant threat.

A half-mile-long waterfront campground is located among the pines on Presque Isle Bay. Three group campsites and one individual site are located at Quarry Bay. Another individual site is located at Trout Point. Camping permits are required and should be obtained at one of the lakeshore's mainland visitor centers. Camping reservations for groups of eight or more can be made at lakeshore headquarters in Bayfield.

Go to the Apostle Islands Day Hiking page for trails on Stockton Island.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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