Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Overview
|Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (courtesy, National Park Service)|
Wisconsin's northernmost promontory breaks up into an archipelago of 21 islands in the cobalt-blue waters of southwest Lake Superior. French missionaries, who spied the archipelago from a distance, counted 12 islands and thus named them the "Apostles." However, 22 islands actually comprise the archipelago. The lakeshore also includes 12 miles of picturesque coastline on the mainland where the waters of the world's largest freshwater lake caress white sand beaches.
Make no mistake, this is no Gulag Archipelago. Each remote and uninhabited island is its own unique outdoor adventure paradise. Old-growth forests, historic lighthouses, cavernous sea caves, and red sandstone bluffs create an unforgettable landscape. Sea kayaking between islands is immensely popular.
Stockton Island has one of the greatest concentrations of black bears in North America. Male black bears can weigh anywhere from 250 to 400 pounds and are capable of running as fast as 30 miles per hour. Black bears regularly inhabit Sand and Oak Islands, as well as many of the other Apostles.
You can access the visitor center on the mainland by car. It is located one block off Wisconsin Route 13 in Bayfield. The islands are accessible by excursion boat trips that leave from Bayfield daily from late May to mid-October. The Apostle Islands Cruise Service offers a variety of excursion trips, as well as a camper and hiker shuttle to several islands. Consider renting a sea kayak at one of the many rental places in Bayfield.
Kayak into Sea Caves
Sea caves penetrate deep into the crimson cliffs that tower above the blue sapphire waters of Lake Superior. During calm waters, kayakers can explore the innermost recesses of sea caves and discover a beguiling interior of honeycombed passageways and vaulted ceilings. During the winter, stalactite-like icicles dangle from the ceiling like crystal chandeliers. You can find sea caves on the north shore of Devils Island, at Swallow Point on Sand Island, and along the mainland near the lakeshore's western boundary.
Explore Primeval Forests
Stands of old-growth forest are clustered around many of the Apostle Islands lighthouses. No one was allowed to cut trees around the lighthouse except for the lighthouse keepers, who used small quantities of wood for fuel. The inadvertent (and fortunate) result is that these primeval forests survived the heavy logging carried out elsewhere. You can wander through mystical and mythical stands of 300-year-old hemlock bearded with moss, ancient cedar, and towering white pine. The one-mile South Landing Trail on Devils Island snakes its way through a primeval boreal forest of paper birch and balsam fir.
Go Lighthouse Hopping
The eldest lighthouse stations on the Apostle Islands can be found at Michigan Island (1857) and Long Island (1858). The Raspberry Island light station was completed in 1863 and marks the west channel through the islands. The 90-foot whitewashed brick lighthouse tower at Outer Island was built in 1874 and sits on an impressive 40-foot red clay bluff above Lake Superior. The 44-foot tower at Sand Island was built from locally quarried brownstone in 1881. And in 1891, the lighthouse at Devils lsland was lit, completing an impressive circuit of lights.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication