Home | Getting Started | Gift Center | Gear Store | Topo Maps | My Wildernet | Newsletter Signup
Wisconsin > Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers > Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Activity Locator:

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Activities within Apostle Islands National Lakeshore:

All Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Outdoor Recreation Activities

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
   Customized Topo Maps and Aerial Photos
Outdoor Gear and Clothing

Search by Name within Wisconsin:

Trip Planner

Hotels Airline Tickets Car Rentals
B&Bs Yellow Pages City Guide

General Information

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Sand Island Lighthouse
Copyright: - US National Park Service
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Sand Island Lighthouse
Description - Near the western end of Lake Superior lies a forested archipelago of 21 islands called the Apostles. The name probably stems from the desire of 17th century Jesuit missionaries to honor the Apostles by naming a beautiful place after them, rather then from an actual count of islands. The islands have been carved for over a million years by glacial ice, wind, and waves; producing dramatic shorelines featuring sandstone cliffs, sea caves, and miles of pristine sand beaches. The Apostle Islands are at the continental northwestern limit of the hemlock / white pine / northern hardwood forest and the southern limit of the circumpolar boreal forest.

Humans have used the Apostle Islands for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Many Ojibwe Indian legends are associated with them. Voyageurs established trading posts on the islands, and later settlers built seasonal hunting and fishing camps, summer cabins, farms, and homesteads. These people used the resources of the islands and the adjacent waters for their commercial potential - forests were logged, brownstone quarried, and commercial fisheries were established. Light stations were built in the 1800s to guide approaching ships.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was established on September 26, 1970, "to conserve and develop for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use, and enjoyment of the public." 20 of the 22 islands in the group, as well as a 12 mile strip of shoreline on the mainland. Long Island was added to the lakeshore in 1986. The national lakeshore encompasses a 720-square-mile area on the Bayfield Peninsula and in Lake Superior. This includes 69,372 acres, of which 42,140 acres is land above the high water line. 2,568 acres are on the mainland. The rest of the acreage is on islands ranging in size from tiny 3 acre Gull Island to 10,054 acre Stockton Island. The islands range in height from about 10 feet (Gull Island) to 479 feet (Oak Island) above the lake level.

The Apostle Islands display a rich assemblage of scenic features, natural and cultural resources. These values, recognized by the area's earliest visitors, make it worthy of protection as a national lakeshore.

Attractions - Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers extensive recreational opportunities and features; perhaps the most notable is the unmatched assemblage of lighthouses. A good place to begin your National Lakeshore visit, whether by car, afoot, or by private boat, is at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Visitor Center in Bayfield. Located in the old Bayfield County Courthouse, the visitor center itself resonates with the peninsula's history. Visitor centers are also available at Little Sand Bay and Stockton Island.

Guests can tour two sites interpreting the history of the area's commercial fishing industry: Hokenson Fishery and Manitou Fish Camp. Experience first hand a remnant of the rugged pioneer way of life. The Hokenson Brothers Fishery stands on the shore of Lake Superior at Little Sand Bay. Operated for more than 30 years by the families of Eskel, Leo and Roy Hokenson, it was an enterprise that started from scratch and eventually prospered due to the Hokensons' resourcefulness, ingenuity and hard work. The restored Manitou Fish Camp is located on the southwest corner of Manitou Island, 13 miles from Bayfield. The camp appears much as it did when it was operating during the 1930s and 40s.

Some of the Great Lakes' most spectacular scenery occurs where the forces of wave action, freezing, and thawing interact with sandstone of the Devils Island Formation to create widespread sea caves. Nature has carved delicate arches, vaulted chambers, and honeycombed passageways into cliffs on the north shore of Devils Island, Swallow Point on Sand Island, and along the mainland near the Lakeshore's western boundary. People come to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in summer and winter to visit the sea caves and witness the scenic beauty.

There are 35 mammals known to exist within the boundaries of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Most of these are present on the islands with exception to those that hibernate. Black bear, deer, raccoon, skunks, coyote, fox and red squirrel are a few of the resident mammals. Of all these, only the red squirrel is likely to be seen. As for the rest, only their tracks are commonly observed. Apostle Islands offers bird watching opportunities. About 100 bird species breed on the islands and over 240 species have been identified within park boundaries.

The rich fish population of the world's greatest lake amazed early explorers. Years of heavy fishing pressure took a toll on fish populations, but the most severe blow came with the arrival of the sea lamprey. By the 1950s this parasitic species had devastated much of the native fish population. Intense efforts by both U.S. and Canadian governments have succeeded in minimizing the havoc currently wrought by the sea lamprey, and some fish populations have rebounded, especially lake trout populations. Native species in the region include sturgeon, brook trout, whitefish, pike, perch, walleye and bass. Exotic species include smelt, rainbow trout, coho and sea lamprey.

The Apostle Islands have long been a Mecca for sailors and boaters. The islands' protected bays, public docks, pristine beaches, historic sites, and natural beauty offer outstanding boating opportunities. Travel west from Bayfield 18 miles on Highway 13 to Meyers Road to access an extensive beach and the Lakeshore Trail. Captained day charters are available for visitors seeking to experience sailing in the Apostles. Outfitters in Bayfield also rent sea kayaks and guide day trips to the sea caves along the mainland portion of the national lakeshore. For rentals and cruise details call Apostle Islands Cruise Service.

Much enjoyment is found among the expansive forests of Apostle Island. Nature lovers will discover white pine, hemlock, yellow birch, cedar, sugar maple, red oak, paper birch, and balsam fir. Although each of these may be found in virgin forest, certain species usually predominate. Large white pine and hemlock are found in the reserve areas on Sand and Outer Islands. Three or four people must hold hands to encircle some of the tree trunks. Moist conditions on Raspberry Island are more favorable for yellow birch and cedar. Harsh conditions at Devils Island favor boreal forest species like paper birch and balsam fir.

Camping opportunities on the Apostle Islands range from developed sites near docks to minimal impact wilderness camping. In addition, several public and private campgrounds are located in the area. There are no developed National Park Service campgrounds accessible by road on the mainland unit of the National Lakeshore. However, there is one primitive site on the mainland, accessible to hikers and kayakers. Camping permits are required for all camping in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Wilderness camping is available on Basswood, Bear, Cat, Hermit, Ironwood, Manitou, Michigan, Oak, Otter, Outer, Raspberry, Rocky, Sand, South Twin, and Stockton islands where zones have been established for visitors seeking a remote backcountry experience. Contact the National Lakeshore for maps identifying the location of specific wilderness zones. Campers in need of transportation can reach five of the islands on regularly scheduled cruises from late June to Labor Day. A water taxi is available to carry campers to the less visited islands. Although camping is allowed on 18 of the islands, almost half of the camping in the park occurs on Stockton Island. A park ranger presents campfire programs near Stockton's Presque Isle Visitor Center five nights a week during the summer season. Ranger-guided walks are also offered daily on Stockton.

Hikers can enjoy more than fifty miles of maintained trails on the islands of the National Lakeshore. These trails provide access to lighthouses, abandoned quarries, old farm sites, historic logging camps, beaches, campsites, and scenic overlooks. With the opening of the first segment of the Lakeshore Trail, the park now offers hiking opportunities on the mainland, as well. When finished, this trail will run the length of the Lakeshore's mainland unit. The section now open extends 4.5 miles, from Meyers Road, past the cliffs above the mainland sea caves, and approximately halfway along the Lakeshore's mainland unit. The trail is a rugged path for use by experienced hikers, with stream crossings and steep slopes along the way. Consult a ranger for up-to-date information on trail conditions.

Clean, clear water, underwater rock formations, and fascinating shipwrecks combine to provide outstanding diving opportunities at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Sandstone caves carved into shoreline cliffs by wave action include Devils Island, Sand Island, Stockton Island, and "The Wall." Visibility varies due to erosion of clay soils into the lake. Calm conditions necessary for access. Submerged dock cribs near sandstone quarries active in the 1890s include Basswood, Stockton and Hermit islands. Turn-of-the-century shipwrecks include the Lucerne (Schooner) with its 1886 cargo of iron ore, the Noquebay (Schooner Barge) that burned and sunk in 1905, the Sevona (Bulk Freighter) built in 1890 and sunk in 1905 with a cargo of iron ore, and the Pretoria (Schooner) featuring a massive wooden three masted schooner-barge that sunk in 1905.

Winter offers a variety of recreational opportunities at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, winter camping, and over-ice travel to the islands or to the mainland sea caves are all popular activities. Access to the islands is challenging during the winter months, but in most years, there will be a period when ice conditions allow some travel. Inner islands such as Basswood, Hermit, and Oak are excellent destinations at these times. The most popular winter destination is the sea cave formation along the mainland shore near the Lakeshore's western boundary.

It may come as a surprise to some visitors to learn that hunting is permitted in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Unlike the congressional acts establishing national park areas like Yellowstone and Yosemite, the legislation that created Apostle Islands National Lakeshore provided for regulated hunting within park boundaries. Most types of hunting are prohibited between May 15 and September 30 on all lands and waters within the lakeshore. Consequently, most hunting activity occurs outside of the lakeshore's busiest visitor season. Hunting rules on park lands and waters are not always the same as those for other lands in Wisconsin. Contact park headquarters or a park ranger before you begin your hunt.

The Bayfield Peninsula has been a tourist center since the nineteenth century. Today, the area provides a wide range of lodgings and services, from campsites and rustic cabins, to elegant bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Local tourism offices provide details: Ashland County Tourism and Bayfield County Tourism. The Apostle Islands Cruise Service offers a variety of cruises including evening outings from mid May to mid October. Contact information is listed below.

Recreation - Recreations enjoyed at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore include sailing, boating, sea kayaking, camping (permit required), hiking, picnicking, swimming, scuba diving (permit required), excursion cruises, sport fishing and hunting (state licenses required), cross country skiing, visiting museums and exhibits, and participating in guided programs (seasonally).

Climate - Northwest Wisconsin has four distinct seasons with warm summers and long winters. Great Lakes Michigan and Superior tend to make summers cooler and winters milder close to shore. January's average temperature is in the single digits F (-teens C). During summer, temperatures can climb to above 90 degrees F for several days (32 degrees C). Nighttime summer temperatures occasionally dip below freezing. The area's average yearly precipitation ranges from 32-34". Annual snowfalls in the Northwest Region have a wide range; the southern areas may receive 20" while the northern areas may receive in excess of 200". Dressing in layers is a good way to remain comfortable in Wisconsin.

Location - Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is located at the State's northernmost point accessible off WI 13. The national lakeshore encompasses a 720-square-mile area on the Bayfield Peninsula and in Lake Superior.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

No trip reports filed to date. Please be the first one to do so!

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Lakes & Reservoirs Lake Superior

More Information

Contact Information:
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Route 1, Box 4 , Bayfield, WI, 54814, Phone: 715-779-3397
, apis_webmaster@nps.gov

Additional Information:
Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers - Wisconsin is a land of lakes and rivers. The state boasts over 15,000 lakes, national and state protected rivers, and famed borders with the Mississippi, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
Wisconsin National Forests and Parks - National forests and parks administered within the State of Wisconsin vary from expansive wilderness areas and national scenic rivers, to recreation trails and a breathtaking archipelago.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore - Official agency website


About Wildernet |  Email to a Friend  |  Disclaimer |  Privacy |  Contact Us  | Comments & Suggestions
Advertisers & Sponsors |  Owners & Operators |  Tourism Promotors
©1995-2019 Interactive Outdoors Inc. All rights reserved.