DescriptionThe Apostle Islands lie offshore from Bayfield Peninsula in Lake Superior in northwestern Wisconsin. There are 22 Apostle Islands ranging in size from 3 acres to 14,000 acres. All but Madeline Island are within the national lakeshore, which also includes a 12-mile strip of shoreline on the peninsula.
The Apostles are the result of an ice age, when huge ice sheets gouged channels into the bedrock and then left piles of debris in their wakes. As the glaciers retreated, the islands were exposed, revealing rose-colored cliffs that the lake's waters since have shaped into twisted formations, caves and hollows.
Fur trading began here as early as the 17th century, and commercial fishing continues around the islands today. For the early traders the islands offered plentiful game and refuge from the lake's storms. Later developers harvested such resources as timber and sandstone. The latter became the brownstone used extensively in buildings in Chicago and other Midwestern cities in the late 19th century.
By the beginning of the 20th century, wealthy city dwellers had transformed the remote islands into a fashionable retreat, building summer cottages on Madeline Island. This idyllic period ended with the Great Depression.
Once again sugar maple, birch, balsam fir, red pine and an array of wildflowers blanket the islands, and with the second-growth forest are renewed populations of deer, bear and a variety of birds.
Stockton Island, the largest island in the lakeshore, has the most extensive trail system and such facilities as docks, campgrounds and a regular camper shuttle service from the mainland. Recreational activities on the other islands vary and can include hiking, camping, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Lake Superior rarely is warm enough for swimming, and the area's treacherous weather can make canoeing and boating hazardous.
Note: Taking pets to the lakeshore is not advised. The boat service will not accept pets on scheduled trips. Pets must always be on a 6-foot or shorter leash and must never be unattended.
There are scheduled ranger programs and guided tours on some of the islands, including Raspberry and Stockton. For additional information, phone (715) 779-3397.
Things to SeeApostle Islands Cruises
Surrounded by the waters of Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands were early fur-trading outposts; the lakeshore is now visited for recreational pursuits.