Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands

At the southwestern end of Lake Superior, just off the coast of Wisconsin, is a collection of islands known as the Apostle Island National Seashore. And a great way to see them is by boat, on a four hour excursion tour that is well worth your time.

Jennifer and I rolled the camera on our trip. Come on along…

Bring a jacket. It's very cool out there on the open water!

Tours of the Apostles Island National Lakeshore depart from the Northeast Wisconsin town of Bayfield, a picturesque resort town that caters to tourists and Island explorers during the short summer season. The boats are big with indoor seating and a large open air top deck. That’s what we chose.

Here are some facts about the Apostle Island you should know.

The island sare located in Lake Superior – the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area.

The surface area of Lake Superior is approximately the size of South Carolina.

There is enough water in Lake Superior to cover the entire land mass of North America and South America to a depth of several inches.

The deepest point in Lake Superior is also the lowest spot on the continental interior of the United States.

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is located at the southwestern end of Lake Superior. Established in 1970, the national lakeshore now consists of 21 islands, covering a total land area of 108 square miles. Including water, it encompasses some 720 square miles.

The islands are noted for high cliffs of reddish sandstone with many wave-formed arches and caverns. Sandy beaches also meet the cold, clear lake waters.

The islands were probably named by 17th-century Jesuit missionaries for the Twelve Apostles of the Bible.

The largest, at 14 miles long and 3 miles wide, is MadelineIsland. A former fur trade settlement, it houses a year-round population and is not part of the national lakeshore. Ferries carry tourists, cars and RVs across from Bayfield. There is a great state park on Madeline Island for camping. 

Madeline Island is one of the most prolific Bald Eagle nesting and habitat areas in the upper Midwestern U.S. It was the site of the 1854 Treaty of LaPointe signing.  That treaty ceded a vast area of Lake Superior Ojibwe lands to the United States government, in exchange for establishing Indian reservations for the Lake Superior Ojibwe in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

The smallest of the Apostle Islands is Gull Island (3.5 acres in size)

During very cold winter weather, an ice bridge might connect Sand Island to the mainland. Allowing people to explore ice caves that develop where waterfalls have hardened in place and frozen lakewater encrusts the inside the of the chamber with icicles.

But the ice caves are only accessible during very cold winters, maybe every two or three years. The rest of the year, boat rides are the only other way to visit them, and that is summer and early fall, though the islands have also become very popular with sea kayakers. Don’t try this with a cheap $300 kayak. Lake Superior can turn treacherous very fast.

The boat tours last about four hours.

 

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