Lake Superior's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Lake superior, known as the biggest lake on the continent of North America, and second biggest lake in the world. This massive source of freshwater sits between southern Canada and northern United States. The Ojibwe Native American tribe that lived in this region prior to settlement by Europeans named it Ojibwe Gichigami. This stood for Ojibwe's Great Sea. Just standing on the shore at any part of this massive lake, it is easily apparent on how great this lake is! In most parts, you can't even see to the other side of the lake.
Lake Superior is the northern most lake of the Great Lakes chain of North America. Lake Superior was formed from ancient glaciers that melted and moved their way through the region creating the basin for the lake. While all of this glacial melting was occurring, it was named something different by researchers, they called it Lake Minong. But enough with the multiple changes of names for this lake, it gets confusing!
If you want to read more about how Lake Superior and the rest of the lakes were formed, click this following link to an article from the University of Wisconsin.
Out of all of the places I have been to in the world, and continue to go to, this is the one spot I have probably been to the most. I have been coming here for camping trips, kayaking, and boating probably since I was 7 or 8 years old. I still go there annually on a kayaking trip every summer.
Despite all of my trips to this great lake throughout my life, I am still discovering new and exciting places in this region. My favorite part about this massive lake is the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The Apostle Islands are a chain of 22 islands that originate around the Bayfield Peninsula in Northern Wisconsin. These islands at direct results of the glacial history in the region. It is believed that these islands were once part of the mainland, but rising waters after glacial melts and continued erosion over time wore away at the mainland and created these amazing islands.
The thing that surprises me most about when I talk about this area, is that few people, even from the Midwest (mainly Wisconsin or Minnesota) seem to know about this region, or have ever visited! I found this sort of shocking and decided that it would be my next article. It's just as important to hit the hometown destinations just as it is to see other destinations in the world! Hopefully, this article will inspire some upcoming summer trips to anyone who may read it. It's a beautiful and peaceful lakeshore, and I should mention very clean. The water is super clear in Lake Superior. It's a great destination to go swimming! Maybe wait until Late June to Late August though, because while it's very clean, its one hell of a cold lake! While the surface temperatures near shorelines will always vary depending on the season, on average (below 660 ft) hovers around 39 degrees F or 4 degrees C.
What is there to actually do at the Apostle Islands?
The Apostle Islands and the surrounding are a great spot for boating, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, fishing, touring, camping, hunting, and more! The possibilities are endless for water related activities, and there is plenty of space, so you won't have to worry about an overcrowded lake! My favorite activity in this region still to this day is kayaking to the Apostle Islands. I myself have only kayaked to a few, but the goal in the coming years is to increase that number! If you intend on any sort of activity relating to being out on the water, there will be a safety section below which highlights the dangers of Lake Superior. It's not your average lake. Weather can creep up quickly, and it can get violent and deadly really quick. For example, to this date, the largest wave ever recorded on Lake Superior was 28.8 feet. That's pretty damn big. Just for comparison, likely the largest documented wave was around 100 feet high, which was a tsunami (caused by an earthquake).
Aside from the outdoors activities which are more than plentiful, there are some of the local towns such as Bayfield, Cornicopia, Ashland, and Red Cliff to visit. Out of all of these areas, Bayfield is one of the largest and most popular for tourists. There are a bunch of restaurants, bars, a big marina, car ferries that bring tourists out to Madeline Island (straight out from Bayfield), smaller tour boats that visit the other Apostle Islands, plenty of gift shops, casinos, and more!
There is also a very popular festival every October. The Apple Festival is a pretty well known and visited event, which runs for 3 days. For more information on the Bayfield Apple Festival, please click the following link.
If eating fresh fish at fish frys is your thing, or adventure kayaking out on Lake Superior's volatile waters, boating, camping, or visiting the cute marina town of Bayfield. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore will have something for everyone. There's a reason why this region draws me back every year for camping and kayaking.
Little Sand Bay Camp Ground
I thought it was necessary to make a separate section for this wonderful little campground and marina nestled on the shoreline by Sand Island and York Island. Little Sand Bay is located about halfway between Bayfield and Cornicopia, and it can be hard to find if you aren't paying attention for the sign!
This campground is a hidden gem! I have been coming here for probably close to 20 years now and it never gets old! It's sort of like having your own slice of 'heaven' on a lake that basically resembles a picturesque ocean coastline. Of course, its a bit chilly most of the time up here, but that does not detract from the natural beauty of this region or this campground which is owned and operated by the Township of Russell.
The campground fills up quick for most of the warmer months of the year, so plan in advance if at all possible. It has a surprising amount of spots for campers though. It has tent specific areas, an overflow area, and spots for RV's and trailers.
What makes this spot so ideal is the fact that is a perfect launch location for kayakers, or other boaters (from the marina located on the shoreline). If you want to explore the western most Apostle Islands, then this is the spot for you!
Aside from being a great location for those seeking water adventures, Little Sand Bay is just a great overall camping facility which includes a great stretch of a sand beach to walk, along with a pavilion with a fire pit for cookouts, a large field for playing various sports, and more! As far as amenities go, they have public showers (2 to be exact, and they are coin operated), and public restrooms. Also, no camping trip is ever complete without a fire, and you can find plenty of wood to burn by visiting the host campsites at the campground. Prices are quite reasonable.
There is also a Ranger station located here, which will provide you with any updates on weather, tips on safety, or general Lake Superior and Apostle Islands knowledge.
For more specific information on this wonderful campground on the Lake Superior shore, please follow this link to the campgrounds direct website!
Safety on the mighty and treacherous Lake Superior
Lake Superior is known as the lake that 'doesn't give up it's dead', this is apparently due to how frigid the lake temperatures are. While no exact number of ships that have wrecked on the dangerous Lake Superior is known, estimates are around 6,000 to 25,000 for all of the Great Lakes combined. That is a ridiculous number, and a number that should always be remembered. Conditions on these gigantic lakes can become treacherous very quickly, and with little warning. Heed any warnings prior to departing on any adventures on the open waters.
Always make sure someone knows you are heading out on the lake and when you expect to be back. Carry a cell phone with you (obviously, keep it out of the water) and a Marine Band radio could provide useful as well for weather updates, or contacting the Coast Guard if necessary in an emergency situation.
Personal flotation devices are also mandatory as well. It's better to be safe than sorry anyways! One final thing to always remember with Lake Superior is that the water is always generally pretty cold, and within a short time frame of being submerged (say your kayak flips you out and you can't manage to get back in) it's possible that hypothermia could set in. Know and understand the symptoms and conditions of hypothermia. Avoid going out on your own unless you are confident in your ability to be safe. Know your limitations, don't push yourself and wind up in a potentially deadly situation.
When is the best time to visit the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior?
While you can visit the area year round, there are specific times of the year which in my opinion are best. My favorite times to visit Lake Superior is generally anywhere between June through Mid September. This is the peak season, and weather is the most favorable. Towards the end of that time frame, autumn is beginning, which means lots of colorful trees, creating quite a scenic landscape. The weather is also warmest around these times (particularly July and August that is). Weather can be anywhere around 70 degrees F up to the 90's. It's not often, but I have been up there on some pretty hot days. It's actually pretty refreshing to jump in the cool Lake Superior waters when it's hot and humid. It's not often when you can say that!
Aside from Summer and Fall, the rest of the year can be sort of miserable and cold up on Lake Superior. Unless you are used to frigid temperatures, it may not be worth braving the cold. But if you do, during January or February you may just have to try your luck at seeing the ice caves along the shorelines of Lake Superior. These are most commonly seen around the Myer's beach area in Northern Wisconsin. These can be found between Cornicopia and the Little Sand Bay Campground. There will be signs posted on the highway that can direct you on where to turn for the Meyer's beach access, which is also a great kayak launching location.
During the colder months, the combination of heavy gusts of wind, and massive waves can create some pretty cool ice cover along the shoreline, which includes the cliffs, nearby ground, and trees.
Why you should visit the Lake Superior National Shoreline?
Why wouldn't you? This is a perfect getaway destination for anyone who enjoys the outdoors! There is plenty of fun activities to do up here, and there is something for every age. It is a great camping destination, or you could stay in local motels or bed and breakfasts.
It is shocking to me when I refer to this area to people who live in Wisconsin or Minnesota and they have never heard of the region. If you are a kayaker, this is a perfect destination for island hopping and camping. Just pay attention to the weather if you do!
If you are looking for your next great weekend get away with your family, friends, or a solo adventure, consider checking out the Lake Superior National Lakeshore and the Apostle Islands!