The Apostle Islands, on the Northeastern
tip of Wisconsin's Bayfield Peninsula, can be visited
by ferry or kayak. The Apostles is an archipelago of 21 virgin
islands that covers an area of more than 720 square miles
on the southern shore of Lake Superior. Late spring
to early autumn are the most pleasant times for beach lovers
History of the Apostles Islands
Over 3,000 years ago, woodland Indians inhabited these lands,
with the Red Cliff (Ojibwe) band migrating to
join them in the late 1400s. The Indians named the individual
islands after natural and supernatural occurrences until French
missionaries arrived during the 1600s and re-named the islands
in honor of the twelve Apostles. In the 1700s, a mineral surveyor
renamed the islands the Federation Islands after the
existing states at that time. His new names were not widely
accepted by local people and the names reverted back to a
combination of current local names and Chippewa Indian
names. Today, the Red Cliff (Ojibwe) Indians have left the
island and live in a reservation nearby along the lake shore
but they still have a stretch of land on Madeline Island.
Things to see and do in the Apostles
- The islands have many natural attractions including colorful
sandstone and thick forest. The brownstone
found in the Apostles - especially on Hermit Island
- was quarried by Frederick Prentice to rebuild Chicago
after the Great Fire of 1871.
- The islands are also home to the largest collection of
historic lighthouses in the country which were built to
aid great lakes navigation.
- Black bears are common to the islands, especially
Stockton Island where there is reportedly two bears
per square mile. They are docile and shy but they are drawn
to food and they will not hesitate to raid a campsite for
- Basswood Island is home to a variety of wildlife.
Beavers and otters visit the pond in the island's
abandoned quarry. Red squirrels are common and the
island supports a small population of White-tailed deer.
A variety of habitats on the island attract many of the 100-plus
bird species that nest in the Apostle Islands, like bald
eagles. You can spot adolescent bald eagles taking their
first flying lessons in the air. Much of Basswood's coastline
has been eroded by the lake's frequent squalls, which makes
for stunning rock formations inside the sea caves, exposing
colorful, Precambrian sandstone.
- The Red Cliff Reservation is the hub of the Ojibwe
nation. The reservation runs for forteen miles long along
the shores of Lake Wisconsin, three miles north of
Bayfield. Don't miss the Red Cliff pow-wow every fourth
weekend of July. A pow-wow is a social occasion for the tribal
members, open to all, with dancing in full regalia to celebrate
friendship and to affirm the joy of life. In the heart of
the reservation, alongside the lake, is the Red Cliff Campground
and Marina - a great spot to pitch your tent or park your
boat. Nearby is the Isle Vista Casino with blackjack, slot
machines, food, drinks, and live entertainment - a great place
to meet up with the locals.
Access to the islands is from the town of Bayfield.
Cruises around the islands leave daily from May to October
or private water taxis can be arranged. There is also a car
ferry to Madeline Island which is one of the only islands
accessible by car. Telephone: +1 715 779 3398.