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Off The Well-Worn Path: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Rasberry Island Light House, NPS Photo

Rasberry Island Light House in Apostle Island National Lakeshore. NPS Photo.

     Still wondering where to head for your summer vacation? Well, if you live in or anywhere near the Midwest, there's a gorgeous national lakeshore with a nice chain of islands to explore.

     Apostle Islands National Lakeshore with its 12-mile slice of Lake Superior shoreline and its 21 islands is one of the national park system’s best secrets. Sea kayakers come to this corner of Wisconsin to explore “sea caves” that burrow into Sand and Devils islands as well as a portion of the mainland, and to camp on 18 of the wooded isles. To look into renting a kayak, call the lakeshore at 715-779-3397 for a list of outfitters.
    Scuba divers, sailors, and anglers also take to Superior’s waters, with divers descending on ship wrecks dating to 1886, when the 195-foot schooner Lucerne went down with a belly full of iron ore.
    History buffs who prefer dry land admire the lakeshore's six lighthouses. Those beacons not only reflect the United States’ largest and most diverse collection of light stations, but all are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
    This summer, following a $1.3 million restoration that included a new roof and foundation repairs, the Raspberry Island Lighthouse reopens to the public. Inside, half of the station appears much as it did in the early 1920s when Lee Benton was its keeper, while half provides housing for park personnel. Rangers will lead tours of the lighthouse throughout the summer.
    Visits to some of the other islands can be arranged through Apostle Islands Cruise Service. Camping is permitted on 18 of the islands and at the lakeshore’s mainland campground. Nearby Bayfield, Wisconsin, has a number of bed and breakfasts, inns and hotels for those who prefer a roof overhead.


I'll second the endorsement of Apostle Islands as an outstanding place to visit, but perhaps I'm biased: I spent 12 years at the park, retiring as Park Historian a couple of years ago.

One point I would add: though the lighthouse collection places the park among the "crown jewels" of NPS historic sites, there's a lot more to the archipelago's human heritage than the light stations alone: every single one of these wild and beautiful islands was someone's home or workplace at one time. The legacy of Native Americans, pioneer farmers and fishermen, fur traders and others can still be seen if you know where to look.

Just by chance, I posted an assortment of historical vignettes on my own web page a couple of days ago. If you're interested, just click on my signature below.

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