Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Superior, MN - Events of Friday, July 8, 2011
The Apostle Islands are a group of small islands along the southern shore of Lake Superior near Bayside, WI, which is about 75 miles from Superior. All but two or three of the islands are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
All the islands are only accessible by boat. Madeline Island, which is the largest island, has a ferry; but it has year-round residents, and it's not part of the national lakeshore. If you want to see any of the islands that are part of the national lakeshore, the only real way to do it is by private boat or by means of the Apostle Island Cruises. Apostle Island Cruises has about half a dozen different cruises that include several sightseeing cruises of the islands and several cruises that stop for the day at specific islands or stop to drop you off on any of several islands for overnight camping.
We decided to take a day trip to Bayfield and take one of the longer sightseeing cruises. The cruise we took was aboard the Island Princess and went all the way out to the farthest island.
Below is a view of Bayfield harbor with the town of Bayfield behind it.
The cruise left Bayfield harbor and began sailing northeast. The captain gave us a history of the islands and a running commentary on what we were seeing.
The islands were the spiritual home of the Chippewa people. A French explorer named the islands for the 12 apostles even though there are 22 islands.
Madeline Island, the largest island, is about 12 miles long and 3.5 miles wide at its widest point. The smallest island, Eagle Island, is only a little over ¼ mile long. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was created in 1970.
The sandstone that makes up the islands is called brownstone.
Brownstone was a popular building material in the 1800s, and several of the islands had quarries. When the quarry on one of the islands ceased operations in the late 1800s, they left a stack of cut brownstone blocks on the shore.
We saw numerous boats anchored near many of the islands. There are lots of places where boaters can take their dinghy ashore to hike, or they can just anchor offshore and enjoy the view.
There was, and still is, commercial fishing on Lake Superior. Before steam power, fishing boats were powered by sails or oars. Since it would take a lot of time to get the boats out to where the fish were, the fishermen established fish camps on several of the islands. Other boats would stop by the fish camps every several days to pick up the catch and to drop off ice for the fishermen to use to preserve their catch until the next pickup. The fish camps had bunk houses, a dining hall and storage buildings.
One such camp is on Manitou Island. The camp has been restored by the National Park Service, and they conduct guided tours.
The highlight of the cruise was the sea caves and lighthouse on the far side of Devil's Island, which is the outermost island. The island's name comes from the fact the Native Americans thought the sound of the waves crashing in the caves during storms sounded like evil spirits.
A boater had backed in to explore one of the caves.
The air was cool out on the lake, especially when we were sailing into the wind. We brought jackets, but left them in the car because it felt so warm when we arrived. We knew it would be cool out on the water, but not that cool. There is an enclosed deck below, but we stuck it out on the upper deck to get a better view. Fortunately, the sun was warm and helped counteract the cool air.
Margery enjoyed the sun, too.
After rounding Devil's Island, the cruise started back toward the harbor at Bayfield. We took a different route than we did on the way out and went along the western side of the islands. Rasberry Island has the most picturesque of the 6 or 7 lighthouses in the Apostle Islands.
As we approached Bayfield, we could see some of the many sailboats participating in that day's race of a week-long regatta. A different course is set up each day depending on wind direction and weather conditions. The sailors tried to see who could complete the course in the least amount of time.
Our cruise lasted about 2½ hours, which seemed a little long; but maybe that's just because we decided not to take our jackets, and it turned out to be a little cool. That particular cruise is long because it goes to the caves on Devil's Island, which is about 20 miles out into the lake.
At any rate, we were pretty hungry when we got back even though we took some snacks with us. One of the crew members suggested a restaurant in town called Maggie's, but when we stopped to check their menu, their sandwiches ranged in price from $8 to $12. We decided to pass and tough it out and wait until we got back to the motor home to have something to eat.
After our long day on the lake, we took a day off to relax. Well, actually, it rained so we went to Walmart to restock the larder. The day after that, however, the sun came out, and we did more sightseeing. We'll tell you what we saw in our next post.