Apostle Islands National Seashore - 

Jewels of Lake Superior

Welcome to Day # 221 of our "365 Parks in 365 Days" adventure.


  Ooh la la! Known as the Keyhole arch , this sea cave allows a spectacular view of the sunset over the lake. NPS Photo.


In Wisconsin for the State Parks employees conference yesterday, I kept hearing mention of the Apostle Islands and the wonderful times to be had there. People really love their parks in that state, and members of the staff shared videos of visitors to the state park system affirming why they are so attached. In many instances they said it was a lifelong tradition of fun and family time dating back to their grandparents, and going to those places connected them to family members who have passed on. Over and over people said the beauty, the serenity, the opportunity to "get away," the recreational activities and the chance to be in nature were the things that kept them looking forward to coming back.


I found this attachment vitally important since, in an age when many states are reacting to funding challenges by closing parks (California) opening them up to oil and gas exploration (Ohio) and privatizing some (Georgia), the Wisconsin State Park System enjoys a healthy bottom line as a result of the fees generated from increasing visitation - up 12 percent since 2002.  I have no doubt that the leadership which is open, respectful, inclusive and allows managers the freedom to make decisions, is a key part of the system's success. There's a lesson here that others might emulate, since state and local parks are often the closest possibilities for recreation in urban communities.


 Exploring the mainland sea caves from a launch point at Meyers Beach is a favorite activity of kayakers. NPS Photo.


Happily home today in sunny South Florida with temperatures approaching 80 degrees, I'm heading back to Wisconsin virtually to visit the beloved Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. I found this great description at the park's website:


"Jewels of Lake Superior Along windswept beaches and cliffs, visitors experience where water meets land and sky, culture meets culture, and past meets present. The 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland host a unique blend of cultural and natural resources.  Lighthouses shine over Lake Superior and the new wilderness areas. Visitors can hike, paddle, sail, or cruise to experience these Jewels of Lake Superior.


"Set in a matrix of Lake Superior, the largest and most pristine of the Great Lakes, the Apostle Islands archipelago includes 22 islands and is located in far northwestern Wisconsin, off the Bayfield Peninsula. Twenty-one of these islands, and a 12-mile segment along the shore of Wisconsin's north coast, comprise the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.


 The most spectacular sea caves in the national lakeshore form in cliffs composed of the Devils Island Sandstone formation. NPS Photo.


"The beauty of the islands is enhanced by the area's geology. Colorful Precambrian sandstone have eroded into interesting cliff formations, including sea caves, and there is a highly diverse collection of sandscapes, including sandspits, cuspate forelands, tombolos, a barrier spit, and numerous beaches. These sandscapes are among the most pristine left in the Great Lakes region. . .


"The Apostle Island archipelago's sandstones were deposited during the late Precambrian era, about 600 million years ago, and form the basement rock for all the islands. The upper and lower most layers (Chequamegon and Orienta formations) are in the Precambrian Bayfield Group and were deposited by northeastward-flowing braided streams. The Devils Island Formation, between the sandstones, represents deposition across sand-flats that were intermittently covered by shallow ponded water. The Pleistocene ice advances provided an abundance of till, with lesser amounts of glacial outwash, which covers most of the island. Some glacial drift was streamlined by overriding ice. Terraces, wave-cut benches, and elevated beaches show evidence of higher levels of Lake Superior. 


The Old Michigan Island Lighthouse was built in 1856 and was the first on the Apostle Islands. Imagine how many mariners would have looked for it with great anxiety, and felt such relief when they saw its welcoming beams. NPS Photo.


"This fascinating unit of the National Park System features a combination of spectacular natural beauty and rich cultural history. The rich history of the islands includes Native Americans, voyageurs, loggers, quarrying, farmers and commercial fisherman. The six historic light stations in the park, built here to aid Great Lakes navigation, are the largest such group found in any unit of the National Park System.


"The islands offer various water- based recreational opportunities such as sailing, power boating, sea kayaking, fishing and scuba diving. In a July, 2004 visitor survey, the most common activities that visitors participated in during their visit included sightseeing (80%), walking on beaches (66%), and photography (57%)."


Thank you, beloved National Park System that protects our inspiring treasures. Thank you, beloved ancestors who knew we'd need them for respite. It is my fervent desire to do my part to keep these treasures around and to help them fulfill their mission for the benefit and enjoyment of all the American people.


 If you've missed any of our "365 Parks in 365 Days" adventures, find them here  (Archive)

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