Apostle Islands

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For the islands in the Crozet Archipelago, see Îlots des Apôtres.
Ashland County, Wisconsin, from 1895 U.S. Atlas with Apostle Islands located in the north.

The Apostle Islands are a group of 22 islands in Lake Superior, off the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin.[1] The majority of the islands are located in Ashland County—only Sand, York, Eagle, and Raspberry Islands are located in Bayfield County. All the islands except for Madeline Island are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The islands in Ashland County are all in the Town of La Pointe, except for Long Island, which is in the Town of Sanborn, while those in Bayfield County are in the Towns of Russell and Bayfield.

The islands are the spiritual home for the Lake Superior Chippewa. The islands were named the Apostle Islands by New France historian Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix,[2] who named them after the 12 apostles (for the 12 largest islands).[3]


"The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore provides regionally diverse and unique plant communities."[4] "Over 800 plant species occur within the lakeshore, including Wisconsin listed endangered and threatened species."[4] The Apostles are dominated by boreal forest, composed largely of white spruce (Picea glauca) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea), often mixed with white birch (Betula papyrifera), white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), white pine (Pinus strobus), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides). On Madeline Island, Stockton Island, and several other islands, a unique bog-dune ecosystem can be found near deep bays and enclosed lagoons.

According to the National Park Service, "One of the greatest concentrations of black bears in North America is found on Stockton Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Bears also regularly inhabit Sand and Oak islands, and, due to their mobility, may be found on just about any of the Apostle Islands."[5]

Sea caves at Devils Island

"The Lakeshore provides important nesting habitat for the following colonial nesting birds: herring and ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, and cliff swallows. Gull and Eagle Islands combined have 88% of the lakeshore's breeding herring gull populations and 80% of the herring gull breeding population on the entire Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior. Eagle Island has the only great blue heron rookery in the park."[6]

Sea caves[edit]

Some winters the lake freezes solid enough that the Park Service lets people walk from Meyers Beach across the lake ice to see the caves.

Good examples of the sea caves of the Great Lakes are located on the shorelines of the Apostle Islands. Examples include the following locations: Swallow Point on Sand Island, the North Shore of Devils Island, and near Squaw Bay on the mainland. Arches and delicate chambers are visible. During the winters, visitors can see frozen waterfalls and chambers filled with delicate icicles.


All islands lie in the Town of La Pointe, in Ashland County, unless indicated otherwise.

NameSize (Acres)Notes
Madeline Island15359.45 AcresLargest, inhabited, not part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Stockton Island9892.46 Acres
Gull Island3.51 AcresSmallest
Eagle Island27.7 AcresWesternmost; in Town of Bayfield, Bayfield County
Outer Island7860.88 AcresEasternmost and northernmost, site of Outer Island Lighthouse
Oak Island5024.09 Acres
Sand Island2859.33 AcresIn Town of Bayfield, Bayfield County, site of Sand Island Lighthouse
Basswood Island1914.28 Acres
Bear Island1814.03 Acres
Michigan Island1538.74 AcresSite of Michigan Island Lighthouse
Hermit Island787.60 Acres
Cat Island1339.07 Acres
Otter Island1322.68 Acres
Manitou Island1325.20 Acres
Rocky Island1049.32 Acres
Long Island308.7 AcresSouthernmost; not geologically part of the Apostle Islands, but rather an extension of Chequamegon Point; in Town of Sanborn, Ashland County
Ironwood Island666.05 Acres
York Island273.83 AcresIn Town of Russell, Bayfield County
Raspberry Island287.6 AcresIn Town of Russell, Bayfield County, site of Raspberry Island Lighthouse
Devils Island310.28 AcresSite of Devils Island Lighthouse
South Twin Island336.37 Acres
North Twin Island165.7 Acres


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Apostle Islands
  2. ^ Historic Diaries: James Doty, 1820; Wisconsin Historical Society; Retrieved July 26, 2008
  3. ^ Paprock, John-Brian; Teresa Peneguy Paprock (2001). Sacred Sites of Wisconsin. Big Earth Publishing. p. 105. ISBN 1-931599-01-7. 
  4. ^ a b Plants. National Park Service. 4 March 2008.
  5. ^ Bear of the Apostles. National Park Service. 4 March 2008.
  6. ^ Birds. 8 January 2008. National Park Service. 4 March 2008.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°57′55″N 90°39′51″W / 46.96528°N 90.66417°W / 46.96528; -90.66417