Wisconsin's northernmost landscape juts out into Lake Superior as the scenic archipelago known as the Apostle Islands. Designated a National lakeshore on September 26, 1970, the national lakeshore includes 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland Lake Superior shoreline, featuring pristine stretches of sand beach, spectacular sea caves, remnant old-growth forests, resident bald eagles and black bears, and the largest collection of lighthouses anywhere in the National Park System. The park contains 69,372 acres (42,161 acres of land and 27,371 acres of Lake Superior waters extending out 1/4 mile from shore).
Though today a walk along most trails on the Apostle Islands will give the hiker a feeling of wilderness, it's well to remember that not so long ago, people called these islands home. Men and women lived and worked on these islands, babies were born, children played and went to school.
Sometimes the traces of past lives are easy to spot. The light stations, with their towers and houses and outbuildings, are well known, and visited by many. Other sites, less often visited, offer equally obvious evidence of human presence. Follow the loop trail on Basswood Island from the group campsite southward: as you approach the island's southern tip, you will suddenly find yourself at an overlook high above the remains of the Bass Island Brownstone Quarry. Stone walls like fortress ramparts loom above the quarry pit; here and there chunks of rusted iron equipment lie on the forest floor.
The waves of Lake Superior hide other stories from ready view; the waters around the island have been the scene of many shipwrecks. Sailors on doomed vessels looked toward the island shores with hope and desperation; some made it to safety, some did not. The Wisconsin State Underwater Archeology office provides detailed information and vivid accounts of several of these shipwrecks at their web page, Ice-Water Mansions.
Summer temperatures average 75-80 degrees F. during the day and 55 degrees F. at night. Summer thunderstorms commonly create severe, rapidly changing wind and wave conditions. Visitors should bring layers of clothing and rain gear. Sea kayakers should use wet or dry suits. Winter temperatures of -10 degrees F. are not uncommon. The lakeshore is open all year.