Where in the park is Neil? The week 2 answer is Sand Island

Fall Colors and the Sand Island Light

As part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, we’re going on a virtual tour with Neil Howk, a man who has spent decades exploring the islands and teaching people about what makes them special. He knows the islands like the back of his hand.

At the second stop on our digital tour, Neil is on Sand Island with his daughter Sophie. Sand Island is relatively close to the mainland at 46.9791° N, 90.9485° W. It is one of the most western-most islands in the National Lakeshore and is clearly visible from Little Sand Bay on the mainland.

Neil accompanied Sophie when she led a hike to the Sand Island Lighthouse during the Apostle Islands Lighthouse Celebration a couple years ago.

When the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment built a lighthouse in the islands, they acquired a couple hundred acres around the light stations to serve as lighthouse reservations. Only the lighthouse keepers could use the resources there. Forests in the lighthouse reservations on Devils, Outer, Raspberry, and here at the north end of Sand Island, were never commercially harvested and are the finest remnants of ancient forests in the park. Some of the trees may be more than 300 years old. 

Logging took place on nearly all of the Apostle Islands. The lighthouse reservation is one of the few relatively untouched areas on Sand Island. Beginning in the 1880s, farmers and fishermen cleared land for homesteads. We’ve included a 1903 photo of the Louis Moe farm at East Bay in the slide show. By the early 1900s, more than 100 year round residents made the island their home.

Though the last residents left the island in the 1940s, many families continued to use their cottages as summer retreats. Some logging continued on Sand until the early 1970s, when most of the island was acquired for addition to the national lakeshore. You’ll see an example of logging in the slideshow. Second growth forest now covers most of Sand Island, but the forest near the lighthouse provides a glimpse of what island forests may have looked like a couple hundred years ago.

Sand Island offers a number of individual and group campsites, some of which are accessable for people with disabilities and include boardwalks and wooden deck tent pads. Click here to learn about the sites.

  • Hiking trail on Sand Island
  • Sand Island Lighthouse tour
  • Fall Colors and the Sand Island Light
  • Louis Moe farm at East Bay on Sand Island in 1903
  • Logging on Sand Island in the 1970s

Sand is a wonderful place and there’s lots more to explore! Look for another digital adventure next week. To play along, simply like the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook page and check back next Wednesday for the clue to next week’s location. Make a guess in the comments and we’ll post the answer on Thursday. Click here to learn about Neil.

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