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 eighth stop on our digital tour, Neil is at Little Sand Bay on the mainland. You will find a brand new visitor center and outdoor exhibit building operated by the National Park Service and a campground operated by the Town of Russell. It’s located on Little Sand Bay Road, 13 miles north of Bayfield.
Before the onset of COVID-19, a grand opening for the new visitor center was scheduled for June 13. The building completed last fall replaces an older visitor center. It is designed to be very energy efficient and to honor the site’s rich history.
The pandemic forced a delay in opening this building to the public. However, new exhibits in the boat shelter and in the covered porch outside the visitor center are available to the public 24/7.
Exhibits in the porch describe the area’s billion year geologic story and summarize the area’s human history beginning 5000 years ago with the first Indigenous inhabitants, to the arrival of the Ojibwe, the establishment of the Red Cliff Reservation, the founding of the South Shore Club in the Town of Russell, Hermie Johnson’s Little Sand Bay store and resort, and creation of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
The shelter for the historic fish tug TWILITE was completed last year. Exhibits in the boat shelter tell the history of the Hokenson Brothers’ fish tug TWILITE and use the brothers as an example of how area residents in the early 1900s often relied on multiple occupations (farming, logging, ice harvesting, and commercial fishing) to make a living.
The exhibits include three audio boxes, each containing six 2-minute stories of life along the lake at Little Sand Bay. A touchable terrain model of the Apostle Islands landscape and a collection of rock samples from area beaches are also included in the exhibits.
Little Sand Bay is a great place to start your adventure in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The National Park Service produced a video tour of the new visitor center on Facebook, link below. Click here for information about the campground operated by the Town of Russell.
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 view the entire series.