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 thirteenth stop on our digital tour, Neil is in the light tower on Devils Island looking for the only Fresnel lens still found in an Apostle Islands tower. Devils Island is located at 47.0730° N, 90.7257° W. At various times in the 1800s, this island was also been known as Louisiana Island, Barney and Lamborn’s Island, Brownstone Island and Rabbit Island. It is the northernmost point in Wisconsin.
Devils Island is a popular destination for boaters and sightseers looking to visit the island’s spectacular sea caves, the best of which are on the northern end of the island. Tour boats regularly do sunset tours. When the seas are rough, the waves smash into the caves with thunderous booms.
Devils Island has the northernmost light station in the park. During pre-pandemic times, island visitors could climb the stairs to the top of the lighthouse, accompanied by a park volunteer.
The light marks an important turning point for ships heading to and from Duluth. The third order lens was installed at Devils Island in 1901.
The Coast Guard removed the lens from the tower when the light was automated in 1989, but returned in 1992 after area residents sued them for removing a historically significant part of the light station.
In October 2019 park staff found that one of the bullseyes had fallen from the lens. Park staff stabilized the lens and are requesting professional recommendations for its repair. A solar-powered beacon flashes a red light at night.
A one mile trail traverses the center of Devils Island leading to a campsite and small harbor at the island’s south end. The docks and campsite at the south end of the island are currently closed due to storm damage. Visit the NPS website for an update on current park conditions.
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.