Explorer’s guide to the Apostle Islands just released – buy a book to support the park

Bayfield, WI – “My first visit to the Apostles was over two decades ago. Every wave over to Basswood Island made me wonder if we were going to die,” says longtime explorer, paddler and author John Frank. “That feeling has since been replaced with a sense of awe and respect.”

Frank has just released the second edition of Apostle Islands Water Trips, an Explorer’s Guide. And thanks to his generosity, we at Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are pleased to be able to sell a thousand copies of the book, with proceeds benefiting the park that we – and John Frank – love.


Apostle Islands Water Trips is an essential resource for paddlers and boaters who want to explore the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. In it you will find each island and mainland location has a dedicated chapter. Want to know which sections of coastline are suitable for landing your kayak? How about where you can dock your boat or moor overnight? Want to map your next island hike or campsite? The information you need is in the book.

Every trip gives me a special high. Planning conquered. Nothing important was forgotten. I encountered some weather. Home safe. 

john frank, author

When comparing paddling in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to his usual everyday life, Frank says, “There’s a different set of rules up here.”

John Frank, Author

“My everyday life is governed by rules like ‘put gas in my car if the tank shows empty,’ ‘call clients back before leaving work at the end of the day,’ and ‘try not to be late for meetings.’ Up here it is ‘check the weather forecast, do I have the proper gear?’, ‘what is the lake telling me… what is the wind doing?'”

“Somehow the latter set of rules is less stressful because I always have a choice – to paddle or not paddle, it does not matter. Both are good options. It’s a good feeling. Back home weather does not make a difference. While on a paddle trip, weather often is a challenge, and I must make smarter choices.”

And for boaters and kayakers, Frank’s new book helps you to be smarter. Frank worked with current and former National Park Service employees to ensure that information about available facilities and plans for the future is current.

Editor Neil Howk, retired from the National Park Service, said of the book, “It provides logistical information about the location and condition of park facilities. It explains the rules about camping in the park and how to reserve campsites.  Maps of each island illustrate shoreline conditions and the location of possible landing spots.  The historical and natural background information identify points of interest in the islands.” 

Howk says, “The stories of John’s personal experiences in the islands not only pique our interest but offer cautionary tales of what to expect in the area.  The mileage chart and lists of suggested gear are wonderful planning aids to help prospective paddlers assure a safe trip among the islands.  The book is easy to read and nicely illustrated, but also as valuable a safety tool as a properly fitted PFD.”

Paddling the mainland sea caves
Paddling the mainland sea caves

Beyond the safety, technical and practical aspects of planning and completing a voyage in the park, Frank says paddling the islands is a passion and a special connection for him. And over the years, his feelings about it have changed.

“When I first started coming up to the Apostles, I was working in a ‘people industry.’ The total isolation I found in the Apostles, especially in the spring, was rejuvenating. I could escape from people, draw power from the forest and near wilderness, and be alone. For me it was a spiritual experience to reconnect with nature and be able to return home again, willing and able to deal with people.”

Frank goes on to say, “That was then. Now in 2021, I am retired, and, following a year plus of COVID isolation, I get a different feeling. I just finished a 4th of July paddle with friends. Now I don’t need to get away from people as much. Getting back with my regular paddling group and socializing while tripping, was very welcome and comforting.”

With his decades of experience, John Frank knows a lot about the islands. Ask him to choose a favorite, and he’ll tell you it’s a tough call. ” I guess I’d say Sand Island because it has the most variety. There’s the light station. big beaches, trails, cultural history remnants, wildlife, accessible campgrounds and even some sea caves. It has most of what makes the Apostle Islands special and is an island which is easier to get to from the mainland.”

Whether you have a favorite island or you’re just getting started, Frank’s new book can help you to make the most of your next adventure. Please join us in celebrating the park’s 50th Anniversary by purchasing a book. You can get copies for $27 each at the following locations: Apostle Islands Booksellers and Keeper of the Light in Bayfield, as well as at Lost Creek Adventures kayaking outfitter in Cornucopia and the River Rock Inn & Bait Shop in Ashland. You can also buy signed copies through the link below or on other shopping pages on the Friends website.