Stories that capture the wonder and the possibilities of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are most-read in 2023

Top 10 Stories of 2023 with northern lights

December 29, 2023

As we raise a glass to embrace the new year, we look back fondly on the momentus year that was 2023 for Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and for the park we love. Thanks to your support, hard work by a growing team of passionate volunteers and by the Friends leadership team, we have a lot to celebrate.

With your support we helped more people discover the islands, learn about them, and work to protect them than ever before. We set a record for membership, did more outreach trips, more programs, and successfully completed the largest initiative in our organization’s history: Access for All. And there is even more to celebrate about the park and the people who make good things happen for a quarter million visitors each year.

We hope you enjoy this countdown of the top ten stories of 2023 on the Friends of the Apostle Islands website as a great way to start. Click on the headlines to read the stories.

Guests on the 2023 annual Friends cruise arrive at Stockton Island

10. Annual cruise connects Friends supporters with the islands, accomplishments and what’s next

“This was a trip of imagination. It was a trip of gratitude.” That’s how Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Executive Director Jeff Rennicke summed up the 2023 annual cruise.

Dale Whittaker painting in the early morning sun - Jeff Rennicke

9. WATERCOLORS: Five questions (+1) about painting in the Apostle Islands with watercolorist Dale Whittaker

Tinged with the colors of a morning sky, dotted with autumn leaves, reflecting the greens of pine needles and the soft orange of the sandstone walls, Lake Superior can seem like a work of art all by itself. The allure of those colors has long attracted painters seeking to capture even a glimpse of the natural beauty of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.

Junior Rangers take the oath outside park headquarters

8. Badges of honor: Celebrating Junior Rangers

Raise your right hand and repeat after the ranger: “I am proud to be a National Park Service Junior Ranger. I promise to appreciate, respect, and protect all national park places. I also promise to continue learning about the landscape, plants, animals, and history of these special places. I will share what I learn with my friends and family.”

NPSMap - Meyers Beach Ramp and Little Sand Bay trails

7. Access for All: National Park Service wants your comments on plans for accessible ramp at Meyers Beach, Little Sand Bay trails

Plans for an accessible ramp at the popular Meyers Beach kayak launch take a significant step forward in April, as the National Park Service publishes a draft Environmental Assessment and asks for public comment for the next 30 days. 

Northern Lights FB - Jeff Rennicke

6. And the sky danced – northern lights put on a show in the Apostle Islands

 It is nearing midnight. The stars overhead are as bright as sparks from a campfire. But it is not lake ice or campfires that have me out this late, alone and in the cold. It is what is happening just above the ice: here in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore the northern lights are out. 

Friends board members Neil and Jess

5. New challenges require new voices: Friends of the Apostle Islands welcomes new board members

Friends of the Apostle Islands, the official nonprofit philanthropic partner of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, recently announced the selection of two new members to join its board of directors. 

Young person writes poetry on a clipboard FB

4. Tongues in trees: Celebrating National Poetry Month

The summer wind strumming the waves, the slow repeating verse of the surf, birdsong in the bogs at sunrise. There is a beauty in these islands that speaks to the poet’s soul, and through them, to all of us.  For centuries, these islands have inspired painters, dancers, musicians, photographers, and yes poets. 

Northern Lights over Raspberry Island

3. Like being inside of a diamond: Apostle Islands shimmer with northern lights

On the night of March 23, 2023, the sky over the northern United States glittered in one of the strongest displays of northern lights in decades, visible as far south as northern Missouri. In the Apostle Islands, clear skies and just a sliver of moon, meant perfect viewing conditions.

National Geographic cover, March 2023 issue, which features a story on the Apostle Islands

2. Get your copy of the National Geographic feature on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The Apostle Islands are a national treasure. In its March 2023 issue, National Geographic magazine celebrates their beauty and importance. The story, “Return to Wild Waters” calls the Apostle Islands a “sublime, yet dangerous playground for kayakers, sailors and powerboaters to explore.”

Story behind the story graphic

1. Join us for “Apostle Islands in National Geographic: the story behind the story”

On March 30th at 7 p.m., you’ll be able to experience the story behind the story during a special online event. In the magazine and online, writer Stephanie Pearson and award-winning National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder captured in words and images the alluring beauty, the cultural history, and what the future may hold for this untamed Lake Superior wilderness.

Beyond the top ten stories of 2023, many of the landing pages on the Friends website generated lots of interest. Topping that list, our Access for All page which includes all kinds of information about the Meyers Beach ramp project and related accessibility initiatives. We’ll continue to update this page as the project moves forward.

We are gratified to see that our Discover the Park page, which leads to individual pages for each island and the mainland unit, is generating lots of interest. The Devils island page was the top destination from there. Discover the Park is a great place to start planning your next adventure in the park.

And of course, we’re grateful to everyone who has visited Support Us, to make a donation to Friends.

Seeing so much interest in the northern lights supports the Starry Skies initiative we plan to kick off in 2024. It will be a community-wide effort to protect the beauty and importance of the night sky over the Apostle Islands.

We are also teaming with the University of Wisconsin’s WISC-WATCH program to make boating in the islands safer. With your help we will bring back the only real-time wave, wind, and water temperature buoy system in the Apostle Islands.

We will also continue to work on accessibility projects in the park. 2023 was a great year for Friends. Here’s to an exciting and adventure-filled year ahead.


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