History

Gaylord Nelson and President John F. Kennedy arrive in Ashland, Wisconsin for a visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, near the tip of the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin, includes 21 islands in Lake Superior and a 12-mile-long strip of mainland shoreline. The park is located in Bayfield and Ashland Counties, within the ancestral homeland of the Ojibwe people. Established by an act of Congress (Public Law 91-424) on September 26, 1970, the purpose of the park is “to conserve and develop for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use, and enjoyment of the public” the islands and their related geographic, scenic, and scientific values. The park was expanded to include Long Island in October 1986 and the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light in December 2014. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore encompasses 69,372 acres, of which 27,323 acres are submerged lands in Lake Superior; the park boundary extends a quarter-mile from the shore of the mainland and from each island. Eighty percent of the land area of the park was designated as wilderness in December 2004 and named the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness. The islands are spread out over a portion of Lake Superior nearly 290,000 acres in size. A variety of scenic features can be found on the islands, including examples of some of the earliest and latest events of geologic history in the lower 48 states. The park features pristine stretches of sand beaches; spectacular sea caves; some of the largest stands of remnant old-growth forests in the upper Midwest; a diverse population of birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish; and the largest collection of national register lighthouses and lighthouse complexes in the national park system. People have used the islands for thousands of years. During the historic period, people constructed residences and started farms, fishing operations, brownstone quarries, and logging camps on the islands. Several of these historic sites are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


Learn more about the history of the Apostle Islands at the National Lakeshore website


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