Where in the park is Neil? The week 5 answer is…

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 fifth stop on our digital tour, Neil is on York Island. Also known to the Ojibwe as Miskwabimijikag Miniss (Willow Tree Island), this island features a lovely sand beach on its north-facing bay. It’s located to the east of Sand Island, on the western side of the archipelago at 46.9833° N, 90.8622° W.

York Island is an example of the rich history you’ll find on the islands, and a fitting stop as we prepare for Memorial Day. The Alden and Eleanor Allen family owned York Island for more than 30 years before the island was acquired to become part of the national lakeshore.

York was a special place for Merlin Allen who lived at Little Sand Bay and graduated from Bayfield High School in 1965. After high school Merlin joined the Marines and served in Vietnam, where his helicopter was shot down in 1967. More than 40 years later, his remains were identified and returned to his family.

46 years after his death, Merlin was buried next to his mother and father on York Island in a small plot still held by the Town of Russell. In observance of Memorial Day, we honor Merlin’s ultimate sacrifice. Read more about Merlin Allen here.

York Island offers three campsites on the northern end of the island.  Click here to learn more about the sites.

York is one of the smaller islands and 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 learn about Neil.

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Where in the park is Neil? The week 4 answer is…

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 fourth stop on our digital tour, Neil is at the fog building on Outer Island. Outer Island is the easternmost, northernmost and largest island in the National Lakeshore, in the at 47.0478° N, 90.4330° W.

Many light stations included steam whistles or horns to warn mariners of danger when the lights were obscured by fog, smoke, or precipitation. When the Outer Island Light Station was completed in 1874, it was the first station in the Apostles to include a fog signal.

The first fog signal building did not last long, however. It was built near the dock at the base of the bluff and destroyed in a landslide before it was a year old. A new fog signal building was constructed in its present location at the top of the bluff in 1875.

Though the fog horns are no longer used, the fog signal building on Outer Island is the only one in the Apostles that still contains most of the equipment that once operated them.

  • Outer Island Lighthouse from the water
  • An aerial view of the fog building from the top of the lighthouse
  • Outer Island fog building
  • Outer Island fog building interior

The Outer Island lighthouse is located on the northern tip of the island. From the lighthouse, there are two hiking trails. One leads to remnants of the Lullabye Furniture lumber camp. You’ll find old buildings and rusting vehicles there. The other is a 7-mile hike to the sand spit on the southern end. The trail to the sand spit follows the old railroad bed that was used 100 years ago. It is not an easy trek. There is a single campsite on the southern end of the island. Click here to plan your trip to the islands.

Outer Island is a wonderful place and 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 learn about Neil.

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Winter storms damage docks in Apostle Islands

Bayfield, Wisconsin (National Park Service) – Two docks and a vault toilet in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore were damaged by winter storms.

  • Michigan Island dock debris
  • Michigan Island Dock Damage
  • Manitou Island Dock Damage
  • Manitou Island Dock Damage
  • York Island Vault Toilet

The Michigan Island and Manitou Island docks will remain closed until work crews can fully assess and repair damages to these docks. Island access is still possible along the shorelines when weather permits.

The York Island vault toilet is buried by sand and debris and will remain closed until it can be excavated. Beaches on York remain open for day use. 

“Every year the winter storms take their toll on docks, buildings, and trees on all of the islands. It will take many weeks to fully assess the extent of damages and to begin repairs.

park superintendent Lynne Dominy

Within Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, there are 155 miles of shoreline, 15 public docks, 59 miles of hiking trails, 35 vault toilets, 65 campsites, 7 historic light stations, and over 150 historic buildings, spread out across 21 islands in 270 square miles of Lake Superior.

“This is an especially challenging year for everyone.  We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work hard to integrate CDC recommendations into all park operations so it will be safe for park staff to accomplish their work and to enable us to provide as much safe summer access to the park as possible,” said Dominy.

“The late start of our work season this year combined with the need to address these storm damages means that we will have phased openings and closing of areas as issues are identified and resolved.”

PARK SUPERINTENDENT LYNNE DOMINY

The park remains under the Wisconsin Safer at Home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Areas in the park where social distancing, cleaning, and staffing are not possible will remain closed until those issues are resolved.

This includes interiors of all historic and public buildings, including the lighthouses and visitor centers. Outdoor areas like beaches, trails, boardwalks, lighthouse lawns, and docks will remain open for day uses as long as visitors socially distance and avoid congregating.

All overnight uses including camping and overnight docking remain closed (7 pm until 7 am) until further notice. Offshore mooring is permitted. Virtual visitor services via phone and email will continue, and staff will be present in many outdoor areas at Little Sand Bay, Meyer’s Beach, Raspberry and Stockton islands beginning June 20, 2020.

If contemplating a visit to a national park during this pandemic, the NPS asks visitors to adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees.  This includes staying at home, with limited exceptions and, if using shared or outdoor space, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet.  

Three cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Bayfield County and the county is asking all seasonal residents to stay in their winter homes due to limited health services and supplies in this area.  A high percentage of the local population is over 65 so COVID-19 exposure could have devastating consequences to this at-risk community.

The NPS encourages you to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Apostle Islands National Lakeshore from home, including the lakeshore website and Facebook page. 

Teleworking park educators are creating fun learning tools for kids. Parents and teachers can find resources at go.nps.gov/ApostleKids, with more resources added every week. 

Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please check with individual parks for specific details about park operationsFor more information about Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, visit go.nps.gov/ApostleConditions or call (715) 779-3398.

Virtual visitor centers will open closer to Memorial Day, with hours and services to be announced on the park website and Facebook. www.nps.gov

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 419 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Where in the park is Neil? The week 3 answer is…

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 third stop on our digital tour, Neil is enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Gull Island, the smallest island in the National Lakeshore. It’s located to the north of Michigan Island, on the eastern side of the archipelago at 46.9067° N, 90.4433° W.

Observing Gull Island is best done from a distance. In fact, to help protect the large numbers of colonial nesting birds that use Gull and Eagle islands, those islands are closed to the public during nesting season (May 15 – September 1). Gull island offers the birds a flat, stone-filled shoreline. A navigation light on a steel tower helps boats avoid it at night.

Scientists have been inventorying the populations of birds nesting on Gull Island for more than 45 years. Results of the surveys show that the number of birds nesting on the island stayed relatively stable until 2014, but declined significantly since then. Scientists do not know the reason(s) for the drop, but recent high lake levels that reduced the size of Gull Island may be partly to blame. 

If you live in the Midwest, some of the birds that pass through your neighborhood may have spent time nesting or resting in the Apostles. The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership recognized the significance of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to the protection of bird populations in Wisconsin by naming it one of the state’s 93 Important Bird Areas. Happy birding!

  • Researching the Birds of Gull Island
  • A cloud of birds on Gull Island
  • Gull Island from the water

Gull Island is just three acres in size. It does not offer campsites. Click here to plan your trip to the islands.

Gull Island is a wonderful place and 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 learn about Neil.

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Thank you to our Giving Tuesday NOW donors

Giving Tuesday Now

The novel corona virus is a threat unlike any the world has seen. Fortunately, so is the response. Giving Tuesday NOW helped to mobilize caring people to support the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and countless other non-profits around the globe, as we help those in need to cope with the many impacts of the pandemic.

“On behalf of ‘Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore,’ we appreciate you! Your much-needed financial support directly helps park staff to do their jobs in the park we love.“

Erica peterson, friends president

Park rangers are doing everything they can with limited resources and fewer seasonal staff to keep the park operating and visitors safe this summer. Your Giving Tuesday NOW donations will help buy the supplies and fund public health awareness efforts.

Plans include adding signage encouraging social distancing and cleanliness on all docks, staircases, trail heads, and vault toilets. Your donations will also help pay for cleaning supplies for remote vault toilets, touch-free thermometers, surface disinfectants, particulate respirators, re-useable face masks, sandwich boards, signs and educational materials.

Erica Peterson
Friends President

Friends President Erica Peterson added, “Park visitation will be down this season. It cannot be helped. Some might say the smaller crowds will give the natural environment a rest. There will be no rest, however, for the Friends, especially in light of the 50th Anniversary of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore this year.”

“We are busy adding value to the park experience by other means and deepening ties with those interested in helping us help the park,” she said. “Until you can visit the park in person, please visit our ever-evolving website and like our Facebook page. We’re committed to sharing virtual park experiences and growing our ability to provide education, service and stewardship while we’re practicing ‘Safer at Home.'”

We thank you again for your donations during this global day of giving. If you still want to donate, please do by following the link here. And when you do visit the park, we thank you in advance for using social distancing and other CDC guidance to protect yourself and others. We are all in this together. 

Visit www.friendsoftheapostleislands.org and www.nps.gov/apis for more information about Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. 

Photo credits: Jon Okerstrom on Outer, Michigan and Devils Islands.

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Together, we are the power of many working for all


If you are looking for a way to give back to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and stay connected to its gateway communities during “Safer at Home,” donate during #GivingTuesdayNOW.

Friends of the Apostle Islands asks your help in funding the supplies and materials needed to keep the park operating safely this summer and in so doing, supporting the gateway communities of the Bayfield Peninsula.

#GivingTuesdayNow, Tuesday May 5th

Giving Tuesday Now

Designed as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Non-profits around the world are joining forces to help fight this virus and its impacts on our lives. The movement provides opportunities to give back to communities and causes in safe ways that allow for social connection even while practicing physical distancing. 

These are unusual times. Don’t lose sight of a destination despite the fog. The Apostle Islands are still here, a bit ragged from heavy winter storms. Park rangers are doing everything they can with limited resources and fewer seasonal staff to keep the park operating and visitors safe this summer. That means everyone — local businesses, marinas and the National Park Service — working together to assure visitors that guidelines are in place, precautions are being taken and you can still access and enjoy this crown jewel of Wisconsin.

How You Can Help

When you give to the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on or after May 5th, your GivingTuesdayNOW donation will help buy the supplies and fund the public health awareness efforts needed to help keep visitors and staff safe. Needed are cleaning supplies for remote vault toilets, touch-free thermometers, surface disinfectants, particulate respirators, re-useable face masks, sandwich boards, signs and educational materials.

Emergency personnel will need new supplies and equipment to help protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. Signage encouraging social distancing and cleanliness will need to be designed and installed on all docks, staircases, trail heads, and vault toilets.

“Modifying park operations to incorporate social distancing and CDC guidelines for staff and visitor safety is crucial to keeping the park operating in ways that supports our local community’s health and economy, “said Erica Peterson, president of the park’s volunteer non-profit “Friends” group.

Despite the ramifications of COVID-19, this is still the 50th Anniversary of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and a recognition of all the things that make the beautiful lakeshore worth protecting. Help us care for the park, enhance the visitor experience, and show how you care. Every act of generosity counts towards the whole. 

We thank you in advance for your donation. And when you do visit the park, we thank you in advance for using social distancing and other CDC guidance to protect yourself and others. We are all in this together. 

Visit www.friendsoftheapostleislands.org and www.nps.gov/apis for more information about Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. 


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Where in the park is Neil? The week 2 answer is…

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 second stop on our digital tour, Neil is on Sand Island with his daughter Sophie. Sand Island is relatively close to the mainland at 46.9791° N, 90.9485° W. It is the western-most island in the National Lakeshore and is clearly visible from Little Sand Bay on the mainland.

Neil accompanied Sophie when she led a hike to the Sand Island Lighthouse during the Apostle Islands Lighthouse Celebration a couple years ago.

When the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment built a lighthouse in the islands, they acquired a couple hundred acres around the light stations to serve as lighthouse reservations. Only the lighthouse keepers could use the resources there. Forests in the lighthouse reservations on Devils, Outer, Raspberry, and here at the north end of Sand Island, were never commercially harvested and are the finest remnants of ancient forests in the park. Some of the trees may be more than 300 years old. 

Logging took place on nearly all of the Apostle Islands. The lighthouse reservation is one of the few relatively untouched areas on Sand Island. Beginning in the 1880s, farmers and fishermen cleared land for homesteads. We’ve included a 1903 photo of the Louis Moe farm at East Bay in the slide show. By the early 1900s, more than 100 year round residents made the island their home.

Though the last residents left the island in the 1940s, many families continued to use their cottages as summer retreats. Some logging continued on Sand until the early 1970s, when most of the island was acquired for addition to the national lakeshore. You’ll see an example of logging in the slideshow. Second growth forest now covers most of Sand Island, but the forest near the lighthouse provides a glimpse of what island forests may have looked like a couple hundred years ago.

Sand Island offers a number of individual and group campsites, some of which are accessable for people with disabilities and include boardwalks and wooden deck tent pads. Click here to learn about the sites.

  • Hiking trail on Sand Island
  • Sand Island Lighthouse tour
  • Fall Colors and the Sand Island Light
  • Louis Moe farm at East Bay on Sand Island in 1903
  • Logging on Sand Island in the 1970s

Sand is a wonderful place and 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 learn about Neil.

Where in the park is Neil? The week 1 answer is…

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 first stop on our digital tour, Neil is on the sandspit on the south end of Cat Island. Cat Island has gone by a number of names including Kagagiwanjikag Miniss (Ojibwe for “Island of Hemlock Trees”), Texas Island, Hemlock Island and Shoe Island. It is located at 47°00′48″N 090°33′33″W.

The Cat Island campsite is a popular destination for sea kayakers. Click here to learn about the site. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required.)

The wilderness character of the Apostle Islands was formally recognized in December 2004 with the establishment of the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness. This federally designated wilderness includes 80% of the park’s land area. It was named to honor the former Wisconsin Governor and Senator who is considered the “founding father” of both Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Earth Day.

April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Gaylord Nelson is seen in the slideshow speaking with a group of students on Stockton Island during one of his final visits to the park in 2003.

Cat Island is a wonderful place and 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 learn about Neil.

The Apostle Islands after dark – celebrating our night sky

If you’ve ever visited the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore after dark, you know the night sky is simply breathtaking. Against a backdrop of the darkest skies in Wisconsin, millions of stars glitter like diamonds. The core of the Milky Way comes alive as it arcs across the southern horizon during the spring and summer months. A brilliant full moon casts a beam of light across the lake. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll see the Northern Lights dance.


These are all great reasons why the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore could become the next dark sky park… making it that much more attractive to star gazers, photographers and nature lovers from around the world. The Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has established a committee to explore the suitability and feasibility of designating the Apostle Islands as an International Dark Sky park.

The International Dark Skies Association, which reviews applications and designates dark sky locations has declared April 19-26 as Dark Skies Week, 2020. You can learn more about the online event and watch the presentations here.

We’ve included one presentation called Dark Sky Art in our National Parks, featuring Dr. Tyler Nordgren, Artist, Astronomer and Night Sky Ambassador.

The program description: “Art is at the heart of the U.S. National Parks. A new generation of night sky photography and “See the Milky Way” travel posters have played a significant part in the realization that ‘Half the Park is After Dark.” 

If you’re interested in night photography in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, be sure to check out our Fine Art Prints featuring the Milky Way above the iconic lighthouses and features of the National Lakeshore. Click the link to see the series, made by Friends volunteers, with proceeds benefiting the park. Buy a print today to support the work of the Friends, including the effort to gain dark sky status for the islands we all love.

Photo credit: Mystic Dreams by Joe Garza, our 2019 Friends Fine Art print of the year.

Celebrating Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day founder and advocate for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Earth Day 2020 is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Wisconsin Senator and Governor Gaylord Nelson, not only for founding Earth Day but for his vital role in establishing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, 50 years ago.

In this golden anniversary year, we share this Wisconsin Public Television documentary on Nelson’s legacy of environmental advocacy that lives on today. In this video, you will see some historic moments that led to the creation of the National Lakeshore. You will hear from Nelson and from prominent Wisconsin conservationist  Martin Hansen about how they piqued President John F. Kennedy’s interest in the islands during a visit in August of 1963 and what it took to make Nelson’s vision for northern-most Wisconsin a reality.

Hansen is also one of the founders of the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the non-profit group dedicated to supporting the park.

You will also learn how and why Nelson proposed a national teach-in on the environment in the fall of 1969. That idea led to the first Earth Day, first observed on April 22, 1970. This annual event harnessed grassroots concern about clean air, water and land. According to the Nelson Institute, one in ten Americans participated in the first Earth Day. Those activities and the media attention they generated helped to make environmental issues a priority in Washington.

(Wisconsin Public Television video) Explore the history of how Earth Day began and the work Gaylord Nelson did as Wisconsin’s governor to launch a new era of environmental activism.


Learn more about Senator Gaylord Nelson’s Earth Day efforts from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Especially for kids, watch an animated video and download resources about Senator Nelson and Earth Day from Wisconsin Public Television.

Earth Day resources from the National Park Service.

Earth Day resources from the Earth Day Network.

An Earth Day special produced by WKOW Television, Madison, Wisconsin. The program aired on a five Wisconsin television stations on April 22, 2020.