Where in the park is Neil? The week 3 answer is Gull Island

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. 

(The campaign is now over – we have removed the contribution form.)


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Where in the park is Neil? The week 2 answer is Sand Island

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 one of the most western-most islands 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 Cat Island

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.

New feature: Where in the park is Neil?



While we’re all practicing “Safer at Home,” we would like to introduce a new, fun feature for you and your family. It’s a way for you to enjoy the amazing Apostle Islands National Lakeshore virtually… a way to see some of what the islands have to offer, from the perspective of someone who knows the National Lakeshore like the back of his hand. Each Thursday, we’ll post a new image on Facebook and encourage you to guess the location. We’ll post the answers and a fun tidbit about each location right here on the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore website. We’re calling it “Where in the park is Neil?”

First of all…who is Neil?  Neil Howk lives in Bayfield where he and his wife Susan raised their children Forrest and Sophie and operated a B&B for 33 years.  He enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, camping, paddling, visiting national parks, studying local history, and bird watching. 

Neil recently retired after working more than 40 years for the National Park Service, with 35 of those years at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  This year he is helping the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to coordinate the observance of the park’s 50th anniversary.

Neil has visited every island, hiked most of the trails, used every dock, climbed every lighthouse tower, and been to all of the campsites in the park.  He enjoys sharing stories of the Apostle Islands to help inspire awareness and understanding of the area’s significance.

This year he wants to take you on a virtual tour of some of his favorite places to test your knowledge and help remind you of the many reasons that Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a special place. 

Can you tell us where in the park is Neil? Good luck and enjoy the adventure.

Click here for the week one destination.

Click here for the week two destination.

Safer at Home Order extended, National Lakeshore remains open for day use

Good things will eventually come to those who wait to visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and to those who practice social distancing, in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. For now, we encourage you to experience the park virtually through many online resources.

Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order now extends to Tuesday, May 26th, 2020. The order was set to expire on April 24th until Governor Tony Evers directed Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to extend it. Under the order, public and private K-12 schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Governor Evers said in a prepared statement, “A few weeks ago, we had a pretty grim outlook for what COVID-19 could mean for our state, but because of the efforts of all of you, Safer at Home is working. That said, we aren’t out of the woods just yet.” 

Secretary-designee Palm said, “Before we lift Safer at Home, the steps of testing and more robust public health measures must be in place. These steps will help us reduce the risk of a second wave of the virus. If we open up too soon, we risk overwhelming our hospitals and requiring more drastic physical distancing measures again.”

As was the case under the previous order, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore remains open for day use. The National Park Service has suspended overnight island use from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. until at least Saturday, June 20, 2020. Camping and overnight docking are prohibited. Under the governor’s order, people are strongly encourage to stay close to home, not travel to second homes or cabins, and not to travel out-of-state if it is not necessary. 

Day use of islands is still permitted. Visitors are asked to practice social distancing and  leave no trace principles and to manage all of their own trash and waste. Due to safety concerns for both visitors and park staff, vault toilets are not available, and campfires are not permitted.

As an alternative to visiting now, Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the National Park Service encourage you to take advantage of the lakeshore website, the Friends website and Facebook pages for both organizations. Teleworking park educators are creating fun learning tools for kids. Parents and teachers can find resources on the website, with more being added every week.

The extension of the Safer at Home order does allow more businesses and activities to open, at least in ways limited to protect the health and safety of employees and customers.

The changes in this order include: 

Public libraries may now provide curb-side pick-up of books and other library materials. 

Golf Courses may open again, with restrictions including scheduling and paying for tee times online or by phone only. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed.

Non-essential Businesses will now be able to do more things as Minimum Basic Operations, including deliveries, mailings, and curb-side pick-up. Non-essential businesses must notify workers of whether they are necessary for the Minimum Basic Operations.

Arts and Crafts Stores may offer expanded curb-side pick-up of materials necessary to make face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Aesthetic or Optional Exterior Work lawn care or construction is now allowed under the extended order, so long as it can be done by one person.

Safe Business Practices for Essential Businesses and Operations: Essential Businesses and Operations must increase cleaning and disinfection practices, ensure that only necessary workers are present, and adopt policies to prevent workers exposed to COVID-19 or symptomatic workers from coming to work.

Safe Business Practices for Retailers that Essential Businesses and Operations: Retail stores that remain open to the public as Essential Businesses and Operations must limit the number of people in the store at one time, must provide proper spacing for people waiting to enter, and large stores must offer at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations.

Supply Chain: Essential Businesses and Operations that are essential because they supply, manufacture, or distribute goods and services to other Essential Businesses and Operations can only continue operations that are necessary to those businesses they supply. All other operations must continue as Minimum Basic Operations.

Local parks and open space: Local health officials may close public parks and open spaces if it becomes too difficult to ensure social distancing or the areas are being mistreated.

Tribal Nations: Tribal Nations are sovereign over their territory and can impose their own restrictions. Non-tribal members should be respectful of and avoid non-essential travel to Tribal territory. Local government must coordinate, collaborate, and share information with Tribal Nations.

If you have questions, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document is available here for your review.

Photo credit: Jon Okerstrom, Michigan Island

Earth Day 2020: Persistence pays in protecting Apostle Islands lakeshore

(Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine) Gaylord Nelson had plenty on his plate following his election to the U.S. Senate in 1962, but nothing seemed more of a personal priority to him than bringing his home state’s Apostle Islands into the National Park System.

“He spent years working to bring national park status to the Apostle Islands,” his daughter Tia Nelson says.

The senator and former Wisconsin governor had always been a proponent of public lands, but being from Wisconsin’s Northwoods made this endeavor particularly meaningful to him. From the start of his time in the Senate – when he led an Apostle Islands tour for President John F. Kennedy in 1963 – Nelson labored for protected status for the stunningly scenic islands of Lake Superior near Bayfield.

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

It was no easy task, as Nelson had to work all the political angles of turning the Apostles into a national lakeshore. Numerous diverse groups held vested interest in such a move, from area landowners and businesses to government officials and tribal leaders to visitors and residents.

Specific lands to include or exclude when drawing the national lakeshore boundaries took years of painstaking negotiations, with wildly varying viewpoints to try to appease.

“I would hear the stories,” Tia Nelson says of her father’s labor of love. “How he so wanted to protect that place. How long it took.”

Finally, on Sept. 26, 1970, Gaylord Nelson’s longtime dream became a reality when federal legislation declared the Apostle Islands a place “to conserve and develop for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use and enjoyment of the public.” Throughout 2020, the national lakeshore is planning a variety of special events to mark the 50th anniversary.

Perhaps because of the passion her father showed for the Apostle Islands, it remains by far the most special place Tia Nelson can imagine.

“I’ve traveled the world from Argentina to China,” she says. “To me there’s no more magical place in the world than the Apostle Islands.”

So deeply does she love the Apostles that each year on her birthday – the summer solstice, June 21 – she wants only one thing: to spend time with family and friends enjoying its beauty.

“I have a rule,” Nelson says, “no singing, no cakes, no presents. Just get on the boat with me at the sunset.”

The Nelson family also still gathers at the Apostle Islands together every August, she adds.

“It’s the place I return to again and again. It’s a place my grandfather took my father and my father took me.”

In 2004, Gaylord Nelson’s critical role in creating the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was acknowledged when 35,000 acres on all or part of 18 islands were designated the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness.

Having his name on Wisconsin’s largest wilderness area is a fitting tribute to the man who worked so diligently and cared so deeply to keep the area safe for future generations.

“Persistence is important; not giving up is essential,” Tia Nelson says. “My father embodied that through his career. It looks easy in retrospect but. . .

“What’s vital is finding common ground with different people coming at the issue from different perspectives and different life experiences, working to bring together disparate voices. It was one of my father’s real talents.”

By Andrea Zani, managing editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. Republished here with permission.

INFORMATION

To learn more about the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, including details on this year’s 50th anniversary celebration, check nps.gov/apis. For a detailed look at Gaylord Nelson’s years-long work to create the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, read “Environmental Politics and the Creation of a Dream,” by Harold C. Jordahl Jr. with Annie L. Booth. (“Bud” Jordahl was director of the Department of Resource Development under then-Gov. Nelson and served on the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board in the early 1970s.) The book from UW Press was published in 2011: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Photo credit: Jon Okerstrom, Sand Island