Plants and Animals Articles

Discover the Park – Wildlife

Retiring NPS Division Chief Julie Van Stappen reflects on decades of service to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Retiring NPS Division Chief Julie Van Stappen reflects on decades of service to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

After dedicating more than three decades of work to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Julie Van Stappen retires as Chief of Planning and Resource Management at the end of 2023. Julie grew up in Chicago; she spent vacations and later summers in northern Wisconsin. Her love of - and appreciation for - nature and science grew during her college years, during which she studied geology, earned an advanced degree in aquatic ecology and gained experience in the US Forest Service and at various locations in National Park Service before landing her dream job at the Apostle Islands National...

In search of the sandiest place in the park

In search of the sandiest place in the park

You might say that sand is an important part of the Apostle Islands and one of the reasons why people come to visit them. The islands have a foundation of sandstone that is nearly a billion years old. Island shorelines feature a variety of spectacular sandy beaches. The Devils Island Sandstone produces the area’s signature sea caves. Julian Bay beach on Stockton Island is known for the “singing sand” that squeaks when you walk on it. A 2004 visitor survey revealed that walking on the beach was the second most popular activity for park visitors, second only to sightseeing. Sixty-six percent...

“For a couple hours I didn’t see another person… and yet, I was not alone”

“For a couple hours I didn’t see another person… and yet, I was not alone”

Exploring the many unnamed beaches in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore during the shoulder seasons can be a time for solitude, reflection and discovery. Take a walk on a mainland beach with former National Park Service ranger Neil Howk. Click on the photos to enlarge them if you want a closer look. Earlier this week I bushwhacked out to a remote stretch of beach west of Big Sand Bay to take in the scenery, have a nice picnic, and enjoy a little solitude. I was successful on all counts. The day was cool and overcast, and though the clouds were a bit threatening, it never rained. There...

Abnormally dry conditions in the Apostle Islands prompt cautions about fire and potential bear encounters

Abnormally dry conditions in the Apostle Islands prompt cautions about fire and potential bear encounters

As drought-like conditions continue in much of northern Wisconsin, users of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are urged to be very careful with fire and to be vigilent about potential interactions with hungry black bears. As of June 21st, the Wisconsin DNR says the fire danger in Bayfield, Douglas and Ashland Counties is high, meaning "wildfires ignite easily, spread rapidly and can be challenging to control." The number of northern Wisconsin counties classified as "high danger" increased dramatically from June 20th. As the DNR graphic below also shows, the fire danger in the blue...

Friends volunteers follow in the footsteps of Michigan Island keepers and gardeners

Friends volunteers follow in the footsteps of Michigan Island keepers and gardeners

It’s a tough act to follow the lightkeepers of old. They were known for tending things - be it brass, the tower light or their flowers. Their gardens at the light stations reflected sincere diligence and pride. Each spring, usually the second week in June, Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore volunteers follow in their footsteps, board a park service boat bound for Michigan Island, and tend to the gardens.“We always wonder what shape the gardens will be in, who survived, or what plants have multiplied. And then there are the weeds. No matter the condition, I am always amazed at...

Native plants are important assets to a healthy Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Native plants are important assets to a healthy Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

After a winter of record-breaking snowfall – approaching 185 inches – the native plants are slowly emerging from the Gaylord Nelson Memorial Garden at park headquarters in Bayfield. Volunteers recently gathered to tease out the weeds and look for old friends that have been in residence since the garden’s establishment in 2006.“It’s always good to see our early bloomers, pasqueflower (an important food source for nesting female bees) and prairie smoke,” said Erica Peterson, one of the garden volunteers. Columbine was blooming and pollinators were busy in the wild geraniums. (Click to enlarge...

New research published: Apostle Islands play key role in regional spread of American marten populations

New research published: Apostle Islands play key role in regional spread of American marten populations

Consider yourself fortunate if you've seen an American marten on the Apostle Islands. These small, fur-bearing mammals are hard to spot but fun to watch. The slender-bodied, state-endangered weasels are also the subject of ongoing research by scientists at the University of Wisconsin. Their work was the subject of a session at the 50th Anniversary Research Stewardship Symposium. It's also the basis for a new scientific paper. The researchers used DNA from hair samples to estimate how many animals are in the park and where their relatives live. They published the results of that work in late...

Lakeshore Logbook – Lane Johnson

Lakeshore Logbook – Lane Johnson

Lane Johnson As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we are collecting and sharing the stories of people connected to the islands, whether they are park guests, former residents or former park employees. This is the 29th in our series called “Lakeshore Logbook,” a collection of memories provided by former National Park Service employees. Living and working in the park on a day to day basis, they’ve experienced a lot to be sure. We hope you enjoy their perspectives. Lane Johnson worked as an Archaeological Technician with the Resource Management Division with a fair bit of natural...

Lakeshore Logbook – Jennie Nepstad

Lakeshore Logbook – Jennie Nepstad

Jennie staffing the information desk at the park's Bayfield headquarters As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we are collecting and sharing the stories of people connected to the islands, whether they are park guests, former residents or former park employees. This is the 26th in our series called “Lakeshore Logbook,” a collection of memories provided by former National Park Service employees. Living and working in the park on a day to day basis, they’ve experienced a lot to be sure. We hope you enjoy their perspectives. Jennie Nepstad worked as a seasonal interpretive park ranger at...

Lakeshore Logbook – Josh Sweet

Lakeshore Logbook – Josh Sweet

Josh Sweet As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we are collecting and sharing the stories of people connected to the islands, whether they are park guests, former residents or former park employees. This is the 17th in our series called “Lakeshore Logbook,” a collection of memories provided by former National Park Service employees. Living and working in the park on a day to day basis, they’ve experienced a lot to be sure. We hope you enjoy their perspectives. Josh Sweet worked as a seasonal Park Ranger at Meyers Beach from May to October of 2014. What is the coolest thing you did in...