Wave Watch Apostle Islands Buoy Project


The best boating is safe boating. With your help we can get boaters the information they need, when they need it.

Sailboat at sunset - Jeff Rennicke photo
Sea cave paddler in silhouette - Jeff Rennicke photo
Powerboater at sunset - Jeff Rennicke photo

Snap your fingers.

Just that quickly, wind, waves, and weather conditions on Lake Superior can change from glass calm to stormy and rough.

Waves crash against sandstone cliffs - Jeff Rennicke
Distant power boat in front of storm clouds - Jeff Rennicke photo
Waves crash on an Apostle Islands beach in fall - Jeff Rennicke

To stay safe, you need real time, location-specific wind and wave information at your fingertips, whether you’re sailing around the islands, kayaking the sea caves or running up the West Channel to Bayfield in a power boat.

You can help make that happen

Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with support from the National Park Service, to return the Water Information for a Safe Coast Watch (or WISC-WATCH) program to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

We call the campaign Wave Watch.

Wave Watch Apostle Islands Buoy Project logo

A network of solar-powered spotter buoys strategically placed throughout the Apostle Islands will once again in 2024 allow sailors, power boaters, kayakers, and others access to up-to-date, real-time wind and wave information for their specific destination. Combined with web camera images from the cliff above the mainland sea caves, this information can help park users to plan their next adventures.

WISC-Watch buoy anchored at mainland sea caves

A WISC-Watch buoy anchored to the lake bottom near the mainland sea caves

Dr. Chn Wu, University of Wisconsin professor of fluid mechanics with civil and environmental engineering

Dr. Chin Wu, University of Wisconsin

First launched in 2021, the WISC-Watch buoys became an important tool for boater safety in the Apostle Islands.

Lack of funding, however, kept the buoys from being launched in 2023 sparking concerns among paddling guides, water taxis, commercial and sport fishermen, sailors, kayakers, and others.

We heard you

Help us bring back the buoys and provide the best source of information that boaters like you need. While some weather apps are available, their information is often based on general modeling and predictions rather than the real-time, site-specific information that the buoys of WISC-Watch can provide.

“Water conditions around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (AINL), Lake Superior, vary dramatically due to sheltering effects, rapidly changing winds from fast-moving storms, and reflection from steep cliffs.,” says Dr. Chin Wu, founder of the WISC-Watch program.

“Wave conditions are generally most sheltered near the mainland (where boaters launch) and increase in intensity toward the open waters of Lake Superior, which may cause boaters to underestimate wave conditions. Recent boating accidents are an unpleasant reminder of the potential dangers.

With the goal of improving boater awareness and safety, we have developed WISC-Watch to provide real-time wave and water temperature conditions around the Apostle Islands.”

Map showing buoy locations around the Apostle Islands
WISC-Watch solar-powered buoy illustration

Friends of the Apostle Islands has committed to funding the buoys for an initial period of two years in order to return the service to sound financial footing.

To do that, we are asking for your support of Wave Watch – the Apostle Islands Buoy Project.

The best boating is safe boating and, together, we can make the waters of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore safer for all of us.

Canoecopia 2024 includes presentations on protecting our Starry Skies, paddling the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Canoecopia 2024 includes presentations on protecting our Starry Skies, paddling the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

If paddling the amazing sea caves in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is on your bucket list, we invite you to see us at Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin, March 8-10, 2024. This annual event includes more than 100 educational presentations and clinics on kayaking, canoeing and related topics, including presentations by Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke and Ranger Steve Ballou of the National Park Service. You’ll also be able to learn from the experts what gear you need to safely explore the islands.

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