Grand Tour

Having learned a lesson from our 2019 visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield in northwest Wisconsin we went online a few days ago and secured our tickets for a Grand Tour with Apostle Island Cruises, a National Park Service approved concessioner. We arrived to get in line an hour ahead of time in order to secure a choice upper deck port side seat as suggested by other travelers. In truth great views can be seen from all over the boat. Then for the next two and a half hours Captain Dave cruised with with us aboard the Archipelago around and through 21 of the 22 islands scattered in Lake Superior waters just beyond the tip of the Bayfield peninsula. We saw all but tiny Gull Island including Madeline Island, the biggest of the group, similar in size to Manhattan but not a part of the national lakeshore park established in 1970. With the captain’s narration we learned much of the natural and cultural history of these islands. We spotted a Bald Eagle nest and the mating pair although we didn’t see their fledgling offspring and learned about a recent study of Black Bears that was conducted on Stockton Island. Through the years these islands and waters have been the source of natural resources spurring commercial fishing, logging, and quarrying. We got to see remnants of the brownstone quarry on Basswood Island that supplied material to rebuild Chicago after their 1871 fire and the fish camp on Manitou Island reconstructed by the park service. We were fascinated with the sea caves, ice caves in the winter, that form in the thinner layers of softer sandstone on Devil’s Island that promote booming sounds from the waves. We got to see the famous Raspberry Island Lighthouse that welcomes park visitors as well as several other of the nine lighthouses so crucial to mariners here in times past. Actually the lighthouses are all still operational but are now solar powered LED lights to provide fallback navigational aid in the event electronic GPS navigational aids fail. Our captain also regaled us with stories of people such as the President Coolidge’s visit to the Devil’s Island Lighthouse, Frederick Prentiss who owned the quarry built a cedar block lodge on the island which didn’t at all thrill his third wife, William Wilson who lost a fight in town then became a recluse on what is now called Hermit’s Island, and the pirates of Frog Bay that waged a two and a half day reign of terror. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, these islands were the province of the Native Americans including the Red Cliff Band of the Chippewa for about five hundred years. All in all we had a great experience. The weather was fabulous though haze from fires in the western states obscured our view a bit. We didn’t get the long distance views that could have allowed us to see across to Minnesota, Michigan, and Canada but we did get to savor the wind in our hair and the delight of a bit of fresh water spray. Now we’re looking forward to making trips to some of the individual islands next time we visit here!

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