Sea kayaking Wisconsin's Apostle Islands

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of March 13-20, 1996
Outdoor survival schools
The poop on dogs in national parks
Sea kayaking Wisconsin's Apostle Islands
The beautiful badlands near San Diego
Tips on travel-planning resources
Alaska's Lake Clark National Park

Sea kayaking Wisconsin's Apostle Islands
Question: I am interested in sea kayaking around the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin. I need to know the best time to go, a quality outfitter, and places to camp. I hope I've supplied enough information.

P.J. McDonough
Vernon Hills, IL
(I don't think I have an e-mail address)

Paddler's paradise--the limestone formations of Wisconsin's Apostle Islands
Adventure Adviser: By far, the best time to paddle the sheltered harbors and inlets of the 22 Apostle Islands in wild northern Wisconsin is September through early October, when the summer crowds have packed their coolers and gone home. Plan your trip for late September and you'll enjoy the added bonus of mind-bogglingly beautiful fall foliage--the islands' maple, hemlock, and birch trees flame out about two weeks later than inland woods.

The jumping-off point for the islands is Bayfield, Wisconsin, about 90 miles east of Duluth and home to the headquarters for the 42,000-acre national lakeshore. Put in at the dock at Little Sand Bay and paddle three miles out to the campsites on Sand Island. From there, chart a cautious 20-mile trip that hops from Sand to York Island, then Raspberry, then Oak, and back to the mainland, with the longest open-water crossing no more than two and a half miles. Conveniently, you'll find campsites on all the islands except Raspberry. Free permits are available at the national lakeshore headquarters (715-779-3397), and camping is permitted at any of the designated primitive tent sites on the islands and along 12 miles of the mainland coast.

As for outfitters, Trek & Trail in Bayfield (800-354-8735) can set you up for three days in a fiberglass single or double kayak ($120 and $175, respectively; $30 and $40 for each additional day). If you haven't already done so, you'll need to take their three-hour basic safety course ($40 per person) before heading out. If you're looking to go with a group, sign onto one of their three-day guided trips. You'll paddle to five of the Apostles, covering about 40 miles total, for $309 per person, including all equipment and meals. For more information, check out "The Flatland's Private Big Blue" in the Destinations section of our September 1995 issue.

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