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“Journeys with John” - The Apostle Islands - MessAge Media: Other Opinions

“Journeys with John” - The Apostle Islands

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Posted: Friday, June 14, 2019 3:15 am

It’s not too early to start planning summer vacations. This is especially true if you are wondering about visiting the Apostle Islands, a unique archipelago located off the southwest corner of Lake Superior. 

There are 22 islands that make up this area. The largest is Madeline Island which is over 1,500 acres and also contains the town of La Pointe with a year round population of 302 although that number typically swells to nearly 1,500 in the summer. Each island has its own separate ecology, geology and history that combine to make this area a very fascinating place to visit.

The earliest human activity on these islands has been traced back as early as 100 B.C. Later on, Anishinaabe people migrated from the east to settle here as early as 950 C.E. by following the waterways that connected eastern and western nations via the Great Lakes. Eventually, Madeline Island became their focal point due to wild rice growing in the marshes. Early French traders arrived around 1640 and renamed the islands The Apostle Islands in honor of the 12 apostles regardless of names that had already been given by long settled Ojibwe people.

Today, these islands have become a desired summer destination for many tourists searching for an air conditioned location to escape the heat of summer. Other folks are drawn here for fishing, kayaking, biking or just relaxing on the shores of pristine Lake Superior. Of particular interest, at least for me, are the comfortable, guided tour boats that take you all around the islands. Indeed, much can be learned on these four hour excursions.

If you are thinking about traveling to this area this summer, please don’t wait too long to make your reservations. The towns of Washburn (pop. 2117) and Bayfield (pop. 487) are the only source of nearby lodging. Bayfield in particular is enjoyable for its laid back ancient “hippie” atmosphere while also having several very nice bed and breakfast accommodations, some of which have commanding views of the harbor.

Finally, there are two different ways to get there. The quickest might be to go to Duluth and then take boring U.S. 2 towards Ashland before heading north to the resort towns. My suggestion is to travel at least one way via Hinckley and then stop at their superb Fire Museum to view and understand the impact of the horrible forest fire that swept through that area in 1894, claiming 418 lives. (Onamia and Isle were narrowly spared from this disaster as the fire started east of these towns). From there you can travel either home or northeast to your destination. 

Be all of that as it may, at least sometime soon, I do hope that you can visit The Apostle Islands. I know you will not be disappointed.

(John can be reached for comments or suggestions at mnjholbrook@gmail.com)

John Holbrook is a former teacher, coach and counselor at Onamia High School. He now resides on Lake Hubert near Nisswa and does part-time writing.


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