History & Culture

The story of the Apostle Islands is not just a chain of islands in Lake Superior, but one of people, places, and their experiences. To this day, families gather near this lake to enjoy the scenery, visit with each other and friends, use campsites, cook a meal and share stories over a fire, go for a dip in the lake and dry off in the hot sun. A tradition which stretches back for thousands of years, over which time, Native Americans occupied the islands and surrounding area.

Traces of past lives are strewn across the islands as people have lived, worked, and visited this area throughout the centuries. Their impact can be as dramatic as lighthouse or fish camp, and as small as a chunk of charcoal. The waves of Lake Superior hide other stories in underwater shipwrecks.

As part of our mission to preserve and protect the natural and cultural history of this special place, archeologists survey and analyze the remains of sites throughout the park. The artifacts in the national lakeshore are a unique and irreplaceable window to our past. Exploring these treasures allows us to glimpse a few pages in Apostle Islands’ story. All cultural sites and artifacts, including underwater, are protected by law and are for the enjoyment of all visitors and future generations to experience.

Throughout the Apostle Islands nature has shaped the history of this place. The abundant natural resources of the islands, especially the forests and fisheries, and the location in Lake Suprior near the western edge of the Great Lakes waterway have been key elements affecting why and how people settled and used the islands. The historic properties that the park maintains is over 23 acres of grounds. Our staff is dedicated to the challenge of maintaining and preserving these historic landscapes to preserve the historic function, look, and feel of our light stations, visitor centers, and cultural sites.

A topographic map of 22 islands of different shapes and sizes in Lake Superior.
Park History

Learn about the rich history and human impacts throughout the years in the Apostle Islands archipelago.

A blanket on the ground, covered with cloth bundles, food, and colorful folded blankets.
Ojibwe Culture

Ojibwe culture is saturated with a relationship to this place, these islands, & all of the natural world around us.

A two story white lighthouse with a red roof in a grass lawn glowing pink at sunset.

Apostle Islands has the largest and finest collection of lighthouses in the country.


Learn about the people who have lived and traveled through the islands and the surrounding area.

A wooden boardwalk in the sand leading to water with sailboats.
Places To Go

Learn about all the places to visit on the mainland and on the islands.

A black and white photo of a group of young adults hanging on the metal framework of a lighthouse.

Stories of the history and culture.

A black and white photo of two children sitting in an apple orchard and a bushel of apples.

Attempts of agriculture was another activity that took place on the islands to support families and livelihoods.

A black and white photo of two men standing next their fishing nets on land.
Commercial Fishing

Generations of commercial fisherman have sustained their families from the fish of Lake Superior.

Last updated: September 21, 2021

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Mailing Address:

415 Washington Avenue
Bayfield, WI 54814


715 779-3397

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