Boating in the Apostles

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A white boat surrounded by water with dark clouds above.
 

Lake Superior is notorious for its cold temperatures, rough seas, fog, and sudden squalls. Boaters should be alert to changing conditions and should consult current marine forecasts before leaving on a trip. Marine weather forecasts are broadcast on marine channel 7, 162.525 MHz.

Typical summer conditions feature high temperatures in the mid-70s Fahrenheit, lows in the mid-50s, winds of 5-20 knots, and waves of 1 to 4 feet. Summer thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence, and winds of 30 to 40 knots with 6 to 12 foot seas are possible. Average water temperatures in May and June may only be in the 40s. Even in late summer surface temperatures barely exceed 60° Fahrenheit, except in shallow, protected bays. Stay up to date on the current conditions throughout the park.

Interested in taking a water taxi, sailboat, or motorized boat tour to the islands? Check out the commercial services page for a list of authorized water taxis and boat tours to take you to and around the islands.

 
A map of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore including docks, lighthouses, anchorages, marinas, and boat launches.

On The Lake

Boaters must obey U.S. Coast Guard inland navigation rules. Each boat must have:

  • Appropriate personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board.

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Whistle or horn.
  • Marker lights.

  • Manual bailing device.

All children under the age of 13 aboard boats underway must wear an appropriate PFD except when they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. Boats should also be equipped with: a compass, the latest edition of NOAA lake charts #14973 or #14966, anchor, ropes, weather radio, marine band radio, cell phone, Geographic Position System (GPS), radar, first aid kit, tools, spare parts and signal flares.

Notify someone of your float plan. Weather conditions can change rapidly and force boaters to alter their plans. Strong winds create immense waves and dangerous conditions. Fog can appear without warning. Pay close attention to the weather and monitor weather forecasts on marine channels 1-10. Do not exceed your boat’s carrying capacity.

Do not operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The use of personal watercraft (jetskis) is not allowed within the boundaries of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (one quarter mile from the park’s islands and mainland shore).

Boaters should stay at least 100 feet away from flagged net buoys and/or floating plastic jugs marking the location of commercial fishing nets. Do not attempt to pass between the Little Manitou shoal light and Manitou Island. That area is very shallow.

To protect nesting birds, boating within 500 feet of Gull and Eagle islands and the northwest shore of Otter Island is prohibited from May 15 to September 1. Do not approach within 500 feet of any active eagle nest. Polluting park waters is prohibited. Take trash back to the mainland. Pack out what you pack in.

 

At The Dock

Docks provide visitors with access to many of the islands. Space is reserved at some docks for NPS vessels and excursion boats. Remaining space is available to the public on a first come, first served basis. Please allow as much space as possible for other boats to dock. Mediterranean (bow or stern to the dock) and side to side mooring of vessels may not be allowed at park docks (check posted regulations). Boats may not be left unattended for more than 24 hours at public docks. Overnight docking fees within the park do apply.

For the safety of visitors using the docks, the use of portable stoves or grills is not allowed on docks or on vessels tied to a dock (outside of galley areas). Bears may be attracted to grills at any location. Do not leave grills and food unattended. Swimming within 100 feet of public docks is not permitted. Visitors are asked to refrain from bathing with soap directly in the lake. Please observe quiet hours between 10 pm and 6 am (throughout the park). Be sure to check posted regulations upon arrival at any dock.

Rough weather may force boaters to extend their stay in the islands. Provisions are not available for sale in the park. Plan to bring extra food, water, and supplies in case you get weathered in.

 
A wooden dock with two boats tied on either side.
NPS dock design.

NPS Photo

Verticle Rub Rails

Vertical rub rails are now installed on many of the Park docks. They are to keep large boats from going over the docks and small boats from going under the docks with changing lake levels. Vertical Rub-Rails provide, moorings for boats of all sizes, flexibility for changing lake levels, and strength and longevity.

They do work with traditional fenders and are intended to help prevent damage to vessels and the docks.

 

Public Docks at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Location Description Depth
Basswood, West Concrete/Steel Bin 2-4'
Devils, South Landing Wood, Small Harbor 2-4'
Little Sand Bay Wood, Harbor 3-4'
Long, La Pointe Light Concrete/Metal 2-4'
Manitou Fish Camp Wood 6-7'
Michigan Light Concrete w/Metal Pier 3-5'
Oak, West Wood 4-5'
Otter, Southeast Wood, U-Shaped 5-6'
Outer Light Concrete 3-5'
Raspberry Light, West Wood 5-6'
Raspberry Light, East Wood 3-4'
Rocky, East Wood 6-7'
Sand, East Bay Wood 2-3'
South Twin, West Concrete/Steel Bin 4-6'
Stockton Presque Isle, West Concrete/Angled 6-7'
Stockton Presque Isle, East Concrete/L - Shaped 4-7'
Stockton, Quarry Bay Wood 5-6'
* Water depths measured at outer end of docks. Depths
vary due to lake levels, shifting sediments, and storms.
 
A sailboat on the lake at sunset.
Another beautiful sunset on Lake Superior.

NPS Photo/ N. Howk

At Anchor

Every year, wind and waves drive anchored vessels aground on the Apostle Islands. Wind dictates where boats can safely land, beach, or anchor. Always try to anchor on the lee side of an island. To protect yourself and your boat keep these helpful tips in mind.

  • All vessels at anchor are required to exhibit anchor lights from sunset to sunrise.
  • Keep a crew member on anchor watch if adverse weather threatens.
  • The minimum scope of your anchor line should be seven times the distance between your boat’s deck and the bottom of the lake where you are anchored.
  • Set the alarm on your depth-sounder to alert you if your anchor begins to drag.
  • Keep anchored vessels clear of approaches to docks and harbors.
  • Be wary of shoal areas and use caution whenever beaching a boat or approaching any shoreline. NPS and U.S. Coast Guard boats cannot provide towing except in emergencies.
 

Fueling & Repair

There is no fueling or commercial boat repair facilities in the park. Boat fuel is available at marinas in Bayfield, Roys Point, La Pointe (Madeline Island), Cornucopia, Port Superior, Pikes Bay, and Washburn.

 

User Fees

The Apostle Islands’ protected bays, public docks, pristine beaches, historic sites, and natural beauty offer outstanding boating and sailing opportunities. Public docks are found on 12 of the islands in the national lakeshore. Space is reserved at some docks for National Park Service (NPS) vessels and excursion boats. The remaining space is available to the public on a first come, first served basis.

The National Park Service relies on self-registration to collect docking fees. Collection stations are located near docks at Little Sand Bay, Basswood, Manitou, Michigan, Oak, Otter, Raspberry, Rocky, Sand, South Twin, and Stockton islands. Fee envelopes with self-registration instructions are available at each collection station. Boaters should provide the necessary information on the envelope, detach the receipt, place payment in the envelope, put the envelope in the deposit box, and display the receipt in the windshield of their boat or in a window visible to the dock. The Interagency Golden Age Passport, Senior Pass (U.S. citizen 62 years or older), and Access Pass (permanently disabled U.S. citizen), provide a 50% discount for docking and other recreational user fees.

All fee revenues remain at Apostle Islands NL to help fund critical, highly visible projects to benefit the public.

Overnight docking fees:

  • $15/night for boats less than 40 feet in length.
  • $30/night for boats 40 feet and greater.
  • Docking fees are in effect from 6pm to 6am.

Public boat launches and marinas:
Located in Ashland, Bayfield, Cornucopia, Little Sand Bay, Red Cliff, and Washburn. There are also marinas in LaPointe (Madeline Island), Pike's Bay, Port Superior, Roys Point and Schooner Bay.

 

Mileage Chart

Distances between various mainland and island locations in miles. 

Mileage Chart.
LocationsBayfieldBasswood IslandBear Island-NorthBear Island-SandspitCat IslandDevils Island LightDevils Island DockGull IslandIronwood IslandLong IslandManitou IslandMichigan IslandN Twin IslandOak IslandOtter IslandOuter Island DockOuter Island-SandspitRaspberry IslandRocky IslandSand Island Light Sand Island-E BayS Twin IslandStockton Island-PIStockton Island-QBYork IslandLittle Sand Bay

Last updated: September 5, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

415 Washington Avenue
Bayfield, WI 54814

Phone:

(715) 779-3397

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