Leave No Trace

Evening sun light hits the rocky shore with a lake and forested island in the distance.

NPS Photo


Plan Ahead and Prepare

Leave the park the way you would like to find it! Learn and follow the principles of Leave No Trace to help keep Apostle Islands pristine, both for future visitors and for the wildlife that makes their home in this spectacular place. Choose realistic goals, bring proper gear, learn backcountry skills, know the terrain, and make contingency plans. It’s not only important for your safety; good planning makes it easier to leave no trace in the backcountry.

Be prepared for the unexpected:

  • Storms and sudden squalls can sweep through the Apostle Islands any time of year. Good rain gear and extra food supplies are a must since weather may delay a charter pick up or kayaking trip. A properly prepared party can usually wait out bad weather and may be a few days overdue with no cause for alarm. Travel with a marine radio to stay informed of upcoming conditions. Don’t make your schedule too tight. Allow extra time for delays and always have a backup plan. When in doubt, stay on the island - better to get home late than to risk paddling through potentially deadly waters.

Let someone know your plans:

  • Always let a responsible person know where you are going and when you expect to return. Leave a float plan and let them know how long overdue you can be before they should start to worry.

Primitive Camping Zones

Individual and group campsites are clearly marked on the Apostle Islands. However, if you are camping in a Primitive Camping Zone you should strictly follow the principles of Leave No Trace, including using a backpacking camp stove for cooking, and not camping in the same spot recently used by someone else. The following areas are closed to Primitive Camping Zones:

  • Areas excluded from primitive camping zones and closed to camping to protect sensitive natural and cultural resources.

  • Area posted as closed to protect bird nesting areas and threatened or endangered species.
  • Areas in view of any designated trail.
  • Areas within 1/4 mile of any building, historic structure, individual or group campsite, or another camping party.
  • Areas within 100 feet of a flowing stream.
  • Private land or lease holdings.
A large piece of downed tree on the forest floor, which has been charred from a campfire.
Help protect your park from campfire scars.

NPS / M. Dalpes

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Please help us protect our park from the scars of many campfires so future generations can enjoy the pristine environment you enjoy today. Consider using a stove instead of making campfires. If you do have a fire, please use the fire receptacles where provided or on a sand beach near the waters edge below the vegetation line.

  • Fires are not allowed on Raspberry Island, Julian Bay, and Presque Isle Bay on Stockton Island, Meyers Beach, or on beaches within 150 feet of campsites where fire receptacles are provided.

  • Beach and camp fires may not be larger than 3 feet in height or diameter.

  • Use dead and down wood – do not bring wood from home – and choose pieces smaller than the size of your wrist. To prevent transporting invasive species DO NOT transport firewood to or between islands in the national lakeshore.

  • Do not leave fires unattended. Extinguish all fires before leaving the area and burn wood completely to ash. Fires are not permitted in portable grills or stoves on docks, or topside area of boats tied to public docks. Open fires will be prohibited when fire danger is high.


Dispose of Waste Properly

Nobody wants to find your old toilet paper sticking out from under a rock. Proper waste disposal not only keeps the backcountry looking pristine, it is extremely important for the health and safety of campers and wildlife.

Pack out all trash:

This includes all food trash and packaging materials – even things that are biodegradable! Many modern packaging materials don’t burn, so be sure to clean up any campfire litter. Do not dispose of garbage in toilets, bury it, burn it, or throw it in the lake.

Dispose of human waste properly:

Use vault toilets or stump privies where provided. Otherwise, take care to dispose of human waste properly.

  1. Be 200 feet from the nearest campsite and the nearest body of water.

  2. Dig a hole at least six inches deep.

  3. Cover your hole thoroughly when finished.

  4. Bag toilet paper and pack it out.

A black bear with its face up against a metal bear resistant food storage locker.
NPS Photo

Always keep food, condiments, and toiletries in the metal bear resistant food storage lockers as not to attract bears.

A drawing of a bag of food tied up in a tree at least 12 feet high and 10 feet away from the trunk.

Proper Food Storage

Black bears may be on any of the Apostle Islands, but are most common on Oak, Sand, Manitou, and Stockton islands. To avoid a close encounter:

Reduce Food Odors:

  • Avoid strong smelling foods.

  • Do not cook in, or take food, garbage, dish towels, or toiletries into a tent.

  • When cooking, wipe your hands on a small hand towel and store it with your food.

  • Have separate kitchen and sleeping areas.

  • Wash dishes and clean the site after cooking.

  • Wastewater from cleaning dishes attracts bears. Use minimal amounts of water to clean dishes.

  • Wastewater must be filtered through a strainer to remove food particles. Pack out food scraps with other garbage.

  • Strained wastewater must be broadcast on the ground at least 50 yards from camp or disposed of in a vault toilet.

Store Food Securely

  • All food, beverage containers, garbage, cooking materials, condiments, utensils, and toiletries (such as toothpaste or soap) must be secured from wildlife. Bear resistant storage lockers are provided for this purpose at all designated campsites.

  • Where lockers are not available, campers should hang their food and related items in a tree away from their tent, at least 10-12 feet from the ground and five feet away from the trunk. Suspending the food cache between 2 trees or counterbalancing two bags over a branch are effective methods.

  • Cook stoves may not be left unattended until they have been cleaned of food scraps.

  • Never leave food or water bottles unattended.

A sandy shoreline covered in rocks and driftwood.

NPS Photo

Leave What You Find

Take only memories (and photos). Leave flowers and other plants for everyone to enjoy. One of the unique features of the Apostle Islands beaches is the drift wood and rocks. The shoreline also supports fragile plant communities. Please use established trails, boardwalks, and sand ladders. Do not trample beach grasses and lichens.

Reasonable quantities of fruit, berries, and nuts can be gathered for personal use only. Collecting other natural objects such as rocks, wildflowers, and driftwood is not allowed.

  • Native fruits and berries may be collected up to 1 gallon / person / week.
  • Mushrooms may be collected up to 1 gallon / person / week.
  • Apples may be collected up to 5 gallons / person / week.

Humans have occupied these islands for thousands of years. Artifacts and cultural resources tell a rich story of the human history of the Apostle Islands. Help preserve these stories by leaving any cultural artifacts where you found them.


Respect Wildlife

In the backcountry, you are a visitor. Be mindful that you are sharing this place with bears, shorebirds, and other wild residents. Take care not to let your actions impact their behavior or damage their habitat.

Store your food properly:

  • Proper food storage is mandatory in the Apostle Islands. When a bear resistant food locker is available you must use it. It is illegal to feed bears, either on purpose or by leaving food or garbage that attracts them. When bears get habituated to human food, they become a danger to people and often end up getting killed. A fed bear is a dead bear!

Keep an eye out for nests:

  • Shorebirds often nest on the same beaches that campers prefer. If shorebirds seem distressed, try to locate their nest and set your camp well away from it. Be careful though - nests blend in well with their surroundings.

Keep your distance:

  • Do not approach or follow wildlife. Bring binoculars to enjoy viewing animals from a distance.

  • Stay at least 50 yards away from bears and maintain a minimum 25 yards (25 meters) distance from all other animals, dens, and nests.

Observe any closures:

  • At critical times during the breeding season, known nesting areas may be closed to camping.

  • Gull and Eagle Islands are closed from May 15th to September 1st for colonial bird nesting. Please stay at least 500 feet away during this time.


Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visitors come to Apostle Islands for the solitude and wilderness experience. Be mindful of other people visiting the islands and respect their privacy.

Quiet Hours

To insure a quality camping experience, quiet hours are enforced from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

A brown and white dog walking on a leash on the beach.
Visitors keep their dog on a leash to follow leave no trace principles.

NPS Photo


Pets must be kept on a leash that is six feet shorter, and never left unattended. Pet excrement must be immediately collected and disposed of in the nearest trash receptacle or buried in a forested area using a small hole dug in soil at least six inches deep, at least 200 feet from any trail, campsite, beach, dock, or water source.

Pets are not allowed in public buildings or on scheduled Apostle Islands Cruise trips (except assistance animals with proper certification).


Last updated: October 15, 2021

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Bayfield, WI 54814


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