Little Sand Bay

The side view of a green building with a brown roof and on a grassy lawn and a covered boat.
Little Sand Bay Visitor Center

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

Accessible Sites, Audio Description, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), Beach/Water Access, Benches/Seating, Bicycle - Rack, Boat Ramp, Canoe/Kayak/Small Boat Launch, Dock/Pier, First Aid Kit Available, Gifts/Souvenirs/Books, Information, Information - Maps Available, Information - Ranger/Staff Member Present, Information Kiosk/Bulletin Board, Parking - Auto, Parking - Boat Trailer, Permits Issued, Picnic Table, Playground, Recycling, Restroom - Accessible, Restroom - Seasonal, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Trash/Litter Receptacles, Water - Bottle-Filling Station, Wheelchair Accessible

Little Sand Bay is located on the mainland thirteen miles west of Bayfield. This seasonal visitor center was brand new in 2020. Exhibits on the grounds tell the story of Little Sand Bay (LSB) and the challenges and joys of living in the North Woods, including the restored Twilite fish tug, Ojibwe Elder, park staff, and community members audio stories, and the John Nelson cabin.

This has become an increasingly popular kayak launch for paddlers heading out to Sand and York Islands for day trips as well as overnight camping. Overnight docking slips are available for boaters at a first come first serve basis. The center is staffed seasonally by park staff and volunteers, and offers orientation and information, camping permits, kayak safety guidance, and the America's National Parks bookstore.

The Little Sand Bay Recreation Area is located next to the National Park Service visitor center. This area is maintained by the Township of Russell and includes a pavilion, beach, boat launch, and the Little Sand Bay Campground. 

History of Little Sand Bay

Two thirds of the mainland unit of the Apostle Islands, including Little Sand Bay, is within the Red Cliff Band Reservation. The land at LSB was ceded to the Federal Government in 1842. Today, we fly the United States flag and Tribal Flag to honor our relationship with the tribal community and to promote tribal history, lifestyles, and teachings of the traditions for the next Seven Generations of the Anishinaabe. 

In the late 1920's the Hokenson brothers started a commercial fishing operation out of LSB. For more than 30 years the small family-owned business grew out of LSB and you can tour the grounds to see their twine shed, pile driver, dock, and herring shed. Many of the interpretive displays are located outside, including the renovated Twilite fishing boat to showcase how technology evolved to make fishing in the 1930's-1950's more efficient. 

South Shore Club

In 1923 a group of Russell Township residents founded the South Shore Club. They envisioned a resort on the shores of Lake Superior to entice tourists and outside investment. Club members cleared a new road to LSB and established the South Shore Subdivision with lots available for development. Several of the lots near the beach were reserved for a park to keep the area open to the public. Members of the South Shore Club established a tradition of picnics and other activities at the park, but the lots sold slowly, and few buyers constructed any buildings. One notable exception was Herman Johnson Jr.

Hermie obtained lots in the South Shore Subdivision in the 1930’s. He moved his fishing business from Sand Island to LSB and built a log cabin, dock, icehouse, and twin shed. He and his wife Agnes opened a general store and tavern in March 1941 and developed a tourist attraction that operated through the early 1970s. You could find anything from diesel to root beer floats. Locals would come to LSB to socialize, watch a baseball game, and picnic on the beach. Johnson would take guests out on his fishing boat called the Sand Bay and show them an honest days work on the water. The NPS used the store as a visitor center until 2017. Elements of the current visitor center reflect the style of Hermie’s store.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Last updated: November 7, 2021