The Sandstone Surprises of Lake Superior

The Ever-Changing Landscape of Apostle Islands
The sea caves along the coast at Lake Superior at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The 21 sandstone islands and 12 miles of mainland of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore provide ample wild playground for hikers, boaters, scuba divers, fishers, campers, and even ice climbers. This lakeshore, situated at the end of the Bayfield Peninsula on Lake Superior, is also a fascinating classroom to learn about the environment that was developed over thousands of years of geological history of continental movement, glaciers, and wind and water erosion.

A sea stack in Lake Superior at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The area that is now Apostle Islands went through periods of glaciation. After the most recent glaciation about 12,000 years ago, the melted waters submerged most of the Bayfield Peninsula.  Since then, the lake levels rose and fell, leaving us now with the Apostles separated from the peninsula, forming the archipelago.

This coastal environment continues to rapidly change and evolve today, continually sculpted by the waves, tides, and the wind. As a result, this dynamic landscape contains a myriad of caves, arches, stacks, and cliffs that contain varied landscapes such as rock pools, sand dunes, beaches, forests, lagoons, and more.

These diverse ecosystems provide shelter to assorted animals, from the red-backed salamander, to the Northern leopard frogs, to black bears, to muskrats, and many species of fish. It is even one of the heaviest migratory flyways in the Great Lake Region.

Ariel view of two kayakers along the shore in Lake Superior at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Thinking of visiting Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to see the ice caves or explore the sand dunes?  Learn more about this junction between land and water here.

Start a Conversation

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Stay Inspired
Connect with the parks you love. Sign up to receive the latest NPF news, information on how you can support our national treasures, and travel ideas for your next trip to the parks. Join our community.