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Apostle Islands Sandscapes

No. 268


Photo by Thomas A. Meyer/DNR


Five of the 21 islands in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands archipelago comprise this State Natural Area. The Apostle Islands Sandscapes SNA was established in 1992 to recognize and protect a variety of unique sand-based landforms, including dunes, beaches, sand spits, cuspate forelands, and tombolos. Sand spits are long, narrow sand deposits extending outward into the water from the tip of land or at the mouth of a bay.

Cuspate forelands are similar to sand spits but are wider and wedge-shaped. Sand deposits that connect an island to the mainland or connect two islands are called tombolos. Stockton Island contains the largest (622 acres) and most diverse unit of the sandscape natural area. The southeastern tip of the island, Presque Isle Point, was once a separate island. After the glaciers receded, shore currents deposited ridges of sand forming a sand bridge, or tombolo, between Presque Isle and Stockton Island.

The tombolo, the only one in Wisconsin, consists of dry, sandy ridges, low dunes and a wide beach. The ridges feature excellent red pine barrens. The east side of the tombolo contains open wetlands with bog, sedge meadow, and emergent aquatic vegetation. Several rare plants are found here. The southernmost point of Outer Island features a 1½-mile-long sand spit and associated beach and low dunes. Beach grass, wormwood, creeping juniper, and beach pea are among the plant species stabilizing the sand. The spit encloses a large lagoon with shrubby margins that grades to a rich, open bog dominated by sedges, rushes, and ericads.

The interior of the point supports a semi-open dry forest of red, white, and jack pines with a blueberry-sweet fern understory. Migratory birds make extensive use of this 232-acre natural area in spring and fall. The 22-acre Rocky Island unit contains a small cuspate foreland on the island’s southeast tip. An open, boggy wetland is included within the natural area boundary. The southeast side of Raspberry Island is dominated by a sand spit and associated dunes and a beach. The 6-acre sandscape encloses a small sphagnum bog.

The 251-acre Long Island supports an excellent beach and dune complex several miles long with high sand ridges forested with a northern dry forest of Hill's oak and pines. Long Island was once a barrier island separated from Chequamegon Point by open water until a monster November storm deposited sand into the old channel that now connects them. Together the "island" and former sand spit are highly critical to migrating birds and the site is recognized as a state-significant migratory bird concentration site.

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map under the Maps tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

The good majority of SNAs are isolated and have few or no facilities. Some SNAs have vehicle access lanes or parking lots, but their accessibility may vary depending on weather conditions. Parking lots and lanes are not plowed during winter. Hiking trails may be nonexistent or consist of undeveloped footpaths. A GPS unit or compass and a detailed topographic map are useful tools for exploring larger SNAs.

Non-DNR lands

Entrance fees: For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

Hunting and trapping

This is a non-DNR-owned SNA: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the landowner. Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the Resources tab. More details regarding allowable uses of this non-DNR-owned SNA may be noted above and posted with signs on the property site.

Other activities

Other allowable activities such as - but not limited to camping, geocaching and bicycling are determined by the landowner. Please contact them directly or visit their websites for details.


Within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Long, Raspberry, Rocky, Stockton and Outer Islands, Ashland and Bayfield Counties. Long Island T49N-R3W, Section 20. T49N-R4W, Sections 13, 17, 18. Raspberry Island T52N-R3W, Section 19. Rocky Island T53N-R3W, Sections 25, 36. Stockton Island T51N-R1W, Section 6; T51N-R2W, Section 1; T52N-R1W, Sections 30, 31; T52N-R2W, Sections 25, 35, 36. Outer Island T52N-R1W, Sections 2, 3, 10, 11. 1,134 Acres.

Driving directions

Islands are accessible only by water. Shuttle service to the islands via private carrier can be arranged through the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore headquarters in Bayfield, off State Highway 13.

The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities.

Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details. The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries. To create your custom map where you can zoom to a specific location, please use the DNR's Mapping Application.

Apostle Islands Sandscapes is owned by: National Park Service