Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lighthouse, 250-year-old trees await day hikers on Sand Island

Sand Island Lighthouse
Trees that took root before the Revolutionary War, a spectacular lighthouse, and sea caves await day hikers on Sand Island in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The island is the westernmost of the Apostle Islands with maintained hiking trails (Tiny Eagle Island actually is westernmost but has no trails or facilities.).

The dock for Sand Island sits on the east-central shore of East Bay. Looking book across the lake is York Island. To the southeast is the mainland running from Point Detour in the north to Sand Bay in the south. There’s a campground near the dock.

At the campground, you’ll have a choice of two trails.

The longer of the two, Lighthouse Trail, runs two miles one way (four-miles round trip) to the island’s northern tip. It begins by heading through a forested area. In about a half-mile of walking, you’ll cross an overgrown field, which used to be part of the Hansen family farmstead.

The trail then then curves toward the shoreline. At the one-mile point, you’ll reach a sand beach at Justice Bay, which offers views of the Swallow Point sea caves.

A half-mile later, you’ll pass through a grove of virgin white pine grove. The trees are about 250 years old, meaning they took root sometime around 1760.

The trail ends at Sand Island lighthouse overlooking Lighthouse Bay on the island’s western shore. Built in 1881 of sandstone, the lighthouse was used until 1933 when a steel tower with an automated light was constructed. During summer, park volunteers staff the lighthouse for tourists.

From the bluff at the lighthouse, you can see York Island to the southeast with Bear Island to the northeast in the distance. A quarter mile south of the lighthouse is an overlook with a grand view of Lighthouse Base.

For a shorter walk from the East Bay campground, take the Noring Farm Trail, which runs 0.3 miles one way (0.6-miles round trip). At the trail’s end are the ruins of an old farm once owned by the Noring family. Some buildings and historic farm equipment remain at the site. Stay away from the well, though, especially if children are with you.

Read more about day hiking Northwest Wisconsin in my Headin’ to the Cabin guidebooks.