Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Basswood Island

Basswood—an island so close and yet so far. Although the Bayfield Peninsula lies just over a mile away, visitors to Basswood Island, the Ojibwa's "Wigobic Miniss," are rewarded with the isolation and solitude of an island experience.

Low cliffs of brown sandstone or banks of broken stone and red clay meet Lake Superior along Basswood's shoreline. An isolated sandstone block called "Lone Rock" or "Honeymoon Rock" lies off the island's north tip. A dense growth of forest is broken only by several small clearings, the result of historic activities. The geology, the forests, and evidence of logging, quarrying, and farming are all vital components of Basswood's story—a story to be "read" by the observant island visitor.

Basswood Island is cloaked in a northern hardwood/hemlock forest of red oak, sugar maple, quaking aspen, white and yellow birch, eastern hemlock, balsam fir, white cedar, red, and white pine. A few basswood trees are also present.

Because of the dense forest canopy, most flowers bloom in spring before the trees leaf out. Starflower, clintonia, Canada dogwood, rose twisted stalk, and dwarf ginseng are a few of the early varieties.

Basswood Island is home for a variety of wildlife. Beavers and otters visit the pond in the abandoned quarry. Red squirrels are common. The island also supports a small population of whitetailed deer. A variety of habitats attract many of the 100+ bird species that nest in the Apostle Islands, including bald eagles. Special closures may be enacted to protect young eagles during the nesting season.

Much of Basswood Island is low and remains wet through spring into early summer, providing ideal conditions for mosquitoes. Protective clothing and insect repellent are musts if one hopes to enjoy the sights of Basswood Island during this season.

A 70-foot-long dock is located midway up the west side of the island near the outlet of a small stream. The maximum depth of water at the end of the dock is four to six feet. Boaters planning to moor overnight are cautioned that this dock is exposed to winds from the southwest and northwest. Captains are encouraged to monitor marine weather forecasts for weather and wave conditions.

Small craft: Basswood's proximity to mainland harbors at Bayfield, Red Cliff, and Schooner Bay make it one of the most accessible islands. Persons traveling to the island in small boats, canoes, or kayaks should pay attention to weather conditions and proceed with caution.

Permits are required for camping and are available at the national lakeshore visitor center in Bayfield. Four campsites are located at the south end of the island near the brownstone quarry. Two more campsites are located near a clearing 200 yards from the dock. A large group campsite is in the clearing, along with a vault toilet and a well.

Go to the Apostle Islands Day Hiking page for trails on Basswood Island.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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