Wild Side Column: Jack in dinghy

Rowing back from the beach in Raspberry Bay on Lake Superior in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Carol Wilcox photo

I took some of my first steps as a child on South Bass Island in Lake Erie where my grandparents had a house in the town of Put-in-Bay. My sisters, brother and I often joined our cousins splashing in the waves at Mentor Headlands beach on Lake Erie east of Cleveland. My father took my brother and me on canoe trips on the wild northern coast of Georgian Bay, Lake Huron. Those childhood experiences began a life-long love of the Great Lakes beaches.

My wife, Carol, and I enjoyed many canoe trips on Georgian Bay where the beaches are few but the glacially smoothed granite rocks with white pine trees and blueberries provide fine campsites and splendid views. We look forward to Ontario opening up again so we can return to the Lower French River Provincial Park and camp on the Bustard Islands again.

Since 2009 we have enjoyed cruising on Lake Superior in the Apostle Islands, first on a seaworthy 31-foot cutter-rigged sailboat and more recently on our 30-foot diesel trawler. We built a plywood dinghy to accommodate us and our golden retriever dog Jack on trips to shore when we anchor out. Jack has been running on Great Lakes beaches since he was a pup. He had a great time when we took a camping trip around Lake Superior. He went body surfing on quite a few beaches.

No mere stone’s throw

Sharp-eyed Carol seems to find fascinating rocks along beaches. Glaciers have deposited a variety of stones from Canada onto Great Lakes beaches where waves and sand have rounded and polished them. We’ve found Petoskey stones on Lake Michigan beaches near Harbor Springs, Michigan; interesting limestone pieces of fossilized marine coral. Agates can be found on many beaches along the Minnesota and Ontario shore of Lake Superior.

The continually changing interactions between water, sunlight, moonlight, clouds and wind make for fascinating scenery on the Great Lakes. Anchored in Julian Bay off Stockton Island in the Apostle Islands, a line of dark clouds skirted the north side of the island. From our vantage point to the south as the sun was going down, a veil of purple rain obscured the trees along the beautiful curving beach. 

View of 10 islands, three states

One of our favorite “power spot” anchorages is by the southeast sand spit on Raspberry Island. From that spot we can see 10 of the Apostle Islands and the mainland of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Last September we anchored in Raspberry Bay off the Wisconsin mainland. The 65 degree Fahrenheit water surface temperature in the bay was much warmer than out on the main lake. As the sun was going down the air got noticeably cooler as a slight breeze blew in from the north off the lake. Sinuous wraiths of ‘magic’ fog developed, floated along toward the shore and then disappeared. I rowed Jack to shore on the bay-mouth beach that separates Raspberry Bay from the bog lagoon to the north. We walked the beach, listened to the sandhill cranes off in the bog and then enjoyed a peaceful row back to our boat.

There are many beautiful beaches along Lake Superior where you can cool down, swim and enjoy the view. 

  • Long Island between Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, is the longest freshwater beach in the world. 

  • There are nice beaches at Port Wing, Cornucopia and at Meyer’s Beach on Wisconsin’s north shore. 

  • There’s a beautiful long beach at Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island, a ferry-boat ride across from Bayfield, Wisconsin. 

  • The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has miles of beautiful beaches on Lake Superior by Marquette, Grand Marais and Whitefish Point. 

Be kind to the beaches and other visitors. Please don’t build fires, stack stones, take driftwood or leave trash on the beaches.

Dan Wilcox of River Falls, Wis., writes a periodic column. Send comments and suggestions to him at rtnews@orourkemediagroup.com.

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