50 Wilderness Sites Across America
Sailboats moor at Presque Isle Bay on Stockton Island in Lake Superior's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin (© Layne Kennedy/Corbis)
A woman walks her dog at sunset on a frozen expanse of Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake, by the sea caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (© Eric Miller/Reuters/Corbis)
Ice formations at sunset on a rock face of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Eric Miller/Reuters/Corbis)
An abandoned boat party submerged in the sands of Gaylord Nelson Wilderness (Courtesy of Wilderness Institute)
Gulls congregate on one of the islands in Gaylord Nelson Wilderness (Courtesy of Wilderness Institute)

Gaylord Nelson Wilderness

Pristine sandscapes, boreal forest and wild game

smithsonian.com

Location: Wisconsin
Size: 33,500 acres
Year Designated: 2004

Fast Fact: The last official trip made by President Kennedy before his assassination was to Apostle Islands, largely located within the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness.

Dotting the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior are the Apostle Islands—21 of which have been protected as part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore since 1970. Of that National Lakeshore, 80 percent were given additional protection as an official wilderness area in 2004. Many of these islands were logged or quarried in the 19th century, but native flora has once again been able to flourish since the area has come under federal protection. 

The area's geology is defined by Precambrian sandstone, which has eroded forming steep cliffs, rock bridges and sea caves that can be explored by sea kayak. Unique beach formations also occur within the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness, including cuspate forelands—sand that juts out into a body of water in a triangular shape. The wilderness area supports both hardwood and boreal forests, with northern white pine and hemlock trees providing home for animals such as black bears, waterfowl, snowshoe hares, red foxes, coyotes and otters.

During cold winters, the lake within the sea caves freezes over forming glistening ice palaces that can be explored by foot.

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