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Lake Superior Water Trail – Wisconsin Segment

The Wisconsin segment of the Lake Superior Water Trail covers more than 400 miles of diverse shoreline from the City of Superior to the Montreal River at the Michigan border. The trail is an ongoing effort to connect the 3,000 miles of shoreline that border Lake Superior along Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario, Canada. It will link communities and inspire travelers to safely explore new regions of Lake Superior. The trail was formed on the philosophy that low-impact recreational use and stewardship of the land and water protects local, natural and cultural resources. The development of the trail has been done in conjunction with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service, as well as with the Inland Sea Society.

Sea kayaks

Sandstone outcrops and sea caves highlight the Apostle Islands.
Photo © Wisconsin Department of Tourism

Trail map

The full-color, detailed trail map introduces the area's rich natural and cultural resources and provides information about access, resting and camping sites suitable for kayaks and small boats along Wisconsin’s wild and scenic north coast. The Wisconsin Lake Superior Water Trail Map is to be used as a general resource guide and is not intended as a sole source of navigation. Consult guidebooks, topographical maps, navigational charts and weather information when planning your trip.

Lake Superior Water Trail - Wisconsin Segment Map [exit DNR]

To obtain a hard copy of the map, please contact:

Inland Sea Society
PO Box 145
Washburn, WI 54891

The south shore of Lake Superior

Known for its clear, cold water and mix of dramatic cliffs and sand beaches, Lake Superior is the largest, least populated and cleanest of the Great Lakes. The south shore is the sandy side of the lake blessed with miles of beaches, sandstone formations and red clay cliffs, including dramatic sea caves. Shrouded in boreal and hardwood forest, the south shore is also host to some of the finest and wildest estuaries in Lake Superior.

The St. Louis River estuary with a mix of wild wetlands and the busy Duluth/Superior harbor define the western terminus of this water trail section. From the city of Superior east to the town of Port Wing, a traveler passes miles of clay bluffs, small streams and the Brule River State Forest. Past the scenic village of Herbster, the shoreline begins to reveal sandstone outcrops, which culminate in dramatic cliffs and sea caves in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Kayaking by a lighthouse

Lighthouses like the one on Sand Island can be found along the shoreline.
Photo © Wisconsin Department of Tourism

The trail then passes the Red Cliff Indian Reservation and the historic town of Bayfield, known for its orchards, commercial fishing, sailing and tourism. Turning south from Bayfield, the paddler wraps around Chequamegon Bay with its sandy shores, parks, fishing, shipping history and the communities of Washburn and Ashland. From Ashland, the traveler passes wild and sandy shores before going along the internationally recognized Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs - Wisconsin's Everglades - within the Bad River Indian Reservation. East of there, the shoreline returns to red clay bluffs and sandy beaches, reaching the Michigan border east of Saxon Harbor.

First nations

Native American peoples have inhabited the Lake Superior region for thousands of years. At the time of European contact, as many as six different tribes shared the south shore region. The Anishinabe, commonly known as the Chippewa or Ojibwe, were the dominate tribe when Europeans settled the area. Today the Anishinabe nation is one of North America's largest native nations.

rocky shoreline
Shoreline at Big Bay State Park.
Photo © Dave Miess

Native Americans continue to live along the south shore, harvesting wild rice, fish and wild game. The Red Cliff and Bad River bands of Lake Superior Chippewa each have a reservation with growing populations and economies that contribute to the diversity of Lake Superior. Madeline Island is a cultural hub of the Anishinabe Nation. Both Red Cliff and Bad River communities are working to protect and restore their natural environment. The reservation shorelines should be respected as private property. Red Cliff has developed shoreline campgrounds at Point Detour and at Buffalo Bay.

Area resources

More information

Last revised: Monday May 15 2017