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Outer Island Sand Spit and Lagoon

Back to Eastern Lake Superior

Counties: Ashland


Outer Island Sand Spit and Lagoon. Sand spit dunes at sunset. Photograph by E.J. Epstein.

Site Description

The attenuated southern tip of remote 8,000-acre Outer Island, part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, forms a long sandspit, enclosing a large lagoon and wetland. The spit features extensive non-vegetated beach, lake dunes and a xeric pine forest. The open peatlands surrounding the lagoon are sedge-dominated to the south and more boggy to the north. Thickets of tall shrubs and small, open, scattered stands of conifers add diversity to the community mosaic. The open mat around the southern end of the lagoon is composed primarily of sedges, buckbean and sweet gale. To the north, the mat is boggier, with Sphagnum mosses dominant, and ericaceous shrubs, wire leaved sedges, and pitcher plant are prominent. Of the terrestrial communities, the open dunes are vegetated with marram grass, beach-pea and sand cherry. The xeric forest dominants are red and white pines and paper birch, and the groundlayer includes bracken fern, bunchberry, cow-wheat, wintergreen, early low blueberry, and clubmosses. The islands hosts notable concentrations of migratory birds in the fall, especially among the passerines and raptors. Loons, grebes and cormorants congregate in the waters off of the spit, and there are frequent visits from southbound shorebirds. Outer Island has been designated as a State Natural Area. There are no immediate threats to this site, but it should be monitored periodically for invasive species, changes in abundance of rare species, and human use (currently light).

Additional Comments

Excellent undisturbed sandscape with a beach, dune, Great Lakes barrens, and large enclosed lagoon with floristically rich fen community. Use by migratory birds particularly raptors, passerines and shorebirds is very high especially in the fall.

Last revised: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 17:21:11 CDT