Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Part 3: Kayaking the Sea Caves

Our kayaking experience at Apostle Islands was a definite favorite of the trip. The seven hour trip followed the mainland coast east from Meyer’s Beach past miles of sandstone cliffs punctured with awesome erosion patterns and incredible caves. We had hiked this part of the coast and seen some of the caves from the top of the bluffs, but viewing them from the water was a totally different experience and a gazillion times more impressive. The day of our trip we were lucky enough to have completely flat water – a rarity on the tempestuous Lake Superior – which allowed us to kayak through multiple very small, low-ceiling caves which would otherwise have been inaccessible. And when I say low, I mean we had to stow our paddles, lean all the way forward to hug the hull of the kayak, and paddle using our hands. It was awesome.

I must add a disclaimer at this point and say that while the water was perfect for paddling, the bright haze made the photos far less impressive looking than the actual thing. Also, because I kept my underwater camera tied to my vest I had a plethora of water spots on the lens. I really mean it: the photos don’t do the place justice. The blue water, red sandstone, and green birch leaves shone in the bright sunlight, and the darkened alcoves and caves that pockmarked the cliff walls were truly stunning – and I’m saying that as someone who has spent a lot of time hiking on red rock in Utah. The most majestic of sights however were arguably the tree-topped arches extending over the water, framing the cliffs beyond.

Breathtaking as the sights were, nothing can compare to the experience of kayaking through the caves; it was truly exhilarating gliding through the spaces carved from the rock and of having those moments when you couldn’t see daylight or other boats. The whole day was amazing though – just paddling within inches of the cliff face, birch and fir trees precariously leaning overhead, endless patterns in the rock streaming by, navigating in caves and rock joints and under arches… the list could go on.

Setting off from Meyer's Beach and crossing the bay, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Setting off from Meyer’s Beach and crossing the bay, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Paddling near the cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Paddling near the cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

First arch ahead, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

First arch ahead, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Us in the tandem kayak, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Us in the tandem kayak, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Example of how we had to duck in order to kayak through caves, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Example of how we had to duck in order to kayak through caves, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Emerging from a cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Emerging from a cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking through a cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking through a cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Erosion in cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Erosion in cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Awesome erosion, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Awesome erosion, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking under another arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking under another arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

In a shallow cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

In a shallow cave, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Looking out from a cave at our guide Liz, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Looking out from a cave at our guide Liz, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Ducking under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Ducking under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Arches and erosion, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Arches and erosion, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Erosion in cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Erosion in cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Checking out an alcove, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Checking out an alcove, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Cliffs and caves, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Cliffs and caves, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Another Arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Another Arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Amazing erosion under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Amazing erosion under an arch, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Sandstone cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Sandstone cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Ducking and taking photos, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Ducking and taking photos, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Still ducking, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Still ducking, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking into a crack, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Kayaking into a crack, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Almost as far as our tandem will fit, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Almost as far as our tandem will fit, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Looking up at the entrance to the crack, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Looking up at the entrance to the crack, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

More sandstone cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

More sandstone cliffs, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Two groups of kayaks converge near an inlet, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Two groups of kayaks converge near an inlet, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Looking up a cliff, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Looking up a cliff, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Finally - sun, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Finally – sun, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin