Intricate Sea Caves on Devils Island

The Apostle Islands are a group of 22 islands in Lake Superior, off the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin. Stunning natural scenery, windswept beaches, eight historic lighthouses, nature-carved rock formations, marine wildlife, and intricate sea saves – this is Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The most striking sea caves of the Apostle Islands with elaborate rock formations are found on Devils Island.

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Iconic Sea Caves Created by Time and Nature

Sea Caves of Devils Island

Its impressive, honeycomb-like caves are what make Devils Island so unique and beautiful. Sea Caves is a lake? Yes! Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world, and the only thing that makes it a lake instead of a sea is the freshwater. The caves were sculpted from the billion-year-old sandstone bedrock exposed through the island’s surface.

The layers of color in Devils’ Islands sandstone cliffs.

Red and gold sandstone was deposited over the area by the twists and turns of streams from western hills. The undulating climate over a million-year period laid a sandstone crust that is 1800ft thick. They are colorfully stratified. The blue accents are a fascinating interplay of light and minerals.

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Ripped Rock Surfaces

Like ripples on the sandy bottom of a lake caused by waves or current, ripples can be found on the island, from waves that passed over a billion years ago.


How Devils Island Got Its Name

Waves crashing into Devils Island, creating thunder-like sounds.

Large waves often crash against the cliffsides, generating a dramatic scene with plumes of must and thunderous roars as waters echo through caverns. During large storms, “ungodly” booming can occur due to compressed air being trapped in the sea caves. Some theorize that either Native Americans or early explorers named it Devils (Evil Spirit) Island because of these sounds.

Kayakers paddle calm waters in Devils Island Sea Caves. PC: NPS Photo/M. Sweger

However, during calmer times, the only sound can be the gentle lapping of water against the hollowed-out rock. Sunlight filters through the water’s surface, illuminating the cave walls with an ethereal glow. Kayakers often enjoy crisscrossing through Devils Island, exploring its many intricacies.


Summer’s Brilliant Colors

Summer colors of Devils Island, as seen from an Apostle Islands Cruise Grand Tour.

Season give dramatically different views of the island’s splendor. Summer explodes with color on at Devils’ Island. The red sandstone cliffs stand out even brighter against the backdrop of a sapphire blue Lake Superior, while emerald green forests cling tenaciously to the edges of cliffs. This beauty is best seen by boat tours, from May through October.

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The Added Color of Autumn

Devils Island and its lighthouse during the first days of fall color.

Of course, during fall in the Apostle Islands, visitors are treated to an extra bonus; autumn colors. The vibrant yellows, oranges, and red of maples, birch, and aspen top the multicolored sandstone cliffs. The lower angle of autumn sunlight can also cast long, dramatic shadows.

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Winter’s Marvelous Structures

Frozen Sea Caves

In winter, a breathtaking transformation occurs, and one that brings plenty of sightseers. Pillars of ice reach towards the cliff tops, marking where waterfalls once flowed before freezing into sculptures. The base of cliffs glisten with a thick, icy crust – a testament to the relentless spray of the restless lake. Meanwhile, inside the caves, a magical world unfolds: a fairyland of shimmering, needle-like icicles hanging from the ceiling.

Sea Caves of the Apostle Islands


The Lonely Structure & the End of an Era

Devils Island Lighthouse

Another interesting part of Devils Island’s history is the Devils Island Lighthouse. It was first lit in 1891 and became the last staffed station in the Apostle Islands. The lighthouse was automated in 1978, marking the end of over a century of lightkeepers tending lights in the Apostle Islands. There are no longer human inhabitants on the island, other than summer Park Service volunteers. It is managed by the National Park Service as part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

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Experience Sea Caves from the Water

View of Devils’ Island from Apostle Island Cruises

The best way to view the fascinating details and wonder of the sea caves of Devils Island is from the water. Apostle Island Cruises offers several narrated sightseeing cruises and shuttles to the islands and offshore locations throughout the national lakeshore. Cruise along the shoreline to unlock the natural beauty and mystery of the Apostle Islands.

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