Otter Island a sight to beholdPublished 11:58am Monday, June 4, 2012
Many of us who live in Otter Tail County, as we travel across the country, take note when we see the name “Otter.” This was the case for me when I found that Otter Island is part of the Apostle Islands in northwestern Wisconsin, near the south shore of Lake Superior.
The Apostle Islands are part of the U.S. national lakeshore consisting of 21 islands. They are well known for their historic lighthouses, sandstone sea caves, forests and natural animal habitats.
Our family took a three-hour boat cruise tour of the islands on May 19. I waited in anticipation as the tour guide said that we were approaching Otter Island.
Otter Island is relatively small, at two miles long and a just over a mile wide. But all told, that’s still 1,322 acres.
Tall and rocky areas are commonplace on the north side of the island. However, most of the remainder of Otter Island’s circumference slopes gradually to the shoreline. The southeast corner of the island, as noted in the informational brochure, ends in a sand point.
Former and present Boy Scouts and Scout leaders in Otter Tail County will find it interesting that in 1960 nearly 1,500 Boy Scouts and about 180 adult leaders held a camporee on Otter Island. The camporee was held to celebrate the merger of the Gitchee-Gumme and Northstar Councils into the Lake Superior Council.
In his song about the sinking of the ore carrier Edmund Fitgerald, Gordon Lightfoot mentions that, according to a legend of the Chippewa tribe, the lake they once called Gitche-Gumee “never gives up her dead.”
On Nov. 10, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior during a November storm, taking the lives of all 29 crew members. Later that month, Lightfoot, inspired by an article in Newsweek Magazine, wrote what is probably his most famous song, “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”
The Bayfield, Wis., Chamber of Commerce sums it up best when inspiring people to come to their community and visit the nearby Apostle Islands.
“Try kayaking out to our famous water-sculpted sea caves. Catch the ferry over to Madeline Island or set sail on one of our famous Apostle Islands lighthouse cruises. Hike out into the sunny berry fields and apple orchards to pick your own sweet, juicy bounty.
Or just relax in the wide, soul-restoring vistas before turning in at one of our many charming cabins and cottages.”
In 2006, our family discovered Otter Cove at Acadia National Park in the state of Maine. This national wildlife treasure encompasses over 47,000 acres of what web site authors describe as granite-domed mountains, woodlands, lakes and ponds, and ocean shoreline. The diverse habitats create striking scenery and make the park a haven for wildlife and plants.
And, yes, there formerly were otters in abundance at Otter Cove, but only a few are seen at the cove today. There are many similarities with Acadia and Minnesota’s North Shore along Lake Superior, northeast of Duluth. Acadia, like the North Shore, offers recreational activities such as hiking and kayaking.
In Maine, at Acadia, one can enjoy a spectacular sunrise over Frenchman’s Bay or explore some of the quieter and more secluded mountain paths. You can bike over 40 miles of the tree-lined carriage roads that wind over hillsides and near glassy lakes.
Wherever you go this summer, keep a watch for the name otter. You’ll no doubt be pleased with what you find.