Kayak Suggestion for Apostle Islands?

Working on planning a trip for next summer to the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. Wondering if I can make a 14-14.5 foot boat work? Gear carrying ability is not a concern as I have all ultralight equipment. Don’t want to go much longer than this if I don’t have to as the boat would also be used on the natural course of the Missouri river where I live in South Dakota. Any suggestions on a boat would be appreciated as well.


Sure a 14 or 14.5 boat will work. Buy a seaworthy hull with fore and aft bulkheads.

Boat versus skills
I would be more concerned about the ability of the boat to handle Lake Superior open water conditions than its ability to store your camping gear. This will, of course, have much to do with your boat handling skills which should be seriously evaluated as well.

I just returned from a week-long trip to the Apostles and experienced conditions ranging from 80F to 30F temps, winds commonly 15 - 20 knots (plus a gale that blew 50 knot gusts), and seas in the 3’ - 6’ range on the days we chose to paddle (9’ during the aforementioned gale). Our group was made up of skilled and experienced paddlers in seaworthy expedition kayaks, and the conditions we experienced gave us pause for extra caution and serious evaluation of our abilities–there were days we chose to stay in camp rather than paddle.

At the risk of sounding condescending, Lake Superior is not a river in South Dakota. My apologies if your skills extend beyond the obvious items in your profile, but the nature of your post causes one to question how prepared you may be for such a trip.

There was a fatality in the Apostles this spring when two guys in rec boats paddled into conditions they were unprepared for. A search of the archives will uncover more details of why they got into trouble, but as I recall, their choice of kayaks and gear contributed to this unfortunate incident.

if you haven’t already, I hope you seriously consider the above items, and that you have a safe and enjoyable trip.


I’ve been debating going on a guided tour that includes kayak rental. Possibly this would be the best option with my skill level. Just trying to find out if I could buy a yak that would work in the apostles and at home. I don’t have any sea kayaking experience yet. This would be my first trip.

You’re thinking the right things

– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 9:44 PM EST –

I'm not familiar with the outfitters in the area, but I do recall seeing one in Bayfield that provided just the type of services you're considering. This would be a safe way to paddle a spectacular area (it will wreck you for other trips you'll take on your own later, though). We also saw a few guided tours in doubles that looked like they were having a great time. I would suggest you and a buddy/spouse/significant other sign up for something like this and exeperience it together.

I'm not sure if any local outfitters get their clients as far out as Devils Island, but if you're interested, you can see a short video clip of us exploring the sea caves on my website here:


Keep your eyes on this post as I'm sure someone else with real knowledge of the local outfitters will soon chime in.

Happy paddling,


Living Adventure
I have a friend who used to guide for them. He has great respect for the company.


Thanks for the help! Definately want to see the area. Think I’ll look into the guided tours. Be a good way to get into sea kayaking.

Living Adventure
While not the only outfitter in the area, this is the one I’d recommend.

Chances are that if you’re in the Apostles in July/early August you’ll see mostly calm conditions and maybe you can wait out anything beyond your skills. However a responsible paddler is a prepared paddler. Conditions can get just like what was described above at any time as I’ve seen but it does seem to be more common near the end of August or later. Nobody wants a paddler to be on the news because it’s usually for the wrong reason. My first trip to the Apostles was with a guide, and I’m glad I did it that way.

In mid-June there is also a symposium that is very good. It’s put on by the Inland Sea Society and you’ll find info about it at inlandsea.org. Not sure why they say “See you next year” but list 2009. Must be a typo, it’s a very popular event.

Living Adventures
I would echo the comments about using Living Adventures for a guided trip in the Apostle Islands. My wife and I did a five day trip with them two years ago and a three day trip this past July. Top notch all the way around. We had our own expedition boats but they have plenty of equipment, including boats. If you are undecided about what kind of boat to buy, perhaps waiting until after such a trip might be a good idea.

Cool Video
Cool video, looks like a LOT of fun.

It’s not just about the kayak…
You’re going to encounter very cold water up there and you will need a wetsuit at a minimum or a drysuit. Practice wet exits before you go up there so you can get back in as fast as possible. Carry a weather radio…conditions change fast. Have fun, but be safe.

Inland Sea Symposium
Will not be held in 2008. We went this year, 2007, and they’ve decided to have it every other year now. Next one is in 2009. Very cool time. Learned a lot, and lots of boats to try out.


Apostle Islands
I just came across this thread, so this will be a late post. You have received much good advice, and I concur with the Living Waters recommendation. Highly qualified folks, by all counts. I have toured pretty extensively in the AI, and there is no way I would venture those crossings in a rec boat. The hull designs of touring boats are the main issue in handling big water…rec hulls are unstable in waves and surf. Lake Superior tends toward short-period waves, which present different puzzles than the longer period oceanic waves. A properly oufitted and personally fitted touring boat sized for your physique is essential for the possibility of rough seas. Some shorter boats have appropriate hulls, but to my mind 17 feet is near-minimum. You do not need to be a pro to do the AI, but you do need to be able to get off the water should changing conditions dictate. That means recovery skills that are well-rehearsed, and good judgement based on realistic self-assessment of skills. Superior has been mis-judged by more than one salt water boater. Your attitude says that you will have the necessary skills and equipment when you venture out…and it is spectacular!

I hope you have a great trip… it will draw you back.