Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway

Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
  • LocationWI
  • Length70 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Associate Members of Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway
Statewide Byway Partners
Wisconsin Byways Map
Travel Wisconsin
Bayfield shoreline with view of Lake Superior
Bayfield County Tourism Photo

Overview

The Wisconsin Lake Superior Byways (WLSSB) follows 70 miles of Wisconsin State Highway 13 along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The majesty of Lake Superior unfolds along the Byway with sweeping views of the “Big Lake.” The Byway follows the shoreline of the Bayfield Peninsula, passing through quaint harbor towns & historic fishing villages, near dozens of orchards & fruit farms, along miles of sand beach and the home of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Densely forested lands provide a spectacular backdrop to the year ‘round recreational opportunities that abound with hundreds of miles of hiking, biking, snowmobile, ATV and cross-county ski trails.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Scenic Byway follows the southern shoreline of Lake Superior along the Bayfield peninsula and highlights the geological, historical, cultural, ecological and recreational diversity of the region. The 70-mile route features breathtaking scenic views of forests, pristine sandy beaches, and the clear waters of Lake Superior. This is the home of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area. The Byway route features quaint harbor towns, historic fishing villages and small orchards & farms. The beauty of the Byway is experienced through the stories and scenery that embrace the majesty of Lake Superior. Spend some time exploring and you'll be rewarded with memories that will make you want to come back for more - from restaurants featuring fresh, local ingredients to peaceful walks along the beach, you might find it hard to head home.

Driving Directions

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is a great place to start your trip along the Byway with helpful staff from the National Park Service at the front desk to help answer questions. The six-mile drive to the City of Washburn parallels the shoreline of Chequamegon Bay and crosses over numerous streams that flow from the highlands above the Bay. Coninue north through Bayfield and Red Cliff on State Route 13. You will also pass through the towns of Cornucopia, Herbster, and Port Wing.

Points of Interest

  • Town of Barksdale

    Home of Whittlesey National Wildlife refuge, one of the largest freshwater estuaries on the Great Lakes.

  • City of Washburn

    Historic brownstone buildings, a residential historic district and a lakeshore Maritime trail invite exploration on foot, by bicycle or by car. Alos enjoy the three beaches and two camprounds on Lake Superior.

  • Town of Bayview

    Visit Houghton Falls State Natural Area or walk along 1.5 miles of beach on Lake Superior at Bayview Beach.

  • Town of Bayfield

    Summer home of Big Top Chautauqua, the Carnegie Hall of tent shows. Access to the mainland sea caves and a hiking trail at Meyers Beach (part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore). Gateway to the Apostle Islnads.

  • Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

    Enjoy the amenities at Legendary Waters Resort & Casino overlooking the Apostle Islands or take a hike at Frog Bay Tribal National Park, the nation’s first tribal National Park.

  • Town of Russell

    Little Sand Bay features a campground, swimming beach, marina and kayak launch along with a historic fishery at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore mainland location.

  • Town of Bell (Cornucopia)

    Watch the fishing boats and get fresh or smoked fish at the fishery. Visit the museum & harbor shops, stroll along the beach, hike the trail at Siskiwit Falls.

  • Town of Clover (Herbster)

    Paddle the Bark Bay Slough and camp on the beach. Herbster’s annual spring smelt fry is held in a historic log gymnasium built by the Works Progress Administration.

  • Town of Port Wing

    Nearly two miles of sand beaches provide access for swimming, beach combing, and watching some of the best sunsets that the South Shore has to offer. Museum located downtown.

  • Town of Orienta

    A scenic pull-out provides great views of Lake Superior, including a 20-mile view across the lake to Knife River and Two Harbors in Minnesota. Short hike to Orienta Falls and the quarry.

  • Town of Cloverland

    Home of the famous Brule River, the “River of Presidents.” The river is a national destination for trout fly fishing.

Itinerary

  • Along Lake Superior

    Begin in the town of Barkstown, a traditional agricultural area with small family dairy farms, and drive six miles to the city of Washburn. The city is filled with interesting historical buildings and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Enjoy a walk along the maritime History Trail and explore the town’s thriving art community.

    Leaving Washburn, travel north 12 miles to Bayfield through open gently rolling fields. Access the Houghton Falls State Natural Area and wander through the Onion and the Sioux Rivers. Be sure to stop at the Gitchi Gummi Lake. As you drive through Bayfield, you will find the city's historic district, which is full of quaint cottages and beautiful Victorian homes. Stop at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Visitors Center to learn more about the lighthouses of the area.

    As you leave Bayfield, you will drive through the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Reservation, then drive through farm fields interspersed with forested areas. Along the way, enjoy spectacular views of Lake Superior.

    The Byway makes a steep descent to Cornucopia, Wisconsin’s northernmost town. The Cornucopia harbor provides a protected port for commercial fishing vessels and pleasure craft. Siskiwit Bay is protected and shallow and therefore offers some of the earliest swimming along the South Shore. Just off the beach is an artesian well that runs clear, cold safe water all year long. Next to the beach is the “Green Shed” which houses the Cornucopia Museum. The museum offers a peek at the last 100 years of life on the rugged South Shore. Beyond Cornucopia watch for three Lost Creeks and see if you can find Lost Creek Falls. Take the Bark Bay Road to a wonderful estuary, Bark Bay Slough where you can kayak or canoe among a variety of bird and animal life and exotic water flora and wildflowers.

    Continue to the town of Clover and drive out Bark Bay Point Road. At the end of this peninsula you literally stand between Bark Bay on one side and Lake Superior on the other. A campground and sandy beach are available. Leaving Herbster the Byway climbs steeply then crosses deep tree-lined ravines that fall steeply to Lake Superior at the rate of four or five each mile. Be sure not to overlook the little fishing village of Port Wing. The village retains much of its historical fishing and boating connection to Lake Superior.

    About 5 miles from Port Wing the Byway crosses Reefer Creek and a scenic pull-out that provides great views of Lake Superior, including a 20-mile view across the lake to Knife River, Two Harbors and Silver Bay in Minnesota. From this point forward the Byway enters dense pine forests. Turn your attention here to wildlife watching, where deer, eagles and the occasional wolf or bear move through the Brule River State Forest.

    The final two miles of the Byway pass the historic Town of Cloverland cemetery and school. The Byway ends at the junction of County Road H the highway just prior to crossing the Brule River. At this junction, look back to get the last glimpse of Lake Superior until reaching the City of Superior.

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