The cultural and natural history around the Bayfield area is heavily intertwined; you can’t talk about one without the other.
This area of Wisconsin was heavily glaciated, and glacial meltwater continued to erode and shape the landscape until the end of the last glaciation 11,700 years ago. Today, residents and visitors can still see signs of this time period including valleys, ravines, and ridges. They also enjoy the over 966 lakes and 400 miles of streams throughout Bayfield County.
Mt. Ashwabay Spring 2018 - Photo Credit: Tony Jeannette
Sugarbush State Natural Area Fall 2019 - Photo Credit: Tony Jeannette
This varied landscape supports diverse flora and fauna, and has also been important to human inhabitants throughout history.
Trails throughout the peninsula, including those in the Bayfield area, provide opportunities to experience these remarkable natural features. Whether it is on foot, a pair of skis, a bike, an ATV or snowmobile, everyone can enjoy the dense and diverse forests, views of Lake Superior, and glimpses of wildlife.
Arriving here from the east, the Anishinaabe (also referred to as the Ojibwe or Chippewa) settled here, and were sustained by the area’s natural resources for many years. From Lake Superior, they would obtain fish year-round. In the fall, they would harvest wild animals and gather wild rice. In late winter, they would tap maple trees for sap, and summer offered a variety of foods.
Kewadinoka, Red Cliff, 1923 - Photo Credit: Bayfield Heritage Association 2002.23.3
Old Mission Church, La Pointe, WI - Photo Credit: Bayfield Heritage Association 1983.20.11
The same resources that supplied the Ojibwe people also attracted others to the area. In 1622, French explorers reached the shore of Lake Superior and fur traders followed quickly behind. Missionaries also came to Wisconsin, including Madeline Island, in the 1600s.
European immigrants established fishing and lumber industries, and several quarries, and these natural resources were exported first by water and then by the railroad. When the forests were finally depleted, families - mostly immigrants or second-generation Americans - moved to the Bayfield area to build new farms on the now-open lands. Today, orchards and small farms still exist on the more fertile lands while the forests have grown back elsewhere.
Bayfield’s unique location and its plentiful natural resources continue to draw people to the area - for either a visit or a longer stay. We hope to see you on the trails!
Logging on the Bayfield Peninsula - Photo Credit: Bayfield Heritage Association 1980.56.2
Quarry at Houghton Point - Photo Credit: Bayfield Heritage Association 1980.1.515
Headwaters of Brickyard Creek in the Orchards 2019 - Photo Credit: Tony Jeannette