Caribou Island, Lake Superior
by Robert Liebermann
...my curiosity was raised anew, by the account given me by my companions, of another island, almost as large as the one on which I was...
          -Alexander Henry (1809)
Setting of the Islands

The Caribou Islands are situated near the east-center of Lake Superior, approximately 55 kilometers west of the shoreline at Agawa Bay, near 47°22'N and 85°49'W.

Toponymy

The name Caribou Island was first assigned to this island on maps in 1796, and was probably in response to the information of Alexander Henry, who reported caribou on the islands, or another such report. Prior to this, the island had been known as Isle Ste. Anne on European maps, Isle of the Golden Sands, Round Island, and, to natives, Adikiminis. Because of the relative size difference--the outlying islands are nearly insignificant in comparison--the site is usually referred to as simply Caribou Island.

The name of Lighthouse Island is most certainly the first "official" name of the small islet to the south of Caribou, and it was probably named by default about the same time as the construction of the first lighthouse there in 1886, or possibly upon publication of the first Canadian topographic map of the area (named "Lighthouse Island").

Size and Arrangement

The Caribou Islands are comprised of the larger Caribou Island and the very small nearby Lighthouse Island and Gull Island.

Climate

As on the Ushkanii Islands, most limnoclimatic effects (temperature, fog, wind, precipitation) are strongest near the shores and weaker inland, although such islands are too small to have much influence on cloud development.

How do you visit the Caribou Islands?

You dont. The entire island is owned by a very reclusive conservation-minded foundation who you will not be successful in attempting to contact. It is not public land or publicly accessible. They are, thank goodness, not interested in selling, renting, showing, modifying, or otherwise drawing attention or facilitating visit to this magnificent site.

If you travel there by boat, chances are you'll tear the bottom out on the surrounding reef long before landfall, and if you take a smaller boat you could easily be caught in trouble in some rough Lake Superior weather. It's as if the island's spirits had the foresight to protect their home far beyond the original threat of the gold-seeking European explorers who were warned of the island's spirits and serpents by the American natives in the 18th century.

If you have some serious research that you propose there (and I might suggest a study of the isolated beaver population or some archaeological studies) I might be able to help, but please don't imagine this as some sort of "extreme adventure destination" or place to get away from it all. It is not that, nor should it be.

What it is is one of a very, very few locations in the Lake Superior country that has not been completely dominated, tamed, exploited, and trashed by an endless parade of people looking for the next clean slate. This island really still belongs to the birds, beavers, and plants that live there, as well as the water, rocks, sand, and sky - unlike most of the other areas they used to have to themselves, but are now the domain of immodest "cabins", motorhomes, speedboats, mountain bikes, and logging trucks. Isn't it a nice thought that there is still a real wilderness left somewhere? I think the Caribou Island Spirits need and deserve a private place that reminds them of how the world used to be.

Sorry to sound like such a pessimist, but I've noticed that this page is one of the most visited on my website (#2 this month), and the search term "caribou island lake superior" is usually the most frequently used pointer from search sites to mine (#1 this month). It's nice that there's interest of course, but a warning sign when people email me asking how they can get to Caribou.

Because I love these islands I'll do what I can to protect them from harm, and protect you from danger or prosecution at the same time!There are other islands you can visit on Lake Superior, including the Isle Royale archipelago, Michipicoten Island, Grand Island, the Apostle Islands, and even Manitou Island. I recommend them, but do not recommend or endorse any travel to Caribou. It's a wild island.

This information is edited from my more comprehensive geography of the Ushkanii and Caribou Islands;
you can see photographs, maps, and much more detail in the full document here.

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Edition 20061228. All content © 1994-2006 Robert Liebermann