Monitoring Increases Kayaker Safety at Wisconsin National Park

The Takeaway: The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and partners installed an award-winning monitoring system for sea cave explorers at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

The sea caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore draw thousands of kayakers every summer. In the past, kayakers didn’t always know whether conditions were safe when starting out. Now they do, because a real-time observation system keeps an eye out for danger. The U.S. Department of the Interior praised its effectiveness when giving a safety award to the National Park Service, a project partner. The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program supported its installment.

Before these improvements, kayakers had no way of knowing whether the sea caves’ bowl-like cliffs were producing dangerous waves that day, because the launch point and the caves are a mile and a half apart.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering designed and installed a Real Time Wave Observation System with financial support from Wisconsin’s coastal management program and the nonprofit Friends of the Apostle Islands. The buoy and camera information, accessible online and at the launch-site kiosk, helps kayakers and the National Park Service view up-to-the-minute sea cave conditions. Partners that included Wisconsin Sea Grant provided outreach and partner training on use of the system.

In 2016, technology upgrades funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and Friends of the Apostle Islands began providing year-round, uninterrupted service and a better image of wave and ice conditions. (2019)

More Information: Sea Caves Watch

Partners: City of Bayfield, Friends of the Apostle Islands, National Park Service, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and Wisconsin Sea Grant