Apostle Islands National Lakeshore's Latest Lecture Focuses on A Backwoods Convenience

Whether you call it a loo or a vault toilet, these conveniences are awful nice to have for backcountry travelers in the national parks. NPS photo.

Call it a loo, a latrine, an outhouse, vault toilet or privy, but when you're out hiking or paddling a national park's backcountry and you have to answer the call of nature, it's awful nice not to have to squat over a cathole.

And if you've spent time in the backcountry of a number of national parks, you know that these, ahem, facilities, come in decidedly different sizes and shapes. They can range from wooden boxes simply fitted with a toilet seat on up to outhouse-like contraptions.

One that offered perhaps the most spectacular view in the park system was in Grand Teton National Park atop the Lower Saddle of the Tetons and serviced climbers. While you did your business you could enjoy spectacular views down into the Jedediah Smith Wilderness on the west side of the Tetons.

Well, the folks at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin have a privy or two in their backcountry, and know quite a bit about them. In fact, on Monday their guest lecture series will focus on these backwoods conveniences.

As long as people have been in the Apostle Islands they have had to deal with the challenge of what to do with their waste. Whether we call them outhouses, latrines, heads, privies, or outdoor toilets; a variety of interesting structures have been built to house this daily activity by commercial fishermen, farmers, loggers, lighthouse keepers, and now the National Park Service.

On Monday, Jim Nepstad, the park's chief of planning and resource management, will share his knowledge of the 62 active (and a number of historic) vault toilets that can be found scattered about the lakeshore's 14 islands and mainland.

This is the third presentation in the national lakeshore’s summer guest lecture series. These programs are sponsored by the Friends of the Apostle Islands and are offered free to the public on Monday evening’s in July and August at 7:30 p.m.

All programs are presented in the auditorium of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore's headquarters visitor center. The visitor center is located in Bayfield, Wisconsin's Old County Courthouse on Washington Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets.