Technology Making It Easy For Kayakers To Determine Wave Heights At Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

A new website can help paddlers heading to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore check out the waves on Lake Superior before heading into the water.

No word yet if there's an app for it, but if you have a computer you can quickly check on the wave heights at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore if you're planning a paddling trip there.

Lakeshore officials know well the popularity of kayaking in the Apostle Islands, but they also know it can be dangerous depending on the mood of Lake Superior. "Kayakers can leave from the Meyers Beach launch site in calm conditions, but when they reach the mainland sea caves a mile-and-a-half away, the waves can be treacherous," they note.

Now, though, if you're planning a kayaking trip you can check the wave height at the mainland sea caves before you head out. Using a smart phone or the Web, you can check the live conditions report at SeaCavesWatch.org.

The website lists the wave height for the previous six hours, in 30-minute increments. The site also displays water temperature and photos of the waves at the sea caves, and it relays wind speed and direction recorded at Devil’s Island.

“Kayaking is very popular here, and we’re glad to see it getting even safer with this system,” said Larry MacDonald, mayor of Bayfield and a member of the Wisconsin Sea Grant Advisory Board. “We hope it gets more people out on the water.”

The website was developed by the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with advice from local kayaking groups.

“We hope kayakers will use this system to make good decisions before venturing out onto the lake,” said Apostle Islands Superintendent Bob Krumenaker. “We hope it will save lives.”

Waves at the mainland sea caves can be particularly dangerous because of the bowl-like rock cliffs that reflect and amplify waves. Wave height is additive, and two large waves can combine to form an extremely large wave.

Since 2004, four people have drowned or died of hypothermia in kayaking accidents in the Apostle Islands area, two at the sea caves. Wave conditions and cold water were a factor in each of these tragedies.

The project was funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and Friends of the Apostle Islands. Other project partners include the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, the City of Bayfield, and Living Adventure, Inc.