Lake Superior home to the first tribal national park

Project Summary:A federal grant helped establish the nation’s first tribal national park along the shores of Lake Superior, near Bayfield, Wis. The Frog Bay Tribal National Park, which preserves 88 acres of boreal forest and a quarter-mile of pristine shoreline, opened in August 2012.


Project name: Frog Bay Tribal National Park.

Location:Bayfield, Wis.

Frog Bay Tribal National Park features a quarter-mile of pristine Lake Superior shoreline. (Native American Tourism of Wisconsin photo)

Description: Frog Bay Tribal National Park opened in August 2012. Located along Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wis., it is the first tribal national park in the United States. The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa owns about half the land within its 14,000-acre reservation in northern Wisconsin, but the tribe didn’t own one of the most ecologically valuable and culturally important parcels along the Lake Superior coast. The 88-acre site now known as Frog Bay Tribal National Park is home to a primordial boreal forest that is globally significant, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and abuts Frog Bay and the Frog Creek estuary. The park features a lush forest and is home to numerous species of fish, birds and wildlife. The site also is culturally significant for the Red Cliff Tribe, whose members once harvested wild rice from the Frog Creek estuary. Wisconsin resident David Johnson, who owned the 88-acre parcel and wanted it to be preserved in its natural state, worked with the Bayfield Regional Conservancy to convert his private property into a tribal national park that is open to the public.

Approximate cost of project: $488,000, which came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provided funding for the NOAA grant.  David Johnson donated half of the value of the land.

Resource challenges addressed: The potential loss of boreal forest; and the preservation of wild rice and other natural features that are ecologically important and culturally significant to the Red Cliff Tribe.

Key partners (public and private): The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, David Johnson, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Bayfield Regional Conservancy.

Results and accomplishments: The project preserved a globally significant forest and a quarter-mile of pristine Lake Superior shoreline; increased public access to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands; and protects water quality in Lake Superior’s Frog Bay.

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Originally Published: December 12, 2012