715-779-3750 TNR@redcliff-nsn.gov 36420 Hwy 13, Bayfield, WI 54814
The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indian Reservation is located on the southern shores of Gitchi Gami, Lake Superior, in extreme northwest Wisconsin, on the coastal northern tip of the Bayfield Peninsula, which projects from the south shore into the waters of Lake Superior. The Apostle Islands extend from the tip of the peninsula and form a twenty-two island archipelago. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore lies within and adjacent to the Reservation, and is managed by the U.S. Dept. of Interior - National Park Service. Other adjacent landholders include the State of Wisconsin, Bayfield County, and private land owners.
The Tribe has approximately 60 square miles of watershed/shoreline area and there are 22.32 miles of Lake Superior shoreline. The near-shore portion of Lake Superior is characterized by scenic sandstone cliffs and large protected wetland sloughs at the sandy mouths of relatively pristine rivers. Above the sandstone lays the highly erosive red clay soils that are typical of the southern region of the Lake Superior Basin.
The Reservation holds 1.5% of its land as wetlands (67.6 acres of wetlands greater than 2 acres and 143 wetlands under 2 acres in size). Two wetland complexes are especially unique in that they contain unique coastal fen, coastal bog, northern sedge meadow, lagoon, and dry pine forest. Additionally, sites such as these, contain significant populations of rare plants, insects, and birds. The Reservation and its waters are home to a wide diversity of animal and plant life. Approximately 10% of Tribal lands are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The Red Cliff Reservation includes 46.11 miles of streams/rivers within its boundaries, which are connected to 156.78 miles of rivers outside Reservation boundaries. There are two rivers and six creeks whose sources are primarily springs and seeps. These tributaries to Lake Superior, in many instances and ways, have been degraded from past conditions. The largest source of potable water used within the Reservation boundaries comes from groundwater in the form of Tribal utilities, private wells, or artesian wells. Many of the natural resources, including the water itself, are important to the Tribe for biological, cultural, sustenance, medicinal, spiritual, and economic reasons.
Today, the exterior boundaries of the Red Cliff Reservation spans approximately 14,093 acres along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The Red Cliff Band maintains property rights in approximately 56% of these acres. This figure represents 6,180.617 acres (43.8%) that are tribally owned, 1,767.081 acres (12.5%) are owned by the heirs of the original allottee in trust or restricted status. The remaining 6130.652 acres are alienated lands in fee simple or taxable status. There is a mixture of tribal and non-tribal ownership, including lands held by the U.S. Department of the Interior through the National Park Service for the Apostle Island National Lakeshore, which was created by Congress in 1970 (Public Law 91-424). (Draft Development of a Tribal Land Acquisition Program for Watershed Protection and Enhanced Tribal Access, Flintsteel Restoration Association, Inc.)
The Reservation is situated in the Northern Highlands Geographical Province. The physical conditions in this area are the most extreme in the State. The mean annual temperature is between 40 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and receives an annual average of 27 inches of precipitation. The Reservation is mostly forested, with these areas consisting of conifers (pine, spruce, fir) and several types of hardwoods (maples, birch, oak). Birch, cedar, aspen and various types of shrubs (hazel, dogwood, alder, blackberry and other currants) also occur. Wildlife typical of the area are whitetail deer, black bear, coyote, wolf, red fox, beaver, otter, muskrat, weasel, squirrel, porcupine, rabbit and other rodents, bald eagle, osprey, goshawk, owls and other raptors, woodcock, ruffed grouse and various types of waterfowl and migratory bird species. The topography in the area is mostly rolling, with steep slopes along drainage areas. The predominant soils are the Odanah silt loam complex on 6-15% slopes and the Sanborg-Badriver complex on 0-6% slopes. They are formed in clayey till and heavy red clays that have a slow percolation rate and a high water-holding capacity. Parent materials for these soils are lacustrine deposits formed from glacial lakes during a number of glacial advances over the past several hundred thousand years. The Red Cliff Band has aspired to maintain the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of this culturally significant area, which is referred to as the “Hub of the Chippewa Nation”.