Apostle Islands Ice Caves Update

2018-01-11

Ice Cave conditions as of January 11, 2017: CLOSED!!

Despite cold temperatures and the appearance of an ice pack, ice conditions on the lake are very poor and the ice caves remain inaccessible. The park’s Ice Rescue Team tested the ice over the weekend (1/6) and found the early ice and slush didn’t form well. It blew into shore in pieces, creating “pack” ice that is very weak. These pieces are also jagged, making it nearly impossible to walk across. The additional snow on top prevents you from seeing your footing. One team member explained, it feels like walking on bowling balls. The jagged ice also makes it impossible for snowmobiles to navigate in case of emergency.

Often this early ice blows out and is replaced by smoother, higher quality ice. This is what happened in 2015, the last time the ice caves were open.

At the very earliest, it would be the end of the month before conditions could be safe enough to open the caves. Most years, the caves aren’t accessible until mid- to late February.

For the most up-to-date information about ice caves in the Park, check any of these options:

1) The Official Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook page at www.facebook.com/apostleislandsnationallakeshore;

2) The park website www.nps.gov/apis; and/or

3) Call the Ice Line at 715-779-3397 Ext. 3 for updates

The caves can only be viewed by foot.

When the caves are open, the walk out to the caves can be extremely challenging with very slick and very rough areas.  Large areas of bare ice create extremely slippery conditions.  Near the caves, piles of fractured ice sheets can make footing rough and unsteady.

We strongly recommend wearing sturdy boots with ice cleats or Yaktrax on the soles and carry ski poles to prevent slipping. Avoid recently formed cracks in the ice near the base of the cliffs. Do not stand under large icicles.
Due to the distance you may have to walk and the treacherous condition of the ice, please consider all of these factors when bringing young children to see the ice caves.  And please make sure they are dressed appropriately for the weather and conditions.
Conditions can change rapidly so please check the AINL Facebook page or the park’s website before coming or call the ice line at (715) 779-3397, ext. 3.  It is only after favorable conditions are documented that the National Park Service considers the ice caves accessible.

Centuries of wave action, freezing, and thawing have sculpted shorelines throughout Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Some of the Great Lakes’ most spectacular scenery occurs where these forces interact with sandstone to create extensive sea caves.
Nature has carved delicate arches, vaulted chambers, and honeycombed passageways into cliffs along the mainland near the Lakeshore’s western boundary, north of Meyers Beach. People come to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in winter to visit the ice caves and witness Lake Superior’s ever-changing handiwork.

The ice caves are located at the western end of the Mainland Unit of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in far northern Bayfield County. There is a parking area and stairs to the beach/ice at the end of Meyers Road.

Sea Caves Watch: The Sea Caves Watch website features real-time images of conditions at the Mainland Sea Caves. Check this before you go out to see real-time conditions.

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Driving Directions: Meyers Road is about 40 miles north on State Hwy. 13 from Ashland. From Ashland, take Hwy. 13 going west towards Superior. At the roundabout, take the first right towards Washburn, continue north on Hwy 13.  Go past Bayfield about 10 miles and Meyers Road is on the right side. Meyers Beach is a Recreational Fee area. Please pay your fee before heading out on the ice or trail. Please use the west side of Meyers Road for overflow parking. Traffic cones will be placed in the parking lot to block off areas for emergency vehicles.

Please note: Bicycles are not permitted in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore off of established roads. They are NOT permitted on the ice near the caves.

FAQs

Can I take a snowmobile?
No, snowmobiling and ATV use are not permitted within ¼ mile of the mainland from Saxine Creek to Sand Point.

Can I take a bicycle?
No, bicycles are not permitted off-road within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, including on the ice.

How long should I plan for?
Most people find that 3 hours is a good amount of time for the hike out, time at the caves, and the hike back. At the present time, this might take longer, however, as thousands of visitors have been traveling to the area to view the caves.

When are they open?
The ice caves are a feature of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and do not have set hours. We advise planning your trip during daytime hours.

Should I bring my snowshoes?
Snowshoes are not advised except right after a significant snowfall! A ski pole and Yaktrax or stabilizers on your boots are recommended though as the ice near (and especially in) the caves is, well, ice, and slippery.

Can I bring my dog?
Yes!  All dogs must be leashed and you’ll need to pick up after them, but they are welcome.

Where are ATM machines?
ATM machines can be found in Cornucopia at the Gas Station and Ehlers Store.

News video on the 2014 Ice Caves
Sunday,  February 2 Pioneer Press Story with some great photos.


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