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Access to Apostle Islands ice caves to close no later than Sunday night

An estimated 8,500 people visited the mainland sea caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield on a single day in early February, according to a park official. (Sam Cook / / 2
April and Kendra Randrup of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., are framed by an archway covered by icicles during a visit to the Apostle Island sea caves near Cornucopia in mid-January. The caves are accessible in winter this season for the first time since 2009. (2014 file / News Tribune)2 / 2

Access to the wildly popular ice caves on Lake Superior at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore will close for the season no later than Sunday night due to rapidly changing ice conditions, park officials announced Wednesday.

As the ice on Lake Superior breaks up, it is creating day-to-day uncertainty about the safety of reaching the caves along the mainland shore of the lake near Cornucopia, park officials said.

If ice conditions deteriorate before Sunday, access could close sooner, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore officials said.

"This has been a remarkable ice-cave season," Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker noted, "the longest and best one anyone can remember, and certainly the most popular."

Approximately 100,000 visitors have made the 1.1-mile trek over Lake Superior's ice to reach the caves this winter, park officials say.

While the Park Service anticipates that ice conditions will still allow access through this weekend, park rangers will be monitoring conditions closely and will make an immediate announcement if an earlier closure becomes necessary, a park news release stated. The NPS suggests people call the automated ice line at (715) 779-3398, ext. 3, for updates or check the park's Facebook site,