Despite growing ice, access to Apostle Islands ice caves still closed

Park Service rangers say access is unsafe.

Apostle islands ice caves still off-limits
A Park Service ranger stands amid large clumps of ice that dot the frozen surface of Lake Superior near the mainland ice caves on the Bayfield Peninsula. Access to the caves remains closed.
Contributed / Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

BAYFIELD — Despite a growing ice sheet along Wisconsin's South Shore of Lake Superior, officials at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore say it’s still unsafe to visit the park’s mainland ice caves.

The park is keeping access from its Meyers Beach parking area to the caves closed.

Park rangers recently visited the site and reported the frozen surface largely made up of 1- to 3-foot-high ice chunks for the entire distance out to the caves. The same conditions also exist in the caves, they noted.

Rangers also reported fractured ice moving up and down with wave action within the caves.

“Unfortunately, these conditions don't allow for a good travel surface for public access and also prevents access by emergency vehicles to the caves," the Park Service noted on its Facebook page.


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 January 2014.
Andrew Krueger / File / Duluth News Tribune

Access to the mainland ice caves hasn't been open since 2015 because of low-ice winters or unsafe ice in most cases. Updates on the status of ice cave access are available through the Park Service at 715-779-3398, ext. 3.

The caves became a social media sensation in 2014 and 2015, when thousands of people walked over the ice to see the spectacular rock caves, which become covered in ice when waves from Lake Superior splash and freeze onto the rocks.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory on Wednesday estimated Lake Superior to be just under 40% ice covered, slightly less than normal for this point in winter. Satellite photos of the lake this week show most of its open waters are ice-free, with solid ice mostly near shore, in bays and around islands.

CORNUCOPIA -- The frozen spectacle of the Apostle Islands mainland sea caves picked up Saturday where it left off last year, with thousands of people -- poles in hand and cleats on their feet -- making the slippery trek across the Lake Superior ice.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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