After nearly two months and an estimated 125,000 visitors, the end is near for the ice caves on Lake Superior in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Access to the wildly popular attraction will close for the season no later than Sunday night because of changing ice conditions, officials said.
As the ice on Lake Superior breaks up, it is creating 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.
"This has been a remarkable ice-cave season," Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker said in a news release, "the longest and best one anyone can remember, and certainly the most popular. But spring is coming; the ice is weakening, and we can see the edge of the ice pack coming closer to the mainland ice caves every day."
About 125,000 visitors have made the 1.1-mile trek on Lake Superior's ice to reach the caves this winter, park officials said. The caves were open this winter for the first time in five years -- and the influx of visitors provided an unexpected and significant boost to local businesses.
While the Park Service anticipates that ice conditions will allow access through Sunday, rangers will monitor conditions and will make an immediate announcement if an earlier closure becomes necessary. Visitors should call at (715) 779-3398, ext. 3, for updates on access, or check the park's Facebook site, facebook.com/apostleislandsnationallakeshore.