Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Ice Caves

photo: US National Park Service

In the last issue, Lake Effect Living featured several lighthouses of Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands off the Bayfield Peninsula and west of the Michigan border near Lake Superior. Due to the extreme winter this year, it seemed natural to showcase the sea caves that have frozen over and provided a seasonal phenomenon. Braver visitors have made their way to view the wonderful ice formations – truly a sight to behold.

But it’s not without danger. The Apostle Island National Lakeshore Park advises a call to the Ice Line at (715) 779-3397 (extension 3) before heading out to check the most current condition of the ice.

photo: US National Park Service

If you’re planning a visit, prepare for a two-mile physically demanding hike at the very minimum on ice. Ask any ice fisherman – be aware of the danger lurking below your feet. The National Park Service staff will check the ice depth, but they cannot guarantee safety. Even thick lake ice can shift from waves and wind, and may be uneven on the surface. Be prepared, be aware and be careful. The rewards of the effort, however, may be worth it.

How should someone prepare for a hike to the caves? Using common sense, one should wear layers of clothing, supportive winter or hiking boots – with crampon ice treads, preferably – and utilize ski poles or a walking stick to help with footing. A backpack or cross-body carrier stocked with energy bars and a thermos with a warm beverage or water is also wise, plus an emergency first-aid kit. Inform friends and family of your plans before you leave, check the weather for wind chill factors and temperature, and bring along a fully-charged cell phone. It might help to bring a compass in case you must make a call to 911 and give them your exact location.

photo: US National Park Service

NPS regulations will be enforced in the caves – so whatever you bring must be taken back with you, including pet waste. Keep dogs leashed or leave them at home. While ice formations can be incredibly lovely, keep in mind they may fall at any point of your visit. Never stand directly below them! Do not break off any ice particles or damage the formations. Enjoy the natural beauty and keep the area clean and pristine for others who visit.

IF YOU GO: You must pay a recreational fee at Meyers Beach. The hike is over one mile on the ice to the caves. Emergency vehicles will need access, so please use the west side of the road if the parking area is full. Snowmobiles and ATVs are not permitted within a quarter mile of Saxine Creek to Sand Point.

--Copyright © February 2014 Meg Mims

Larger Satellite Map of the Apostle Islands

Resources for the Apostle Island National Lakeshore Ice Caves
Apostle Island National Lakeshore Sea Caves - Winter Conditions at the National Park Service website
Apostle Island National Lakeshore Ice Caves picture gallery at the National Park Service website
Apostle Island National Lakeshore Sea Caves at the National Park Service website