September 19, 2014

Apostle Islands’ ice caves close for season

Ice-covered sea caves in Bayfield, Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Mike Crowley)

Ice-covered sea caves in Bayfield, Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Mike Crowley)

If you haven’t seen the majestic Lake Superior ice caves by now, you’re too late. The National Park Service closed the long ice walkway to the frozen Apostle Islands’ sea caves near Bayfield early Monday, after officials decided that the ice was no longer stable enough for visitors to walk on.

This was the first time in five years the ice caves were open to hikers. The Park Service estimates about 138,000 people saw them during the past two months, compared to about 12,000 the last time they were open in 2009.

Officials credit the rising popularity of social media sites for the boost in visitors this year, which allowed people to quickly share images of the caves across a wide audience. That attracted more attention from the public and the media.

The Park Service is anticipating the increase interest in the lakeshore area will carry over into this summer, with kayakers paddling to the sea caves and more people coming out to hike along the beach.