Apostle Islands' Incredible Ice Caves at Wisconsin's Tip
Last Updated: 11/20/2015
Thanks to Kelly Marquardt for sharing her photo of the ice caves.
By Jonathan Eckelberg
The Apostle Islands and stunning ice caves 18 miles west of Bayfield are again accessible this winter! With Lake Superior being frozen, these sea caves and rock formations are reachable by crossing the Great Lake about a mile on foot.
While you may feel the ice moving on the water below it, the lake is solid. The experience of walking on a frozen Great Lake is a physically and psychologically exhilarating experience. Park officials monitor the ice conditions carefully.
The Apostle Islands mainland ice caves feature some of the most spectacular cliffs and sea caves found in the Great Lakes. The features are different every year, as is the route to see them. This year there is very little snow and a lot of glare ice, making the route exceptionally slippery. Ice cleats will be a necessity this year and ski poles are highly recommended.
According to the National Park Service, the caves are a “fairyland of needle-like icicles.” The ice formations change from chamber to chamber and from day to day. The beautiful rock formations that hang above you and jut up from the ground below you are covered by ice. If you crawl underneath them, the ice floor is like a clear sheet of glass through which you can see the bottom of the lake. Centuries of wave action, freezing and thawing have sculpted the shorelines right along Meyers Beach.
Venture three miles east of Cornucopia, WI to the south shore of Lake Superior to explore the magical caves of the Apostle Islands. At the northern edge of Bayfield County, Meyers Beach on Meyers Road allows access to witness the lake’s ever-changing handiwork. You’ll want to get there early to secure a spot in the parking lot. Overflow parking is along Meyers Road and one side of Highway 13.
Shuttles will be in operation on Saturday, Feb. 28 and Sunday, Feb. 29. The shuttles will leave from the Cornucopia Community Center/Bell Town Hall and drop visitors off at the entrance to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, at the junction of Hwy 13 and Meyers Road. Shuttles will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 6 p.m. both days. The cost of the shuttle is $2/person each way; no pets allowed.
There is a $5/person fee (16 years and older) only in effect when the ice caves are officially deemed accessible by the National Park Service staff. At other times, the regular $3/car parking fee is applicable.
Dress for the weather and keep in mind there are steep steps going down to the caves. There is plenty of lodging and restaurants in Washburn, Bayfield and Iron River. The Sea Caves Watch website features real-time images of conditions at the Mainland Sea Caves.
Tips for Visiting the Apostle Islands Ice Caves
- Call the Apostle Islands Ice Line at 715-779-3397 Ext. 3 to get current ice conditions.
- View the Apostle Island Ice Caves FAQ.
- Reference your own map of the ice cave area.
- Keep safety in mind at all times. Watch for newly formed cracks, slushy areas or thin spots in the ice.
- Wear sturdy waterproof boots.
- Wear warm clothes and be prepared for cold temperatures.
- Carry a ski pole and wear ice cleats to help prevent slipping.