After over a week of Arctic temperatures, there has been a surge of interest and inquiries from the public about whether or not the Apostle Islands Ice Caves are accessible yet. Park officials published an update on their Facebook page this week, sharing that the caves are not yet open.

While it has been rather cold for over a week, the post explains that it takes several weeks for ice conditions to develop to a point where they are deemed safe for the public. A very sizable area around the caves needs to develop several inches of ice that is locked into place. This requires a long enough period of very cold conditions with little to no wind in order to ensure ice not only develops, but isn't blown around and damaged by wind.

Officials frequently monitor ice conditions due to the extreme popularity of the attraction. They explain that it is very difficult to predict if or when the caves will be open on any given year. On years where the ice caves are accessible, tens of thousands of people visit on a weekly basis as long as the caves are open. The last time the caves were open to the public was at the end of February in 2015. The caves were forced to close roughly a week later due to warm conditions that prompted safety concerns.

The fleeting nature of opportunities to access the ice caves that may come once every few years and could only last a handful of days add to the intense annual interest from the public that is already high due to the natural beauty of the phenomenon. The key thing to know is that in the last handful of years, the ice caves have been accessible in the later part of winter; Usually centered somewhere in the month of February. That isn't to say the ice caves can't be accessible as early as January or as late as March. The cold we've had is a great start, assuming it stays cold and not very windy.

Just look for a long stretch of cold temperatures of a couple weeks without any major wind events as your first indication that it's time to check conditions. From there, you can check with the park using one of their various methods of finding out about the ice conditions. You can either call their ice line at (715) 779-3397, extension 3, visit the ice caves webpage on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore website, or monitor the park's Facebook page for updates on conditions.

If the caves become accessible this winter, here are some tips to know before your visit.