Apostle Islands Ice Caves Accessible in 2016? Not Likely
After a few years in a row where the Apostle Islands Ice Caves were accessible to thousands of visitors, people are wondering if the recent cold stretch will allow people to visit the feature again this year.
Traditionally, the caves are accessible only once or twice on average in a 5 year span. In the last few years, we've had winter conditions cold enough and calm enough to allow ice to form that is safe enough to allow visitors to make the roughly one mile trek from the parking area to the caves. Despite a couple cold snaps, this winter's generally warmer conditions have not been favorable for extending the streak of years visitors can see the caves in the winter.
In years when the caves are accessible, they are usually opened to the public sometime in a window between the end of January and the beginning of March. While this window is still attainable, a long span of very cold and calm weather would need to set in for ice to lock into place and thicken to safe levels for crowds of people to walk out onto the ice. With El Nino in full force this winter and a warmup in the forecast, things aren't looking good.
Below you can see a satellite image of Lake Superior's limited ice coverage, as well as a couple images from the Apostle Islands shoreline, showing again the lack of ice overall.