Last week, we saw a couple days of the coldest air we've seen across the region in years. It was so cold, that Lake Superior surface ice coverage saw a pretty notable increase in just a couple days. That undoubtedly got fans of the Apostle Islands Ice Caves wondering if they would be opening after the cold snap.

The park's Facebook page shared an update to the public, curious about the status of the ice near the caves over the weekend.

In that post, park officials said that the recent cold has helped with ice buildup near Meyers Beach and along the sea caves along the mainland shoreline, but open water was still visible last week. The ice that is in place is described by staff as "not good quality", with a lot of fractured ice piled up along the shoreline. In short, park officials are calling the ice unsafe for travel of any sort, and are letting the public know that the caves are closed at least for right now.

As park officials do every year, they will continue to monitor ice conditions through the winter and update the public. The two key factors that come into play to allow for the public to visit the ice caves are enough cold weather to create ice, as well as minimal wind to break up ice or prevent further formation. The correct blend of conditions don't develop and persist every year, which means that it is a treat on years when the caves are open to the public.

A touch good news for those hoping to make the journey - there's no immediate warm-up in sight. Despite this being an El Niño winter, recent cold weather and a forecast that continues to look cold may give us our first chance to see the ice caves in a few years. On the flipside, park officials expect strong northeast wind through Monday (2/4/19) and again later this week, which could have a negative impact on the ice in place. In the end, officials say sometimes the best ice is a second round of ice that develops after an initial round of ice is blown out.

While it varies, in recent years where the caves have been accessible, they have opened in February or early March. What happens this year is still very much to be determined, but the cold we've recently been seeing certainly helps.

The last time the caves were open to winter foot traffic on the ice was in 2015. The 2015 season only saw the caves open for a very short period, due to wind and warm weather abbreviating the opportunity. 2014, on the other hand, saw a relatively lengthy season, bringing in visitors from around the country to see the phenomenon. You can see photos from my 2014 excursion here.

If the weather allows for public access to the ice caves, here are some good tips and things to know for your visit: Things To Know Before Visiting The Apostle Islands Ice Caves


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