Apostle Island Sea Caves – winter and summer
For the past two weekends, visitors have been drawn to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore mainland sea caves to gawk at the unusual beauty of the ice formations. It’s not that the ice formations themselves are an unusual occurrence. Huge icicles form most every winter when water seeps through the sandstone or flows over from the top of the cliffs. What makes the caves viewable these past two weekends is the fact that the ice is stable enough for pedestrians to march out across frozen Lake Superior from Meyers Beach to see the spectacle. And thousands of people are doing so. We visited on Friday, March 6. We originally planned to get there early that morning because of horror stories about lines of cars forcing visitors to park miles away from the Meyers Beach parking lot. But fortunately for us, we got a late start and didn’t arrive until 2:30 p.m. It was perfect timing!
Cars were leaving the parking lot by mid-afternoon. At first we parked along the highway but departing visitors trudging back to their cars told us there were plenty of spaces available in the lot. So we hopped back into the car and drove to the lot where volunteers flagged us to a spot not too far from the beach. We strapped newly purchased ice cleats onto our boots and joined the phalanx of visitors on the one-mile-plus hike to where the ice cave formations begin along the mainland shore. This was our first visit during the winter but not our first visit. I’ve made several trips to the Apostle Islands for sea kayaking, which in my book is the best possible way to visit this beautiful area. It’s interesting that thousands of visitors flock to the caves during winter. However, paddle to them during the relative warmth of summer (by Lake Superiors standards anyway) and you may be the only one there.
Photos taken Friday March 6, 2015 (left) and the same location as viewed from a kayak in 2007 (right). If you look closely you can see the dramatic difference in the lake level; about five or six feet lower back then than it is today.