Monday, March 10, 2014

Ice Caves at Apostle Islands Lakeshore

 My photography is usually of living things, and mostly at Springbrook Nature Center, but the rare opportunity to walk out to the ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was too good to pass up.

The caves along the shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin are under red rock cliffs and so normally inaccessible in winter unless the lake freezes.
 Lake Superior has not been freezing in recent years, but this year froze completely over, making the caves accessible after a hike of a bit more than a mile over the ice and snow.

The ice forms from crashing waves that hit the rock, turning to many forms of ice in the extreme cold. I took these pictures on Sunday, March 2nd, with temps below zero and strong winds adding to the adventure.
 The caves have been formed over thousands of years of wave action on Lake Superior, and stretch for 2 miles along the shore, facing west, so late afternoon sun lights up the different ice forms.

It is hard to get a sense of the size of the ice and caves without people in the pictures, so some of these pictures have people for perspective.
 It is hard to understand why there are ice formations in some places and not others within the many caves.  Is it wave water leaking down from above, or just the way the waves hit the walls in each cave?

Some of the caves are quite large, and others very small, and all sizes in between.
 The floor is very slippery ice in all the caves, and often looks as though a wave just froze in place.
The rock in this cave had tree-like rings around the domed ceiling, causing these rounded bands of 2 and 3 foot long ice cycles to hang from the edges of the rings. 
 This same cave had beautiful, mounded globe-like sculptures with a floor of frozen waves.
There were different colors in the ice in different places.  This spot had very green ice, lit from a small opening in the cave to the outside
These caves are beautiful to see, in winter as well as in summer.  The only way to see them in summer is with a canoe or kayak on a calm day. 

The walk to the caves will still be open while the ice lasts, which could change any day, so plan a visit very soon to enjoy this rare chance to visit these caves and their ice formations in the winter.


  1. Why is there a microwhale on the wall and dripping icicles just to the left of the ice?

    1. Sorry: That would be photo #4.

    2. Sorry, I have not looked closely at comments for a long time. I think the microwhale is just chance pattern in the rock-ice. And the dripping icicles appear to be an illusion caused by my use of the flash to light up the dark caves.