Warm Temperatures Prevent Ice Cave Formation

Visitation Down 90 Percent

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Around this time last year, thousands of people were flocking to Bayfield for a pilgrimage to the ice caves.

But this year, not so much.

Formed by snow and sub-zero temperatures, last year’s Apostle Islands Ice Caves were the silver lining to a brutally cold winter that more than 138,000 people came out to see.

“People were sharing pics on social media,” Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Assistant Chief of Interpretation and Education Neil Howk said. “News stations were coming to report the event and it just became a viral incident.”

“Everybody wanted to be in Bayfield,” Old Rittenhouse Inn Innkeeper Julie Phillips said. “We were filling all of our rooms, filling other people’s rooms because we didn’t have enough rooms.”

With up to 20,000 people per weekend coming to town for a frosty journey, Howl Clothing and Adventure also struggled to meet the demand.

“We took a regular winter where we’re normally slower and we were swamped and couldn’t keep items in stock,” Howl Clothing and Adventure Manager Sarah Leino said.

But this year, officials say visitation to the ice caves is down more than 90 percent.

A spell of warm temperatures and wind has left them inaccessible.

“When it’s in the 30’s, you’re not making much ice and when the wind blows offshore it takes the ice with it,” said Howk.

Now it’s just a waiting game with Mother Nature to see if the ice caves will eventually open this season.

“Let’s go polar vortex,” said Howk.

“I heard a few other people saying they’re doing a snow dance,” said Phillips.

Even though businesses are not seeing the boom like they did last year, they tell us they’re still busier than a normal winter.

“I think that it was because people that did come for the ice caves and now they’re coming back,” said Phillips.

“That increased over the summer as well,” said Leino. “People who hadn’t been here said we love it here in the winter we’re going to come back in the summer.”

If the ice caves open this season visitors will have to pay a $5 fee.

Officials say that’s to cover services and labor.

You can get updated information from Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook page and hotline number at 715-779-3397.

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