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Ice Fall

The Apostle Islands Ice Caves, also known as the Apostle Islands Sea Caves and the Mawikwe Sea Caves, are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and are one of the most stunning winter photography locations in the Upper Midwest. They are visited by thousands of people every winter. This is my most popular winter destination and a place I visit every year that the caves are open. Access to the caves is dependent upon Lake Superior freezing over in the winter. It doesn’t always happen but if the lake does freeze and permits lake access to the caves it usually happens sometime in February. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore maintains a hotline you can call for ice conditions. I typically start call around the first of February.

The caves are accessed from Myers beach near Cornucopia, Wisconsin in Bayfield County. There is a parking fee at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore parking lot at Meyers. Once there simply walk out onto the ice turn right to follow the shoreline east for about a mile where you will find the beginning of the caves. You can walk along the shore for several miles viewing the various ice formations.

Ice Caves

The ice formations are the result of waves splashing against the shore and water seepage through sandstone rocks. The result are large ice walls, ice waterfalls, large chunks of ice hanging from vines, flowing ice and within the caves stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

Ice Caves

If the ice is not safe to walk on you can walk along the trail above the lake to reach viewpoints for the caves.

The walk out is also interesting with a number of small streams flowing into Lake Superior creating patterns in the sand.

Be sure to dress warmly for your trip. See my blog posting on winter photography tips for information on clothing and accessories.

Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1687I usually try to visit the caves during the week to avoid the large crowds. The caves face north so they are in the shade most of the day. However, late in the afternoon the sun reaches the caves and brings out the color in the rock and creates some great shooting conditions. You may also find some difficulty shooting in the extreme light conditions. You may want to consider shooting multiple shots of the same scene to capture the entire dynamic range.

Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1672I normally use an 18-200mm lens for general shots outside the caves and an 11-18mm lens for shots in the caves. Shots within the caves are usually in a confined area.

Additional ice cave photos can be found at my website.


One Comment

  1. Informative post & lovely images, Philip! I’d really like to get to the ice caves again this year myself…

    – Jack

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  1. […] had mentioned in an earlier post one of my favorite winter photography locations is the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. I’ve made […]

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