When we were at Meyers Beach the first weekend in February there was open water at the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. The following weekend strong northwest winds on pushed the ice onto the south shore along the ice caves. The bitterly cold weather following the storm solidified the ice. The National Park Service opened access to the caves on February 28th.
We made our visit on Monday March 2nd. We were returning from a trip to Calumet, Michigan and drove down to Ashland, Wisconsin so we could get an early start to the caves. When we arrived at 8:30am we were surprised to find that the parking lot was already full. We ended up parking along the Meyers Beach Access Road.
We were prepared for a difficult walk out to the ice caves. This year, for the first time in my experience, there were large patches of bare ice on the lake. In addition to the bare ice there were areas along the shore where the ice had been pushed together an lifted up. It looked like someone had broken glass and stuck it up from the ice. As a result both my wife and I were glad that we had ice cleats and trekking poles for the walk to the caves.
When we arrived we found that the ice was not nearly as impressive as it was last year. The first shot is from last year and the second shot from this year from approximately the same location.
However, as we continued to walk along the shore the ice formations became more interesting. We actually walked further along the shore that we have in past years and only stopped when the jumbled ice made it difficult to get through.
With the large amount of bare ice I was able to take many photographs of ice fractures. Ice fractures are one of my favorite winter subjects but it’s rare that I can find them. Usually the ice is covered with snow and you can’t see the ice fractures. The last time I found them at the ice caves was 2007 and there were only a few of them to be found.
In addition to ice fractures there were some beautiful ice formations in the ice. It looked like the ice had broken up then refroze with the broken sections imbedded in the ice at various levels.
Another interesting subject were pieces of ice that had broken off and looked like small diamonds.
This was the first year that I saw an airplane land by the ice caves. It made several passes out on the lake before landing on the smooth ice. Soon two people got out and walked over to the ice caves.
A number of people took advantage of the large amounts of smooth ice to ice skate out to the caves. Several of them skated way out onto the ice. This year it was probably one of the better ways to get around on the ice.
More photos from the Apostle Islands Ice Caves can be found on my website.