Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bayfield Ice Caves (Sea Caves)


If you feel like taking a winter walk in Wisconsin, I would suggest going up to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and checking out the Bayfield Sea Caves.


Because in the winter they become the Bayfield Ice Caves and are quite a sight to behold.


It’s about a mile walk to the first of the caves, across the frozen Lake Superior.




The reason that patches of them are this color is because there’s sand mixed into the ice.


The formations really do resemble a cave, but it’s pretty incredible to think that every winter it’s a new set of caves up there.



These icicles reminded me of those magic rocks I got as kid that would grow in water. Do they still have those?



Some caves you can merely look into, other you can walk into.


Bayfield Chamber of Commerce updates daily on the conditions of the ice, so be sure to check out their website before you head out.  See the report for March 12 below, as of March 19th they are closed for the year.

Ice Cave Access - Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Report by Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: March 12, 2009
Cave Conditions: Accessible
The new snow (4-8 inch drifts) earlier this week made it more difficult to walk to the caves. However, the path to the sea caves is expected to lose snow cover over the next few days due to above freezing temperatures. Users should exercise extreme caution when crossing bare ice and patchy areas. Avoid areas with slush and water on the ice surface. Users are highly encouraged to use crampons/stabilicers on their boots to avoid slipping and falls.
Numerous wet areas will exist along Meyers Beach as running water from shoreline creeks empty into Lake Superior. Hikers need to exercise caution as flowing water will erode and undercut the ice surface and create thin ice that could collapse. New open areas of water may form along the beach with this weekends forecasted warm temperatures.
Thin ice and open water are present at the back end of several caves. DO NOT enter any caves with low ceilings that require kneeling or crawling to access. Users should exercise extreme caution when walking into any larger cave. Be on the lookout for indicators of poor ice including water on the surface, broken skim ice, cracks, open leads, and thin clear ice that has recently frozen.
Do NOT walk under or approach any large icicles hanging from the top of the cliffs. Warmer temperatures of spring are beginning the cycle of thawing and melting that will eventually weaken icicles and eliminate ice formations on and along the cliffs of the sea caves.
Users should expect to hear ice popping and cracking due to strong winds and ice movement. Cracks less than an inch are visible and users should avoid crossing any larger cracks or leads. As ice sheets move cracks and leads will fill with water and may freeze overnight leaving only thin ice
Early warning signs include cracks, slush and wet areas along the shoreline and at the base of the seacave cliffs.
This is Lake Superior and there are significant risks for anyone making the excursion-- don't ever think of this trip as "safe." Access to the sea caves is a 2-mile journey one-way by hiking, skiing or snowshoes. Be prepared for slippery conditions and watch for changes in the ice, which can happen rapidly, especially if it is windy.
Be prepared for COLD - COLD - COLD. Pets must be on a 6' (or shorter) leash at all times. PLEASE clean up after your pet.
There is a daily parking fee of $3 for most vehicles (under 20 feet in length) at Meyers Beach. A fee payment station is located at the Meyers Beach parking lot where daily fees are collected. Put $3 in the fee envelopes provided, detach the receipt and display it on the dashboard of your vehicle, and place the envelope in the fee canister. Annual passes are also available for Meyers Beach parking. They are $15 for most vehicles. Annual passes can be purchased in person at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore visitor center in Bayfield, which is generally open in the winter from 8-4:30 Monday to Friday. If you are making a special trip, you may want to call ahead at (715) 779-3398 x399 to make sure the visitor center will be open when you plan to come. Annual passes from 2008 are no longer valid; it's time to consider a 2009 pass. Vehicles associated with organizations under Commercial Use Authorizations or Special Use Permits (i.e. outfitters) are not eligible for annual Meyers Beach parking passes.
The use or operation of snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or any other motor vehicle is prohibited at the ice caves and within 1/4 mile of the mainland from Saxine Creek (Meyers Beach) to Sand Point.
The most up-to-date information on ice conditions is always available on the Apostle Islands ice line: (715) 779-3398 x3.


I didn’t have a macro lens on that day, but I couldn’t resist getting up close to a formation or two anyway.


Dennis getting personal with the ice.  They say not to linger very long under them, pieces of ice fall off from time to time.


This is me, Dennis snapped it while I was busy checking things out.  I had way too many photos to share, but I really do want to share them, so you will see another post soon with more photos from that day.


  1. Glad you shared this with wonder with us since I'll never being going!

  2. These are so cool Lisa! I was just doing a little catch up this morning and looking for your letter X before I post the linking list. I know you must have X photos hiding somewhere. I'll wait a bit to post or of course I can add yours late if necessary.
    Love your awesome new tattoo, your beautiful grandbaby and your amazing weight loss! You rock! :-)
    Hugs, Martha

  3. OMG, it sure looks cold. Love the pictures, and I have a similar problem with having so many photos to share. What really amazes me about these pictures is all the color. Until you really look at it, you'd think ice is just white, but it's not..............:)

  4. Wow! This is so incredible! Beautiful pictures.

  5. WOW! This is absolutely AWESOME! I would love to see this in person.

  6. Holy schmole, I didn't know these existed. I haven't been up there for years and since it's quite a trudge and I usually have some piece of junk car, I was happy to have made it up there and back just before the heavy summer traffic. It was still cold and I don't think I made the most of it.
    Great photos as usual.

  7. Lisa can I post your link at Great Lake Photography Lovers?
    I would love to share this....
    Thanks TJ

  8. You are soooo brave to walk across the ice, or maybe, I'm a chicken ;-) These photos are wonderful! Thanks for your continued visits as well.

    One Love, Se'Lah

  9. Great pictures! You are very brave to get that close!

  10. Really interesting. Beautiful photos, too. I know it's possible, but it seems very strange, to a Californian, to walk a mile on a lake.

  11. I can understand how you'd have more photos than you could put in one post. Talk about a target rich environment! these are mind-blowing Lisa. Just amazing.

  12. Awesome photos! Thanks for sharing. These are all absolutely unique and well captured. Phew....

  13. WOW!
    thanks for taking me to a wonderful place I've never been to , through your awesome photos.

  14. For as long as I've lived in Wisconsin, and as much as I've traveled throughout the state - the Apostle Islands are one place I have not visited - and the shots are fantastic!

  15. This sure is a wonderful series of photos!

  16. Stephanie C ReinicheMarch 23, 2009 at 6:21 AM

    These are beautiful. I remember when we visited my folks when the lived in Wisconsin and saw the ice drifts on the lake. These are even more beautiful.

  17. Thanks for the awesome tour! What an incredible place.

  18. Really neat! But it looks soooooooo cold!

  19. Beautiful photos. I wouldn't be brave enough to walk out on the lake, so this is the closest I would ever get to seeing them. Looking forward to seeing more of them.

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  20. AWESOME place & BEAUTIFUL photos!!

  21. These pictures look amazing! I never seen ice caves before. Some of those large pointy icicles look dangerous. Quite a variety of formations; fascinating post!

  22. Amazing photos! And the coffee colour of the ice against the blue sky - stunning!

  23. OOHh those are fabulous!! I would love to see them...Your photos are so great they just take me right there!!

  24. This place is SOOOO cool! (No pun intended.) It's been a LONG time since I've walked on a lake (probably college), so I'd have to get over that nervousness, but it would be so worth it. Thanks for sharing this incredible adventure!