UPDATE: Ice caves in northern Wisconsin are still popular

UPDATE:  The ice caves near the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin are still proving to be very popular.

Credit: WLUK

UPDATED Sunday, March 2, 2014 --- 6:42 a.m.

BAYFIELD, Wis. (AP) -- The ice caves near the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin are still proving to be very popular.

According to the National Park Service, nearly 78,000 people visited the caves along Lake Superior from Jan. 15 through the end of February.

The last time the ice was thick enough for people to walk on to see the caves was in 2009, but only about 8,400 visited in January and February.

Julie Van Stappen, with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, has said social media is playing a bigger role this year in getting the word out.

It's unclear how long the lake ice will be sturdy enough to handle visitors. Park officials say one of the longest seasons was probably in 2009, when the caves were accessible for February and March.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, February 24, 2014 --- 6:47 a.m.

BAYFIELD, Wis. (AP) -- National Park rangers have reopened the popular ice caves along the Lake Superior shore near the Apostle Islands.

Officials closed the area Thursday night because of the strong winter storm and uncertainty how it would affect ice conditions on the lake. It was reopened over the weekend. WDIO-TV says rangers recommended snowshoes or cross country skis because of the deep snow and high wind.

More than 60,000 people have visited the ice caves since Jan. 15, which is more the 1/3 of their average yearly visitation. Rangers have gotten some help handling the crowds from other national parks, the sheriff's office, U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, February 21, 2014 --- 6:48 p.m.

BAYFIELD, Wis. (AP) -- National Park rangers have been unable to check Lake Superior's ice to determine if it's safe for people to hike to the popular ice caves near the Apostle Islands.

According to the National Park Service, rangers were unable to go out Friday because of high winds and white-out conditions. They hope to check early Saturday morning if visibility improves. If the lake ice remains stable, it could reopen by noon Saturday.

Rangers closed the area Thursday night because of a strong winter storm and uncertainty how it would affect ice conditions.

More than 60,000 visited since Jan. 15, which is more the 1/3 of their average yearly visitation. In fact, they've had to seek help from other parks, the sheriff's office, U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 --- 7:10 a.m.

BAYFIELD, Wis. (AP) -- The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has turned to other agencies for help in handling the thousands of people visiting the area to see the majestic beauty of ice caves along the south shore of Lake Superior.

Even on Monday, the ice caves drew 1,800 people throughout the day. It's been five years since the ice has been thick enough for hikers to safely reach the caves.

Chief ranger Chris Smith tells Minnesota Public Radio News this past Saturday was the busiest yet this winter with 11,000 people making the trek to the caves. Smith says five other national parks have sent staff to help, along with local sheriff's offices, the U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol.

An Incident Command Center has been set up in a small trailer at the trailhead.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press


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