Michelle Thomasini/Daily Globe
PEOPLE CHECK out the ice caves on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield, Wis., Tuesday afternoon. Sunshine, blue skies and temperatures in the mid-40s drew visitors from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.
BAYFIELD, Wis. (AP) - The popular ice caves on Lake Superior near the Apostle Islands will soon be closed due to ice melt, officials said Wednesday.
Access to the caves will close for the season no later than Sunday night, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Superintendent Bob Krumenaker said in a statement.
The season was "the longest and best one anyone can remember, and certainly the most popular," he said.
"Spring is coming, the ice is weakening and we can see the edge of the ice pack coming closer to the mainland ice caves every day," Krumenaker said. "The beautiful formations are melting, and some have already fallen, raising concerns."
While the National Park Service anticipates conditions to allow access through this weekend, rangers will monitor conditions very closely and close the area sooner if necessary.
Julie Van Stappen, chief of the park's planning and resource management, said besides checking the ice density in person, they've also been checking satellite images that show the ice melting.
The caves have been hugely popular this season, with an estimated 124,000 people visiting from Jan. 15 through Sunday, Van Stappen said.
The last time the ice was thick enough for people to walk on the lake ice to see the caves was in 2009.