Warming prompts closure of Lake Superior ice caves

Nearly 2,000 hikers visited the sea caves Feb. 17.
Nearly 2,000 hikers visited the Apostle Island sea caves on Feb. 17 - and that was a slow day. An estimated 11,000 people converged on the ice caves on Saturday to see the frozen caves, the first time they've been accessible by foot in five years.
Dan Kraker / MPR News

The popular ice caves on Lake Superior near the Apostle Islands are now closed, concluding an unprecedented wave of tourism and exploration.

Related: Park needs back-up to handle crowds
Photos: Inside the majestic Lake Superior ice caves

The National Park Service says the caves along Lake Superior were closed just after midnight Monday. The park service says the ice was getting too weak to support foot traffic to the caves, which are accessible by kayak in the summer.

Park service spokeswoman Julie Van Stappen says 138,000 people visited the caves this winter. That figure dwarfs the 12,700 people who visited in 2009, the last time the lake froze enough to make the caves reachable by foot.

When the ice caves were inaccessible in 2012, there were 6,700 people who visited the park.

Van Stappen says this season's attendance was "amazing."

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