Apostle Island ice caves closing for the season

Sunset in the caves
The sunset greeted the Apostle Islands ice caves on March 5, 2015, near Cornucopia, Wis.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Updated: 3 p.m. | Posted: 1:05 p.m.

If you intend to visit the Apostle Island ice caves this winter, you don't have much time.

Due to deteriorating ice conditions park officials announced the ice caves along Wisconsin's Apostle Island National Lakeshore will close on Monday at 7 p.m.

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The ice caves, located near Cornucopia, Wis., were open for only nine days this season, and the National Park Service warned of treacherous and slippery ice conditions.

This year, nearly 36,000 people visited the ice caves over nine days, said Julie Van Stappen, chief of planning and resource management for the park. Last year, the caves drew more than 138,000 tourists last year as the deep freeze made the caves accessible to pedestrians for the first time in nearly five years. In 2009, 12,700 visitors trekked to view the ice formations.

The crush of visitors in 2014 led the park system to plan a $5 fee this year for visitors age 16 and older.

"Conditions allowed it for just a short period of time, but people were able to take advantage of it," Van Stappen said.

Reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this story.