Explore the ice caves of the Apostle Islands with this stunning - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Explore the ice caves of the Apostle Islands with this stunning video

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ASHLAND COUNTY (WKOW) -- Right now, you have the opportunity to witness an incredible display of natural beauty in Wisconsin. The ice caves of the Apostle Islands are open for the first time in five years.

It is a place of majestic might.  But a stretch of earth that's beauty is both ancient and temporary.  Welcome to a journey to experience the ice caves of the Apostle Islands.

But before we can truly appreciate all of this, let us first get some perspective. 

Neil Holke with National Park Service says, "We are monitoring the satellite photos that show the extent of the ice on Lake Superior."

Holke spends a lot of time looking satellite images from NASA showing the incredible ice coverage the Great Lakes have endured this year. "There's no such thing as a typical year anymore.  Usually by about the first of March is when Lake Superior gets to its max level of ice cover." 

But this winter has unleashed an ice season like few other. So with Holke's words in mind, we make our way toward Meyers Beach and begin our journey with camera and tripod in hand. 

Walking on frozen Squaw Bay we run into Randy and Sandy Lentz of Price County. They're visiting with their friends. "It's toasty! I almost took my coat off!"

Their words are encouraging, and as the cliffs begin to come into view of our camera, the sights and sounds becomes enveloping. Holke says, "The cliffs extend for at least two miles along the shoreline so if you go all the way to the end of the cliffs and back, that's about a six mile round trip."

But one with plenty to look at. You see this ice is massive, like experiencing Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. But what's makes this different is that you're right there and can reach out and touch it."The cliffs are 60 feet high, it's reddish sandstone, very dramatic," Holke says.

Standing on a frozen Lake Superior offers you a point of view we rarely see. But a position that at times is unnerving. A microphone will pick up sounds of the 18 inches of ice settling.

"The sandstone these cliffs are made of is a very weak type of sandstone. Every place where that Devil's Island formation creates a cliff, those cliffs are honey combed with caves. So it's because of that particular type of sandstone and the effects of the wind, and the waves and the ice eroding the rock that creates the sea caves." 

The exterior cliffs features frozen waterfalls, but for the intricate beauty, we'll need to make sure we have that tripod of ours. Now the wind is starting to pick up and the sun is showing signs of setting, but before we head back, we examine a cavern. 

That's how my new friends Sophie and Aaron of Duluth, Minnesota describe what we're about to see. Inside the cave looking across the lake lies a magnificent arch. But tunneled inside the earth is where the magic lives. The rows of icicles here look like chandeliers, and they've formed in rows like shark teeth. 

"A lot of the water is seeping down through the cracks and coming out as springs in cracks along the shoreline," Holke says.

And it's features like that which require you to inspect each nook carefully. For it was the elements that constructed this empire of ice, and those same elements that someday soon will tear it apart. "Wind is the biggest enemy of the ice. If we get a big wind storm blowing out of the wrong direction it can break that ice shelf up in a matter of hours," says Holke 

En route back toward the mainland the sun transforms the horizon with hues of red, a reminder that one more day to witness this spectacle before it is gone has ended, with no telling how long it will be before it returns.
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