On this first day of meteorological spring, let’s be honest. Any hope that the mainland ice caves will open to foot traffic will have to wait until next winter. But if you’re a fan of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, that’s perfectly fine. Especially if you’re prepared to take what the lake and the weather give you – and make the most of it.
If you’ve been following our Facebook posts, you know that the vast majority of Lake Superior is open water right now, as has been the case all winter. The weather simply hasn’t been cold enough, or calm enough, long enough to make more ice. As one of our Facebook fans commented below the satellite image, “That’s OK. There’s a ton of other stuff to see and do.”
Included in that “ton of other stuff” is a visit to Little Sand Bay. Friends board member and former park ranger Neil Howk explored the visitor center and surrounding area a few weeks ago. He started at the Twilite fishing tug exhibit. Neil says, “One of the advantages of putting the exhibits outside the visitor center is that they are available to the public 24/7/365, if you don’t mind walking through a little snow. The story boxes with voice messages work all year.”
Neil said he put on snowshoes and walked along the beach east of the visitor center toward the slough. It was completely frozen over at the time. Neil says, “You can walk about a quarter mile up into the slough until the opening closes in.”
Howk says the tracks in the snow told a fascinating wildlife story. “The frozen slough is a real wildlife highway. Coyote tracks crisscrossed the opening and were visible along the edge of the forest. I found several scent posts where the coyotes were marking their territory. Then I came upon an otter slide in the snow leading to a hole in the ice. That was amazing.”
As he ended his exploration, the sun made a brief appearance. Neil says “Hardly anyone visits Little Sand Bay in winter and on days like today, it is a fascinating place to go.”