Safety Is Your Responsibility
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore encompasses more than 500 square miles of Lake Superior. Visitors must be aware of the risks and hazards associated with the lake and island environments. Lake Superior is notorious for its cold temperatures, rough seas, fog, and sudden squalls. Boaters should be alert to changing conditions and should consult current marine forecasts before leaving on a trip. Marine weather forecasts are broadcast on marine channel 7, 162.525 MHz.
Remember that you are in bear country. Check out the Bear Country Safety page for more information about bears and how to help prevent them from being attracted to campsites.
Potable water may be available seasonally at Little Sand Bay, Meyers Beach, Sand Island-East Bay, and Stockton Island-Presque Isle. Be prepared in case water is not available. Water from the lake should be boiled for two minutes or filtered through an adequate filter (0.4 microns pore size) before use. This precaution eliminates many organisms including Giardia, a bacteria which causes an intestinal disorder.
Campfires must be built in metal fire receptacles where provided. Beach fires must be built on bare beach sand and be no more than three feet in height or diameter. Dead, loose wood on the ground in forested areas or unvegetated beach areas may be collected for firewood. To limit the spread of harmful insects, do NOT bring firewood into the park. Chain saws cannot be operated in the national lakeshore.
Biting insects can be prevalent on the islands from June to September. Wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts will provide some protection from mosquitos, biting flies, and ticks. Insect repellents are helpful. The ticks that transmit Lyme Disease and Ehrlichiosis are found in the park. If you notice a rash, flu-like symptoms, or pain in the joints following a tick bite, call your physician.
Pets must be kept on a leash that is six feet or shorter and never left unattended. Persons having pets within the park must dispose of all pet excrement. Excrement must be deposited in wooded areas at least 100 feet from any trail, campsite, dock, building, picnic area, or water source. Pets are not allowed in public buildings or on scheduled Apostle Islands Cruise Service trips (except guide dogs accompanying visually or hearing impaired people).
The mainland ice caves are a rare event and may not be open every year. The last time the mainland ice caves were accessible was in 2015. Ice conditions can change rapidly, so keep safety in mind at all times. Park staff monitor ice conditions at the Mainland Ice Caves to determine when the ice is low risk enough for visitor traffic. Temperature, high wind speeds and direction can quickly change ice conditions.
Know Before You Go
Visiting the caves in winter requires at least a 2 mile hike (round trip) on the ice of Lake Superior. Travel on Lake Superior can be dangerous any time of the year. Traveling across the ice demands extra attention to personal safety. Lake ice is unpredictable, so traveling across it is never completely safe. Before heading out, visitors must understand all of the risks involved, and the physical demands required for hiking out to the caves.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore staff checks the ice and monitors the weather to determine when the Mainland Caves are accessible. NPS is not, however, able to check every day. Cold temperatures can form thick ice, but wind and waves can break up that ice in a matter of hours, and make it unstable. Low Risk ice conditions allow the area to be deemed accessible to visitors.
Last updated: January 5, 2023