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The great lakes have much to offer to the landscape- and nature-loving tourist, especially in the winter. And while you admire the dreamy, snow-covered views as you cruise through the Trans-Canada Highway, don’t forget to take a short detour to see the Ontario ice caves.
Although the caves have been a regularly-occurring winter feature on lake Superior for years, climate change may affect them, too. With this danger in mind, it may be a good idea to see them as soon as you can, especially since February is the best month for a visit.
How Are the Ontario Ice Caves Formed?
Ontario ice caves are not simply a beautiful view, it’s an adventure, as every year the best caves are found in a different location. To understand why this happens, let’s explain how the ice caves form on the shores of the Great Lakes to begin with.
These icy hideaways emerge when strong winter winds start blowing and enormous 20 feet-tall (6 m) waves break against the shores of Lake Superior, freezing in all sorts of surreal shapes.
This process generates ice formations of unique shapes, colors and sizes every year and in every location, so every winter you can admire a new and different spectacle of snow and ice.
Furthermore, the shape and texture of the caves continue to transform with every new gust of wind, snowstorm or particularly sunny day, which ensures a unique viewing (and picture-taking) experience every time.
Why Are These Caves in Danger?
As one can imagine, it is crucial for Lake Superior to freeze enough in order to open the ice caves to visitors, and this is exactly why the era of ice-cave observation may soon come to an end.
The Great Lakes are massive and stretch through 94,250 square miles (244,106 km2), containing around 20% of the freshwater supplies of the world. This means that they rarely freeze completely, and in the past 50 years the average ice coverage decreased by 70%.
Scientists confirm that this trend is likely to continue, which means that the ice caves, even if they form, will be closed off to the public. As of now, though, you can still experience their beauty, so let’s give you a few more pointers about the destination.
Where and How You Can Find These Caves?
Finding the caves can be a tricky business if you’re not a local. They normally form in the area of Sault Ste. Marie along a 12-mile stretch of the coast of Lake Superior, but the specific location of the most beautiful and easy-to-access caves varies every year.
Luckily, the tourism infrastructure in the area is very well-developed, there are several skiing resorts, and some, like the Stokely Creek Lodge on the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, always record the locations of the best ice caves in the area, which they are happy to share with visitors.
If you want to go on an adventure, a reliable way to find the best caves is to follow the snow trails in the area, as thousands of tourists visit the caves every winter, just don’t forget your snowshoes.
Finally, those of you who are looking for a more thrilling experience can also rent a snowmobile and speed straight to the ice caves, just make sure to determine your route ahead of time in that case, as you will most likely miss the trails while rushing through the area on that speed.
Note! A few sites with a high ice cave potential are: Pointe Des Chenes Park (a local beach with a beautiful view on lake Superior), Coppermine Point (a lighthouse), Red Rock, and Alona Bay.
To take advantage of the whole range of tourist destinations in the area, consider that the same places are noteworthy hiking and walking destinations.
Also, there are several museums in Sault Ste. Marie, as well as skiing resorts, the most notable of which are Searchmont Ski Resort and Hiawatha Highlands.
If you want more pictures of ice caves, we have 2 more articles on the topic, one about Glacier Caves, as well as another one about the Ice Caves of Vatnajokull. Just click on the names of the articles to view them.